Category Archives: Uncategorized

Busy Weekend and Updates at UF

This weekend we are happy to be hosting two great events. First we will have the WRPF here for the Iron City Open. This event will take place all day Saturday. Then on Sunday we will be hosting our Gay 4 Good Yoga fundraiser. Below I will answer any questions about this week for both our members as well as visitors to UF.



  1. Where do I park? Street parking is always a good option. We also have a parking garage that you can pay for under UF. Either way there should be ample parking, even with a Pirate game and arts fest happening.
  2. Will the gym be open for members? Yes. The gym will have normal business hours. There will be some disruption to class schedules. Check MindBody for class changes. There will be some equipment from the strength lab that will be used for the meet.
  3. What are these events? The Iron City Open is a powerlifting meet that sold out months ago. You can still come have fun and watch the competition. The Yoga is a fundraiser for Gay 4 Good. There is still time to register and participate with this fun event.
  4. Are these events free? The meet is a ten dollar entry fee. CJ is currently working to find an animal rights group to make a donation to with some of the money. The Yoga event is free, yet they ask you to bring a donation the list of items on the their website. 
  5. Who are these events open to? You and all your friends! Both of these events will have fun for everyone. The meet will have a coffee truck, vendors with food, music and many weights will be moved by the competitors.  The Yoga is for all levels.


Any other questions you have? Just ask us. We are here to serve you and to make this weekend one of the best in the history of the U.


Todd Hamer

Stick to the Plan

Do you ever get bored in the gym? Hit a plateau? Show up with no plan?


Far too often, we find ourselves scrolling social media and getting caught up in influencers workouts on Instagram and tiktok. This makes us want to get up and go to the gym, which is a good thing, but it can lead to a lot of confusion. The result is you show up to the gym with no plan, just some stuff you saw on Instagram which is specific to someone else’s plan. You end up doing their workout , then the next day you do another different one, then another, the cycle continues. This leads to no linear progress in the gym and constant novelty. How can we solve this problem? How can we break strength plateaus?


Set a goal, one that is specific. An example would be: I want to increase my bench press by about 20lbs by the end of the month. 


The proper approach to this would be to set up a training block of about 4 weeks, the idea is you do the same movements for 4 weeks and get better both physically and mentally. 


  • Bench Press 5,3,2,1 (Set of 5, set of 3, set of 2, set of 1) (Increasing the weight every time)
  • DB incline Press 3 x 8-10  (Secondary bench)
  • BB Row 3 x 6-10 (Heavy Rows)
  • Chest fly 3 x 10-15 
  • Heavy tricep Ext. 3 x 6-10
  • Rear delts 3 x 10-15

Pick a day of the week to be your bench press day, and execute this plan for 4 weeks straight increasing the weight a small amount (5 to 10 lbs) each session! 


Give this a try for your bench day for at least a month, let me know if you get stronger! The same method can be applied to anything. 


Come to the gym prepared. Stick to the plan.


  • Michael Dowling 4.13.23

New Ryde Instructor Spotlight – Marlee

Hi, I’m Marlee Musico! My interest in indoor cycling classes started about 15 years ago when I was a student at Slippery Rock University. However, I became a more avid indoor/outdoor cyclist when I signed up for my first triathlon in 2018 and heavily relied on attending classes several times per week to supplement my training. When Union Fitness added the Ryder bikes last year, it was perfect timing for me to quit my big box gym membership, join UF, and incorporate Ryde classes into tri training. 


The Ryde instructors quickly captivated me with their high energy and creative class structure. I’m humbled to join their team! After having an indoor cycling instructor certification go unused for four years, I decided I would give it a go when a new instructor position became available. I’m having a lot of fun creating playlists, planning the choreography, and meeting so many new faces. You can catch me on Sunday mornings at 9am. I hope to see you in class!



Birthday Week at the U

Beware the ides of March. We all know that March 15th is a day to be wary of and this makes me convinced that CJ will drop a dumbbell on my face during this day. Until that happens, I want to take a moments and celebrate all the B-Days we have this week at the U.


Gabriella Turano begins our week out with a big B Day shout out from us to her on March 14th. If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Gabriella, please do it soon before she leaves us. Gabriella is a senior at Pitt, she is majoring in exercise science, and plays goalie on Pitt’s lacrosse team.


Haley Morgan is next up to bat as the queen of the ides of March. Haley has the honor of being born on March 15th. Haley is also our queen of yoga. She handles all things yoga for us here at UF. The team of yoga instructors she has is amazing and if you have not spent some time unwinding or getting your butt kicked in yoga then give it a try sometime.


Curtis Miller is batting third this week with a March 16th B-Day. If you are a UF regular, then you should know Curtis. He has been around here for about four years now and always makes an impact. While he is no longer full time, he is still around and helping everyone from top level lifters to beginners.


Dylan Heisey is batting clean up for us on this birthday week with a March 17th B-Day. During his college days, Dylan was coached by my good friend David Kitchen. He came in here looking for a job and I texted David and asked “should I hire him?” I will not tell you exactly what David said….but we ended up hiring him. Most of you may not know Dylan because he works with our college teams exclusively. However, ff you see him around then go ahead and introduce yourself as he is our Olympic lifting friend.


Did you know this fact? You would only need 26 people in a group to have a 50/50 chance of two people sharing a birthday. This may seem at odds with common sense, but birthdays tend to cluster around weather events. Big snow storm? Conveniently enough, 9 months later a bunch of children are born.

Don’t Worry About the Fringes

I have been working in this industry long enough to see arguments of all types. I have too often participated in arguments that were not worth my time and have seen great coaches as well as trainers make this mistake as well. Often times it begins with a simple statement such as, “calories in vs calories out is what matters”. This is often where get lost on the fringes. “Calories in vs calories out” holds a lot of truth. But, is it perfect? No, nothing is perfect. Yet, if we don’t get lost on the fringes of this statement then we see how true the statement really is.


KISS & SAID Principles. 


I love these two acronyms. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands), cover most topics we feel so inclined to discuss. KISS principle is beyond easy. It is simply just a reminder to not overcomplicate the whole process. If you want to get stronger then lift weights, if you want to lose weight then burn more calories, pretty simple right?


SAID principle is also straightforward. SAID entails that if you want any adaptation to occur then you must make it specific. If you wish to run a marathon then you must run. If you wish to be bench press 500 lbs then you must do some bench pressing. Your body will adapt to the specific demand that you place upon it. This is true in anything that you do. To build on this further, If you want to be more educated then read more and if you want to be more flexible then stretch more.


The beauty of these two principles is that they keep us grounded. If you are keeping it simple and specific, then you cannot get lost on the fringes. It is very easy to see thousands of crazy (often unnecessary) exercises online, avoid these and stick to the basics. So go get some hard work under your belt, while also finding some consistency.


I will leave you with this. There are no life hacks. When someone says, “no one cares work harder”, I want you to remember that I care. As a coach, trainer, GM of a gym, or whatever other hats I wear, I know it is easy to get lost and frustrated in a sea of information. Many times it just takes a mere step back in order to look at the issue again. This allows us to see the solution in a more simplistic manner.  So remember this, when you get confused and want to avoid the fringes of the issue, just take a step back and show up again tomorrow.

Recovery Methods.

I was at a national conference a few years back and had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Duffin. If you do not know who Chris is, he is to say the least, interesting. A good friend of mine Dave Terry (at the time strength coach at Georgetown), saw Chris and said, “Hamer, do you know Chris.” I said we had met a handful of times. He said we need to go talk to him. So we strolled over to his booth. Chris was welcoming,  friendly, and full of good information. One thing that he said that will stick with me is, and I paraphrase, there are two things you can do for recovery. First you can do something to yourself, second is you can have something done to you. This sat in my mind for years and I have added one thought to this, I’d like to share with you my opinion today.


I agree with Chris that you can do something, or have something done to you, I also know that the one other thing you can to for recovery is sleep. Today, I will break each of these down for you and hopefully this will help you recover better, and be healthier and stronger.


Do something to yourself.


If you wish to aid in your recovery, you will find at times that you must move. A good rule of thumb on recovery is to do a movement with little or no eccentric load. A few examples of this are dragging the sled, throwing a med ball, cycling, or running up stairs. Remember that most muscle damage occurs on the eccentric portion of a lift, so the more we can decrease our eccentric load the better off we will be. Also, a little extra conditioning never hurt anyone. Here are a few examples of things I have done.

  1. Grab a med ball and keep it moving for 20 minutes. Just throw it, let it hit the ground and throw it again.
  2. Drag a light sled for 20 minutes non stop.
  3. Walk or push a turned off treadmill. I began doing this one over a decade ago and haven’t used a turned on treadmill since then.
  4. Get outside and take a hike. Do not underestimate the importance of a mindset to recovery. Stress is relative to how one perceives it. So sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) will be more active when we are creating stress and we want to avoid this in recovery work. Create a more parasympathetic response by relaxing and taking hike.


Having something done to you.


This is something that is much harder to do for recovery. The first issue is that you must have someone willing to help you, or pay a professional. The upside to this type of recovery is that you can just sit back and enjoy the moment. Here are a few things you can have done to you for recovery.


  1. Stretch. There is no need to pay for this service, just have a friend, partner, or training partner stretch you.
  2. Soft tissue work. This can be done with a lacrosse ball, steel tube, or even someones hands.
  3. Get a massage. Call Malik or Sarah for this.




Sleep is currently the bees knees in the fitness industry. I remember a story about Arnold and sleep. Someone asked Arnold how he could accomplish so much, his response was, you only have 18 hours a day so don’t waste time. The person said 18 hours? Arnold said yes sleep for 6. The person responded, don’t we need more sleep. Arnold said, sleep faster.


As we all know sleeping faster is not possible. But, getting better quality sleep is possible. So let me review some basic things we should all do to get better sleep. Yet, none of these should be set in stone as we are all unique and none should be followed 100% of the time.


  1. Turn your phone off. I won’t go into the whole blue light stuff. Just put away the most powerful computer you own.
  2. Cut back on caffeine.
  3. Don’t abuse alcohol.
  4. Breathe and meditate.
  5. Do active things during the day, so that you are tired at night.



There it is, Hamer’s take on recovery.


The Reps That I Have Done, The Books I Have Read

I have been lifting consistently for over 2 decades. I have also been a vocracious reader throughout that time. In an active year I have achieved 200 training sessions and read 50 books. I am now closing in on having read 1,000 books throughout my lifetime. The process of finding this number was not easy, I had to go back to my childhood. As for training I have no idea how many sessions I’ve had, what I do know is that I have been under the bar often. Of all the books I’ve read and all the training sessions I have been involved in I have forgotten most of them. Some reps and some words books have stuck with me, yet most are gone. Today I am going to take a trip down memory lane for some reps I recall, and some words I recall. I take all credit for when my memory fails me.


  1. First rep I will never forget is 2001, training with Jim Roney (then strength coach at University of Richmond). We were learning about bands, chains, and boards. We would read Louie Simmons articles then go experiment. The gym was a basement in the infamous Franklin St gym. The building was Virginia Commonwealth University’s original gym building, and it looked like an original gym building. It was dirty and I loved it. Now to the training, we were doing heavy board presses and decided to add bands. I can’t recall the weight, yet when I unracked it I remember one emotion, fear. I honestly don’t even recall if I got the rep or missed it. What I recall and learned is that fear is an amazing motivator. The first lesson here is fear is OK, and can be great when used sparingly.
  2. The first words from a book that I will never forget are,“To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to acknowledge defeat- and the difference between these two things is what keeps the world going.” (Upton Sinclair, The Jungle). I read The Jungle while on the beach one Christmas in St Simon’s Island Georgia. This is one of the books that haunted me. Sinclair’s writing style is amazing and how he can paint the picture of an immigrant family is top notch. This quote says so much about humanities struggle against any challenge we may face.

  3. Rep #2 that I will touch on here is a rep that I missed. This was probably around 2003. My goal was to squat 500 for the first time in my life at 165 lbs weight class. I opened at 430 lbs, then went 465 for my second attempt. After this rep I was not confident, I was going to go to 490. Jim Wendler came over to the table and asked what my next attempt was, I said 490. He replied with, “What did you come here to do?” I said 500. He said, “Then go to 500, it won’t kill you.” Jim has always had a way with words. 500 did not kill me, yet I did miss, and I also came back and got it at my next meet. Again, this taught me to put my chips on the table, I also know many young lifters wouldn’t agree with this approach, but that is the beauty of life.
  4. Francis Slakey provides the quote from our next book,“If you get to the end of your life and you have regrets that you could have done better, then you blew it.” Francis Slakey, To The Last Breath. I read this book about a decade ago. This book reminded that life is about the journey. I was lucky enough to share a few emails with Mr Slakey, and he truly lives through the growth that he had shown in this book. 
  5. The next rep I am going to write about shows how great the powerlifting community truly can be. I am going to guess that the year was probably 2004 or 2005. I was competing in Charleston, West Virginia. I don’t recall all my lifts, yet squat and bench went well (if my memory serves me). I moved to dead, I was opening at 505, I had pulled this many times. well, after a long day of lifting the first rep felt like a ton. I missed my first pull, then I went on to miss my second as well. I was preparing for my final attempt when some guy I never met said, “Hey man how’s the lifting going?” I said, I missed my first two deads. He looked at me and said, “Who do you think you are? You are not Ed Coan, you are not good enough to bomb out on deadlifts.” He then followed me around until my attempt all while screaming, the bar has 135 on it and you will lift 135. I have edited some of his words for the masses. I went and pulled my final attempt and he immediately took me to the hotel bar for a whiskey. To this day I have no clue who the guy is or why he cared so much for my lifts. This shows that we are one team and a rising tide lifts all boats.
  6. My final book thought is from one of my favorite authors.“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”  Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food. Few humans have written about how food and culture come together as much as Micheal Pollan. I have been lucky enough to share a few meals with Micheal Pollan, and he is one of the wisest people I ever met. This quote reminds me of my good friend (and UF member) Ward. Ward really understands having a healthy relationship with food important for a lifetime of health. 


There it is a few memories that hopefully have change your perspective.

Alzheimer’s Association Fundraiser for the Chicago Marathon

Hey Union Fitness!


For those of you who do not know me, my name is Katie Jones. I coach Cardio Lab and Run Club here at Union 🙂 


This October I have the opportunity to run the Chicago Marathon. This marathon means a lot to me. This will be my 10th marathon!! I have been training and running marathons since 2014. I have completed the Pittsburgh Marathon 6 times and the Philadelphia Marathon 3 times. I am so excited to be running my 10th in Chicago!


More importantly, I am running this race for the Alzheimer’s Association. Back in 2014, I was volunteering at a nursing home next to my college. Many of the residents I worked with had early onset Alzheimers. During my time volunteering, I saw the direct impact of this disease and I wanted to do something. When I signed up for my first marathon in Pittsburgh, I joined the ALZ Stars Team. I am very fortunate to be running my 10th marathon for them! Training for a marathon is a huge commitment, but I am proud to be running for an organization that is making our miles matter with the goal of ending Alzheimer’s.


Please support my efforts by making a donation or sharing my fundraising page (link below). All funds raised benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and its work to enhance care and support programs and advance research toward methods of treatment, prevention, and, ultimately, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Thank you for your support and for joining the fight against Alzheimer’s disease!

Here is the link to my fundraising page:



June’s Member Spotlight

Hello, I’m Lisa! I was born Congolese (from DRC), I speak French, lived in Belgium, and then I grew up and got my master’s degree as an Industrial Engineer in electronics. I lived in Belgium until the end of 2016.


Then, I got bored and went to work in Spain for 2.5 years. That’s where my fitness journey started, with CrossFit. I discovered that working out was not only great for losing weight, but was also very useful to get strong, and that quickly became my goal (that satisfaction when I lift heavy is gold to me).


In the summer of 2019, I arrived in Pittsburgh for a new project. I stuck to CrossFit for 1.5 years but being strong and lifting heavy became more important to me than being fast and good at gymnastics, so one of my coaches recommended me to check out Union Fitness, which I did at the end of 2020. Starting with the Powerful classes, and then following up with a programming tailored for me by the great Curtis Miller! His knowledge and patience have been helping me to get stronger physically and mentally every week.


Fun facts about me?


  1. I’m a sneaker addict, and not even trying to heal from it.
  2. I see music in color which is somehow helpful when I have to play keys.
  3. I speak different languages, which is cool at first, but makes me invent words that exist in none of them
  4. I always have a loooooot of questions in my brain


I’m really grateful to be part of the Union fitness community, it’s definitely a place that feels good to be fully yourself, and around people (staff and members) that push themselves and you to be better!


À bientôt !! ”




Member Spotlight, Matt Wylie

I grew up in a small town called Chippewa which is very close to Beaver Falls, PA. I graduated from Edinboro University and after living in the Strip District and Bellevue, I now reside in Mt Washington with my fiancé, 6 year old son, and a miniature dachshund named Finn. Since graduating college in 2011, I’ve been an active musician for a little over a decade. I’ve played guitar in a lot of original bands and have done just about every genre of cover band that you can think of from 80s, 90s, nu metal (a gig’s a gig, right?), and everything in between.


My professional background is in sales and I work as an Account Executive for a SaaS company based out of Boston, MA where we offer financial planning & analysis automation solutions. I get to work remote 100% of the time and haven’t met an actual coworker in about 3 years.


Union Fitness has become my home away from home since I began my fitness journey. I started in February of 2021 and didn’t have a clear goal in mind but I knew that I wanted to get into great shape and make positive lifestyle changes.  I am the type of person that needs to be learning something and to have the ability to apply it in order to stay motived. With the help of my old buddy CeJ (T-luv, Tito, Uncle Tito, etc) he introduced me to the #powerful classes and the other fantastic trainers here at UF. I hadn’t even looked at a weight in about a decade and I had never done a squat or deadlift a day in my life prior to this so we truly started from the bottom. The #powerful classes created a positive environment for me to be able to learn how to lift properly and the workouts created by the instructors will get anybody going towards where they want to be. The results I’ve seen in the gym have been great, but the results outside the gym have been massive in my personal and professional life.


Fun facts:


  1. A self proclaimed beer connoisseur (this is why we’re here).
  2. Learned to play guitar by taking formal jazz lessons and by learning songs from my favorite metal bands.
  3. Played hockey from childhood to end of high school.
  4. I like all foods and I like to cook a lot at home – avid griller.


Thank you to T(CeJ), Curtis, Dave Jackson, Dahveed, Todd, and all of the other great people at UF!