Tag Archives: Goals

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Change has always been a part of my life. I spent a lot of my younger life jumping from town to town because of my dad being in the military. We traveled all over Venezuela so being new in a lot of places is something that I was used to. Even though I moved a lot with my family, it did not prepare me for moving to the US. When we moved around Venezuela we knew we were going to come back to our hometown but not this time.


When I moved to the US I experienced a lot of discomfort. I didn’t know anyone- didn’t speak the language, didn’t know any places- I was lost. I had to force myself out of my comfort zone to do anything. At first I was terrified. I remember lunch being very quiet and lonely. I would see all these kids talking to their friends and laughing, and I wanted that. I decided that I would embrace that discomfort and reach a new goal I had set for myself- “be able to hold a full conversation in English and make friends”. It worked. I did everything I could to achieve that goal and it made setting new goals for myself easier as I graduated high school, and moved onto college. Watching myself be able to change in a way I never thought I would be able to, only furthered my drive to want more for myself after I graduated from college.


There was one more recent venture that gave me that same feeling of discomfort, and it was moving to Pittsburgh. When I moved to Pittsburgh the first couple of days were great but after 2 weeks, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I again had no friends, no job, no money but what I did have was experience with this discomfort so I started setting new goals for myself to be able to achieve all of those things. I wasn’t having any luck finding jobs, money or friends until I went into this little gym named Union Fitness (maybe you’ve heard of it) and I talked to this guy named Todd Hamer (weird guy, don’t talk to him), and he offered for me to come work a powerlifting meet. I was faced with that same feeling of discomfort but I knew that if I went to this meet, I would be opening new opportunities for myself. I met a lot of wonderful people and I got this great job!


We all have those feelings of being uncomfortable in new situations but we can’t let those feelings dictate how we live. Understand and acknowledge those feelings, but don’t let them hold you back from great, new opportunities.

Goals are Goals

One of my favorite movies as a young man was “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.” This classic had everything you needed, a great cast, a great story line, and absurdity. The scene that always sticks out to me is when Robin Hood meets Little Jon. Little Jon asks for a toll to cross his bridge. Then Little Jon says the line that makes me laugh every time I hear it, “tolls are tolls and rolls are rolls, if we don’t get no tolls then we don’t eat no rolls.” This reminds me of the gym and how we set our goals. It also just happens to rhyme.


I know this blog is starting strange yet if you are still with me hang in there. I have met thousands of athletes, lifters, and general public in my decades of training people and most did not have set goals. Then they found a trainer or a website that helped shape their goals. This is great, yet we must remember that most people never actually reach the goals that they set for themselves. So let’s review your goals. If you have large goals, do you know level of commitment it will take to reach those goals? Too often I see people set audicous goals (which can be great), yet they don’t manage the other aspects of their lives that will help them reach those goals. Much like Little Jon we must know the small steps that will get us to our goals. Tolls=Rolls.


Let’s say your goal is to lose 20 lbs. Are you willing to share that goal with those close to you? If not then you (like Little Jon), aren’t collecting your rolls. Are you prepared to wake up early on the weekend for the extra cardio session? Are you willing to forgo the cookie table at the wedding? These are challenges that make it hard to reach your goal. We must change our habits if we wish to reach our goals, and communicating this your friends and family is important.


So worry about the rolls not the goals. Have your goals, share your goals, and each day worry more about the rolls you (and Little Jon) collect. These are the small steps, the daily habits which will help you reach your goals.


Now go set some BIG GOALS and find the small rolls to help you.

What are YOUR GOALS?

As we head into the last quarter of the year, the staff here at Union Fitness has been discussing how we can make the most of these last few months while providing you, the members, with the best experience and service possible. This past week, I asked my Powerful class to use one word to describe the class. Some of the words that were written down were “Complete”, “Community”, “Empowering”, “Welcoming”, “Quality”, and “Valuable”. These words describe exactly what we strive to provide each and every day. If these words were not thought of by our members, then we simply haven’t done our job.


Going forward, we want to continue to provide these things, while also continuing to grow and evolve. In order to do this, we would like your help. Regardless of if you take classes, personal training, or have a fitness center or strength lab membership, we would like your input and feedback on how we can continue to be the best gym in Pittsburgh. One thing that would assist us in this is by giving us your top 1-2 goals going into the end of the year and leading into the beginning of the next. While most people wait until the new year to establish their goals, we want to set these goals right now in order to finish the year strong and get ahead of the game.


Although most of your goals may consist of things inside of the gym, remember that they don’t necessarily have to. We want to help you to be the best complete individual you can be. This means establishing goals that will also help you in your daily life and routine. Remember, exercise and training should be full circle. When you walk out of the doors here at Union Fitness, you should feel motivated and prepared to apply that same approach to everything in your 24 hour day.


So over the next week, write down your goals, any quality ideas you have, and even one word that comes to mind when you think of Union Fitness and what it has to offer. Then send us a message or stop in to see us so we can continue to grow as a community.


– Curtis Miller

The Little Things Matter

Why am I not getting stronger?  Why am I not losing weight? Why am I not feeling recovered?  Why am I so tired? Have you caught yourself asking similar questions, maybe even as a slight whine or complaint?


I hear these thoughts from others and I catch myself thinking it from time to time. While there is a possibility that the answer is more complicated, that is not my point with this blog.  More often than not the answer is so simple – so simple that we don’t even want to be reminded that the change needed is completely in our control.


When these thoughts start to pop up, it can be easy to combat that with the thought of quitting altogether. Sometimes that even sounds sensible in the moment. However, I know we are all logical enough to know that lashing out will not lead to anything productive.


There are two things that I have found to help bring back logic to my thoughts, refocus my plan of daily actions, and provide grace in the other areas of my life.  Before even mentioning the two tips, I must preface with something cliche.  You MUST know what you want and why you want it so badly.  Without a clear destination it will be challenging to determine the steps needed and the motivation to complete those steps on the difficult days.  Once you do know what you would like, it becomes easier to dial in on the little things.  So here are two things to think about:


  1. If you are following a program and beginning to experience a plateau, stick to the plan. There will come a time when it is appropriate and necessary to adjust, but if it has only been a short amount of time since the initial start or a recent adjustment, continue to follow the plan.
  2. This second part is a little bit harder. Be completely honest with yourself – writing it down or saying it out loud to someone helps me to think WHOOPS, yeah I am definitely not doing everything I can.
  • If it is about weight loss/weight gain, there is more than likely a minor adjustment that will be so apparent once you write it out. Are you eating five times the serving of nuts instead of one? Aside from your training session in the gym are you living more of a sedentary lifestyle than usual?
  • If you are not recovering, are you doing your recovery work or saying “ehh I’ll do it tomorrow”…everyday?
  • If you are feeling tired, what does your bedtime routine look like? Are you watching a few extra shows or maybe drinking caffeine a little too late?


As stated in the beginning, troubleshooting generally leads to these little things but there may be a time that you really are doing everything in your power.  If you find that is the case, I like to follow up with analyzing how I am prioritizing my time and effort.  Expecting yourself to succeed in every area of life at the same time is too much for anyone.


Once you know where your focus is at the time (your physical health, mental health, a project at work, a new season of life) these can be good ways to narrow down what needs to change and help provide peace of mind. That season will eventually change and life will hand you a new component to prioritize (or you will choose something else), which is perfectly fine.  New phases will certainly come again and you will soon have the chance to switch roles of effort and practice grace for the others. 



SMART Goals and UF?

When planning a training session or a group of training sessions one must ask what is the end game? Always start from the goal and work back. At UF we have many people training for meets, races, as well as different sporting events. With this in mind I ask you to take a moment and ask yourself honestly what are your goals.




Start with the basics with goal setting. Make your goals SMART goals. If you are not familiar with SMART goals, SMART is an acronym for;


  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Realistic
  5. Timely


Take a little time to write your goals down. Maybe you want to increase your bench press by 20 lbs in 12 weeks or maybe run a 5k before May. No matter what goal you have in mind make it SMART.


Where does your goal fit in the gym?


At UF we are very lucky to have Curtis Miller as our Director of Customer Engagement. In short Curtis’s job is to make sure you are in the right place within our gym. Some people have very specific goals and for that need personal training or classes. Others may just need a treadmill to run on their training days. Regardless of what you need Curtis will help find you the place to be in the gym.


Different goals, Different Equipement.


If your goal is to be a high level lifter you may need some programming or training. At least I would assume you need a membership in the strength lab.


If your goals are to drops a few lbs and move a little better then a cardio membership may fit you better.


If you want to push yourself and be apart of a fun community then UF Unlimited may be for you.


If your goals are to sweat and move your body then the fitness center membership could be your option. This membership may be the most underrated option we have at UF. It is a great way to get into the gym (at a very affordable option) and train using some great equipment.


I listed each of these out because I have seen many people who have goals that do not align to their actions. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most amount of time with.” I am not sure if this is necessarily true, yet after twenty years of coaching I can say that from my experience, who you spend time with clearly influences you and your habits. Your habits will lead to your outcome.


Even as I self reflect on my training I see many mistakes. I asked myself yesterday am I a mountain biker who lifts or a powerlifter who mountain bikes? Also, I am aging in both activities quickly so maybe I’ll never set a SMART goal or maybe I need to see Curtis and find out my goals?






Curtis Tips for Push/Pull Event

We are coming up on one week out from our member push/pull event on Sunday March 21st. As many of you are aware, we had initially planned to hold the event this time last year, but obvious events kept us from doing so. Now that our Performance Lab is open with access to a great outdoor turf addition, we felt as though it was a great time to bring it back and give our members a fun event and a thank you for sticking with us over the past year.


There’s a good chance that a large majority of our members who will sign up for the push/pull have actually never taken part in this sort of event, and that is completely fine. Our only goal with this is to do something fun for our members who have been working hard and have stayed consistent with their training and goals throughout the past year. With the addition of food and drinks, there’s no doubt it will be a great time. Along with this, we will be raising money for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, and a couple of their staff members will be joining us to hang out and get to know our members.


As far as the specifics of a push/pull event, there are a few things that you will want to know and take into consideration before you begin.


First, it’s very important to understand the rules. This is something that we will be discussing throughout the week during Powerful class, but we will also hold a rules meeting at 7:30am on the morning of the event. In a push/pull event, you will be performing the bench press and the deadlift. For each lift, you will have 3 attempts to successfully lift as much weight as possible within the given rules. Before the event starts, you will give your opening attempt to the scorer. A good rule of thumb is to open with a weight that you could easily perform for 3 repetitions. After your opening attempt, you will go back to the scorer and let them know what weight you would like to lift for you 2nd attempt. During that time it will cycle through the rest of the individuals, and then come back to you for your 2nd attempt. Keep in mind, if you miss an attempt you cannot lower your weight. You can only attempt the same weight or choose to go up in weight, so choose wisely.


Next, there are certain commands that you will need to obey in order to have a successful lift. For the bench press, you will unrack the bar and wait for the judge to give you the “start” command. Once they do, you will lower the bar and touch your chest, pause it until it becomes motionless, and then the judge will give you the “press” command. Once you lock out the weight, you will hold it under control until the judge gives you the “rack” command. During that time, you must keep your glutes on the bench. If these are successfully done, then the result will be a “good lift”.


For the deadlift, there is only one command. You will walk up to the bar, and when you’re ready you will lift the weight and stand with it locked out. This means legs straight, hips into the bar, and chest tall. Once you are completely locked out, the judge will give you the “down” command. During that time you will lower the bar to the floor under control, and if all steps are done correctly, you will receive a “good lift”.


Last but not least, remember to have fun. This event is a way for you to challenge yourself, try something and learn something new, and to support and cheer along your fellow members and classmates who you have been working alongside of throughout your time here at Union Fitness. As always, do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions at all. We look forward to seeing you all enjoy yourselves. 

Training Update and the Benefit of Just Showing Up

Earlier this week, our General Manager Todd Hamer wrote a blog about his good friend who recently passed away and the importance of showing up, even at times when you may not feel like it. This can help those close to you in more ways than you might know. If you haven’t read it, be sure to slide over and give it a quick read. It may be just what you need to hear right now. Today, going along with what Todd touched on, I am going to discuss the importance of showing up for yourself. More specifically, the importance of just showing up to train, even when you don’t feel motivated.


If you’ve been training for any decent amount of time, then you have certainly experienced your share of a lack of motivation. When you were new to training, motivation was something that was much easier to come by. You had this vision in your head of what you wanted to accomplish, and woke up every day just waiting to be able to walk into the gym. Over time you realized that this is a very challenging journey filled with many ups, downs, and crossroads along the way. 


In today’s world, it can be easy to believe that if you aren’t moving forward then you aren’t making progress. Well I’m here to tell you that just showing up can lead to much progress and success. As humans, we cannot be full throttle at all times. Imagine driving your car as fast as it will go at all times. It won’t last very long. We are no different. If we are constantly pushing forward without pulling back on occasion, bad things will happen, and we may inhibit our ability to see through the road ahead. This is where it can be necessary to simply “just show up”. 


Being in cruise control at times is not a bad thing. It can help you reset, refocus, gain a new perspective, and analyze your current situation. This can all provide an opportunity for growth and progression in the future. Recently, I’ve just been showing up. Part of this is to help my training partners, members, and friends at the gym, and some of it is for me and my mental health. Although my routine is a bit different from what it typically would be, it is what I need for the time being in order to reset and rebuild for future opportunities and progress. Not just with lifting, but life as well.


Sample training week:


Day 1:

Pit shark goblet squat: 5×8 w/ 2 second pause

Leg press: 7x 20, 15, 12, 10, 12, 15, 20

Bulgarian split squat: 4×10 each leg w/3 second eccentric

GHR back extension: 4×15 w/2 second pause

Hanging leg raises: 4×15 (strict)


Day 2:

Bench press: 5×5 w/2 chains per side

Incline DB press: 3×20

Barbell tricep extension: 5×10 

Single arm rows: 5×10 each arm

TRX face pulls: 4×15 (slow and controlled)


Day 3:

SSB good mornings: 5×5

Banded RDL: 4×10 w/band around hips (3 second eccentric)

Bent over barbell rows: 5×10

Hammer curls: 5×12

Ab rollouts: 4×12


Day 4: Optional

Fatbell bench press: 10×10 w/60 seconds rest

Weighted dips: 5x 20, 15, 12, 10, 8

DB OH press: 4×10

Lat pulldowns: 5×12

Lying fatbell tricep extensions: 5×10

Push/Pull and Summer Strength Project

With the new year here and spring coming right around the corner, we have been hard at work planning our events for the upcoming months. If you have been with us for a period of time, then you are aware of our annual Strength Project event that we host each year. Last year, our Strength Project kicked off in January with the addition of a fund raiser and charity push/pull powerlifting competition. Unfortunately, our plans were sidelined with the onset of the pandemic, and although we did complete our goal for the fund raiser, we were unable to host our push/pull event for our members.


Well, that was last year, and this is a new year. With our sights set on providing you with new ideas and events, we are picking back up right where we left off. On Sunday March 21st we will be coming back to finish our Push/pull event as well as another fund raiser to support the Pittsburgh community (more details to come). The event will be free for any member who would like to sign up, along with anyone who had previously signed up for last years event but was unable to compete.


Following the conclusion of the push/pull event, we will be kicking off our Summer Strength Project beginning in early April with the goal of getting everyone ready for sunshine and adventures. Our Powerful and Cardio Lab coaches will be working together on the class programming to help you reach all of your goals. At the end of the Summer Strength Project in early June, we will be holding a cookout with food, drinks, and a hands on seminar. 


Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for more details to come regarding these events.


2021 is going to be FUN!


Hold on to your butts, we have more cool things coming your way and here are a few of the new things you’ll see at UF in 2021.


On Site at Union:

Charity/Fundraiser Super Group & Marathon Classes

Comedy, Coffee & Competition

Athlete & Agility

Metal/Rock N Roll Yoga

Movement & Mobility

Strongwoman/Strongman Conditioning

Battle of The Gyms

Health, Wellness & Training Education

Hands on Training Seminars

Monthly Challenges

Blood Drives

Toy/School Supply Drives

And More…


Union Fitness Adventure Series:

Mobile Pop-Up Bootcamps

Pittsburgh Stair Climb Tour

Bike Pittsburgh to D.C.

Hike Pittsburgh

Run Pittsburgh

Brewery & Bootcamps

And More…


Union, let us hear your voices! Tell us your ideas you may have and any interest in the above-mentioned events. For any event we would love to partner with local North Side or Pittsburgh area small business to support local and highlight those businesses. Send in those ideas and let’s rock n roll all over 2021.





Happy New Year, We Need the Old You

I have very eclectic taste in music so when I think I tend to go to what song fits the moment. I have realized this habit has rubbed off on my son. We will often be driving and jamming some tunes then Tenzing says, ‘”Dad this is the perfect song for this moment.” With that in mind I can’t write this blog without thinking about a song from the Old 97’s. In the song “The Magican” Rhett Miller sings these words, “Oh, but I wanna be with the real you.” This song has always haunted me as it reminds me that we need to be the real version of us. With this I welcome you to 2021.


If you made it this far you may be asking why you are still reading me ramble about a song and band you probably never head of? Because I want to make 2021 the year of the real you. Bring you to the gym, work, and life everyday. Often the date changes and people say it’s time for a new you. It isn’t! Today is a great day to evolve, and with that we must understand that the real you should be you, who is trying to improve daily.


Think of this in terms of lifting or training. When you began you never thought you could do what you currently do, until you put the work in. Then afterwards you were still you, just a stronger and more wise version of you. Let us not throw out the past, let us not throw out our mistakes. Bring them with you and let’s all grow, evolve, and make 2021 just another step in the right direction.


Now I am asking for you to help me. How can I, and UF help you in 2021. We have never seen a year like 2020, so we are open to new ideas. Share with me your thoughts and if we can, we will do what we can to help you improve the real you.


Happy New YEAR!