Tag Archives: inspiration

Let’s Ride and Make the World a Better Place

The week for our bike ride is upon us!

 

As you have probably seen we are hosting a bike ride fundraiser. We are excited as this is something new to Union Fitness. The ride is called “Bike Ride for Black Lives.” All funds raised will be donated to the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

 

FAQ

 

What are the ride options?

 

We are hosting a 10, 30 and 50 mile ride.

 

What are the routes?

 

We will have maps available the day of the ride.

 

The ten mile ride will leave Nova Place, ride to the Northside trail and follow the trail beside the Allegheny River and back to Nova Place.

 

The thirty mile ride will cross into town, then catch the Great Allegheny Passage and ride up past the waterfront and back (it will end at about Kennywood).

 

The fifty miler will follow a similar route to the thirty except follow the GAP past Mckeesport.

 

How do I register?

 

Click here and scroll down to Saturday. The ride is listed as one of our “classes.” This “class” is free to anyone (member or non-member of UF).

 

How do I donate?

 

All donations are taking place through our go fund me page, click here for that site. 

 

What time does the ride start?

10 mile family fun ride. This ride will leave UF at 10:30 AM with registration at 10 AM.

30 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 9:30 with registration at 9 AM.

50 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 8:30 with registration at 8 AM.

 

Will there be rest stops?

 

For the 30 and 50 mile rides we will have a support crew at the waterfront. They will have water, gatorade and snacks.

 

Let’s Roll.

Team UF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings

When I was young, my dad had a small weight bench and a pair of dumbbells in our spare bedroom upstairs. He first showed me how to use them when I was around 10 years old or so, but after the first time that I took too much weight off of one side of the bar and it came up and hit me square in the mouth, I was over it. It wasn’t until I graduated high school that I actually found my way into the weight room.

 

Growing up, I was always extremely active and involved in sports. From growing up on my Grandfather’s farm, to helping my dad work on our 1970 Mustang, to racing dirt bikes and four wheelers, I was always doing something physical. From the age of 4, I played soccer and baseball up until the day that I graduated high school. I lived for all of it. These things were my way of hiding how shy and afraid I was on the inside. When I was standing on that pitcher’s mound or racing around a track, I felt unstoppable. Almost like a superhero. But when all of that went away and I had to go back into the real world, I was just a boy who was scared of what life was going to throw at him.

 

Eventually, I decided to put sports to the side and pursue a career for my love of cars. For a couple of years I worked in custom car shops as a metal fabricator and paint specialist. Although I absolutely loved it, there was now a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. Without the strength and confidence that I gained from sports, I was still that scared kid from my childhood. One day, my best friend Trey asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him after work. I hesitated as I flashed back to the time when the barbell hit me in the mouth at my parents house, but I still said yes. Scared and nervous, I walked into our old high school’s weight room as I was greeted by the football coaches. One of them, my History teacher Mr. Joseph, looked at me shocked and said “Miller! What are you doing here? Are you lost or something?”

 

Indeed I was lost. I was 145 pounds soaking wet, and had no idea what I was doing, but each day, I kept coming back. One month into working out 3 days per week, I received news that Trey was in a car accident, and was fighting for his life. I visited him in the hospital, and told myself that I would continue to train for him. As he progressed and got better, I began to realize what the gym had provided me during that time. It gave me the courage to keep pushing when I was sad and scared, and it gave me the strength to not give in even when I wanted to quit. 12 years later, and not a day goes by that I don’t try to repay and pass on everything that the gym has done for me. It has given me the strength to go back to school, to become an established professional, become an Elite powerlifter, build strong relationships, and face my fears every day in order to become a better human being. As long as I live, I will do my best to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the same things that I have.

 

To Mr. Joseph, I am in fact still lost, but I’m finding my way a little more each day. Thank you for the encouragement.

The Power of Powerlifting

This past weekend, Union Fitness hosted the 3rd annual Iron City Open powerlifting meet. With the help of our staff, Doug Nostrant and his team of referees, along with our member volunteer spotters and loaders, we were able to have an extremely safe and successful event. I will be completely honest, this is an event that I was very unsure about happening a couple of months ago, and even up until a few before the competition. As far as I am aware, this was the first event that was held in the western PA area since before the start of the pandemic in March. 

 

What made this event special was not only the competitors that attended and the weight which they were able to lift, but all of the people who came together to make sure that everyone was safe and meeting all of the guidelines and standards necessary in order to be able to hold the event. From the outdoor tent, to the USPA referees making sure that the equipment was properly cleaned after every single lifter completed an attempt. That’s right, the bars and benches were disinfected and cleaned after each competitor touched it. You can’t ask for much more care and safety than that. All while wearing masks and face shields for 7 hours in 90 degree weather. This truly goes to show how strong the Powerlifting community is, and how much love and respect goes into it.

 

I am entering my 8th year as a competitor. During that time, I have personally competed in 15 competitions, and I have either attended and/or helped individuals in another 15 or so events. The more meets that I attend, and the more mature that I become, the more I understand and appreciate everything that the sport of powerlifting has to offer, and all of the people whom I’ve had the opportunity of meeting in the process. On the surface, powerlifting may look like a bunch of meat heads with low IQs walking around sweating, grunting, and yelling absurd statements just so they can pick something up one time and then put it down. However, if you dig deeper and spend some quality time in the community, you will meet some of the most genuine people who you’ve ever encountered, and you will witness first hand how powerlifting can help you become better in every aspect of life.

 

In powerlifting, you have to develop a plan of action and then take one step each day in order to reach that goal. It’s inevitable that you will encounter crossroads, hardships, and even frustration along the way. Over time, when approached correctly, this will equate to many small victories and lessons learned. Lessons which can not only help you become a better athlete, but can carry over into being better in your career, in your relationships, and within your own self. The best part of this is having the ability to pass on these lessons to other individuals so they can benefit from the same things which you have. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Living, learning, and passing on.

Questions of Command

The best Commanding Officer I ever had no idea how to do his job. Or at least that’s what he told us. 

 

Over a few week period the entire Air Wing had seen a spat of deaths, some suicides, some motor vehicle accidents, training accidents; one of the suicides had come from one of our line squadrons. Nothing was his fault, he was a great commander, smart, attentive, organized, compassionate. But sometimes that’s not enough. 

 

He gathered the entire group command in the staff conference room, hundreds of years of military experience, leadership, and know-how gathered around a grand oak table with my C.O. at the head of the table. 

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing” he said after a long silence. “I could do all of your jobs” he said smiling looking out at his squadron commanders. “I know how to lead flights, organize schedules, make sure the birds stay up – but I don’t know what to do about this”. 

 

There is a powerful mental state called “Imposter syndrome”. In its most basic form is the belief that one’s own skill, knowledge, abilities are less than what others around you view them as – simply put, you’re an imposter. You might have years of experience at a job be viewed by your peers, bosses, and employees as a total expert but in the back of your head you know that you’re just fooling them all… and yourself. 

 

There is another syndrom of sorts that is also worth examining –  the “Dunning Kruger Effect”. This effect has gotten some notoriety in past years as the wealth of knowledge easily accessible to anyone with a smart phone has grown. essentially , you learn enough to think you know everything when in fact you don’t even know enough to know how little you know

 

“I don’t know what to do about this” – vulnerability is a powerful thing. When leaders, especially good leaders, are able to be vulnerable in front of those they are charged to command it creates a powerful thing – faith. After my commander finished, every soul in that room believed in him more than ever. We believed in him because we knew that he was telling the truth. 

 

Now, I don’t know for a fact that my CO viewed himself as an imposter, but the dogged way he worked to prove he was the real deal might be an important indicator. I also cannot confirm that he ever fell victim to the dunning kruger effect but, anecdotally, most young aviators view themselves as invincible hot shots (TOP GUN if you will). However, with every extra hour in the cockpit they discover just how much more they need to learn. At some point, these two conflicting states of mind reached a convergence for my CO.  He came out the other side a wiser, better leader.

 

It’s the same in coaches. I myself am still headed towards this convergent point. In good moments of confidence I see in myself what others say they see in me – but often I don’t. I at least know that I don’t even know how much I don’t know  – that’s a start. So how do we work through these diametrically opposed forces? I think vulnerability is a good place to start. 

 

Sport coaches, or at least NBA basketball coaches seem to be catching on to the power of vulnerability. In the book The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle he discusses the first day of practice with the San Antonio Spurs and the legendary coach Gregg Popovich. Pop (as he’s commonly referred to) is a man who has been at the top of his field for decades. Seen by peers, players, and the media as a prime example of what a winning coach is. Yet he begins every season by acknowledging his fears of letting his team down, not being a good enough coach, and not being able to meet his players expectations. Vulnerability in action to bring a team together, to level the playing field (or court) so to say. What this unlocks is a level of trust and understanding in all directions that incubates a culture of success. 

 

For too long, barbarized examples of masculine strength have dominated the world of athletics, whether on the field or in a weight room. I know I have gone down this road many times myself. But another NBA coach, Golden State’s Steve Kerr sees another path to victory through vulnerability. “The whole point of competing is to be vulnerable…to lay it out on the line” Kerr said on a 2020 podcast. He links the need to play and compete with your full self; ego, fears, pride, self-consciousness, as essential to victory. And only through being openly vulnerable can our full selves be accountable to others. 

 

Dr. Brené Brown has spoken at great length about the power of vulnerability. Only by accessing and sharing the most fragile parts self can we really work to strengthen the whole. But as coaches and especially young coaches we’re faced with a conundrum. We are tasked with the welfare of young men and women (often not much younger than ourselves) we are asked to lead them and help them improve. We are told to project confidence, to be experts in our craft, to have the answers. But I am not always confident, I do not feel like an expert in my craft, and I do not have all the answers. “Vulnerability is not weakness” Dr. Brown says, “it’s the most accurate measure of courage”. In order to improve we have to investigate, acknowledge, and take ownership of how we need to grow.” 

 

I know I often feel like an imposter in the field of coaching. I don’t have the education background of those I look up to, I don’t have the years of experience of many of my peers, I worry that I won’t be able to make some of the sacrifices so many in this field have to make to advance. I also know I don’t know more than I can even imagine and this is at times almost paralyzing in its scale. The dueling states of “Impostor Syndrome” and “the Dunning Kruger Effect” is ever present – but I’m investigating it, learning to acknowledge it, and working to take ownership of my part in getting through it – I’m learning to be a more vulnerable coach. 

 

My CO said he didn’t know what to do. But he knew that being vulnerable with those other leaders in the room gave them permission to be vulnerable too. He knew that vulnerability from the top down built trust from the bottom up. And he knew that building that trust, while maybe not THE answer, was a start.

 

I don’t know what I’m doing – but telling you that is a start. 

 

 

1. Cuncic, A. (2020, May 1). What is Imposter Syndrom. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469

2. Vandergriendt, C. (2020, May 15). The Dunning-Kruger Effect Explained. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/dunning-kruger-effect

 

 

 

Bike Ride for Black Lives

One of our goals at UF is to be better members of our community. With this in mind, we are going to host a fundraiser for Pittsburgh Urban League. I had attached the details for this fundraiser and are inviting each and every one of you to come out and have a fun day with us.

 

Date: Saturday, Sept 26th

 

Location: Union Fitness

 

Ride Options: 10 mile family fun ride. This ride will leave UF at 10:30 AM with registration at 10 AM.

30 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 9:30 with registration at 9 AM.

50 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 8:30 with registration at 8 AM.

 

If you wish to join us at this ride we are asking for a donation that for the Urban League of Pgh.

We also ask that you go to MindBody and sign up for the event through our MB site.

Here is the link for donations.

 

Thanks for reading and hopefully you will be able to come out and join us. We will be posting more details as we get closer.

 

We Need YOU!

It has been an interesting year for me personally and professionally. In the last 12 months I left an industry that I was in for two decades, moved, became the GM at UF and we then had a pandemic. During this time we as a team here at UF have been able to review and reflect on our why. Why do we work here? Why do we do what we do?

 

What I have learned over the last 12 months is that there are many parallels from my previous industry to my current industry. As with most jobs our jobs here are people first. We must help all members of UF as well as Team UF (this includes all employees). A piece of advice I was once given about this, always be employee first not customer first. If as co-workers we don’t treat each other well then we won’t treat the customer well. Our goal is to treat you well and give you the opportunity to succeed.

 

UF members join for a multitude of reasons. Some members just come to run on a treadmill and get a little sweat, some do yoga and others join to be a high level athlete. No matter the reason anyone comes to UF it is our job to empower you to be a better version of yourself. With this in mind we are now asking you for some feedback about how we can better service you!

 

Next time you visit UF please stop at the front desk and fill out a short questionnaire about how we are performing. We debated doing this online, the reason we are doing this in the gym is we want you, the people who actually attend the gym to give feedback. Please be honest and give us your opinions. We are going to leave these questionaries up until the end of next week. After we receive all of them we will review and I will write another blog post about what we are doing to address any issues that we see.

 

Yours in strength,

 

Todd Hamer

Bike Ride for Black Lives

One of the goals here at UF is to reach out to the community and do our part to make this world of ours a better place. Keeping this in mind we will be hosting our first ever fundraising bicycle ride. The title of the ride is “Bike Ride for Black Lives. I have added the details of the bike ride. I would be remiss if I did not add that one of our members is the real reason this is happening.

 

Jessie Theisen is one of our awesome members and she approached me with this idea a few weeks ago. We immediately got to work to make this happen. I want to publicly thank Jessie and her husband Will for getting this started.

 

Details:

 

The ride will occur the weekend of Sept 26th. We are still deciding on whether we will ride on Saturday or Sunday. We are working with a few others groups to make this the best day possible so this decision will happen by the end of the week.

 

We are setting up a go fund me account to donate. All the money raised will go to, the Urban League of Pgh.

 

We are going to have 3 ride options ranging from 10-50 miles. We will have three different start times as well so that the riders doing the long rides will have more time to finish the ride.

 

Sign ups will be live at the beginning of September and will be handled through UF. If you want to involved as either a rider, volunteer or sponsor please reach out to me anytime.

 

Ride Strong!

Todd Hamer

Signal and Noise

I am not sure who at UF is a musician yet I have been playing and performing for my entire life. If anyone has every recorded music you should have heard the terms signal and noise. Each of these matter and I am going to explain why each is important to you in your life, art and lifting.

 

Signal

 

The signal is what you trying to get across to the listener and is generally the main point of the music. To the untrained ear they will often only hear the signal and not catch any of the noise.

 

The signal in lifting and in our lives is simply what we are trying to focus on. It could be the lift itself or quite often a cue from one of our training partners. We send signals to each other all the time while training. Without the signal the noise will do no good for anyone. I look at the signal as following the rules. We must learn the rules before we can consider breaking them. As a beginner make sure you focus on and make your signal very clear.

 

Noise

 

The noise is any of the background sounds in the recording. At times this can be very intentional while at others it can be what the mics happened to pick up or even the echos of the room.

 

The noise to me is where the true magic and beauty happen. One of the biggest mistakes I see in music today is the overproduction of recorded music. For reference point on noise listen to anything recorded using analog not digital recording techniques. Often you can hear the singer breathe or ones finger slide across the guitar. It is  these small serendipitous moments that make the music great. It is also when we learn the most about the music and the artist.

 

In our training and lives noise are the things that we were not prepared for, and how we overcome these issue is how we learn. If your goal for the day is 10 reps and at 10 you decide to keep going and you roll through 20 reps that is noise. It just happened and you went with it. The beauty in this noise is that nothing else matters at this point, the noise is the purpose now.

 

I hope by now you see my point as better stated by Pablo Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Make fun mistakes, makes some noise and cause some good trouble.

 

Keep rockin and rollin!

Hamer

 

 

Toria’s Trip

Hello! I’m one of the new kids here at UF. I wanted to introduce myself and share a little bit of my story with you all. So… I graduated from Slippery Rock University with my BS in Exercise Science and from the University of Pittsburgh with my MS in Health, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease. I am currently an Exercise Physiologist at a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh, and a desk worker/soon to be trainer at UF. Now that you know my education and work background, let’s get into the fun stuff. 

 

When I was a student in college, I had gained just about 50 lbs over the course of those few years from being lazy and unmotivated. I believe I gained 25 of those 50 lbs in just one year. I only saw the inside of a gym maybe a few times per year. I was very unhappy with myself and didn’t care enough to try and lose the weight. I would eat fast food and drink pop (or “soda” for you oddballs out there) literally all of the time. I don’t think I really even knew what a vegetable tasted like. My physical and mental health both went down a steep hill. 

 

A little over a year ago, my doctor ordered a blood test because of the rapid weight gain and how badly I had been feeling. The test revealed that I had abnormally high LDL cholesterol levels (LDL = the “bad” cholesterol). At the age of 22 it definitely isn’t normal to have high cholesterol with no history of it in my family. Since I’m young it doesn’t seem like a huge concern, but I sure was scared for my future health. Not long after that news, I discovered a local CrossFit gym that I figured I could try out. I was intimidated and very unsure of it at the time, but I immediately fell in love with exercise and fitness. I ended up bringing my cholesterol levels down, losing all of that extra weight I had gained in college, gaining some solid muscle mass and a lot of confidence along the way. When I first started out, I could barely do a few pushups even from my knees and that extra weight I was carrying put a lot of stress on my joints. Now I can exercise with no pain, do movements I wasn’t able to before, and I feel great while doing it.    

 

I found a love and passion for exercise, and I realized that it’s something I will never give up on unless something crazy were to happen to me. Exercise is truly one of the greatest things on this earth. To be able to physically perform and experience what it can do to you is definitely a blessing as not everyone in this world is able to. On this journey I have learned that fitness is not about being better than someone else, it’s 100% about being better than YOU used to be. If you put even just a little bit of focus on yourself and your physical/mental health progress, it can truly go a long way. I hope my story helps you realize and remember that even with some of the setbacks that come throughout life, you can do anything you put your mind and body to!

 

Stay healthy friends!

 

Toria

Now That’s NEAT!

“Low energy flux, but not energy surplus, predicted future increases in body fat. Furthermore, high energy flux appeared to prevent fat gain in part because it was associated with a higher resting metabolic rate.”
-Hume et. al 2016

 

I often share this advice as one of the most actionable items for a fat loss client. Daily movement can be the secret weapon in achieving your fat loss goals. We are designed to move as humans, and we should be moving often. However, today’s society tries to make us move less and make life even more convenient than how it was for our ancestors. What’s worse, when we are in a caloric deficit and trying to lose fat, our brains may try to fight against us and down-regulate movement since we are consuming less calories. We need to be conscious of our movement and make it a daily habit like brushing your teeth and bathing. You do those things, right? Right?

 

I’ve had this conversation quite frequently over the past months: “I’ve gained weight during COVID-19 despite continuing to train or keeping my diet the same. What should I do?” While there are many factors why this could be, a big culprit in many might be the loss of NEAT.

 

NEAT is roughly attributed to 15-20% of your total daily energy expenditure. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or purposeful exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, household chores, and even fidgeting. If you had a job that required you to be on your feet prior to COVID-19 and now you are exiled to your couch, this can be why those pounds seem to be racking up.

 

Research by Shook et. al showed that a threshold for achieving energy balance occurred at an activity level corresponding to 7116 steps per day, an amount achievable by most adults. This research also showed that “the theory of the zone of regulation is important because it relates the accumulation of adipose tissue as not only occurring as a result of low amounts of energy expended but also that physical activity plays a regulatory role in the amount of energy consumed via appetite signals.” So what this means if that NEAT is low, you likely won’t be able to regulate your appetite and there’s a greater likelihood of storing fat. I hope this gives you closure knowing that there was always a deeper reason why you were diving headfirst into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on a Sunday night. Blame it on your lack of NEAT, anyone?

 

As part of a daily checklist for my fat loss clients, I require them to perform 10,000 steps. Put on a podcast/audio book, call an old friend while walking, or simply enjoy your time to yourself while exploring a new route and become one with nature. If you are a busy professional, consider taking walking meetings or perform 10 -minute walks. A 10 minute walk every 60-90 minutes can do wonders for NEAT and will probably provide better mental focus as well. No matter how you choose to do it, my advice is the same: get up and get moving! 

 

References 

 

Hume, D. J., Yokum, S., & Stice, E. (2016). Low energy intake plus low energy expenditure (low energy flux), not energy surfeit, predicts future body fat gain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(6), 1389-1396. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.127753

 

Shook, R. P., Hand, G. A., Drenowatz, C., Hebert, J. R., Paluch, A. E., Blundell, J. E., . . . Blair, S. N. (2015). Low levels of physical activity are associated with dysregulation of energy intake and fat mass gain over 1 year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(6), 1332-1338. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.115360