Tag Archives: Wellness

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

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

What the World Needs is More Coaches

What does it mean to be a coach? On the surface a coach can be defined as someone who is helping an individual work towards achieving a goal. This is what most of us think of when we hear the term. However, as we go deeper, we will realize that coaching consists of much more. The ability to coach is within each of us, and it’s something that we need now more than ever.

 

I’ve spent the last 11 years of my life as a coach to athletes, kids, the elderly, and general population individuals. During that time, my focus has always been to first build a connection with each person, and then help them to unlock their full potential with the goal of being able to become their own coach in the future. With coaching, the goal should never be to want people to rely on you in order to achieve those things, but rather possess the ability to learn on their own, and then to pass on those lessons which they have learned throughout the process. In my opinion, this is the true definition of a coach. 

 

The more experienced I become within my career, the more I realize that these actions go far beyond working in a performance setting, but rather a universal setting. In my opinion, coaching is not confined to a certain group of trained professionals, but anyone who has learned from their life’s lessons, and is willing to pass them onto others for the greater good of humanity. Each of us has a skill that distinguishes one person from another. We can use those abilities and skills to help coach others to work towards a better, more knowledgable version of theirselves. I strongly believe that this is the ultimate goal of life. It’s what we are here to do. Today, we need quality coaches more than ever. So, ask yourself “How can I help, and what things have I learned that I can pass onto others to help them become a better version of who they are?”. If we can all do this, we will be great.

A Conversation in my Head

Hamer and I were taking a break from some heated bocce ball matches after work one day and started having the old debate: low bar or high bar. Hamer stopped and asked the women next to us what they thought. They had no idea what the hell we were talking about. Something that we might think is so important and give each other a hard time about, this woman had no idea what it was and had never given it any thought. Something as simple as that stuck with me, where is my effort going? Is it going somewhere meaningful? What, in the big picture, what actually is strength, how is it shared, what the hell does it even mean? Does it actually matter? 

 

I was watching Neat:The Story of Bourbon last night and they dove into how the whisky is made and  its history of it. They then dove in a bit deeper, to what it means to drink bourbon, to enjoy it with the people you are with. I found it paralleled strength quite a bit in my life. Getting strong is great, getting strong with people you care about is better. Often,the most important training is just getting under the bar with a loved one or pushing some sleds with a brother/sister. Sometimes numbers aren’t always the most important unless we’re in competition. But going through the day in day out of training next to someone else gives meaning to those numbers. I still want to chase  a 700lb deadlift before I go 6ft under, but I know I’m plenty training sessions away from that. However, by saying the numbers aren’t as important I mean when you’re training, I train with a guy that isn’t as physically strong as me, but mentally is so much more. On “those days” he knows he has to step in and get me out of my head and back under a bar. 

 

The other thing that has added meaning to my training is this; the harder I train, the more disciplined I am, the harder I train, the more compassionate I find myself feeling. I hear this alot in the combative sports, that the more time you spend training, getting choked out, the more compassionate and peaceful you find yourself outside of training. I think the same is true for lifting. My rack is where I can be aggressive, angry, whatever the hell I want to be, push my training partners and get after it, with any and every four letter word I  want. but as soon as I step away, I’ve found a peace. 

 

Which brings it back to the struggle. We always usually have a struggle, and the people we go through that struggle with are the ones usually closest to us. Training fosters that as we usually choose our struggle and our training partners are crazy enough to join us in  it everyday. Struggle teaches us to enjoy the hard work  with those we care about. One of my favorite training sessions wasn’t a heavy single (although we all know those are the best) but it was a barbell and a few hundred pounds of bumpers in the middle of a dirt road before a buddies wedding while we had a couple of beers and cleaned. Strength came down to this for me: it’s not about the barbell, it’s about the lives you touch and the people you meet. Strength is just a byproduct of a good relationship and like good bourbon takes time,the hard parts can’t be skipped and it can never be rushed.

 

Enjoy the Ride/State of the Union

Happiness Quotient (HQ) is the level of happiness one has achieved in their lifetime. How much happiness do you generally have in your life? This is a simple yet important question and in today’s blog I’d like to help you move your HQ up a notch or two. In addition to becoming happier you may even learn something about our cool little gym.

 

Most people are stuck at a certain level of happiness. If they won the lottery they would (within a year or two) fall back or climb back to where they were prior to being rich. On the flip side if they were to have a terrible accident, within a year or two they would return to approximately the same level of happiness they had prior to the accident. With a quick google search you will find a few books on this topic. I first read about this idea years ago and it changed my life, my training and my work. Decide how happy you want to be and then be that happy. I understand that I am writing these words during a major shift in our society. I believe that makes these words that much more important.

 

Union Fitness

 

I spent twenty years as a strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level. I have had the ability to work with olympians, pro-athletes and some of the finest humans I could have ever encountered. I truly enjoyed all of what I did as a strength coach and I am proud of what I did as a coach. When I took over at UF in October I was taking over an extremely successful gym that did not need an overhaul. I saw myself as the luckiest man around. Then a pandemic hit and we shut down. I tried to be proactive, we shut down a few days before others. I believed it was the right thing to do. Initially I thought it would be a few weeks and things would be back to normal. Well almost three months later we re-opened our doors. During those three months here are some things we did to try to keep our community together.

  1. We hosted over 200 online “classes.”
  2. We offered suspension, cancelation as well as deferring payments for anyone who asked.
  3. We lent our equipment out to anyone who asked (including non-members).
  4. We increased our blog posts to daily.
  5. We did the best job we could keeping in contact with our employees and members.
  6. There are a few other things we did that you’ll have to ask me to tell you. But, we tried to help.

 

This list is how we tried to keep some normalcy. When we returned our membership dropped about 35%. Since then we have tried to do what we can to ease people back into the gym. We have offered some free classes, outdoor activities and done our best to keep a clean and healthy training enviroment. I know for a fact even with all of our trying we failed some of our members, and I am not happy about failing anyone. Yet, I know we tried and that makes me rest well at night.

 

So let’s enjoy the ride together. Knowing that we have some members who are still suspended, some that have left us and others that are nervous to return, I have made you a short list of other groups you can try until you are ready to re-join us at UF. This is a list of companies in the area that host outdoor events and will be perfect to talk to while the weather is still warm, and when the cold returns and you are ready to come back inside come see us at the gym. Until then find ways in this strange time to raise your HQ.

 

  1. Stand up PGH
  2. Venture Outdoors
  3. Pittsburgh Parks
  4. Bike Pittsburgh
  5. Trail Pittsburgh

 

This is just a short list that I have either personally worked with or I know people who have. Go to their sites support local and enjoy the outdoors. When you are ready to return to the gym we will be here for you to come back inside. Unless you are training for a meet or a bodybuilding show then don’t worry about the weights they will be here when you return.

 

Until then raise that HQ and enjoy your ride, hike, walk or whatever.

It Goes Beyond the Gym

You’ve probably heard it before, “ you can’t outwork a bad diet.” I mean you can try but at some point you’ll either hit a plateau with your goals or you’ll start feeling “blah” and those are things that happen when either you’re not eating enough or you’re not fueling your body with the proper nutrients it needs to perform simple daily tasks.

 

If you’re an athlete within your respected sport or a member of Union Fitness coming in at 5:30PM to get bumpy with CJ in #Powerful, you’ve probably more than likely heard someone or our staff briefly mention anything in regards to nutrition. Not only do we want our clients to perform to the best of their abilities but we also want them to feel good in their everyday life. This all starts and ends with the basics of good nutrition. Good nutrition can be defined as eating whole and nutrient dense foods. Generally in a good diet we want to look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. These foods include, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and lean protein (when prepared with little to no saturated facts or added sugars/sodium).

 

So back to the all defining phrase, “you can’t outwork a bad diet.” For example, let’s use an early 30’s female, who works a full-time job, eats out a lot, workouts 1 hour a day and likes to enjoy a glass of wine before ending her evening – This would be what her day looks like.

 

6AM Wake-Up

 

Breakfast: breakfast sandwich from fast-food chain + coffee

Heads into work for 9AM

Lunch: chicken salad with ranch and a diet soda

Afternoon snack: greek yogurt with granola + water

Leaves work at 5PM

Takes CJ’s 5:30PM #Powerful

Dinner: burger and fries + glass of wine

 

Now let’s break this down a little, overall she’s not eating terribly but we can nit pick at a few things. First, she’s not eating enough and more specifically she’s not eating enough whole and nutrient dense foods. Secondly, her fast-food breakfast sandwich, diet soda and a burger/fries will eventually leave her feeling the “blah” sensation at some point (if her eating is consistently like this). Her water intake is also very low and my overall observation is she just needs to replace a few things that would fuel her body better.

 

Let’s take a look at the same woman but with a better understanding of eating well.

 

6AM Wake-Up

 

Breakfast: glass of water, breakfast wrap (homemade) + coffee

Heads into work for 9AM

Snack: greek yogurt with granola/blueberries + water

Lunch: glass of water, chicken salad with balsamic dressing and a soda water

Afternoon Snack: Protein bar, banana + glass of water

Leaves work at 5PM

Takes CJ’s 5:30PM #Powerful

Post-Workout: Protein shake + granola bar

Dinner: Seafood pasta + glass of wine

 

After she has learned the basics of good nutrition she implemented a few things, increasing her water intake, increasing her protein intake, choosing drink options that are healthier and making sure her meals are portioned and opting for more homemade meals and whole foods. She is eating more and fueling her body for the simple things like daily tasks whilst getting the nutrients she needs to help her get through a PM workout.

 

The goal here is to understand that regardless if you want to gain muscle or lose weight, you’re going to need to eat but what your nutritional plan looks like is going to be specific to your own goals and your genetic makeup. While we’re at it too, diet culture has long engrained in us that we need to eat less to lose weight and thats not necessary the case (but thats another blog post for another time).

 

It all comes down to fueling your body for daily life and working out. So, whatever your goals may be keep in mind whole and nutrient dense foods are the answer, shop the perimeter of your grocery store and allow yourself to eat the things you love in moderation.

 

Much love,

 

J

What are we doing to be good neighbors?

Recently we posted about how we at Union Fitness want to be a part of the solution in this world. There are numerous issues facing our world today. A global pandemic has affected our country more than most. There have been racial strife throughout our country and the world. In addition we still have obesity, homeless veterans, unequal educational system and many other issues. We are “just a gym” so how we make our neighborhood and the world a better place?

 

Below I have listed groups that we have worked with and what we are doing and added links so if you want to get involved you can help out as well. This is our opportunity to improve our little piece of the city and our world.

  1. We have hosted events for and raised money to support Wounded Warrior Project. We have donated our time and space to their cause as well as held classes to raise money for them. https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
  2. We have hosted events and raised money to give to the Hillman Cancer Center. This was a special event as one of our members was diagnosed with cancer and overcame it with the help of these fine people.https://www.mdanderson.org/
  3. Hosting a few classes to donate food to Northside Commons Ministry was a great opportunity to help in our own back yard. This is a group that is always in need of food and money to help with their cause. https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/agency/northside-common-ministries/
  4.  A group we are just beginning to work with is Pgh Parks Conservancy.We will be cleaning the park. This is a great opportunity help in our own  back yard.   https://www.pittsburghparks.org
  5. We are working to combine forces with Urban Impact to aid them and assist in training their youth sports teams.  https://www.uifpgh.org/home
  6.  We have donated goods to the Women’s Shelter of Greater PGH. www.wcpittsburgh.org    
  7. For our friend CeJ’s Big Bad B-Day we raised money for the Northside Humane Animal Rescue.https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org

This is just a short list of groups we have worked with. We are now working to come up with more groups that we can work with. Yet, if you are looking for a place to start making the world a better place these groups all do great work. 

My Five

I feel like its been a hot minute since I last wrote a blog and whilst I normally have something to say in regards to nutrition, training or even mental wellness today I’m taking a different approach. I’m going to throw at you five things I cannot possible live without, this is in regards to every aspect of my life and a little “get to know me” type of post if you’re new to Union Fitness and have no idea who that blonde chick in the Birkenstock’s is.

 

My Five

 

Coffee: I’m a huge advocate for letting your body wake up naturally rather then jump out of bed and literally run for the freshly made pot waiting for you on the counter. However, there is nothing like it when I take that first sip in the morning, I truly do go to bed thinking about that initial cup of coffee. I will argue that Starbucks is consistently just okay and I’d much rather opt in for a small business brew that has been locally sourced.

 

Breakfast Food: I don’t know about any of y’all but I could eat breakfast at all hours of the day, I mean its basically an excuse to eat dessert at 8AM in the morning. I’d say my favorite breakfast meal that I don’t normally get to eat would be a crepes with a Nutella spread, bananas + strawberries doused in maple syrup (because I’m also Canadian, duh).

 

The Gym: Pretty sure a lot of people feel me here, especially post-quarantine I realized how much of my socializing in life comes from the gym atmosphere. Not only is it a huge hobby of mine it’s also my job and I’m very thankful to be able to do what I love on a day to day basis. The gym has allowed me to grow immensely over the past six years and within the last three, getting more involved in the competitive aspect I’ve truly learned how important it is to love the process and love the day in/day out mentality.

 

Leggings: I’m getting pretty basic here with my top five but if I’m being real with you, I own two pairs of jeans and thats 100% the truth. Leggings are my work, workout and life choice of clothing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I despise clothes that are tight and especially during specific times of the year sometimes I really just hate clothes and would much rather live on a private island so I could wear a bikini all day long.

 

Ice Cream: Hands down would do absolutely anything (that is legal) for Ben & Jerrys. I’m a fan of chocolate Halo Top but lets be honest, if I’m going to have ice cream I’m going to eat the real stuff, even if a lot of dairy hurts my stomach. I’m just a huge ice cream girl, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a whole pint in one sitting, truly wondering if maybe I could handle another. Name a better ice cream company, I’ll wait….

 

As generic as my answers are they are so truthful, my life is super boring and primarily revolves around work, training, eating and sleeping but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, now that I’ve told you all my five, I’m nominating my fellow co-worker Cayt Neff to white about her five things she can’t live without!

 

Much love,
J

Four pillars: Training

Disclaimer: There is a big distinction that I want to make when you read this article. To accomplish any goal you must work hard but doing pointless work for the sake of working hard is dangerous. Hard work does not need to be complicated but precise and consistent.

 

This training article is not going to be about how I believe everyone needs to be a “beast”. There are enough videos out there that yell at you for an hour telling you to work harder. This article does not address what the best program is either. If must know I believe 5/3/1 is, simply because it’s easy to follow.

 

Of course, I believe that a good program helps to achieve a goal but the real challenge is to recover from that program. Hence why the first two pillars are about recovery. I truly mean a challenge. It is psychologically and physically challenging to recover better. It takes time and self-discipline. Now how to address programming.

 

Training needs to be simple. The more complex the program is the more room for error on your part. Most people do not need an intricate program with the latest research. Yes, I believe that some programs are better than others but what I mean is when you are starting out, make the simplest program ever. By simple I mean you are going to come in and do 3×20 on leg press and hamstring curls. Done. That’s a wrap for the day. Now, what are you doing tomorrow? The easier this program is, the more likely you are going to do it for a long period of time. The length of time following a program is far more important than the intensity of the program.

 

 

Injuries will slow you down. Injuries are inevitable no matter what level you are at, how long you have been doing it, or the intensity that you bring. What I believe to be far more controllable is the severity and length of the injury. Most people can remember that their shoulder felt weird that day when they decided to max out. Or when you woke up and your back wasn’t fully prime for that hard deadlift day. You probably did the workout anyway because you are no (whatever word you choose) and now your back/shoulder has been hurting. Congrats.

 

Here is another idea. Do the things that specifically only make your body feel good. If the pain or aggravation persists go see a doctor or physical therapist but what do they know. People know that I am bias towards physical therapist but a good therapist can help tremendously in keeping you on the path to accomplish your goal. Now ideally you have a program that has certain warm-up exercises or assistant exercises that will help the reduce severity of an injury that was to come.

 

Your primary focus should be on your weakness. Again the program doesn’t need the most complex excel sheet you can find but it does need to work on your weak points as the focus. In my case, my hamstrings are not a strong point for me. They have no idea what they are doing and are constantly sore. Hamstring exercises have always been in my programs but not to the extent they should have been. When I currently train legs  ¾ of the workout are now hamstring focus and my back has thanked me for it. This is where a coach, personal trainer, or training partner can be a tremendous help. One of these people should let you know what “thing” needs to focus on.