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FAQ

Getting Started
Training at SLSC

I’ve heard functional fitness, weightlifting, exercising is dangerous…

Is there danger in functional fitness workouts? Absolutely. 

Especially if you are not working with a coach educating you and ensuring proper movement quality.

Fortunately, we start new members off with a free initial consultation and a series of one-on-one sessions that we call Elements so that folks are starting off with a lot of guidance and coaching.

Is functional fitness more dangerous than other comparable activities? Not really.

When looking at data about injuries per participant hours (the best way to standardize injury data), it seems that functional fitness is about as dangerous as other weight training and gymnastics activities — which is actually quite a bit less dangerous than team sports like soccer and even conventionally accepted exercise like distance running.

Also, we need to consider not just the risk of injury due to training, but the risk of injury due to not training at all.

By training movements like deadlifting (picking up an object from the ground), push presses (using the shoulders to press something overhead), and lunging (standing up from being on the floor), we can make these patterns stronger and more resilient.

This means that we can maintain strength and flexibility as we age so that we’re less likely to injure ourselves picking up our kids (or grandkids) or getting an awkward piece of luggage into an overhead bin on a plane.

We also often hear of friends and family “concern trolling” people who are starting a fitness program.

“Oh, you’re going to start lifting weights? I heard that’s really dangerous.” 

Unfortunately, there’s often an insidious habit of people attempting to shoot down those who are close to them when they want to do something different – whether that’s starting to exercise, trying a new diet, working on a side business, or making a career change.

All of that said, we do believe that many programs are run irresponsibly. We believe that there are two major areas where most fitness programs fall short.

  • Upfront screening and assessment

It’s not enough to simply ask a client if they’ve had any previous injuries, then throw them into the mix.

We do an upfront movement screen on all potential clients to establish competency in baseline movement patterns.

This allows us to understand where clients are starting from and give them guidance on any movement patterns that they may need to be careful with.

  • Differentiation of goals

There is a fundamental difference between those looking to compete and win in sport and those looking to train to look better, feel better, have more energy, and have longevity.

Those looking to maximize their performance need to take on the risk of pushing their bodies to the limit.

To look better, feel better, and even casually compete in sport, it’s unnecessary to train with the volume and the intensity of a competitive athlete.

While many of our members enjoy pushing themselves and find fulfillment in completing challenging workouts, we stress the difference between “training to compete” and “training to be fit.”

So, do I need to be in shape before I start?

We like to think of this like taking guitar lessons.

Most of us wouldn’t say, “I need to learn to play guitar before I start taking guitar lessons.”

Even though there’s an abundance of free guitar lessons available on YouTube from highly qualified teachers, most of us recognize that our progress would be faster if we worked with a coach on our specific issues and goals.

Plus, we’d probably avoid picking up most of the bad habits that it’s very easy for beginners to fall into.

Similarly, working with a team of qualified coaches is going to be the best and fastest way to reach your fitness goals.

Everyone starts somewhere, and we are here to meet you where you’re at and guide you on your fitness journey.

What if I can’t do a pull-up? Or any of the other movements?

When people ask questions like this, they typically mean something like “If I can’t do a pull-up, will everyone judge me?”

Our entire program is intended to give people the tools to progress in their fitness — and with specific movements — at a pace that is appropriate for them and their fitness level.

So, we have the tools to help progress your strength, mobility, and skill and help you do things like get your first pull-up or improve your hip mobility so your squats are finally consistently below parallel.

We also have a team of expert coaches that are able to scale and modify any workout at the drop of a hat, so none of our members should ever feel uncomfortable asking to adjust the movements in a training session.

Besides, our community is not about judgment — learn more about our community here.

Everyone in our program started somewhere. 

Some started with impressive fitness levels, and some came in having never done much exercise other than an occasional jog or a stint on the elliptical.

We treat struggles as a learning opportunity and a chance to get better, so no one should ever be ashamed of not already having everything mastered.

Let’s be honest. I’m intimidated.

This is totally reasonable. Getting started with a new fitness program can be very intimidating, so we want to make sure you know what to expect.

The presence of the CrossFit Games has given a lot of people the perception that everyone in every functional fitness gym is constantly flipping tires, doing muscle-ups, and slamming 300 pounds down to the ground from overhead.

This is simply not the case.

Think of a sport like football. 

There’s the NFL, there’s arena football, there’s JV high school football, there’s weekend flag football leagues, there’s playing catch outside with your family, and there’s everything in between.

Functional fitness is similar. There are a lot of different levels of functional fitness, both as a sport and as a training program.

Some people simply want to play catch with their friends, whereas some people want to be the absolute best that they can be.

There’s no problem with either of those goals, and the person who wants to play catch shouldn’t have to feel intimidated because there are people out there who want to play in the NFL.

That said, walking into a situation where people are very fit and doing strange movements and using confusing jargon can be terrifying.

Just understand that you’re not expected to know how to do everything on day one.

It will still be intimidating to get started, but the first step is often the hardest part.

At a good gym with a well-run training program, you’ll be able to tap into the expertise of qualified coaches to help you every step of the way

“High intensity” sounds scary. And hard.

Our training is certainly difficult, but the goal is not to just indiscriminately throw together hard workouts that leave people laying on the ground every day.

Instead, we want to create an environment that allows people to be consistent with their training over time.

Sure, putting forth hard effort matters. But, the real magic bullet for results is showing up to train several times per week for months — if not years.

Often, a misguided focus on intensity can actually make people less consistent, since they get burnt out from constantly pushing themselves every time they step into the gym.

And, this type of brutal workout can be addictive. People love it. They think they’re getting great results, because every day is extremely hard.

Instead, the goal is to find the appropriate level of intensity to create the training adaptation that we’re looking for.

This means balancing more challenging days with less challenging days and allowing the body a chance to recover between difficult training sessions.

It also means giving members a mix of very difficult workouts that give a sense of accomplishment as well as training sessions focused on developing the less “sexy” aspects of fitness like aerobic capacity, mobility, and pacing strategy.

I don’t want to get bulky…

Each person is unique in how they respond to training, so it’s inappropriate to make sweeping generalizations about how people’s bodies will change if they start training with us.

That said, gaining “excessive” muscle mass is extremely difficult for most people. 

In fact, many of the athletes’ physiques that people see on Instagram are the product of years of competitive and serious training (and sometimes pharmaceutical assistance).

While some people do tend to add muscle mass quickly in a way that it doesn’t align with their aesthetic goals, this is the exception rather than the rule.

In these cases, these members can often reduce the amount of weight or the number of reps in their strength training sessions to avoid gaining excessive muscle mass.

Most people, however, will find that getting stronger results in their clothes fitting better, things looking a bit more toned in the right places, and increased day-to-day confidence.

“I want to get ripped…”

Our program isn’t primarily focused on helping people change their body composition, but it is often a pleasant side effect for people who train with us.

A structured strength training protocol is one of the best ways to add muscle mass. 

And, by training consistently and keeping an eye on your nutrition, you’ll probably find that you’ve added some muscle mass and leaned out after a few weeks of training with us.

If changing your body composition is one of your primary goals, we do also offer — and highly recommend — nutrition coaching.

I don’t have an athletic background.

It’s true that what we do at South Loop Strength & Conditioning resonates with many former athletes.

We have a team environment of like-minded individuals who like to push themselves to be better both mentally and physically on a daily basis.

Many people grew up playing sports and had regular physical and competitive activity as a significant part of their lives until they graduated from school and started working on their careers.

For these folks, finding a training program like the one we offer at SLSC can fill a part of their life that they’ve been missing.

That said, there are many people who train with us who have no athletic background.

It can be very intimidating to get started if you haven’t participated in team sports or done a serious strength and conditioning program before, but the mindset of constant improvement and regular challenge resonates with a lot of people who may not come from a sporting background.

In fact, we often find that people with a data-driven mindset who appreciate challenging self-improvement problems resonate just as much with what we do as former competitive athletes.

It may be for this reason, we see a lot of graduate students and software developers with no athletic background joining our program.

Is all of this squatting and deadlifting hard on your joints?

Now this is a complicated question.

While training is stressful and “hard on the body” in the short term, it actually makes us stronger in the long run.

The key here is finding the correct dose of training.

Not enough, and we don’t create enough stress to make us better.

Too much and we stall progress or potentially risk injury.

So, the goal in our programming is not to eliminate stress on the body, but to optimize it so that our members are continuously improving over time.

We also want to regularly take our joints their full range of motion so that we can make sure that we are maintaining mobility and strength.

As they say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Is this just for young people?

The positioning of something like functional fitness certainly tends to resonate with younger people.

Still, the benefits of a progressive, well-designed strength program and intelligent conditioning work are universal across all human beings — regardless of age.

While someone who is younger may resonate more with concepts like beating their friends and maximizing their potential, older folks often want to maintain their health and mobility so that they can play with their children or grandchildren, avoid chronic degenerative conditions, and keep their mental focus.

We have had many members over the years who aren’t exactly spring chickens, and they’ve still enjoyed the challenge the camaraderie of our program.

For people who don’t feel comfortable in our group class environment, we also have several highly qualified coaches available for personal training.

Will the group class be the right thing for me?

Many of our members enjoy our group classes since they add an element of fun and accountability to training.

Especially after spending years wandering around a globo gym on your own feeling unmotivated and uncomfortable, training with a group of like-minded people can be a breath of fresh air.

Still, there are trade-offs between training in a group and focusing on a more personalized approach.

For people who are looking for fun, community, and a new challenge every day, the group classes are often a great fit.

For people who are looking for a full-service option focused on individualization and best practices, personal training is the best option.

We do also offer hybrid options that are a mixture of both one-on-one work and our group classes for those sitting on the fence between the two.

Ugh…why is functional fitness so expensive?

We get it.

As folks are researching fitness options, they inevitably need to know “How much does this cost?

And, the reality is that boutique fitness gyms offering group classes or personal training are often quite a bit more expensive than large, commercial gyms.

Now, this isn’t because fitness business owners are greedy and exploitative people trying to make a quick buck.

In fact, the fitness industry — much like the restaurant business — tends to be competitive with low margins.

We recommend that people looking for a gym first make a decision about what “tier” of service that they are looking for.

If they want a cheap option and are willing to self-educate and deal with the hassles of training at a globo gym, there are a lot of great facilities that have excellent equipment, hours, and amenities for a relatively low monthly fee.

If they want some structure and coaching, there is another tier of gyms that offer group classes at a moderate price point. These gyms often have relatively large numbers of people in their classes, and the complexity of the training is often low to account for the lack of space or significant amount of personalized feedback. These facilities work very well for people interested in dabbling in a lot of different activities or trying to find more fun in their training.

Next, we have gyms offering significant amounts of coaching and attention to detail in their training. These gyms often have group classes or small group training sessions that are more limited in size and also feature a lot more interaction with coaches. This is where South Loop Strength & Conditioning falls.

Finally, we have highly personalized coaching. Many gyms offer some form of high touch personal training involving working closely with a coach in a one-on-one setting. South Loop Strength & Conditioning offers this, as do many other gyms — although this is almost always the most expensive option.

Once you have an idea of which “tier” of training you would like to participate in, it’s probably not wise to price shop too aggressively between different gyms.

Sure, you may find a difference in monthly cost of $20-$30 between different gyms, but you’ll also often find surprisingly extreme differences in the quality of service.

While the more expensive gyms are not always the ones offering the best service, they often are. The more that gyms charge within their pricing tier, the more that they can invest in ongoing staff training, facilities maintenance and improvement, and developing professional coaches.

So, what’s the difference between the Fitness and Performance programming?

You may notice that our class programming has both a “Fitness” and a “Performance” workout.

People training in the “Fitness” track will spend more time developing skill in movement and won’t be expected to perform advanced gymnastics work. 

Strength work will be focused on progressing steadily from week-to-week and finding optimal mechanics. This track is appropriate for people whose primary goals are to look, move and feel better.

“Performance” is meant for folks with a competitive mindset – people who want to see steady progress in their personal bests, beat their friends, and potentially participate in some local competitions.

Many of our members train in a spot “in between” the Fitness and Performance tracks. This is completely acceptable and even expected.

Our coaches are more than capable of helping anyone adjust the day’s training to find a good level of challenge for them.

Can I blend this with additional running, yoga, spin class, etc.?

The programming for our group classes is intended to be a “general physical preparation” program, which means that it should prepare you for a variety of activities. 

We encourage you to use your fitness in whatever way you enjoy – whether that’s distance running or cycling, yoga, recreational sports, rock climbing – the world is your oyster.

All that said, it’s also important to understand the difference between “training,” “exercising,” and “recreation.”

While we encourage people to get out of the gym and do a lot of different activities, it may not be wise to smash multiple different serious training programs together.

So, while doing functional fitness a few days per week and supplementing it with yoga, occasional running, or recreational sports shouldn’t be an issue, we’d encourage you to consult with a coach if you want to train for a marathon, progress in functional fitness, and play in a very competitive flag football league, for example.

Can I workout while I’m sore? Will I ever stop being sore?

If someone is sore, it is typically due to doing “new” exercises — particularly exercises with a lot of eccentric contractions (the “lowering” phase of lifting) like squats, lunges, or pull-ups

So, people who are starting a serious strength and conditioning program often experience significant soreness for the first few months of training, after which they generally adapt.

Soreness doesn’t necessarily stop, but it becomes much more manageable.

People often wonder if it’s ok for them to train while they are still sore from a previous session.

If the soreness is at the level of “mild discomfort,” that is totally fine and even expected.

In fact, continuing to train is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of soreness you will feel in the future as your body adapts to training.

However, don’t push through anything that is more than mild discomfort while getting started.

Our coaches are able to field questions about what kind of soreness is “ok” vs “not ok” as well.

I want to compete in fitness as a sport (CrossFit Games, local throwdowns, etc). What does that entail?

There are folks who are interested in competing at a “for fun” level and those looking to reach their maximum potential.

For folks looking to compete casually, there’s a lot of different options available for a lot of different skills levels.

There are regular weekend competitions available throughout the Chicago area for absolute beginners as well as competitions featuring some of the best athletes from the surrounding area.

Similar to the way that many people enjoy participating in triathlons or 5K races, functional fitness competition is a great way to push yourself consistently and have something to train for.

For people who want to train seriously and potentially compete at a higher level, the commitment to training is much more extreme.

Many of these people will need to spend hours every day in the gym while simultaneously focusing on recovery, sleep, and nutrition outside of the gym.

We have had several high-profile competitive athletes train with us over the years at SLSC, and we have coaches who are qualified to work with competitors.

If you’re interested in working with a coach on individualized programming for competitive fitness, our sister company Legion Strength & Conditioning may be a good fit.

I prefer to train on my own. Is that an option?

Group exercise is not for everyone. For some people, the fun, accountability, and coaching are magic. They get excited and they keep coming back.

Others prefer to work out on their own — often in pursuit of specific goals.

We offer open gym times throughout the day, as well as options to work one-on-one with a coach doing either personal training or individualized program design. (If you’re curious about those options, you can get to know our coaches here and see if any would be a good fit for you.)

Note that we do not have separate membership rates for members who choose to do open gym instead of our group classes.

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