September Strength Playlist

September Cardio Playlist

Trainer’s Secrets to Staying Fit During & After Pregnancy

-Frequently Asked Questions-


Q.  I’m worried about gaining too much weight during my pregnancy and getting back into shape after I deliver.  What is the best way to maintain a healthy weight during and bounce back after?


For every woman there is a “normal” range of prenatal weight gain that is optimal for the baby’s development.  That range depends on several factors and you should discuss this with your doctor so he or she can make the most accurate estimate for you.  That said, the best way to stay within your personal range of weight gain while staying in the best shape possible is to work out on a regular. consistent basis throughout your entire pregnancy.  Yes, even into your final week!  


Your prenatal fitness routine should not be all that different than your pre-pregnancy routine, unless you were not exercising at all.  It is essential that you start as soon as possible with clearance by your doctor.  I have had several prenatal personal training clients who started in their sixth-or-so week and who made strength gains and improvements to their core strength and stability early on.  By the time the 3rd trimester came, they were handling walking lunges, planks and weight lifting better than when they started.  


What you do during your pregnancy does make a big difference in how easily and quickly you recover from delivery and “bounce back” physically.  Even mentally and emotionally, there are published studies that support the notion that regular prenatal exercise has a moderating affect on depression and body image during and after pregnancy.  You have control over how you feel about yourself and exercise is one way to assert that control.  So, if you’re pregnant and worried about weight gain and getting out of shape, all signs point to the gym or getting outside for at least 30 minutes a day of exercise!  Better yet, join a class or sign up with a certified prenatal personal trainer.  Again, make sure you check with your doctor before starting a new and continuing with your current fitness program.  


Q. Why should I start a prenatal fitness program and how can I stay motivated when I’m feeling tired, nauseated or achey?

This is the best time to start for many reasons!  Published research continues to support that regular exercise during pregnancy keeps both mama and baby happy and healthy.  Here is a sampling of possible benefits of working out regularly during your pregnancy: 


  • Less physical discomfort (reduced chance of constipation, hemorrhoids, bloating, swelling, leg cramps – not fun!)
  • Improved self-image, mood and posture
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Better muscle tone, strength and endurance
  • Less overall body fat
  • Reduced risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduced risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Less time in the pushing phase of delivery
  • Lower incidence of Caesarean section birth
  • Fewer obstetric interventions (vacuum extraction, forceps)


The benefits don’t stop with you, mom.  Babies born to mothers who exercised regularly throughout pregnancy tend to be leaner (lower body fat, not smaller), better self-soothers (less cranky and less likely to have colic) and have higher general intelligence scores and better oral language skills all the way to age 5.


The two best ways to stay motivated to continue working out when you’re not feeling “100%” (and, by the way, it’s okay to have those days!) are to sign up for a weekly class and to consult with a certified prenatal personal trainer to help you create a realistic and safe program.  We all need accountability partners in our lives to create sustainable healthy habits and this is an especially important time for you to be setting yourself up for success.  It is also helpful to rely on an instructor to guide you through a workout with modifications depending on any symptoms you might be feeling that day. 


2. How do I know when to stop during a workout so that I don’t harm myself or my baby?


This is such an important question – one that I hear many times over during the course of my

clients’ pregnancies – and yet the answer is actually very simple:


Listen to your body, your doctor and your trainer!  With these “experts” keeping you in check,

you won’t overdo it at the gym.  I promise.  A couple of easy ways to keep your heart rate, body temperature and your baby bump happily humming along:


1. The Talk Test. While pushing it at the gym, make sure you feel like you could keep up a conversation with minimal effort.  This doesn’t mean you can’t huff and puff a little, but not to the point where you feel faint or dizzy.  Passing the talk test will ensure that you are working out in a safe cardio zone. 


2. Too hot? Breaking a sweat will be no sweat when you’re pregnant, thanks to a slightly raised core body temperature.  So, take the cardio down a notch to the point that you feel warmer than usual but not heating up to the point of begging someone to give you the Ice Bucket Challenge.  And, as Beyonce said, “a little sweating ain’t never hurt nobody.”  This is also true during pregnancy.  But, if you’re veering towards over-heated, slow down, sip some cold water and take a short rest. 


Q.  How do I know which aches and pains are normal and which are a sign that something is wrong?

 The nine months of pregnancy are a time of constant transformation inside and out.  With that said, you’ll probably feel different day to day, week to week, month to month.  How that impacts your fitness routine will have a lot to do with you paying close attention to your body’s signals.  In other words, as long as you feel good, keep on moving.  When your body sends a signal that doesn’t feel good, stop and ask yourself: Where exactly am I feeling pain?  Is this a new pain?  Did my doctor warn me about this pain?  I also encourage you to be proactive with your doctor to get answers as well as consult with a certified prenatal trainer or a physical therapist when you’re not sure if working out is safe when you’re feeling “off” in any way. 

 Here are some very common symptoms and conditions that you should be aware of when you’re working out:

 S.I. Joint Pain: Where is it? Tailbone or upper section of the Glutes. What to do? Avoid moves that make it worse and try water-based workouts if the problem continues. 

Low Back Pain: What to do? A few things: strengthen the core, get into the water for workouts and focus on good pregnancy posture during your workouts

Round Ligament Pain: Where is it? Pain or cramping along either side of the pelvis. What to do?

Perfectly safe to work around this pain while avoiding any movements that make it worse.

Preeclampsia: What is it?  Combination of chronic or gestational high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Severe cases of preeclampsia may be accompanied by headaches; vision problems; belly pain; or sudden swelling in the hands, legs and/or face.  What to do? If you have any of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor right away.  Your doc will probably check for signs of preeclampsia during your regular visits as well.  In most cases, if you are diagnosed it will be recommended that you stop exercising.

Q. What are the best prenatal core exercises?

There are lots of awesome core moves that can still be done during pregnancy!  First, try practicing belly breathing and kegels.  Then, try some of my favorites: planks, pelvic tilts and standing knee lifts (think of it as a standing crunch!).  Sit-ups, twisting ab exercises (think bicycles) and lying on your back for leg lifts should be avoided, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimester.

Q. How soon after delivery can I return to working out?

Most doctors will give clearance for exercise somewhere between the 8th & 12th week postpartum, but it will depend entirely on your unique delivery and recovery process.  No matter when you are ready to get back to the gym, it is important to follow these 4 steps to bouncing back.  Above all, enjoy your beautiful baby and try to be kind and compassionate with yourself as you transition through the postpartum period.  Remember: your body is amazingly resilient if you allow it to be.  Give it time to heal and balance your burning desire to “bounce back” with patience and realistic goals.  Working with a trainer, coach or a supportive group of fellow mamas during this transition period can help you do that.  











5 Charts That Changed My Diet Forever

Numbers and statistics  have the ability to change the world because they show us the big picture that we cannot perceive in our own daily lives.  Furthermore, their power is greater than mere opinion pieces because it’s harder to bias numbers that come from sound studies. As I have done my own research for Unite’s blog in the last year, I came across several charts that have dramatically changed my perspective on the “right” food choices. You have to see it to believe it!

These charts opened up my perspective from a narrow “ME” focus to a “wider WE” focus.  For years, I’ve read studies and experimented with my diet,  always looking for what to eat that will balance optimal health and personal enjoyment. While I have always cared for the environment and other people, I had no idea just how much my daily food choices where impacting the earth and society.

Here are the 5 charts that sent me on a path to creating the soon to be released, Sacred Six Diet.  This new diet manifesto takes into account not only what is best for our bodies and minds, but the environment and society as well. We can no longer just think of ourselves because there are dire consequences given the size and connectedness of the population and world food industry. I’d like to note that I do not subscribe wholly to any concept listed below. these are great learning tools that provoke us to think about what we eat and why.

1. Food Efficiency Factor

I love this chart because it ties together the energy needed to produce foods with the energy gained by consuming them (calories) into a ranked list that really makes you think differently about the term “luxury food”.  That is assuming you care about the success and health of our society as a whole and feeding all its 7 billion people.  What the efficiency factor tells us is what foods are most efficient for a growing society to produce and consume.  Knowing these factors we can start to put some smarter structuring to our diets that limits the poor efficiency foods (meats) and focuses more on the highly efficient ones (grains, dairy).

2. Food’s Carbon Footprint

A recent study showed that 2/3 of Americans now fully believe in human driven climate change and think we should do something about it. We hear a lot about clean versus dirty energy sources, but we don’t hear about how much our dietary selections impact greenhouse gases. Did you know that the largest producers of greenhouse gases are the cows we require to meet our increasing demand for  beef! This is true mainly because of how much methane gas cows produce (25 times more potent than carbon dioxide) as well as the amount of feed they require. Check out this chart detailing the drastic differences in greenhouse gas emissions from the production of various foods.  Interesting to me that the top offenders also have other health risks: toxins in farmed salmon, nitrates in processed turkey/ham, saturated fat in cheese etc.

3. Total Impact of Meat Eating

As the last two graphs show, meat, especially lamb, cows, and pigs, come up as the big offenders on both greenhouse gas and societal eating efficiency, but the story actually gets worse for beef production. Producing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than any other animal product. I have enjoyed meat my entire life and don’t plan to go vegetarian.  However, looking at the total impact of producing beef and to a lesser extent pigs, I have reduced my meat consumption and supplemened that protein with cleaner, more responsible choices.


4. Mineral Content Organic vs. Conventional

I notionally figured that organic produce and grains are somewhat healthier for you nutritionally, but these numbers show that organic has significantly, and in some cases exponentially, more mineral and vitamin content. Our bodily functions need those minerals and vitamins to facilitate the chemical reactions needed to work properly. Roundup, #1 pesticide used to kill weeds, does so by stopping the uptake of needed minerals from the soil, which has a similar albeit lesser effect on the actual crops. We also know that the longer produce takes to go from picked to eaten (unless frozen), the more it breaks down naturally with less nutrients. That is also why many seem to experience local, organic as better tasting produce as well. Not to mention the extra green house gases and energy used in transportation.

The organic movement started as a movement not to get more nutritious food, but to avoid toxic chemicals in our foods. When the crops use pesticides, the water, meat and fish all get pesticides too.  The US alone uses 1 billion pounds of pesticides and  the long-term effects have not been understood. We are freely putting toxic and unnatural chemicals into our environment and expecting it to stay balanced and healthy.So eating organic produce is definitely the way to go.

5. Antibiotics and Hormones in Meat

According to the FDA’s data we are pumping our animals full of antibiotics and hormones to enhance growth, milk production and prevent disease, but to what end. Bacteria are everywhere (our stomachs have millions alone) and can help humans or hurt them. Things like anti-biotics can help us, but when we over use them the bacteria evolve to be resistant, exposing us potentially to deadly outbreaks.  Additionally, the bovine growth hormone has been banned in Europe and 27 countries, yet the US still allows it. More reasons I have gone to organic dairy and meat, but unfortunately that doesn’t solve the antibiotic issue.

I’d love to hear what y’all think about this topic! The world needs some new voices. 



Double Trouble for NJ Fall Boot Camp

Starting Sept 15, a group of 20 will be going through 10 wks of Unite’s trademark cross-training workouts and 10 Step nutrition training to accelerate fat loss and fitness.  The kicker is that you have a lot of fun and meet some great people in the process.

Coach Christina and Becky will be a one two punch this Fall, hosting private outdoor boot camp workouts at 6:15pm that will get you enjoying nature and motivated to workout!  Here are a bunch of photos to inspire you!

Boot Camp enrollment due date is Friday Sept 12th $299 and early enrollment of $249 if you register by Fri Sept 5th.

ONLY $50 upgrade for current members.

You can enroll at the studio with any coach or email with any questions.

Coach Eric to Lead Fall Boot Camp All Over Philly

Starting Sept 15, a group of 20 will be going through 10 wks of Unite’s trademark cross-training workouts and 10 Step nutrition training to accelerate fat loss and fitness.  The kicker is that you have a lot of fun and meet some great people in the process.

Coach Eric will be leading the charge and hosting private outdoor boot camp workouts at 630am that will get you up and motivated for your day.  Always wanted to do the Rocky Steps? Run the Bridge?  Outdoor boot camps will be held once a week at various iconic parks around center city keeping things interesting with the rest of your mandatory 3-5 workouts per week completed at the studio.  Here are a bunch of photos to inspire you!

Boot Camp enrollment due date is Friday Sept 12th $350 and early enrollment of $299 if you register by Fri Sept 5th.  You can enroll on the website @

Why Wharton Students Stay Fit

Before I started my first fitness studio and cross-training concept, I was on the road to business school. I went through the entire process following many of my friends to grad school. I even got as far as giving money to hold my place at a school before I chose to travel and start a business instead.

What I learned going through the process is that the highly motivated, go getter type that attends business school is also the type that is into fitness. The new business school peeps understand that to be able to take on the physical, mental and emotional demands of a high responsibility, longer hour executive role that most aspire to, they need to be in great shape with outlets to clear their minds and retain their creativity and sanity. Put those two things together and there is a demand for a all-inclusive cross-training program that is highly effective and convenient for people’s lives. That is why Unite Fitness has such an amazing professional clientele and why we see a large crew of bright young Wharton students every September.


What executives have you seen lately that are overweight and low energy?  The only one I recall in the news was the obese McDonald’s exec that died of a heart condition surprise, surprise. In our modern society, the research and stories from successful executives clearly show that the people that exercise regularly, eat nutritious balanced diets, and make time to quiet their mind and be social with others excel in the workplace. I was listening to Peter Sage get interviewed about what he does to drive his personal success and he explained his morning routine of meditation, exercise, reading and diet. For more on this topic read the recent blog about the research of the critical health habits of wealthy people generally.

While Wharton is the top place to be for business school, the principles of holistic health and fitness being the central driver for our professional careers is relatable to anyone and especially the executive bound.  Unite pledges to help all Wharton, business school students and professionals achieve more through fitness, nutrition and mindset.


Coach Gavin

Cain Now Has Abs Under Those Scrubs

Cain works those crazy nursing hours (7am to 7pm) several days per week and is studying for his third degree but still found  time to dedicate to bettering his fitness and body at Unite.  He is RIPPED now, check him out!

Free Nutrition Talk with Juliet and Ali!

From Knowing to Doing: How Tips, Tricks and Recipes Get Clicks But Not Results with Juliet Burgh, CHHC and Ali Shapiro, MS, CHHC

Ok, Ok, there might be some tips and tricks. But the night’s focus is on having a real conversation about what it takes to lose weight while regaining your sanity around food. You’re only a google search away from tips and tricks. But what you can’t find there is an intimate conversation with experts who have lost weight, had their own body image struggle and regained better lives in the process.
You’ll learn:
  • The four phases of weight-loss
  •  What you need to unlearn to move forward 
  • The missing X factor in most diets that is the key to keeping weight off
Thursday, September 11
7-8:30 pm
1315 Walnut Street, Suite 320 (Cultureworks)
(Light snacks and fresh juice provided by PS&Co, Pure Fare and Sip-N-Glo
To sign up please RSVP : CLICK HERE

Which Obstacle Race is Worth Your Money?

The Ultimate Obstacle Race Review:

Several years ago I overheard a couple guys at the gym describing a race they just signed up for that involved military style obstacles, mud and barbed wire. I couldn’t wait to find out what this ridiculousness was and how I could sign up! Racing was fairly new to me, but it was already becoming something I was feeling a little bored with. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sense of accomplishment when I shave off a few seconds per mile, run a new course or even set a personal record. But I wanted to run for more than the possibility of saying “I beat you.”

Enter the obstacle and mud runs.

I’ve been hooked since my first introduction to this type of race, where the courses are always unpredictable and the only bragging rights earned are “I survived.” If you’re like me and the other 2 million Americans already competing in obstacle and mud events (, 2013) you already know there is a plethora of choices and they aren’t cheap! How do you pick from the dozens that are out there?  From the dirtiest to the most extreme, I’ve compiled my favorites thus far.

This is your guide to finding the best fit for you.

The Tough Mudder

My first experience deserves the first spot on the list.
Gotta love the that the founders sold tickets before building the first obstacle. With the all or nothing attitude and an overwhelming response of the first Mudders, the Tough Mudder paved the way for all the others and helped to spark the popularity of this sport.

This one is all about fun, camaraderie and mud. There are no official times given, although you are welcome to submit a time to be considered for the Ultimate Tough Mudder. Many people are unable to get through (or over, under or around) obstacles alone, so you’ll find everyone helping each other out. Obstacles include 10 foot walls, tunnels and mud. Lots of mud. I’ve never been dirtier or muddier in my life. There’s dirt, thick mud, muddy water, and just plain old dirty water.

They also took the concept of “tough” one step further. As if cold water isn’t bad enough, they added ice cubes. Smoke bombs. Habanero peppers. 10,000 volt wires. 10-12 miles of unpredictable terrain.

For: Masochistic-long-distance-fun-runners (I know, 12 miles is not even a half marathon, but you could be out there for 3-4 hours).
Not For: Competitive runners(they say it’s not a race, but a team building event), the impatient (be ready to wait in line at obstacles), or those that want to stay clean.
Sept 27 & 28, Gerrardstown WV, 12 miles (more events online)

Race Entry $109-189, Spectator Fee $20, Bag Drop $10, Parking Fee – Yes

Dirt Factor – 10/10
Fun Factor – 8/10
Competitive – 2/10
Challenge – 3/10
Cost per mile – $10-$18 (factor additional costs in parking and bag drop)

The Unite Fitness Decathlon

The UFD was born from my very own Unite team. It was our desire to design an event that challenged what most people do and how most people train at the gym. We loved the competitive nature of regular runs but felt they lacked the challenges to strength, power and endurance. Inspired by the many mud and obstacle runs we’ve done (and love!) we wanted to combine a competitive run with competitive fitness style events while keeping the ridiculous (and sometime questionable safety) obstacles and mud to a minimum.

10 fitness events you can actually train for in a gym, just enough obstacles to be fun, and a 10k (6.2 mile) trail run creates the perfect balance for competitive athletes looking for the next big thing in racing. What you might imagine a Mudder is except the obstacles are fitness events such as thrusters, lunges, box jumps, rows and burpees using equipment like dumbbells, ropes, sandbags, tires and suspension trainers for reps or distance.  It’s a race for all level athletes: competitive runners will appreciate the ability to compete without having to wait. Race waves are tiered to then allow all level (“completion”) runners who just want to come out and have fun but not feel the pressure of being judged at events or being scored for time. Relay Teams finish out the final waves.

The UFD welcomes spectators of all ages to attend as there are plenty of family friendly activities including water balloons, mini train rides, farm animals, live DJ, food, beer and ice cream. Free parking and free entry to the party for all!

For: Cross-trainers (runners who lift, lifters who run) looking forward to 60-90 minutes of high intensity activity, competitors looking for the next big thing, and spectators who don’t want to be “taxed” just to cheer their friends on.
Not for: Runners who just want an excuse to get really muddy.  Athletes not up for a challenge, not ready to try something new, or  afraid of heights (there’s a 40 foot vertical net to climb).
October 11th, Newton PA, 6 miles
Race Entry $65-95, Spectator Fee – No, Bag Drop fee – No, Beer – Free!

Dirt Factor – 3/10
Fun Factor – 8/10
Competitive – 8/10
Challenge – 10/10
Cost per mile – $10-$15

The Spartan series

I love the idea of creating an event around the legendary Spartan culture of warriors. If you’ve ever seen the movie “300” you know what I’m talking about. From birth to death everything was about developing the warrior spirit and the “never-give-up” attitude. There are multiple lengths (Sprint, Super, Beast) and various terrains, obstacles and events. And spear throwing … where the hell are you going to practice for that event?!

Imagine the Tough Mudder but with a competitive twist, where your time is electronically recorded via a chip. Athletes of all levels are randomly scheduled in the waves, so you’ll still probably be waiting behind others at single-track choke points and some obstacles. Burpees are required at any obstacle you don’t complete. It’s a bit cultish (what isn’t these days) with recruits Training, Eating and Living like a Spartan.

For: Mudders looking for less mud, icy water, peppers or live wires. Must have an aching desire to climb ropes, crawl under barbed wire, carry buckets of rocks and throw spears.
Not for: Burpee haters (Spartan = Burpees) or if you’re not up for a challenge.
Sept 20, Philadelphia PA, 3 miles @Citizens Bank Park – (more events online)

$85-$95, Spectator Fee $20, Bag Drop $10, Parking Fee – Yes

Dirt Factor – 7/10
Fun Factor – 7/10
Competitive – 9/10
Challenge – 6/10
Cost per mile – $28-$32 (Sprint Series)

The Civilian Military Combine

So, what happens when a Crossfit WOD collide with a ski slope (or a NY sidewalk?). A combination of Crossfit style lifts for points per repetition. Then an obstacle run designed for speed. Competitors are scored for a combined total so it’s not always the strongest or the fastest who wins the race.

The CMC  was first conceived in a Crossfit box in Long Island and tested on a ski slope, with huge success, taking runners right from the “PIT” (where in about 8 minutes competitors were completely taxed from all the barbell thrusters, kettlebell swings, box jumps and burpees) to the mountain race with only 2 minutes of rest.

Uphill for 45 minutes? Sure.
Swim through a wave pool? Why not.
Run through an 800 meter pitch black drain pipe with rocks and water? Yup.
The CMC has since developed shorter, flatter races and have added skill levels to enter the “PIT” with. Obstacles vary with the course: vertical walls, mud and tunnels greet mountain climbers while shipping containers, cars and weighted sleds can be found at the urban races. With Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta divisions there’s bound to be a PIT WOD everyone is capable of doing.

For: Crossfitters who want to run and try out some great obstacles. Must have that competitive drive to make it through the PIT.
Not for: Beginners or those that “just want to try it out”.
Sept 13, Newton Square PA, 4 miles (more events online)

Dirt Factor – 6/10
Fun Factor – 6/10
Competitive – 10/10
Challenge – 8/10
Cost per mile – $21-$40