My Philly Workout Obsession: Unite Fitness

If you’ve read any of my posts from¬†my summer in Philadelphia, there’s a pretty high chance that you readabout my killer workouts at Unite Fitness.heartmusclemindfitness

Killer, in the best way possible, of course ūüôā

Following my incredible fitness and foodie weekend visiting friends in NYC, I decided I wanted to find a place to cross train in Philly. My friend, Kat, had heard about this place, Unite Fitness, which was supposedly the place to go for intense cardio and strength workouts. (ALSO- Be Well Philly just rated Unite as the #1 workout spot in Philadelphia!)

I signed up online for my free trial, and then popped in to check it out in person later on when I happened to be in the area. The staff I met were super friendly and welcoming, and had no trouble convincing me to come back later that day for my free trial.

What goes down at Unite Fitness?

Unite has 3 main focuses:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Yoga and Stretching

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Here’s a little breakdown on each component, and what I like about them:

Cardio (30 minutes)

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  • All high intensity interval training.¬†Ever get bored on cardio machines? Thanks to great music and intervals, you don’t ever have to worry about biking endlessly and getting tired of staring at the clock.
  • Only 30 minutes,¬†including warm up. Sounds like nothing, right? Well, it’s not. After 15 minutes I’m already starting to wonder how much time is left in the cardio portion, and thankfully, thanks to the intervals, the second half of the workout flies by.
  • Time countdowns.¬†No more guessing exactly how long is left in that sprint interval! I really appreciated that the trainers will give you a reliable countdown, so that you can push all the way to the end. Some instructors (I’ve experienced this at spin, mostly), don’t give countdowns, and you’re left wondering how hard you should push, because you don’t know how long to keep it up for!
  • They’re watching.¬†Okay, that sounds creepy. But actually, I pushed myself harder because I knew that the coach could see my mph/RMP/gear/speed when he/she would walk around, and I didn’t want to be a slacker!
  • Specific incline and gear levels.¬†If you’re on the treadmill, the trainer will give you an incline range to aim for, but will leave the speed up to you. If you’re biking, you will be given a range of gears, as well as an RMP to hit. For the longer intervals, the trainers at Unite will work on an exertion scale, which goes by percentages. For example, your warmup may start at 70% for 2 minutes, and then you will bring it up to 80% for 3 minutes before recovering. The combination of specific gears/inclines and the exertion scale is what helped me push my hardest every single time.

Strength (30 minutes)

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  • Fast paced and engaging.¬†Do you ever get bored at the gym because¬†a) you’re waiting for machines to become available, b) you’re waiting for your muscles to recover, or c) you only ever do 3 sets and 15 reps of a long list of exercises? Instead of this standard, time consuming method, Unite cuts out a lot of the rest, and focuses on 3-4 timed sets that last anywhere from 3-8 minutes, followed by short recoveries.
  • The heart stays¬†pumpin’!¬†Just because you’re out of the cardio room, doesn’t mean that you won’t still be breaking a sweat during the strength portion! Since the exercises are fast paced, and often incorporate multi-joint movements, your heart rate stays up, which personally, I found quite motivating!
  • New¬†and¬†familiar exercises.¬†I was pleased to learn new exercises for certain muscle groups, as well as work on some old standbys (squats, lunges, bench press). This allowed me to challenge myself mentally and physically by attempting these movements, while also being able to push myself physically with familiar exercises. As much as I love doing new crazy things (still waiting for the day when I can¬†actually do new, crazy things), it’s nice feeling competent, and good about yourself. And while I can’t always do perfect pistol squats (OWW!!!!), it’s good to know that at least I can fall back on the standard dumbbell squat.
  • Individual attention. Worried about your form? Weights aren’t heavy enough? No fear, your¬†trainer is constantly walking around the room, both to motivate you¬†and check your form to make sure that you are performing the exercises safely and to the best of your ability. If you want to go heavier on the bench press, your trainer will come over and spot you to make sure that you get the most out of your reps.

Yoga + Stretch (15 minutes)

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  • Short, yet effective. Let me fill you in on something quickly: I am not a good stretcher. Why? I’m not flexible. I don’t find it engaging. It’s hard for me. I get bored, and then I get hungry. Therefore for me, knowing that this yoga stretch sequence is only roughly 10 minutes long is pretty comforting.
  • One word: Massage. Need incentive to stay to the end and do all the stretches? A quick, relaxing massage might do the trick! Each class finishes with the trainer coming around to each participant and performing a quick massage/adjustment to your shoulders, neck, and back. At first, I was a little skeptical of this, because I was just¬†so, so sweaty (like uncomfortably sweaty), but by my second class, I had gotten used to the idea, and looked forward to my quick readjustment at the end of each class.

What else makes Unite unique?

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  • Perfect group fitness setting.¬†Since there’s a max limit of 20 people per class, you won’t feel as though you’re lost in the crowd, while still being able to benefit from the energy of the other participants. Plus, it’s nice having others to commiserate with when you’re being taught the toughest part of the workout ūüėČ
  • Unite offers fitness¬†and¬†nutrition.¬†I personally didn’t sign up for it, but Unite has a meal program where you can order pre made healthy meals each week. It’s super convenient, since you can pick it up from the fridge at Unite after your workout, and from what I’ve heard, the food is delicious!
  • They also¬†offer personal training.¬†Want some one-on-one training? All of the coaches¬†are certified personal trainers, and a few of them also train clients on the side. I never actually had time to complete one of these sessions, but based on my experience at the group fitness sessions, I am positive that I would have loved it as well.
  • You’ll never do the same workout twice.¬†I went 4x a week for 5 weeks. That’s a lot of classes. Not¬†once¬†did I ever do the same exact workout. Sure there were some repeated exercises, but¬†never¬†was a workout the exactly the same. This was hands-down, one of my favourite parts about my Unite experience.
  • I loved every.single.trainer.¬†If you go to a gym or studio that offers group fitness classes, it’s likely that you have a “favourite” instructor. At Unite, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single coach’s class equally, and loved that each one of them has their own kick-ass style.
  • Can’t make it to the gym? Do it at home!¬†No, you won’t get the same experience as you would in the real Unite setting, but if you’re pressed for time and looking for workout motivation, Unite offers free sample workouts on their YouTube channel. Woo! Fitness anywhere, anytime!
  • Welcomes all levels.¬†Are you a pro athlete? A workout enthusiast? Someone who’s looking to shed 10, 20 or even 60 pounds? Then you can do Unite’s workouts. If an exercise is too challenging, you can always ask the trainer for a modification, and most times, they will offer ways to make movements both more and less challenging.
  • It’s a community.¬†This was my favourite part about being at Unite: I instantly felt included in the Unite community. This feeling grew as I spent more and more time working out at the studio, and I was so sad to leave after my last session. Furthermore, I¬†noticed that the trainers would pay special attention to newcomers in order to make them feel welcome, and make sure that they had a successful experience. It can be intimidating going to a new gym or workout class if you don’t know the ropes, but all of the coaches put in extra effort to make your experience as positive as possible.

Changes I noticed in my body

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I religiously used Unite as my mode of strength conditioning for 5 weeks, and I (think) that I noticed the following changes in my body:

  • Stronger upper body.¬†As someone who is naturally stronger in her legs, and weaker in the arms, I really had nowhere to go but up. After 5 weeks of consistent upper body training, I’ve found that I can now perform exercises with heavier weights,¬†and¬†I can do real pushups! I’m not a pushup person, but I’ve been able to increase my strength and range of motion in my shoulders, which has helped me be able to get my chest to the floor,¬†and push back up. I feel pretty legit ¬†now;)
  • Less ab work, but stronger abs. During June and most of July, I was doing long ab sessions 2-3x a week. Previously, I had been frustrated because my go-to ab workouts no longer seemed to be challenging, and I definitely needed to change it up. At Unite, we did some ab work, but a lot of the exercises also forced you to brace your core to perform the movement effectively. I think that this extra focus really helped engage my core in different ways, and ultimately made it stronger, or kept it just as strong.
  • (My mom told me) I look stronger and leaner. I didn’t take any before/after pictures, so I can’t¬†really compare, but I do know that my arms have become more muscular (like I said, they couldn’t have gotten any worse), and I think that my abs are a little more defined as well. I know that a lot of “muscular definition” has to do with diet and body fat percentage, but since I kept my diet relatively the same as before, I think that I can attribute most of the changes in my body to my dedication to Unite’s program.

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And last but not least….

  • I feel strong and healthy.¬†I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I feel happy inside and out (does that even make sense?!), but I don’t always feel “strong”. As a self-proclaimed “cardio queen”, in the past I’ve found it more difficult to push myself physically when it comes to strength training. I’m good at cardio, so why not keep getting better at what you’re already good at? Well, every so often I will hit a plateau, and know that I need to change something up. Unite did this in the best possible way for me, because I was still able to get my cardio fix, and then¬†strength train.

Bottom Line:

If you’re in Philadelphia and looking to get worked, sign up for a free trial at Unite, and I can almost 100% guarantee that you will love it. I brought a few friends to the studio to work out this summer (yes, that is my idea of a “fun” hangout ūüėČ ), and they became obsessed with it too. The trainers are cool, the workouts are fun, and you’ll feel amazing at the end. What do you have to lose?

Now What???

I gotta say, I’m going through serious Unite withdrawals. I’m hoping to go complete their Decathlon on October 11th if I can find someone to do it with me, which would be great incentive to keep training so that I can actually survive it. Although I’d love to keep up my Unite workouts, squash season is about to start up and my efforts and workouts are going to be much more directed towards that. I’m hoping (and expecting) that the work I put in at Unite this summer will pay off on the squash court, and I’m excited to see if I’m any faster/stronger/better when it comes down to serious matches!

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