3 Underrated Fitness Tips

by Michael Plank

 

There are no shortage of fitness tips out there: warm-up, cool down, stretch, eat kale, track calories, workout all the time, etc, etc, etc. All those tips can be hard to sort through. These are a few of our go-to tips. They’re kind of boring, pretty underrated, but super powerful!

1. Be Consistently Mediocre

What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as how often you do it and how many months or years you do it. This is true of strength building, skill building, nutrition, endurance… everything health and fitness! A 4-week chunk of perfection followed by an 8 week tailspin, repeated a few times a year won’t get you nearly as far as doing a pretty OK job a couple of times a week for a year. Just show up!

2. Something Is Better Than Nothing

Sometimes you don’t want to work out. Sometimes you really don’t have time to go to the gym if you also want to keep your job, get some sleep, and make your family happy. No problem. Go do a Tabata of plank holds (4 minutes). Do 30 burpees or 30 bodybuilders off of a box (2-3 minutes). Do 10 squats, or run up a flight of stairs once (<1 minute). If you can’t come 3 times each week, come twice. If you can’t come twice, come once. Maintaining your level of fitness takes way less time and energy than we sometimes think, and sometimes maintaining is plenty!

3. Do Stuff You Like and Skip Stuff You Hate

At least at first. The things you like will be the things you want to do, and if you want to do it then you probably will (see #1 and #2 above). Eventually, you’ll figure out things that you’re maybe not crazy about, but you’ll see how they support the stuff you like, and you’ll add those. And then eventually, maybe you’ll fall in love with the fitness game and just do everything all the time. But if you don’t, and you only ever do stuff you like, it still counts!

Whole sections of the fitness industry are built on convincing you that you don’t know enough, that you don’t have the secrets, that you need to do (and buy) more, more, more. But for general fitness and health, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Progress Is Not Linear

by Michael Plank

I don’t know how many times I’ve drawn seen and drawn this graph, but it’s been a lot! Most of those times have been for myself. Next week we start our 3-week Level Method Assessment cycle at our gym. This is a fantastic tool we use to check in on our fitness and see some measurable results to our training. Every time we do an assessment though, someone asks “What if I level down??

Well… you might.

One of the great gifts of CrossFit is its obsession with metrics. It gives us objective data about whether or not an approach to fitness or nutrition is working. BUT the problem with that obsession is that it’s all too easy for us to get caught up in the micro instead of the macro.

Let’s say I ask you to do as many push-ups as you can in a minute, and you gave it everything you had and you got 10. If I have you rest for 5 seconds and then do it again, you will not be able to get 10 the second time. Does that mean you’re doing something wrong? Does it mean the approach is bad? Does it mean CrossFit doesn’t work for you? Of course not. It just means that we don’t have enough data points. Because if you do that same thing every weekday for a month and then we test your push-ups in a minute, you’re definitely going to get more than 10. The approach works, we just were zoomed in too tight.

We do our level assessments 3 times a year. Looking at your physical progress alone over a 4-month period is valuable. But it’s far more valuable to look at your overall quality of life over a 2- or 3- or 5-year period. Because, especially as the time you’ve spent training increases, every test is not going to yield a PR. The weights won’t always go up. The scale won’t always go down. That doesn’t mean you suck and it doesn’t mean that the approach doesn’t work, it just means we need to relax and zoom out a little. We need to look at a longer timeline and a bigger picture. What did you gain in character from training hard for four months? What did you learn about resilience and community and perseverance? What did you learn about yourself? Not everything that improves your life can be measured.

Level ups and PRs are always exciting, and we will help you celebrate every single one. But don’t sight of the forest for the trees.

The Cost of Success

by Aimee Wojtowecz

In the world of CrossFit we often measure our success through PR’s; ever heavier lifts, faster workout times, 6-pack abs, but do we ever stop to think about what this might be costing us? When our singular focus becomes how much further we can push our bodies on any given day we lose sight of the bigger picture. 

I’ve only been a coach at UPCF for a short time but it has given me a whole new perspective on CrossFit and our community in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing you all achieve your goals and I have big goals of my own, but it’s not all I’m chasing anymore. 

I started CrossFit several years ago to simply lose weight, to shrink myself into the beauty standards that are so often pushed on women (yes, I do realize men experience this too but I’m a woman writing from my perspective), and somewhere along the way it became about the goals; faster, stronger, fitter. Maybe you started CrossFit for similar reasons, your health, your fitness, simply improving the quality of your life. As we say at UPCF, all goals are equal. 

Yet watching all of you through the lens of a coach has revolutionized my goals. My focus has shifted from chasing my own performance to watching you all grow as athletes and more importantly as humans. I love seeing you all work hard but I love just as much hearing about how that hard work is changing your life, whether it’s being able to keep up with your kids and grandkids, moving heavy furniture, getting the farm chores done without help. It’s not all about the numbers but how those numbers translate to real life. Don’t forget to find the joy in your workouts and the joy in the connection and community that has been built at UPCF. If you find your workouts lacking the joy and love you first felt walking through those doors remember that it’s ok to change your goals whenever you want. Don’t let chasing the PR’s cost you all the other ways to measure success.

Why CrossFit Isn’t Always Enough

by Michael Plank

 

Look, we love CrossFit. I mean, love it. It’s in our name. It’s our bread and butter. It’s why we got started. When I first learned about CrossFit, I learned that it was a “core strength and conditioning program,” meaning you don’t need anything else. And that’s true… ish.

It might be true true IF you train five days a week. It might be true IF you obsess over movement quality. It might be true IF you spend 20-40 minutes per day outside of your regular training working on things like mobility and skills. But the chances are good that you don’t. Because you have a job. And a family. And friends. And hobbies. And there’s more to life than CrossFit. And (if you ask me) that’s how it should be.

But that leaves us with a problem, which is that if what we’re doing with our training is 2-5 CrossFit classes per week, some of those areas where we struggle are going to be areas where we struggle for a long time. And that’s especially true with all the neurological stuff. Things that take coordination, agility, balance, accuracy just need more sometimes. Working on the Olympic lifts when they show up in class on the days when we happen to be there makes it tough to get in the reps to get better. Ten minutes of cleans twice a month does not make for elite lifts.

Enter: Specialty Training.

This is something we started offering as we came out of the shutdown last summer. The most basic form of it is personal training. Sometimes you need someone to work with you one-on-one for a month to give you the attention, repetition, and accountability to improve your running mechanics, or your core conditioning. A second form of it we’re starting this month: short-term specialty classes. In March, we’ll spend 4 weeks on double-unders. Later in the spring, we’ll spend several weeks on pull-ups.

Specialty training is an opportunity to get the structure, the coaching, and the repetitive practice that you need to pick up higher level skills. At UPCF, our goal is to help you achieve your goals. CrossFit classes are a great tool for that. But it’s not the only tool we have. And as we keep moving forward, you can expect to see more of those tools being rolled out!

The Power of (Small) Habits

by Michael Plank

Especially if you’ve worked with Coach Jess on nutrition, you know how much we’re into a habits-based approach to change. What does that mean? Habits are powerful. Habits are mindless. Habits are things you do without thinking; even if you’re tired, even if you’re hungry, even if you’re busy. Brushing your teeth is a habit. Checking social media when your alarm goes off in the morning is a habit. Drinking coffee is a habit. They’re automatic.

Most of us want health and wellness to be like that. We want to live a life where eating a balanced meal is a habit, going to the gym is a habit, being hydrated is a habit. We want a life where we can do all the things we need to do to take care of our bodies and minds and have it not feel like work.

That life IS possible! (And we can help you do it). But the best way to start is to start small. Way smaller than you think.

We start habit coaching by working on low-hanging fruit; stuff that you know would be almost mindlessly easy, you just don’t do it yet. Want to be better hydrated? Can you drink 8oz of water between cups of coffee? No? What about 4oz? What about 2oz? What’s the least amount where you know you’ll be successful? Do you want to be more flexible? Can you stretch for 5 minutes after each class you attend? No? What about 2 minutes? What about 1?

This teeny-tiny, step-by-step approach works. BUT, we almost always get pushback. Because does 2 extra ounces of water each day really matter? Does 30 seconds of stretching twice a week really make a difference?

Yes. It does. Not at first… I’ll give you that… but it builds. We’ve seen it. And I bet you’ve seen it too.

Imagine that you’re in a room and there’s a giant block of ice in front of you; it’s huge, 3 feet square. The room is cold – really cold – let’s say it’s 26 degrees. Let’s say you’ve got a button you can push once every 10 minutes, and each time you push it, it will raise the room temperature by one degree. You push it and it goes to 27. You push it again and it goes to 28. You push it every 10 minutes for an hour and nothing happens to that giant ice block. But then you push it one more time and the temperature goes from 32 degrees up to 33 degrees.

You know what’s going to happen to that ice block now, right? You remember science class? Those little teeny-tiny step-by-step incremental changes to the temperature do make a difference. Because now that we’ve hit 33 degrees, as big as it is, as heavy, and solid as it is… as insignificant as one tiny degree is…

Now… that ice is going to melt.

 

You Are Not Your Workout

by Michael Plank

 

 

We talk a lot with our 6-year-old about choices – maybe to an over-the-top degree. Any time he talks about “bad guys” or “bad people” we always correct him to say “you mean people who made some bad choices.” Why? Because people are complicated. And people are more than their choices and more than their actions. Even though we love to take one experience and draw broad, sweeping generalizations based on it, we’re all a little more complicated than that. That person who cut you off in traffic is probably just another person who was distracted or stressed or busy and so they weren’t acting as their best self – not a piece of human garbage.

Ok, so why does all of this matter?

Because workouts don’t always go well.

Sometimes you try something you’ve done a hundred times, but you don’t have it in you today. Sometimes you try something brand new and fail at it. Sometimes you do your very best and it’s just objectively not a very good job.

But here’s where it get’s complicated.

Most of us work out because it enriches our lives in more than just the physical ways. In a very real way, a lot of us have completely transformed our self-understanding and self-definition through what we’ve gained in our physical practice. That’s amazing. But it makes it easy for us to kind of meld our workout life into who we are as human beings. Which means I start to think that if I do a good job on my workout, I’m therefore a good person. And if I do a bad job on my workout, I’m therefore a bad or worthless person.

Lies. They’re powerful stories that we tell ourselves, but they’re not true stories.

Your missed deadlift isn’t a character flaw, it’s just a thing you tried that didn’t work. Not being able to do what you set out to do today – dare I say it? failing – has no objective impact whatsoever on how worthy you are of dignity, love, and respect. (And incidentally, it works both ways. Failing a deadlift doesn’t make you a worse person. Getting a mile time PR doesn’t make you a better person). You are who you are – worthy of love, and dignity, and respect just because you’re a person – and your workout performance is what it is. And no lift, no workout time, no rep scheme can ever decrease or increase your value.

Working out is amazing and it gives you lots of gifts in life – but never forget that who you are is something far greater than even the best gift you’ve ever received.