The Long Game

by Michael Plank

The phrase my parents use most often when talking about my childhood athletic abilities is: “painful to watch.”

It’s totally accurate. This picture marked a massive success for me in that my eyes are open (barely) and I’m facing the ball instead of closing my eyes and turning away. My dad threw this ball from 8 feet away directly into my glove and I still barely caught it. I got hit with soccer balls a million times. I missed easy baskets virtually always. And I tripped and fell nearly every time I tried to run anywhere. Even today if there’s a pickup softball game at a family picnic, Lauren reminds me that it is super obvious when you watch me move that I didn’t grow up being any good at ball sports.

Now though, I’m a halfway decent athlete. I can do double-unders and muscle-ups, walk on my hands, clean and snatch, throw, catch, and shoot with some accuracy, run with some speed and jump with some height. So how did I go from that gawky kid in the picture to where I am now? Here’s the secret…

I just never quit.

That’s it. This is my 12th year doing CrossFit. When I started, I could barely jump over the rope once, let alone do a double-under. I couldn’t do pull-ups. I was terrified of box jumps. I fell down and dropped the pvc every time I tried to snatch. I wasn’t strong enough to do strict push-ups. My mile time was almost double what it is now. And I was 50lbs heavier than I am today.

At the end of year 1, I was lighter and stronger.
In year 2, I got my first double-under.
In year 3, I figured out how to do kipping toes-to-bar
In year 4, I got my first muscle-up.
In year 5, I got stuck and felt like I didn’t make any progress at all.
In year 6, I broke the plateau and set new lifting PRs. I finally got cleans and snatches. Then we had a baby and all those lifts dropped back down.
In year 7, my fitness started to come back. I did Murph for the first time.
In year 8, I learned to walk on my hands.
In year 9, I got my first triple-under.
In year 10, I was in the best shape of my life.
In year 11, I hit lifetime PRs on my lifts and made Brown overall on the Level Method map.
In year 12 (right now), we had another baby and a global pandemic and my fitness dropped again.

And just in case you missed it, note that those are years 1-12, not months. That’s more than a decade so far. It’s had highs and lows, and now it’s at a low. But I don’t care. Because I’ll be working on my fitness all year this year and it’ll go back up. And, God willing, for another 12 years to come, and then another 12 after that.

And here’s why any of this is relevant…

All the time, we see people get super frustrated because they’re not where they want to be. I get that. I really do. Virtually everything in life right now we can have immediately whenever we want it. But not fitness. Not health. Not weight loss. It just doesn’t work that way.

Quick fixes are a gimmick. They almost never last.

But over the course of a year? 5 years? 10 years?

You can work absolute magic.

Why Does It Take SO Long…

by Jess Pino-Goodspeed

A client came to me recently and said how badly she wanted to achieve her body composition goals and how frustrated she was that it was taking so long. “Why does it take so long to see the changes?” I had the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation about the importance of taking a long-term approach to our health and wellness goals and why the quick fix isn’t the way to go.


I will warn you that taking a long-term approach and truly taking the time to learn habits and make them part of a daily routine is not sexy and it is not quick. This stuff takes effort and time, and it is not a quick fix. 


Taking a long-term approach to improving our nutrition means we have intent, objectives, goals, and a mission to accomplish not only short-term goals but also long-term goals. The big picture mission is simple, we want to be happy, healthy, and strong – both mentally and physically. Being consistent with healthy habits like drinking water, exercising, sleeping, meal prepping, and eating real foods is key to accomplishing your long-term goals. When we take the time to learn these healthy habits, that is when we sustain healthy behaviors and we achieve the results we are so desperately seeking.  


Intent without action accomplishes nothing.


Many of us want to get to ideal body composition, losing weight and body fat. Setting those goals is the easy part. Being accountable for those goals and doing the smaller, often deemed “not so sexy” action items that lead to goal achievement is where the real work happens (that’s where working with a nutrition coach in customized nutrition programs and ongoing coaching is important.)


First, let’s start with mapping out a long-term approach. Follow these 3 steps:


Step 1: Begin with the end in mind: What do you want to achieve? What will it take to get there?


Step 2: Start small. The little wins will snowball into larger wins down the hill. Consistency wins.


Step 3: Establish SMART Goals.


What’s a SMART goal? Glad you asked!


S – Specific; Should be simple and defined what you are going to do.

M – Measure; Tangible evidence so you can achieve the goal.

A – Attainable; They should push you just outside your comfort zone.

R – Results-Focused; Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.

T – Time-Bound; Goals should be linked to a time frame that creates a sense of urgency.


Here’s an example of what it looks like to map out nutrition goals over the course of a year:


I will lose 30 pounds and 8% body fat this year.


I will work with my nutrition coach for at least a year to stay accountable and have a customized nutrition coaching program.


I will eat a balanced breakfast using the plate method at least 4/7 days this week.


I will meal prep dinners with 3 compartment containers with balanced portions of lean proteins, green vegetables, healthy fats, and healthy carbohydrates for the next month to deal with busy times of the day.


I will eat balanced plates with lean proteins, green vegetables, healthy fats, and healthy carbohydrates, and have a glass of water instead of regular soda with that meal for at least 2 meals per day in the next 3 months.


In the next 6 months, I will log my meals daily to learn about my macronutrient balance, and work with my nutrition coach to stay accountable to losing 15 pounds in my customized nutrition coaching program.


This year, I will enlist the support of a coworker, family member, or friend at the gym as another accountability partner to make sure that we are eating healthy balanced meals 90% of the time, and getting to the gym at least 3-4 times per week.


It’s your turn! What does it look like for YOU to take a long-term approach when it comes to YOUR nutrition? 


Map it out, and book a free nutrition consultation to sit down with me – UPCF’s nutrition coach – to get a plan in place for accomplishing your long term goals! If it sounds like it’s going to take a long time, remember that a nutrition coach will be there with you every step of the way. 


There Are More than Two Options

by Michael Plank

At the end of my last semester of college I got a letter from the university that said I would not graduate with the rest of my class. Turns out that skipping tons of classes has consequences. I remember my thoughts spinning immediately to how awful it would be to tell my parents; to how I would end up a college dropout; to how I’d have to list it on my transcript and would never get a job; to how I’d be broke and living in the basement of the house where I grew up for the rest of my life. Now, the inevitability of that downward spiral wasn’t actually true, of course.

There’s a great phrase in the world of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: “Cognitive Distortions.” Therapists sometimes call these “Thinking Mistakes.” They’re thought patterns, or ways of looking at the world that we use on a regular basis but are fundamentally built on something that’s just not correct. The one I experienced in college is called “Catastrophizing.” There are lots more though. “Generalizing” involves taking one experience (usually a negative one) and letting it color your entire view of the world. If you were bitten by a beagle when you were 6 years old and now you believe that beagles are dangerous, that’s generalizing.

The one we see all the time though is called “Polarization” or “All-or-Nothing Thinking.”

It’s the idea that you are all in or all out; on the wagon or off the wagon; eating clean or eating like an asshole; crushing it or you need to get your shit together. There is no in-between, no gray area, no middle ground. It’s black and white. Yes or no. One or zero. Binary thinking. And that’s especially present at the holidays. I can’t tell you the number of times we hear people worried that celebrating the holidays will destroy all the progress they’ve made.

But the thing is: that’s just not the way the world actually works. That whole all-or-nothing lens is based on a completely inaccurate concept. There’s tons of gray area. The world is not an all-or-nothing place.

Working out 5 days a week, following a strict keto diet, sleeping 9 hours per night, and meditating for 15 minutes every day isn’t being “On the Wagon.” It’s an extreme. The other extreme is eating a gallon of ice cream a day and sitting on the couch for all your waking hours. But there is so much room between those extremes!

Extremes aren’t sustainable, but that’s ok, because there are more options than just the two extreme ones. Working out once a week is better than never. Doing 10 squats before bed is better than doing nothing. Eating a single piece of broccoli is better than no vegetables at all. And by the same token, one Christmas cookie won’t ruin your progress. A holiday full of snacks, sweets, and family movies on the couch won’t destroy all your gains.

A good life is lived between the extremes, not at them. Keep growing and progressing, but remember that you don’t need perfection to make progress.

The holidays are here. Enjoy them! Live your life. And keep moving forward, even if it’s only by eating a single piece of broccoli more than yesterday.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Underwood Park CrossFit!

Practicing Self-Love

by Brittany Gillis

Have you ever been at the gym wishing you could be that person who is lifting a ton of weight or that girl who has enough confidence to work out in her sports bra? You want so bad to be that person, so you workout countless hours each day, or go on some extreme fad diet just to be “like them”. But are you really happy? Are you really feeling a sense of worthiness and happiness? Maybe? But most likely you are doing what makes someone else happy not YOU. Maybe it’s a lack of direction. But maybe it’s a lack of self-love.

Self-love is having a high regard for your OWN well-being and happiness. Self love is taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being for others. Self-love is a powerful thing that can help you in many areas of your life.

I was that person who wanted to be the girl running in her sports bra and feeling great about my body. I would work out and run and would diet like crazy. If I made an error on dieting I would binge eat and then tell myself I was never going to be like that girl if I kept eating like an asshole. After so long with this unhealthy self-talk, I started to believe it. It started taking over my life. If I didn’t hit a PR in the gym I was not good enough. If I didn’t get acknowledged at work for something I did, I felt I wasn’t good enough. I knew I needed to change something – I knew people talked about learning to love yourself, but I didn’t know how to do it. So through some friends and colleagues, I finally found some resources.

I found some great podcast episodes (this one and this one, especially). I started doing some deep breathing exercises: I’d breathe deep and tell myself that I love myself, then I’d exhale all the things that are not that. It was amazing. It only takes about 2 mins of your day and can have a huge impact. I started looking for other ways to strengthen my self-love. I take a hot bath and drink a glass of wine and think about all the positive things that have happened in the week and what I am most grateful for. But there are lots of routes to self-love: you can try journaling, going for a walk, having a dance party with your kids and family; options are endless.

I got to a place where I was sacrificing my own happiness to be like someone else. Now, I am striding on my own path to be the best version of myself and to show others how important and truly powerful this love can be. This is the raw stuff that takes hard work, but with the right tools and the endless support of your coaches and family, it can change everything in your life.

Why Coaching Matters

When CrossFit first burst onto the scene 20 years ago, the workouts were revolutionary. As gyms began to affiliate and join the CrossFit brand, individual coaches would put their own tweaks on the methodology and come up with workouts that have now become staples in the Functional Fitness world. The programming we use at our gym is awesome, but the reality is that there is an almost infinite number of options – lots of them free – if all you need is a list of workouts.
But it probably isn’t.
Probably you need support. Probably you need accountability. And I’d be willing to bet just about anything that if you’re reading this, the real thing you need is someone who knows how to take the long view on your fitness journey.
You need someone who can come up with a health and wellness plan that works for you: for your goals, for your lifestyle, for your priorities. And just as importantly, you need someone who can adjust your plan as life changes for you.
Maybe you started with two group classes a week, but you struggle with gymnastics way more than you thought you would – your coach can help you with additional personal training. Maybe you jumped into fitness hoping you would lose 25lbs, but you’ve seen that weight loss stall – your coach can help you with an individualized approach to nutrition.
We all have blind spots. A coach sees what you don’t and then helps you make a plan to address what you need, and periodically adjusts the plan to be sure you’re getting what you’re definitely after, which is results.
At our gym, we run 1-on-1 quarterly goal setting sessions with each of our members to do exactly that. Good workouts are fun and definitely important. But the magic? That’s in the coaching.

An Open Letter to CFHQ

Below is the full text of the letter we sent to CrossFit, Inc.’s Affiliate Support this morning, June 17, 2020.

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

We are the owners of Underwood Park CrossFit in Fort Edward, NY. We became a CrossFit Affiliate in September 2014. We opened our gym because, like for so many others, CrossFit changed our lives and we wanted to bring that same gift to our community. We have continued to re-affiliate each year because we have valued being a part of something bigger than ourselves, and because we deeply believe in the CrossFit methodology.

However, we have found less value in that affiliation over the last several years. That has culminated this year in a sense of disappointment in CrossFit Headquarters’ response to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. At a time when affiliates need help unlike any other moment in CrossFit’s history, Headquarters did little of substance, especially when compared with brands and companies like O2, Driven Nutrition, Uplaunch, Level Method, Healthy Steps Nutrition, and Two Brain Business, who all exhibited tremendous effort to help gyms both financially and tactically.

To have that period followed by the revelation of Greg Glassman’s treatment of the owner of Rocket CrossFit, Headquarters’ silence about systemic racial injustice, Greg Glassman’s increasingly inflammatory behavior, and subsequent allegations of a culture of secrecy and inappropriate power dynamics at CrossFit Headquarters has been enough to make us seriously consider de-affiliating from CrossFit, Inc.

We have decided to keep our affiliation for the time being.

It is however deeply important to us that the brands with which we align ourselves also align with our values. We are only one small affiliate, and we are under no illusions about the scale of the impact our actions have in the broader CrossFit community. Nonetheless, in good faith, we care about being open and transparent with you. Our affiliation agreement expires in September. In order for us to renew, we would need to see the following:

  1. Greg Glassman’s selling of CrossFit, Inc.
  2. CrossFit would need to be led by an impartial board of directors, not employed by Headquarters.
  3. CrossFit Headquarters would need to demonstrate tangible action toward growth and transformation of company culture in the areas of inclusion, power dynamics, and transparency.

We send this letter, certainly hoping that it will be heard and considered, but primarily because we deeply believe that when there is harm felt in a relationship, the harm should be clearly stated, and the desired amends clearly stated as well. This, we do here. Thank you for your consideration.


Michael Plank and Lauren Grogan, owners
Underwood Park CrossFit