It’s Bigger Than Fitness

by Michael Plank

Buckle in, friends. This is going to be a heavier post than usual.

Yesterday 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Like so many, I’m reeling. Like so many, I’m heartbroken. Like so many, I’m not surprised that it happened again. Nor am I surprised to see the familiar talking points that always come out after these things: more background checks, more talk about mental health; train and arm teachers; “thoughts and prayers.”

And I always wish I could do more. And like so many, I vote, and I make donations. But there’s another thing we do too. We build community.

Community is one of our Core Values. Community means that we care about building a community of mutual respect, meaning and belonging where you have a place that you are welcomed and valued; one that makes your life better. And so, like Cheers, we work to build a place where everyone knows your name. We build that on a platform of fitness and nutrition coaching, where we help you do hard things and build a culture that supports you while you do that.

But it’s even bigger than that.

Because I don’t know what the answer is to the plague of mass shootings in our country. I don’t know the answer to injustice and oppression and dehumanization. But I do know that all those things can fester and grow in darkness and isolation. They grow when they’re unchecked and secret and anonymous. They grow when they’re never confronted with diversity of thought or experience.

And I know that real community – not just a collection of people, but people who intentionally live life with each other – makes the world better. When you’ve got a Republican cheering for a Democrat to get that last burpee in before the buzzer, or a Black Lives Matter volunteer going to run the final 400 meters alongside a conservative, evangelical Christian, what you have is a group of people who know that it’s not just Us vs. Them, because you know people who are different than you, and you care about them, and they care about you.

And I also know that in real community, when someone starts to stray off course – when they’re so hurt that they get bitter or vengeful or start to veer into dangerous territory – because the community cares about them, the community helps to check them. They offer accountability. They offer sounding boards. They offer help and resources.

I know that being in community makes people better. Not just with blood pressure or cholesterol or muscle mass. Not even just with confidence or mental health. Community helps people be better citizens, better neighbors, better human beings. I know that in these insane times of isolation and division, being in community is a bright spot on dark days.

Obviously, we care about fitness and nutrition and coaching and goals and physical health. But the reason we’re in business at all, the reason that we get up each morning and keep working at this, is because we are bold enough to believe that building communities of belonging make the world a kinder, safer, more beautiful place to live.

Vote. Donate to places that do important work. Find places that will love you and help you grow. And then go love others and help them grow too.

3 Things to Consider When Looking for a CrossFit Gym

by Michael Plank

You’ve obviously heard of CrossFit. Maybe you’ve seen fit people lifting big weights on Instagram. Maybe one of your co-workers goes to CrossFit after work every day. Maybe you even have friends who won’t stop talking about it. But before you go down the Google rabbit hole, consider these three things when searching for “CrossFit gyms near me.”


1. Consider more than just price and location

When choosing a gym, price and location are often the deciding factors. But a great CrossFit gym with an awesome community might be worth the extra an extra 10 or 15 minutes on the road. (I personally drive 35 minutes each way to the jiu-jitsu school I attend. It’s not the closest by a long shot, but it’s my favorite). CrossFit is a social activity and every gym has a different culture, and you should find a gym whose coaches and clients you connect well with.

And yes, CrossFit can be expensive. But guess what… It can also be cheap. But often you get what you pay for. So you need to ask yourself what you’re looking for. Do you just want access to equipment and programming? If that’s the case, then maybe the lower-priced option is good for you. If you are new to CrossFit, however, or are looking to dive in deeper, you might do well with more hands-on coaching.

At Underwood Park CrossFit, we pride ourselves on client service. We begin all our clients with one-on-one personal training services, which have a higher price point. But we also see incredible results, especially with people who are new and just starting their CrossFit journeys.


2. Ask “Does this gym understand my goals?”

The most successful gyms should understand the wants, needs and desires of their clients. The best gyms in the business understand that we are in the results game, not the the “get-bodies-in-the-door” game. The path to results begins with a goal-setting session when you first walk in. We call ours a No Sweat Intro. Good gyms will ask you what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight? Gain strength? Get toned? Feel better in your skin?

Now, here’s the secret—the great gyms will ask you WHY.

Understanding the “why” is very powerful in setting any goal. Is it about more than just losing weight? Does your family have a history of chronic disease? Do you want to get stronger so you can play with your grandkids? Do you want to be able to use your fitness outside of the gym in activities like golf, swimming, kayaking or hiking? If no one sits down with you and talks to you about your goals and your “why,” then they don’t truly understand you. And like Dale Carnegie said, “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

You deserve to find a gym that appreciates you!


3. Find out if the gym offers nutrition coaching

 Yes! You read that correctly! The best CrossFit gyms in your area should offer nutrition coaching.

Despite the fact that what we read on the internet is obviously 100% correct (hint—that was a joke!), CrossFit is not about heavy barbells and kipping pull-ups. It’s about improving your fitness. The founder of CrossFit, defined fitness in 100 words: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” He goes on to talk about movements and training, but the first 26 words are all about nutrition.

In any health and fitness routine, nutrition is responsible for 80% of the results. We see it in our clients all the time. Those who do nutrition coaching see 3.5 times the results of those who just exercise. If you are not eating real whole foods, you are not doing CrossFit … period. People quit gyms when they don’t see results. If you want the fastest route to results, you need good nutrition and exercise. So why not find a gym where you can get both?


Your health is worth some due diligence. Don’t just toss out some search terms and sign up with the first gym you find on Google Maps. Make sure you find a place that is the best gym in the world for you.



Inspiration provided by Rob Connors at

How I found UPCF

I found CrossFit in early 2010.

I had done the classic 3x/wk bodybuilding, 2x/wk cardio routine for years. That worked great throughout high school and into college. But after college, my metabolism slowed down, I knew nothing about nutrition, and those workouts from Men’s Health magazine weren’t cutting it anymore.

A friend of mine invited me to go to the local gym to do a workout he found on this website called It was the “Filthy Fifty.” Fifty reps each of 10 movements. He’d been doing CrossFit for about a year. It took him 22 minutes to do that workout. It took me 100 minutes. It was horrible. And I was hooked. Over the next year, I got stronger, faster, and leaner than I ever had been. I learned about nutrition and it took things to the next level. And all of that is great. But it’s not why we opened a gym.

I started doing CrossFit with a group at our church and learned quickly what people all over learned: doing hard work like that alongside others builds powerful relationships. I saw people who had known each other for years, but never beyond a wave or friendly smile, build relationships with each other that are strong to this day, nearly a decade later. And as I went and visited other gyms, I encountered the same things. And it hit me: these gyms are what churches used to be like. The gyms I found didn’t care about who you were, they cared that you were ready to work hard and get better. The fitness they taught was inclusive – grandmothers and collegiate athletes worked out next to each other. It was people in community with each other. They celebrated with each other, mourned with each other, held each other accountable, loved each other, and brought out the best in each other.

THAT is what Lauren and I wanted to build. We wanted to build an inclusive community of meaning and belonging where people could grow in body, mind, and spirit. So with unbelievable naivete and wide-eyed innocence, we set out to open a gym. We wrote grants to the church and they supported our efforts of building a community of meaning and belonging like that and we opened our doors in October 2014. We started with 3 members in MacIntyre Park while we finished renovations, which were all done on Christmas Eve Day 2014.

That first year was tough. As much as we loved CrossFit and the community we found, we had a hard time building it. It wasn’t until we hired our first business mentor that we learned how to systematically build a community of welcome. And from there, we fell in love with what we do. What guides every decision we make is our desire to make our community better.

We want people to come in our doors and find a place where they are welcomed and seen and valued. But we want it to be a place where they are challenged to be more a year from now than they are today: to be fitter, yes, but also to be kinder, more thoughtful, more grounded, more grateful. We believe that fitness builds community, and through community we can build a better world. The stronger our community, the stronger its members. We are here for you. We get up and go to work for you. We do our own learning and growing and improving for you. Because we love you. Just as you are. And too much for you to stay the same. We’re almost 6 years in. But our story is still just getting started.