What if I fail??

by Michael Plank

We are right in the middle of 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 fail an assessment??

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 asked you to do as many push-ups as you could 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 lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Why “Bright Spots” Matter

by Michael Plank

We do a thing in our private members’ group each week that we call Bright Spot Fridays. It’s an invitation to share “bright spots” – or highlights – from the week. People talk about new achievements they’re proud of, or about going to dinner with their spouse, or about reading a great book… anything at all really that stands out as a positive experience. On the surface it seems a little hokey. But it’s powerful. And here’s why.

There’s a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System. Basically, it’s a filter. Your brain takes in mountains of information every day, and your Reticular Activating System sorts through it so that you only have to pay attention to stuff that’s important. A cool thing about that filter is that it’s easily trainable. It’s why, when you buy a new gray Honda Pilot, all of a sudden you see 40 gray Honda Pilots every time you step out of your house. Obviously they’re not all brand new since yesterday, but of all the hundreds and hundreds of cars you see every day, you’ve told your brain that gray Honda Pilots are important. So now, every time one goes by, your Reticular Activating System flags it so that you notice it.

It’s the same for your mom’s best friend who always finds 4-leaf clovers, when you’ve never seen one. Or your uncle who spots bald eagles every time he goes fishing. Or your gym buddy who can always find you a rower if you’re in the market (Oh yeah… we have a rower guy! You know who you are!). What that means practically is that at least some of those internet memes about positive thinking are actually true. You do find what you’re looking for. If you look for gray Honda Pilots, you find them. If you look for 4-leaf clovers or bald eagles or rowers, you find them.

That’s also true of intangibles.

Meaning this… if you look for negative things, you find them. If you look for positive things, you find them. It’s no accident that some of the people who most consistently post their bright spots are also the people with some of the best results. They’re looking for what’s going right in their lives and then, when their Reticular Activating System finds it and flags it for them, they double down on it and the results compound. (Note: This is NOT to say that when real hardship and tragedy strike you just need to look on the bright side – far from it. Nor is it to say that positive thinking is supremely powerful. It IS to say that positive thinking matters. More than many people think.)

Finding Bright Spots – or keeping a gratitude journal, or writing affirmations, or making a vision board – are all practices. And they all seem silly, at first. But don’t underestimate them. And for UPCF members, when Friday comes around and you see that Bright Spot Friday post, throw something up in the comments this week!

The Magic Pill

by Michael Plank

There’s a whole lot in this day and age that we can get immediately, or dang-close to it. Things are becoming more convenient by the day. Grocery pick-up! Same-day delivery! It is a magical time to be alive. But when so much of what we want is available at our fingertips, it can be frustrating when health and wellness don’t come quite as easily… or maybe that’s not quite right.

Maybe it’s not that building health and wellness is difficult, it’s that it can be slow. Because the truth is that there actually is a magic pill of sorts for weight loss, strength gain, and biomarker improvement.

Consistency.

That’s it. That’s the whole secret. You don’t have to workout for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week; you don’t have to completely cut out all carbohydrates and processed foods; you don’t have to engage in monumental, herculean efforts. You just have to keep going. Consistent mediocrity will beat sporadic excellence every time.

And really, that’s a huge part of what we do as coaches: we help our members stay consistent. You probably don’t need to learn about what foods are good for you, you probably don’t need to learn that lifting more weight makes you stronger; what you need is to know that every week, someone is waiting for you, and excited to see you show up to work out like you said you would. Every week, someone is checking in to be sure you’re still good with creative ideas for those 2 servings of vegetables you planned on. Every week, someone is in your corner, helping you to not just do what will help you, but helping you want to do what will help you.

Because then you’ll be consistent. And then you’ll get results. And it’s as simple as that. Magic pill.

Who’s On Your Team?

by Michael Plank

The self-made man? Self-made woman? It’s a myth. Or at least not something aspirational. The best performers in athletics, business, finance, military, you name it… all have teams. Even in individual sports, athletes have mindset coaches, strength coaches, hitting coaches, and fielding coaches.

When people join our gym, our goal – in short – is to make their lives better. We help them do that with fitness (which includes nutrition). But fitness is only one piece of the puzzle. There’s also faith. There’s also family. There are also friendships. There’s also psychology.

We’ve already talked about how valuable coaching is, and complete health involves fitness coaching for sure. But it also probably involves a spiritual advisor, and solid family relationships (biological or not), and friends in whom you can confide, and a therapist, and a doctor, and a financial advisor.

What we encourage people to do (and what we’re encouraging you to do as you’re reading this right now) is to build your team. The different areas of your life have different needs. (As much as I love hearing how meaningful our gym is for people, the truth is that CrossFit is not therapy. Therapy is therapy.) Get your fitness coach, your spouse (or siblings or parents or cousins), your best friend(s), your spiritual advisor, your therapist, your doctor, and your financial advisor. Tell them what you need and then let them help you.

It can seem like an overwhelming project, but the great news is that once you get those people lined up, it means that you don’t have to do it all yourself. You are only as smart as your own brain. And when you can get other brains in the mix, whole new worlds can open up to you. Those people who can help you are out there. And when you get your team in line, magic can happen.

(PS Obviously we’d love to help you with your fitness coaching. And we’ll put in a plug here for a great therapist too).

Goals are Overrated

by Michael Plank

I recently heard a podcast with Simon Sinek where he talked about his book The Infinite Game. He talked about the concept of Finite Games and Infinite Games, and it was a lightbulb moment for me.

Finite Games are games where there are defined players, defined rules, and a defined desired outcome (think of any organized sport). Infinite Games, by contrast, are games where the players change, the rules change, and there’s no definite desired outcome because there’s no defined end; the goal isn’t to win, it’s to keep the game going as long as possible.

Exercise is an Infinite Game. You don’t win at exercise. You don’t finish the discipline we call exercise. Exercise is something you do forever so that you’re healthy and strong. Now, we do set Finite Games within the Infinite Game of exercise. And that’s what goals are. So we might say: “I want to be able to do 30 squats in a minute by August 1st.” There are defined players (you), defined rules (number of squats in a minute), and a defined desired outcome (30 squats in a minute by August 1st). If you achieve that goal, you get a big dopamine hit. You feel good about yourself, if you’re at our gym we put up a picture of you and cheer for you, and it’s great.

If you don’t achieve that goal, you know what happens?

Nothing.

Nothing! You don’t get kicked out of the gym. You don’t fail at exercise. You don’t get weaker. Your parents don’t stop loving you. Your friends don’t abandon you. Nothing happens! Because exercise is an Infinite Game.

Goals are important. We’re doing Goal Review sessions with members all the time. They can be inspiring and motivating and useful in making progress. But, like with everything, there’s a dichotomy. When you achieve your goal, celebrate it; tell your friends, post about it, soak up that great feeling. But when you miss your goal (and if you do this long enough, you will miss goals), don’t worry too much about it. Because the game goes on.

Inching the Needle

by Aimee Wojtowecz

Often in nutrition there seems to be this all or nothing approach. People get easily overwhelmed thinking that to make any progress they have to be 100% perfect all the time or it’s just not worth it at all. Well I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. Where else in your life do you need to be, or can you be, 100% perfect? Nowhere. The answer you’re looking for is: nowhere. 

Nutrition is not all or nothing, food is not good or bad (our food doesn’t have morals, folks!), eating an ice cream cone in the summer doesn’t mean you are a bad person or a failure, it means you’re living your life. We only get 3 months of good weather here everybody, I would be disappointed for you if you spent all summer longing for Rookies and denied yourself for the sake of perfection!

What healthy nutrition is, is balance. It’s a series of habits and choices that sets us up for long-term success, it’s preventative health care, it’s community, it’s family, it’s celebration and sorrow. What it never is, is punishment. Healthy nutrition is about nourishing your body, mind and soul with foods that make you feel good AND help you reach your goals. This is done through incremental changes and adding healthy habits that over time will crowd out some of those unhealthier habits that are no longer serving your health or your goals. 

For example, maybe cheeseburgers are your favorite meal in the world and you eat them 4 times a week. I would never tell you that the only way to get healthy is to give up cheeseburgers forever. That’s miserable and unsustainable. What I might ask you is what steps are you willing to take to make that cheeseburger 1% healthier this week? Could you add lettuce and tomato? Could you use a whole-grain bun or make it open faced? Could you eventually sub in ground turkey (maybe even a 50/50 blend?)? Could you leave off the cheese 1-2 times this week? This might not sound like much when you think about all these little tweaks but what you don’t realize is how all these tiny little changes can really add up over time. Think about it like compounding interest in your retirement fund. You add a little, and a little, and a little bit more, but the interest compounds over time giving you a greater return down the line. Your health and nutrition are the same. These tiny little changes can lead to HUGE results and benefits over time that you didn’t even realize were happening because the changes didn’t seem life altering at the time. 

So I challenge you this week to look for one way that you can inch that needle just 1% closer to your goals. For me it’s adding one more glass of water each day. I would love to hear what your 1% is!