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.

Macros: Yea or Nay?

by Aimee Wojtowecz

IIFYM

No it’s not some secret cult, it’s the acronym for the “If It Fits Your Macros” movement. The premise being that the path to health and fitness relies solely on counting macronutrients: weighing and measuring everything before it passes your lips.

As nutritionists we often get asked about tracking, journaling, counting macros or “points”; whatever label you want to put on it, what it comes down to is accountability. Tracking our foods can absolutely be a useful tool, but maybe not in the ways you expect. There are many reasons to track that aren’t just about calories. You can track protein, fat or carbohydrate intakes, maybe you’re watching your sodium levels and need to track that, or you’re tracking your vitamin and mineral intake to make sure that you’re getting all the needed nutrients. You can track the QUALITY of the foods you’re taking in because maybe you’re trying to cut back on processed foods or maybe you are indeed tracking the calories as a means to reach your goals; not because those calories somehow increase or decrease your value as a human being but because you’re an athlete with goals that sometimes require certain calories.

The important takeaway here is that we want to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and sometimes tracking can be a beneficial tool for that but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes tracking can lead to an obsession with food, or “clean eating”, or alter our relationship with exercise. If you know that tracking isn’t for you but you want to stay on track with your training and nutrition plan, what do you do when everyone is screaming at you that you must count macros?

Keep. It. Simple. 

We often recommend the plate method (1/2 plate non-starchy veggies, 1/4 lean meat and 1/4 complex carb) as a way to estimate portions and make sure that you are balancing meals with a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, while also ensuring that you get plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. It’s simple and effective. But if that seems overwhelming, start even simpler. Try starting by including a vegetable at most meals and snacks. Or start by having a single glass of water with every meal and snack.

You can make massive improvements to your health and fitness with the smallest of steps when it comes to your nutrition and as we all know, nutrition is the foundation upon which our fitness is built.

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).

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!

 

Nutrition and Your Mental Health

by Aimee Wojtowecz

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Binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression, these are all branches of the same tree, our mental health. Now when you think about taking care of your mental health you might not automatically think about nutrition. It’s ok, most people don’t. But what most people also don’t realize is just how strong the connection is between what we are eating and how we are feeling. 

Did you know that studies have shown that a high compliance with the Mediteranean diet can reduce the risk of depression by up to 32%; 21 studies of 10 different countries found that a healthful dietary pattern (high intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, nuts and more) was associated with a reduced risk of depression while conversely a Standard American Diet (think high intake of processed meats, refined grains, sweets etc…) was linked to a significantly increased risk of depression; studies in adults over the age of 50 have shown a connection between diets high in saturated fats and added sugars and an increased levels of anxiety; similar results have also been seen in teenagers (1).

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the connection between our gut (the second brain!) health and our mental health. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when nervous or decided to go with “your gut feeling” when making a decision? Chances are that you were receiving signals from your second brain that you weren’t even aware of. The ENS or enteric nervous system is located in the walls of our gastrointestinal tract and consists of two layers and more than 100 million nerve cells. Irritations to the ENS system (IBS, constipation, diarrhea) send signals to the CNS, central nervous system, that can then trigger mood changes, rather than the other way around, mood changes and emotions triggering IBS, constipation, or diarrhea (2).

By better understanding the connection between our foods and our emotions we can take greater control of our health. This is not to say that foods can replace medications. Mental illness should always be taken seriously while working with your physician to find the best possible treatment for you.

But it is to say that small changes can really add up when it comes to our health, and studies have shown that you really are what you eat. 

References

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/nutrition-and-mental-health-is-there-a-link#Preventing-mental-health-conditions
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection

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 SignumCrossFit.com.