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.

Managing Injury

by Brittany Gillis

Injuries can happen anywhere. They can come from a trauma to your body like a car accident, or even something as small as bending over to tie your shoe. Injuries have a broad spectrum of severity. Some are super easy to fix, and some require surgery. Either way, injuries are something that get in the way of our everyday life and can affect our mental health as well. So what do we do when we get an injury, and what are some ways we can recover? 

I have had a few injuries in the past that were minor and easily fixed by resting. Recently, my job has been extremely demanding. I work as an ER tech. Busy days, and 12 hours nonstop at a busy ER lead to sore feet, legs and back. Thinking that it was just a busy few days, I went home, took a hot bath and tried to rest as much as I could on my days off. After a busy Friday, on Saturday we helped my dad move some really heavy furniture. When we were done, I could feel that my back was super tight. I went home and again got into a hot bath and took some ibuprofen. A few days later, I still felt super sore and tight. I thought that maybe I needed to go to the gym since it has been a hot minute since I worked out. During the workout, I could feel my back light up but I kept pushing through even though I knew better. I didn’t go heavy or hard, but what I was doing was irritating it.

The next day I was down for the count. I could not sleep, I was barely able to get out of bed and had a hard time walking. OH NO…. Now what? I went to work and saw my NP who took me out of work, gave me prednisone and sent me on my way. After about two weeks I was starting to feel better!! Thank God!

Wrong. The prednisone was just masking the injury. Now back to square one, I was frustrated and angry. I was angry that I had this injury that completely took me out of training in the gym, doing activities with my kids and even cleaning my house. I lost control of my eating and emotions. I was so frustrated. I called the doctor and he advised me that I needed Physical Therapy and patience. (Haven’t I been patient enough? Not even close.) After starting therapy, I was starting to feel a little better but still angry that it wasn’t a “quick” fix. Well after listening to a podcast episode on accepting where you are, I realized that being angry at having an injury is not gonna make it go away. I had to accept where I was and do what I could. So switching that mindset, I started working on mobility. Not only was that helping my back but mobility is a HUGE part of training in the gym.

It has now been 8 weeks with this injury. It is slowly getting better but what do I do when I am 100% better? Should I jump right back in to doing a 290 deadlift or a quick Fran? No. Easing back in is the best way to recover. Building back up muscles and strength you have lost over the time you lost from an injury is only going to help your current recovery and also help prevent you from becoming injured again. 

Although we would like to think we can jump right back where we left off after an injury, it is super important that you take it slow and ease your way back in. Mobility, rest, talking to your coach, scaling workouts and listening to your body are great ways to help recover and get you back to training!

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!

 

Get to Know Coach Kik!

by Kik Suprenant

A quick google definition search of the word confidence will lead you to the following:

  • the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

This first definition takes me back to the beginning of my journey with Underwood Park CrossFit. I had just run in a 5k at a local event hosted by the gym. Having had my first daughter 18 months prior, I had gained significant weight during my pregnancy (which was not going away on its own) and struggled with postpartum depression. It felt like a huge win to get back into being active after such a dark time. Some members of the gym who were also running introduced themselves. They spoke so highly of this gym community and I was intrigued to find out more. It was a few months later that I felt that first sense of confidence. My truth was knowing I needed to start taking care of me. I joined the UPCF boot camp program. Having been an athlete throughout my high school career, it was comforting to be in a space that accepted my current abilities, rather than where I had been in the past. There was no pressure to fulfill outlandish goals that weren’t realistic. Instead it was an ease that allowed me to build back into working towards consistent and realistic progress in my fitness journey.

The next definition of confidence lists:

  • the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.

After completing my boot camp I decided that this progress I had made needed to continue. I was all in and determined to stay on track. I began my CrossFit membership and have been training for over four years. It is the second bulleted definition of confidence I now felt. I knew I had a place and people I could rely on. This gym has become more than just “getting fit” for me. It is here that I feel a strong sense of community and have found people that truly care about my well being. This gym and the coaches here continue to seek out ways to improve and develop what they are doing for their members. Level Method and UPCF, Version COVID-19 are two prime examples of that, but there are dozens more. They strive to provide the best possible outcomes for their athletes. I have firm trust that our coaches go above and beyond to help all members achieve success.

  • a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

Now the last definition of confidence…for me and I’m sure many others is the hardest. Confidence in YOU. It’s easy to say that I have confidence in my decision to join Underwood Park CrossFit, and confidence in my gym and coaches. But to say I have it in me is a challenge I have, and one I continuously struggle with. Those that know me at the gym know I have a persona of being funny, loud, outgoing, and sometimes (or maybe lots of times) over the top. These are mechanisms I’ve picked up to mask and hide the deeper issues of depression and anxiety that I have struggled with beginning as an adolescent. While my outside appearance might seem confident, internally it’s a challenge I battle regularly. Taking on this new role of coaching is helping to build that confidence within me, but like all other journeys it’s an ongoing process. There are days I feel on top of the world (Murph 2021 was a good day). But there are also days I wish I was a hermit crab that could hide in my shell forever. Saying these things are hard to admit. It makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. By saying them though, others will relate and see that we are all fighting our own battles everyday. Sometimes just showing up for yourself and each other can make all the difference. And I am confident that if you continue to put in the work you will come out better than you started.