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.

Nutrition and Your Mental Health

by Aimee Wojtowecz

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Progress Is Not Linear

by Michael Plank

I don’t know how many times I’ve drawn seen and drawn this graph, but it’s been a lot! Most of those times have been for myself. Next week we start 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 level down??

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 ask you to do as many push-ups as you can 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 sight of the forest for the trees.

When to Modify Your Training

by Michael Plank

 

If you’re the kind of person who does CrossFit, chances are really good that you’re also the kind of person who has some degree of comfort with discomfort. CrossFit reinforces that. We talk all the time about pushing through barriers, about going beyond what we thought we were capable of, about finding the limits and adding stress there so that we can accelerate growth and improvement. All of that is good. But there’s a dichotomy here too, because sometimes, (believe it or not!) pushing through pain and discomfort is exactly the wrong thing to do. Especially if there’s pain involved.

So here are a few general questions I keep in mind when I’m deciding whether or not I need to scale back my training.

1. Does My Body Hurt?

That means, do I experience pain doing regular, every-day things like cooking dinner or getting in and out of the car.

2. Where Does My Body Hurt?

The answer to this question almost always tells me whether I’m sore from working out or whether I’m potentially injured. By “injured” I mean there’s damage to my tissue and there’s potential for there to be greater damage.

If I have pain in a joint – ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, spine, or neck – I’m going to count that as injured when I’m making decisions. If I have pain elsewhere – quads, calves, pecs, abs, lats, etc – maybe I’m just sore. UNLESS I felt or heard a pop or snap or catch in something like my quad or hamstring or biceps. Then it’s back to injured.

3. If I Go to a Class, Can I Trust Myself to Disclose My Injuries and Listen to My Coach?

It’s easy to get caught up in the energy of a group workout. It’s part of what makes them so effective. But if I feel like I’m going to either a) hide my injury because of my ego or because I’m worried I’ll inconvenience someone, or b) disclose it, but then get carried away and tell the coach it’s fine (when it’s not), that’s going to be a red flag for me.

4. What Benefit Is There From Risking Further Injury?

Maybe I’m going to the CrossFit Games. Maybe there’s a $300,000 check that could have my name on it if I ignore the pain and get that last deadlift in under the buzzer. But if I’m not looking at something like a quarter of a million dollars, chances are really good that there is no potential upside that outweighs further injury.

5. Will I Lose Progress if I Take Today Off?

There’s only one true answer here: no. Just like one single day of training won’t be the thing that catapults you from Orange II to Brown III, a skipped day of training won’t drop you from Orange II to White.

6. What’s The Long-Term Goal?

(This is the most important one for me). For me, my long-term goal is to live the rest of my life with no physical limitations on what I want to do (yours might be different). If my knee aches and clicks every time I bend it, does pushing through a run/squat/box jump workout as written support my long-term goal or not? Answer: It doesn’t.

 

Pushing through discomfort has served all of us well. It’s how we improve and how we grow. But this is just your Wednesday reminder to still be smart about it. Talk to your coaches. Keep them in the loop. Be honest with yourself. And remember that the goal is not to do THE BEST on Thursday morning, it’s to do the best you can do for yourself for the long haul.