by Michael Plank
Maybe more than ever before, people are realizing how incredibly important good health is. Even before COVID-19, rising rates of chronic disease were causing doctors to raise alarms all over the world. Basically everyone knows that to be healthy (or healthier), you need to move your body and give it nutritious food. But if that’s all it takes, why do people still struggle?
There’s no shortage of information out there. A Google search for “how to get healthy” will return over a billion results. The trick is sorting through the information to find what next step will have the biggest impact for you, and then (and this is the really important part) actually doing it.
And that’s where coaches come in. A good coach will get to know you, what your goals are, and what makes you tick. A good coach knows the techniques needed to accomplish goals, but just as importantly knows how to simplify that knowledge to give you only what you actually need to do right now.
Imagine that you’re driving cross country to a place you’ve never been. Your coach is your navigator; the person in the passenger seat who has the map. But she doesn’t say “Take 197 to 9S to 87S to 90W to 80W…” She says “In one mile, turn Left on Bridge Street.” Now you could for sure just get in the car and keep heading west and you’d get there eventually. But having a navigator will make that journey a lot shorter and a lot less frustrating.
That’s what you need. You don’t need more information (you probably need less), you just need the right information: the thing that you need to do that you actually will do. A coach will help you see that. And what that really means for you is that those goals you want to reach will come a whole lot faster.
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.
by Michael Plank
There are no shortage of fitness tips out there: warm-up, cool down, stretch, eat kale, track calories, workout all the time, etc, etc, etc. All those tips can be hard to sort through. These are a few of our go-to tips. They’re kind of boring, pretty underrated, but super powerful!
1. Be Consistently Mediocre
What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as how often you do it and how many months or years you do it. This is true of strength building, skill building, nutrition, endurance… everything health and fitness! A 4-week chunk of perfection followed by an 8 week tailspin, repeated a few times a year won’t get you nearly as far as doing a pretty OK job a couple of times a week for a year. Just show up!
2. Something Is Better Than Nothing
Sometimes you don’t want to work out. Sometimes you really don’t have time to go to the gym if you also want to keep your job, get some sleep, and make your family happy. No problem. Go do a Tabata of plank holds (4 minutes). Do 30 burpees or 30 bodybuilders off of a box (2-3 minutes). Do 10 squats, or run up a flight of stairs once (<1 minute). If you can’t come 3 times each week, come twice. If you can’t come twice, come once. Maintaining your level of fitness takes way less time and energy than we sometimes think, and sometimes maintaining is plenty!
3. Do Stuff You Like and Skip Stuff You Hate
At least at first. The things you like will be the things you want to do, and if you want to do it then you probably will (see #1 and #2 above). Eventually, you’ll figure out things that you’re maybe not crazy about, but you’ll see how they support the stuff you like, and you’ll add those. And then eventually, maybe you’ll fall in love with the fitness game and just do everything all the time. But if you don’t, and you only ever do stuff you like, it still counts!
Whole sections of the fitness industry are built on convincing you that you don’t know enough, that you don’t have the secrets, that you need to do (and buy) more, more, more. But for general fitness and health, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
by Michael Plank
In our gym, we use the Level Method Map of Athletic Progression – it’s a tremendous tool to help our members chart a path to lifelong general fitness. It shows us our strengths, it shows us where we could use some more work, and it gives us a path to follow so that we can get where we want to go. We spent all of 2020 also developing a Map of Spiritual Progression. The aim is the same: a tool to show us our strengths, where we can use some more work, and that lays out a path to follow so that we can get where we want to go. Our vision is to improve the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of our area, and this is one way we’re working on tackling that last piece of the puzzle. (More on this to come this year)
One of the first categories we look at developing is stillness. Cultivating stillness is a skill, and it’s way underrated.
Cultures, religions, and traditions around the world, for all of history, have had different strategies for cultivating stillness: Sabbath, meditation, walkabouts, silent retreats, and many others are all different roads leading to the same place. What stillness is has every bit as much to do with intention as with logistics. (So, for example, sitting still and quiet, by yourself, scrolling on your phone, probably is not cultivating stillness).
We live in a world in which attention is arguably the most valuable resource, which means things are clamoring for our attention 100% of the time. Cultivating stillness means making space away from all that noise. And what happens in that space can be literally life-changing.
I started my own journey of cultivating stillness when I was asked the last time when I took a full 60 seconds with no phone, no distractions, no self-development exercises, no trying to sleep, but just sitting and letting my mind wander in stillness. 60 seconds. I had no answer.
And so I started cultivating stillness in my life. My strategy came from a mindset coach and business mentor named Colm O’Reilly.
I started with 2 minutes. I went into a room by myself, closed the door, set a 2 minute timer, put my phone out of sight, and just looked out the window.
At first, that 2 minutes was almost completely consumed with remembering all the things I had forgotten to do that day. But that’s good. I would have forgotten them otherwise. After awhile (weeks), sometimes in the space of that 2 minutes, I’d get some minor insight (if I switch my Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, I can get an extra family dinner in each week). After a little longer, I started to notice it would help me detach when I let problems spin me up so that I got bogged down in the weeds. And after longer still, I began to notice more of a sense of lightness in my life.
And just to be clear, all I’m talking about here is stillness. For me, it’s not prayer, it’s not reading, it’s not even meditation (though it might be one of those things for you). It’s just sitting and looking out the window. It’s a practice, and like any practice, I wasn’t good at it when I started (I’m still very much a novice). And like any practice, I have good days and bad days as I slowly improve my skills.
The benefits of creating space for stillness are well-documented and abundant. But it can be difficult to start, and so here’s one way you might begin…
Step 1: Make time to stop and take 5 deep breaths (no screens or music)
Step 2: On another day, take time to stop and take 10 deep breaths (no screens or music)
Step 3: While sitting or walking, take 10 deep breaths once each week for a month
Step 4: While sitting or walking, take 20 deep breaths once each week for a month
Step 5: Sit still with no distractions for 3 minutes once each week for a month
Step 6: Build in duration and frequency from there.
A lot of the good things we want in life – things like meaning, gratitude, peace, clarity, calm – get drowned out easily by all the noise around us when they’re first taking root. Stillness is a powerful way for us to water that garden and let them grow to become a part of our lives the way we want them to be.
by Michael Plank
Look, we love CrossFit. I mean, love it. It’s in our name. It’s our bread and butter. It’s why we got started. When I first learned about CrossFit, I learned that it was a “core strength and conditioning program,” meaning you don’t need anything else. And that’s true… ish.
It might be true true IF you train five days a week. It might be true IF you obsess over movement quality. It might be true IF you spend 20-40 minutes per day outside of your regular training working on things like mobility and skills. But the chances are good that you don’t. Because you have a job. And a family. And friends. And hobbies. And there’s more to life than CrossFit. And (if you ask me) that’s how it should be.
But that leaves us with a problem, which is that if what we’re doing with our training is 2-5 CrossFit classes per week, some of those areas where we struggle are going to be areas where we struggle for a long time. And that’s especially true with all the neurological stuff. Things that take coordination, agility, balance, accuracy just need more sometimes. Working on the Olympic lifts when they show up in class on the days when we happen to be there makes it tough to get in the reps to get better. Ten minutes of cleans twice a month does not make for elite lifts.
Enter: Specialty Training.
This is something we started offering as we came out of the shutdown last summer. The most basic form of it is personal training. Sometimes you need someone to work with you one-on-one for a month to give you the attention, repetition, and accountability to improve your running mechanics, or your core conditioning. A second form of it we’re starting this month: short-term specialty classes. In March, we’ll spend 4 weeks on double-unders. Later in the spring, we’ll spend several weeks on pull-ups.
Specialty training is an opportunity to get the structure, the coaching, and the repetitive practice that you need to pick up higher level skills. At UPCF, our goal is to help you achieve your goals. CrossFit classes are a great tool for that. But it’s not the only tool we have. And as we keep moving forward, you can expect to see more of those tools being rolled out!