3 Underrated Fitness Tips

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.

Cultivating Stillness

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.

Why CrossFit Isn’t Always Enough

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!