What is your ‘WHY-POWER?’

For those of you who are either brand new to your fitness journey or who have been going strong for years – have you ever stopped and asked yourself  “Why?”

  1. Why am I doing this?
  2. What do I want out of this?
  3. What is my ultimate goal?
  4. Am I willing to accept change?
  5. How much time am I willing to put towards myself?
  6. What is going to be different this time than other times I’ve tried in the past?

I sat down and asked myself this very question the other day. I have been exercising regularly my whole life. But still – do I have a goal in mind? Is my goal to be at a certain weight or fit into a specific size? I, like many of you, have many different reasons.

For me, my WHY is because I want to live my life feeling the best I possibly can.

I enjoy feeling comfortable and confident in my clothes. I hate hiding behind layers of clothing and being self-conscious of how I’m looking. I want to use my body and push it to see what it is capable of. I love challenging it and feeling strong. I love the endorphin high that comes along with a workout, and the satisfactory feeling of being finished. I also came from a very active family who all try to take care of themselves as best they can. I was raised to know your health is important to take care of.

But I, like many of you, have good days and some not so good days.

Some days I am ready to attack any workout and push my limits. Then there as some days where I can’t seem to find the motivation to get going. This is when I try to go over my reasons why and it tends to help! Even if I just go out for a long walk – I feel better and am happy I did it!

I encourage you to sit down and ask yourself why you put yourself through each and every workout. Not only do I think you should figure out what is important to you, but why.

If it is a goal weight, do you have a specific number in mind? Why do you want to get there? Have you ever been at that weight before in your adult life? How will you feel when you reach your goal? What if you still aren’t happy?

The journey itself is about learning new health habits, shaping our mental health, and exploring our depths. When all of these pieces fall into place, then our goals will become our new reality. Weight loss and/or muscle growth is not a simple fix or a one-size-fits-all process that happens overnight. If looking great, being pain-free, and feeling confident is the ultimate goal, I urge you to stop and think about why you are doing it.

Once you figure out your ‘why-power,’ you have already broken down a huge barrier between yourself and success. You can use this ‘why-power’ to motivate yourself on the days you just want to sit on the couch and binge watch the 27th episode of a show.

Okay, now picture yourself reaching your goal, whether that be weight loss, muscle growth, etc. What happens next? Are you done? Is the journey over? Absolutely not. You will most likely continue setting goals for the rest of your life!

Our hope for you here at Unity Fitness is that not only will you have learned lifelong health habits that you can share with the people in your life, but also that you’ve come to love the person underneath the skin. Remember, this body you have is the only ‘home’ you will ever live in. Take care of it, be kind to it, and do not shame it anymore. Learn to look at yourself in the mirror and understand that people love you for who you are, not what you look like. Hear me out: if you were to pass away tomorrow and we asked people why they loved you, I promise you that they wouldn’t say, “I loved _______ because he/she was a size small.” They would talk about how kind you were, how funny you were, and how incredible you were!

This is my reminder to you to sit down, think about why you are on this journey and be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can with what you have. If you find yourself stuck in a corner and have no idea where to go, call us! We WANT to help, we WANT to answer questions, and we WANT to be there for you!

Written by Coach Amber – Lifestyle Transformation Coach

Outside of the Box Pancakes Ideas

Helllloooo, Sunday! A day of the week when many of us sleep in, relax, and take it slow. Aside from a hot, steamy cup of coffee, the next best thing to being at home on Sunday mornings is being able to cook a full breakfast. Sometimes I’ll get creative with leftovers and whip up a hodge-podge egg-protein-veggie scramble with a side of fruit, topped with cinnamon and nut butter (this is actually one of my favorite all-time meal combinations, and I never get tired of eating it).

From time to time, though, I get the itch for something a bit sweeter. When my brother and I were little, my mom would make these deliciously thin and light crepe-like pancakes that we would smother in syrup or homemade strawberry jam. Back then, you could probably catch me topping mine with a few spoons of sugar as well…

Now, when I think about pancakes, I’m looking for something a bit more “outside of the box,” and certainly more health-focused than what comes from using a store-bought batter. A box of pre-made mix includes five ingredients: enriched bleached flour, oil, leavening, dextrose, and salt – mainly processed and refined for quick and cheap eats. I suppose you could get the “Heart Smart” version and go for nine ingredients and ten fewer calories.

Instead, I like to opt for recipes that call for less processed pantry staples, which make these flapjacks not only healthy and delicious, but also pretty convenient. These can all be enjoyed with a variety of toppings, including favorite fruits, nuts, nut butters, Greek yogurt, or real maple syrup. And of course, don’t forget the coffee!

Protein Powder Pancakes (Recipe Courtesy of: Fit in 42)

 I don’t have a direct link to this recipe, but definitely have it memorized. It’s either easy to remember, or I’ve just made them THAT many times:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • I recommend blending all ingredients until oats are fully incorporated.

I’ve used both vanilla and chocolate protein for this recipe, and I imagine that any flavor would be good. If I use chocolate, I’ll typically top with a nut butter (peanut butter chocolate pancakes, um, yes please!). Otherwise, some of my go-to toppers for vanilla are fruit, like apples or berries, with a few nuts, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes (Recipe Courtesy of: Diabetes Strong)

This recipe calls for low-fat cottage cheese, oats, egg whites, vanilla extract, and the optional pinch of stevia. I added a bit of cinnamon to mine and, oh my…I thought these were delicious! I couldn’t taste the cottage cheese and the cakes turned out thin, but fluffy, which worked well for soaking up the juice from my heated frozen fruit. Dolloped with a tablespoon of peanut butter and it was basically like a PB&J!

Pumpkin Pancakes (Recipe Courtesy of: Leah’s Plate)

Who doesn’t love pumpkin, especially in the fall? With how available canned pumpkin is, I find these to be a delicacy that I can enjoy all year round. The original recipe calls for pumpkin puree (be careful not to grab pumpkin pie filling), eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, honey or maple syrup (optional), and ground flaxseed (optional).

After many attempts, I have perfected my version of this recipe. I omit the added sweetener and flaxseeds, I use 3 egg whites, and add in a half-scoop of vanilla protein powder. It’s a pretty wet and thick batter, but with some extra patience, they turn out basically like pumpkin pie, but for breakfast. My preferred toppings are either maple syrup with a few pecans, or with some almond butter.

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite pancake recipes, and pulled up a few pictures of these recipes coming to life on a plate, I think I’ll head to my kitchen now…. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Written by Coach KasieLifestyle Transformation Coach, CPT, Pn1, Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach

How to Correct Our Society’s Mistakes and Improve Your Health, Part 1

5 years ago I wrote a series of blogs that I still talk about today, dubbing them the Where Did We Go Wrong? series.  A lot of that information from those posts still applies to today, even with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Through some editing, I was able to come up with a few more action steps for you to take to clear the mind and boost your well-being!

March was Nutrition Awareness Month.  The name itself says that we should create more awareness towards nutrition, but it seems like every month and every day is has some recognition these days.

However, when I think of Nutrition Awareness Month, I think of mindful eating.  If we follow the art of mindfulness, we have to be aware first, and once you are aware of something you cannot not be unaware of something.

In short, we all need to be more aware, especially when it comes to food.

Food is a hard topic to discuss because there’s a lot of different methods out there that work for many people.  In contrast, food is easy to talk about because the principles of healthy eating stay true…and there’s the fact that everybody loves food!

To be more aware of something means you need to start with the basics, and that means you may need to slow down and be more present in your daily life.

Being present will allow you to be more engaged with your thoughts, feelings, and actions,  It allows you to not react to as many of those things around you.  Emotions need motions and motions need emotions.

If our emotions influence our motions (actions), then it may require you to dial into your emotions a bit (and you’ll find out what you’re reacting to in the process).  You may find that when you get sudden urges or cravings  it’s because you reacted to something.

Most of you live in a disconnected, reactive state, which ultimately means most of your days are spent running off emotions.  You’re making decisions solely based on changing the way how you want to feel.

Start a journal today and keep track of what you’re feeling and connect your actions you make following the emotion.

The second piece about starting with the basics is you need to know food is simply just nourishing energy.

Seriously.  Food is nothing more than nourishing fuel.

If you nourish your body poorly, you’re going to have poor outcomes.  Comparatively, if you feed your body high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, then you’ll have positive outcomes!

How our body processes this fuel is the next conversation you and I are about to have, which I’ll tell through an interesting story.

At the same time of this original writing 5 years ago, I was asked to give a nutrition presentation at a local high school.  I informed some of the students that some foods can be processed (metabolized) in the body and some food cannot.  Of the foods that can be processed, we start with whole foods and label them into macronutrients (macros).

I then asked the class, “What are macronutrients?”  I got a few answers as I proceeded to write “Carbs, Fats, and Proteins” across the whiteboard in three separate tables.  I then asked the class to name of examples of each macronutrient, starting with carbs.

I had answers like “Bread.”  “Pasta.”  “Rice.” “Sugar.”  All true, but not one student said fruits or veggies. 

Not one.  I drilled them on how our view of foods has been tainted and it starts well before we’re 40 and we suddenly realize we’re overweight and unhealthy.

Carbohydrates (carbs) is most easily converted into energy.   The best sources of carbs are fruits and vegetables followed by whole grains and other complex carbs like beans, potatoes, rice, etc.

Where did we go wrong?  As a society, as a nation, as humans…what the hell happened?

I feel like there are so many answers to that question that it remains rhetorical.

The kids did a lot better with the protein table.  Although peanuts were mentioned as a protein, but they are actually a fat.  I went on a tangent and explained this to the kids saying that peanuts and other nuts are actually considered fats.  Peanuts do contain the most protein out of the nuts per weight, and that fact is advertised heavily with marketing companies as it is plastered all over labels.  So, that’s where it’s easy to confuse this one.

I’m going to talk more about fat in the next blog post on this series, so hold onto your britches for that one!

Here’s the sad news: as a nation, we need to take a step back and address where we have gone wrong, or where we are continuing to go wrong.  This original post was put up 5 years ago, and not much has changed.

There are still feeling of anger, frustration, loss, and helplessness.

No, those aren’t the feelings of the consumer – those are the feelings of a coach.  We’re fighting an uphill battle because you, the reader, who we are here to serve, have to fight an uphill battle.

5 years later it’s still the same.  I was warning of this 5 years ago and if we didn’t make a change, we’ll continue down this path.  Well, here we are!

Clever marketing techniques and synthetic food creations have made it almost impossible to not consume some sort of processed foods.  A lot of these processed foods fall into the un-metabolized category.  Our body doesn’t know what to do with them besides store them as fat or convert them to sugar, which in turn probably stores them as fat anyway.

Not good, right?

This is just the first step.  We’ll go through the more steps in the next blog post for this series.  Stay tuned!

– Coach Jordan, Lead Transformation Coach, CFSC, Pn2

A Winning Mindset During COVID-19 & Adversity

First and foremost, wherever you are and whoever you are, I hope you are healthy and safe while reading this. Every one of us have been affected by COVID-19 and every one of us will be living a different life when this is all said and done. There is no going back to our “normal” after this.⁣

But I also wanted to send out my thoughts and condolences to anyone who has been severely impacted by this virus, whether it’s personally through contact and contraction, or from a business and livelihood standpoint. I’m sending you my thoughts.⁣

Point being: There’s no selling this thing short anymore.⁣

I wanted to put something together that can hopefully help you get through this time of hardship. As a kid who’s been blessed with several privileges growing up from fantastic parents, grandparents, and support – this becomes one of the most trying times of all our lives.⁣

Just think about that for a second, the next generations will be reading about this in their history books.⁣

With that said, I also grew up with a low self-esteem. I didn’t like to be watched doing activities or playing sports, nor did I have courage to go much outside of my comfort zone (including the strength room at my high school). I’m also an introvert, a mix of an emotional/analytical. Somewhere between a wallflower and a guy who needs to know all the facts before making a decision.⁣

Why is this important?⁣

Because I spent A LOT of my time listening and searching for things to help build my confidence and boost my self-esteem, improving my overall mindset. Now I can share some of those things with you.⁣

Doubling back on what I said in the beginning of this blog post, we are not going to be able to go back to what we deemed “normal” before this happened.⁣

Thought leader and author, John C Maxwell says there’s two choices we have through adversity:⁣

1) You can struggle through and go into “crisis” mode, or⁣
2) You can take advantage and lead.⁣

When it comes to leading, I like to think leading by example. You may not think you have anyone to lead, but I’m telling you, someone is ALWAYS watching you. Adopt a 𝘳𝘰𝘭𝘦-𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘦𝘭 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘦𝘵 in this situation and beyond. Take a step back and watch how many people you influence.⁣

Your family, friends, and others will take notice.⁣

There’s an old story out there about two trees that a boy and his father plant and aim to grow. After several months, the trees are starting to become saplings and the boys asks his dad which one will grow faster? ⁣

The dad replies, “The one we feed and water the most.”⁣

If you feed your fears at this time, by scouring your social media pages, hitting refresh every 30 seconds to see the updates on the news, you can rest assured that you’ll be adopting panic, fear, and anxiety, thus pandemonium will exist.⁣

But if you feed your faith, your belief and your confidence, you will be fulfilling and nurturing your growth and your ability to get things done through this time of crisis. You’ll be much less anxious and experience much less panic as well.⁣

So, which tree will you feed and water the most?⁣

Wayne Dyer, a motivational speaker and author, says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”⁣

In other words, how you view things is how you do things. If we can change or adapt your perspective, we can change the actions you take.⁣

Controlling the controllables is a personal mantra of mine. My coaches Alwyn & Rachel Cosgrove have this mantra as well, and are really making sure we’re focusing on that mantra. It’s an important mindset/mantra to adopt as well because an overwhelming majority of stress and anxiety that people go through are from them spending too much time and energy trying to change the things that are out of their control.⁣

There are some things in life that you have ZERO control over, other things in life that you have SOME control over, and finally things in life that you have FULL control over. Make a list of what that looks like for you.⁣

Pic courtesy of thecounselingteacher.com

Right now, we have ZERO control over the COVID-19 on earth, nor the executive orders put in place. You have SOME control on what you need to do in order to get through this, like going to the grocery store, how to work from home, etc. You have FULL control over the decisions you make, your attitude, and how you’ll use your time at home.⁣

There are people and things in life that need your attention, that deserve your attention. Focus on them. Don’t react, but reflect, and take pro-action from what you learn during reflection.⁣

The executive director of the La Crosse (WI) Chamber of Commerce has been masterful at getting out information and adapting on the fly during this outbreak. She’s sending out daily and often times multiple emails per day to keep us informed as well as how to manage our businesses and selves. She said something yesterday that I stopped me in my tracks:⁣

𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦.⁣

One of the reasons you may be treading in turmoil is because your life is being thrown into daily change, and you may not like that (𝘞𝘩𝘰 𝘛𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘮𝘺 𝘊𝘩𝘦𝘦𝘴𝘦?, anyone?). It leaves you feeling like you don’t have control, throwing you off your routine and demolishing your structure. Remember, the controlling the controllables here!⁣

Getting back to becoming the master of daily change. How fitting for our time, right? You may have to say this aloud once, twice, or fifteen times. Vicki asks you to chant it, and I agree. It’ll stick and be more powerful. It becomes reality.⁣

Crisis and adversity are part of life. It can be tragic, heart-breaking stuff, but it always 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘴 us. What we do with this experience will define us. Times like these will test us, but we will always come out stronger.⁣

Here’s an analogy for you:

In order to build muscle, the muscle has to be stressed, or taken through adversity. The regeneration of that muscle will result in a new, stronger muscle. However, over time, the same adversity (stimulus) won’t cause adaptation. We need to introduce the muscle to more stress which may be new stress or stress with added intensity or pressure. The recovery of that stress is what makes the muscle adapt, becoming stronger yet.⁣

Adversity does the same thing to you and your mind.⁣

There will be failure, heartache, tragedy, and sorrow, but as John C Maxwell says, each of those also comes with a seed of greater benefit.

Adversity will make us stronger. Your perspective on this entire thing can make this whole situation 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 for you, or 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 for you. That’s your 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦.⁣

What I posted above may feel completely wrong to you, and that’s OK. Just remember how you impact and influence others. Do you want them to feel like you do? Do you want to feel like you do? If it’s a no, embrace a different mindset. We will get through this.⁣

I’ll leave you with this, as it was posted by Alwyn yesterday:⁣

“Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.” – Sukhraj Dillon⁣

There may be some out there that believe we have to go through this. Maybe, but I know one thing, when this is all said and done, we’ll be stronger than ever because we’re in this together.⁣

-Coach Jordan, Founder of Unity Fitness

Tactical Strength Challenge: Recovery Basics

When we start training for the Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC), it’s likely that there are increases in overall volume of training – sessions take longer, weight gets heavier, reps go up, etc. This is especially true for those first-time competitors or those just starting to explore the world of kettlebell training. With this increase, we often forget what else has to increase – our recovery.

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If we’re not recovering and are constantly breaking the body down during training, we’re not going to see progress toward a heavier deadlift, more snatches or pull-ups, or a longer flexed arm hang time. At the end of the day, we only get better from what we recover from.

Stay healthy!

At the most foundational level, we want to make sure we’re staying healthy. Some of this can be helped with avoiding injury and what I will talk about later in this article, but other lifestyle factors do play a role. Making sure that we’re washing our hands, avoiding touching our face unnecessarily, staying away from those who are sick, etc. is all great to make sure we’re staying healthy!

To the body, stress is stress. If we’re sick, or just barely over an illness, the body doesn’t realize if the stress from a workout is stress from that illness or the workout itself. Being sick may mean a couple days off workouts and training, which is okay if it happens, but we do want to avoid it if we can!

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Don’t neglect your sleep.

Sleep is some of the best recovery work we can do! We want to make sure we’re prioritizing sleep quality and quantity throughout the challenge. Regarding quantity, we want to make sure that we’re getting 6-9 hours of sleep, aiming toward that higher end of the range! While we sleep, it’s like the ultimate reset button for the body. We repair from the work done the day prior, restore hormone levels, etc. However, it’s not all about quantity.

We want to make sure that the sleep we’re getting is QUALITY. As well.  Three big rocks that we can focus on for quality sleep:

  1. Sleep in complete darkness. Invest in blackout curtains, make sure the clocks are on the darkest setting or facing away from you, etc. You can even go as far taping over indicator lights on other appliances you may have.
  2. The room should be cool temperature. Between 60-67 degrees is optimal, according to the research that’s been done. The cooler temps help your body produce more melatonin, decrease insomnia, and are linked to deeper, higher quality sleep overall.
  3. Limit your screen time, especially blue light, before bed. Blue light suppresses our melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that causes us to feel sleepy; it typically should be highest at the end of the day, as we’re going to bed. Most devices have a setting now, but TV’s still usually don’t. Make sure you’re winding down screen-less or limit screens the 90 minutes to hour before bedtime.

Food is Fuel.

Food is fuel. It serves many important functions throughout the body and for training! We have to make sure that we’re eating enough to recover and fuel the body for what’s to come. Though weight loss may happen over the course of the challenge, now is not the time to tie a weight loss to your performance goal. Restricting the calories too low can also lead to a decrease in performance over the course of the challenge. It’s best to allow food to fuel the body.

Eating according to the general guidelines for healthy eating is the best way to go. If you’ve competed before, you know what works best for you. If you haven’t working with a coach is a great way to help find out what may best for you individually.

There are some guidelines we can use to fuel for training, regardless of who you are:  Prioritizing carbohydrates around training, to make sure the body is fueled and ready to go for the workout ahead, is almost guaranteed to aid in performing. Ensuring that we’re eating adequate protein on all days is also going to be key to build muscle and get stronger over the course of the training program.

We can’t forget about hydration! Drinking enough water ensures that nutrient delivery to the cells, digestion is optimal, among a host of other benefits. Aim for ½-1x bodyweight in ounces per day. You can even add a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt to your first glass/bottle of the day if you’re feeling dehydrated to help with water retention.

Fast and Loose Recovery Work

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We want to make sure we’re taking care of our body on a daily basis. Adding foam rolling, mobility, stability, and movement prep work daily is going to make sure we’re addressing any movement limitations or imbalances as much as possible. This helps protect against injury as well. To steal a tagline from Functional Movement Systems (FMS), we have to move well before we can move often.

By addressing current imbalances, muscular weaknesses, and other areas of concern, we’re giving them the most attention possible. If it took years to acquire, it will likely take quite a bit of time to alleviate. Just like a weight loss journey, we can’t expect an overnight transformation.

Breath work is another great way for the body to relax, destress, and recover. Working through deep, belly breaths allows the body to move into the rest and digest state. Similarly, to how we want to balance tension with fast and loss, we want to allow the body to balance “fight or flight” with “rest and digest”.

Don’t let your calluses build up.

One of the most talked about topics when we ramp up kettlebell training is hand care. Master Instructor Whoo-chae Yoon said it best during my SFG1 Certification when he told us: If you’re ripping calluses and tearing up your hands, you’re making a mistake. It’s not a badge of honor to have your hands torn up.

However, there is an art to hand care. For strength exercises, such as the pull-up and deadlift, we have a different grip than our ballistic snatches. We can’t neglect our calluses and let them build up. When I was first reading about how to care for calluses, I found numerous different methods. The one that works best for me is:

Using a callus shaver or pumice stone to shave down the calluses while your hands are dry. I’ll usually do this before a shower at night especially. That way, I know I’ll be able to let them relax instead of loading weights while I’m coaching during the day. The water from the shower and the moisture also feels great on them, once they’re shaven down. Then I’ll moisturize with a thicker moisturizer, such as the Coconut Body Butter from Trader Joe’s, and let it soak in

During the day, when I’m coaching or have to use my hands a lot, I’ll also use Corn Huskers Lotion to moisturize and maintain them. I’ve found that it’s best to have callus there, but we want it to be tough, yet smooth.

Just like anything else, hand care is some trial-and-error. I know a lot of people recommend soaking the hands first or shaving down calluses after they shower. But for me, I’ve found that having my hands wet causes me to shave them down too far, so they’re raw the next day.

Preventative Tune Ups w/ Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, etc.

The best way to avoid serious injury is to stay ahead of it! By visiting Physical Therapist or Chiropractor when the injury small, or perhaps not even an injury yet at all, we can make sure our body is feeling good throughout the process. If something is bugging you, or you feel a knot that you can’t seem to release on your own, addressing it when it’s small is likely a better route than to let it get to something big.

It’s All Individual

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Take time to get to know your body – there may be some trial and error within the first few weeks. For example, to use myself, I HATE training with food in my stomach. While eating pre-training is typically optimal for performance, it’s not for me. Instead, I opt to train fasted and make sure that I have a good meal ready for me immediately after training to help in recovery as soon as possible.

You may have some trial and error similar to this – What time of day is best? What foods digest the best? Do you need to do a PT/Chiropractic tune up more often? The first few weeks are the best time to get this trial and error out of the way. Then, as we get closer to competition, we fine tune everything, ensuring we have optimal training as well as recovery!

by Emily O’Connor, SFG1 and Unity Fitness Lifestyle Transformation Coach