Hyannis Life

Owner and Head Coach Katie Falkowski is a monthly contributor to Hyannis Life Magazine.  Check out some of her articles below!

Hyannis Life, November 2013:  Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

Fall on Cape Cod is perhaps my favorite season.  I don’t think I fully appreciated the Cape’s autumn until I went away to college and came back to the beautiful trees, the cranberry bogs bursting, and that crisp feeling in the air.  There are no words to describe the beauty that is the Cape this time of year.  It’s as if the tourists leave, and we are blessed with this beauty just for ourselves.  After the craziness that can be a Cape Cod summer, the fall is always a time of relaxation and rejuvenation that leaves one feeling reinvigorated for the holiday season.

Right in the midst of this fall season we have my favorite holiday- Thanksgiving.  My Thanksgiving day always includes an epic team workout with my friends from the gym followed by eating, sleeping, spending time with family and friends, and watching football- what could be better?  Beyond these reasons I love Thanksgiving for the sentiment and emotions that it elicits.  We are called in a special way on this day to be aware of the many gifts that we have in our lives and the blessings that each day brings.  Far too often we let days slip by without taking the time to be grateful for what we have.  Just like I didn’t appreciate the beauty of the Cape until I had gone away and returned, unfortunately sometimes it takes us losing something before we truly appreciate it.

This fall take the time to appreciate the gifts that you have that you often overlook.  Change your mindset from “I have to” into “I get to.”  It’s amazing what this small change in way of thinking can do.  This is your life; take the time to enjoy the daily gifts and blessings.  It’s easy to let days, months, even years go by without stopping to appreciate what we have.  Your health, your job, your family- don’t take these things for granted.  What are the things in your life that happen every day that you sometimes fail to appreciate?  Take a moment to savor these little blessings.

Take this attitude of gratitude and “I get to do it” to your fitness routine and you may be pleasantly surprised with how much more productive and fun it is.  If you are healthy and well, embrace the fact that you are capable of working out.  Fuel your body with the right foods and exercise regularly.  There are many people out there riddled with injuries and poor health who yearn for the chance to train, or even just enjoy being able to get around easily.

Wake up each day with an indomitable spirit, an attitude of gratitude, and a desire to make the day meaningful.  Coach John Wooden is quoted as saying that we should “make each day our masterpiece.”  If today was the only day you had- what would you do with it?  Surely you wouldn’t let it slip away without taking a moment to look around at the gifts you’ve received.  What can you do today to make a positive impact in the world and to those around you?  Don’t wait for tomorrow- appreciate today, go all in, and make it your masterpiece.

Hyannis Life, October 2013

Who are you going to be for Halloween this year?  Will you be strolling the streets of Hyannis as a superhero, a princess, a monster, or an angel?  You can be anything you want to be.  That’s one of the great things about this fanciful holiday- for that one day you can choose to be whomever you want to be.  But here’s the great thing- we have that choice everyday.  We can choose exactly who we want to be, and not just by putting on a costume for a day but by truly becoming who we want to be. Yes, it may require a little more effort then heading out to the store and picking out a costume and some makeup, but ultimately we still decide who we become.   It just requires consistency, time, and effort.

You want to be stronger and healthier?  You have the power to decide to go to the gym, eat well and make good decisions.  You want to pursue that new job or promotion?  Put in the work and the hours, and show that you are qualified, capable, and passionate about what you do.  But there’s a catch- unlike Halloween it’s not just one day, we have to do these things everyday.  Every day we have to work to become who we want to be.  Your decisions and actions today lead to the person you will be tomorrow and the legacy you will leave behind.  We can’t let days slip away without working toward becoming a better version of ourselves.

Fear and being scared are other notions often associated with Halloween, and perhaps are also the things that are holding you back from being who you want to be.  I recently uttered the words, “I hear your fear, but I don’t accept it” to one of my athletes who was nervous and hesitating about doing a particular movement in the gym.  She looked at me and we both laughed- I sounded like some sort of life coach or self help guru.  After that moment, however, the athlete conquered her fear and was able to successfully complete the task at hand.  As a coach I knew what she was capable of, and that it was only her fear of accomplishing the task that stopped her-not her physical ability.  By telling her that I “heard her fear but didn’t accept it” it allowed us both to acknowledge that she was afraid, but that we wouldn’t let her be stopped by that fear.

Are there ever times in your life where you let the fear of something stop you from working towards becoming the best version of yourself?  Fear is a natural part of our existence.  It’s how we choose to handle that fear that matters.  Will you let it get the best of you and never try, or will you recognize your fear and overcome it allowing yourself to be a better you?

Pretending that we aren’t afraid is of no use.  Look your fear right in the eyes, and let it know that you will no longer accept its presence.  You will work today and everyday to become the best version of yourself possible, and become the person you want to be.  Nothing will get in your way.

The treats we receive on Halloween never seem to last long.  Despite the initial excitement, they are handed to us, consumed, and gone from our memories in the blink of an eye.  The rewards that we receive through consistent effort in bettering ourselves, however, have the potential to last a lifetime.   Forget about who you’re going to pretend to be for one day, and continue to work on who you’re going to genuinely be each day.  You just might end up being a superhero afterall…

Hyannis Life, September 2013: Best Day Ever

Another summer on Cape Cod has come and gone, leaving us with more memories of beach days, cookouts, and time with family and friends.  As the long, hot summer days drift off into the past we look forward to a new season.  For many people this time of year brings up that “back to school” feeling.  Whether or not you are in school or know children who are headed to school, there’s a natural change when September rolls around.  We instinctively know that one time is ending, while another begins.  For many people this can be a busy time of year, and it can also be a time of new beginnings.

When I was a schoolteacher I was always amazed by the energy that September brings.  Children have a way of embracing the new academic year and the endless possibilities that come along with it.  There’s an excitement as they walk through the school doors and see new teachers, new classes, old friends, and if they’re lucky a cute new classmate to meet.  As we get older it’s easy to get in a rut; perhaps the monotony of one’s job or social life leaves you feeling caught in an endless cycle of the same.  This September, try to rekindle that feeling of “newness” that you once experienced as a child.  Commit to starting something you’ve always wanted.  Maybe for years you’ve said you’d like to run a 5K, do a mud run, or check out that new gym.  What’s stopping you?  It’s far too easy to let seasons come and go without feeling the potential excitement that each day could bring.

As a high school and middle school teacher every day for the entire year I would write the date on the board, and directly underneath it write “The Best Day Ever.”  As the days went on the students would make comments, “Wasn’t yesterday the best day ever?”  My standard response- “Everyday better than the day before, makes today the best day ever.”  Often times they looked at me like I was crazy, but after seeing it and hearing it enough times I hoped that the message would stay with them.  It is true that we all have ups and downs, and everyday may not seem like “the best day ever.”  But what if we took this idea and ran with it?  Each day is a day to experience new things, meet new people, and learn new lessons.  When we embrace this idea it allows us to be open to greater possibilities that the world and those around us have to offer.

September can be a busy time, and it can be hard to take the time to take care of ourselves and exercise.  But if we carry with us this idea of newness and celebrating each day as if it is the best day of our entire lives- imagine the endless possibilities and boundless energy that we can cultivate.  Instead of begrudgingly hitting the snooze button an extra time (or two) in the morning, try to remember that today brings with it the opportunity to work towards being a better version of yourself.

If you are someone who doesn’t have a regular exercise routine, but has been meaning to start one, use this September as a time to begin.  It can be as easy as adding in a ten-minute walk to your day.  The key is- you have to start.  Take the first step, the second will naturally follow.  If you are someone who regularly works out, use this time to refocus your energies and evaluate your current workout regime to make sure you’re not in a rut.  If you’re training properly, you should continually be seeing progress.  Are you getting stronger, fitter, and healthier?  Oftentimes signing up for a race, meet, or event in the future can help dial in your training.  With something concrete to train for, it forces us to be honest with our training and stay on track.

Wherever you’re at physically and mentally as we enter this new part of the year, remember to view it as an opportunity for a fresh start.  Be invigorated by the energy that is around you, and strive to make today the “best day ever.”

Hyannis Life, August 2013: Love the Grind

When I was growing up my older brother and I both did well in school.  The difference, however, was that my brother seemingly never opened a textbook in his academic career whereas I was the kid making flashcards, coming up with ridiculous acronyms, and studying hours for exams.  At the end of the day both of us saw success through our different methods, mine just required a little more effort and time.  It would have been simple for me to take the easy route, but I understood the value of a consistent effort and it ultimately paid off.

I also played hockey growing up, and had the good fortune of playing in college.  In hockey there are “scrappy” players and “finesse” players.  The finesse players make everything look easy and graceful, and often get much of the credit for beautiful plays and goals.  The scrappy ones are the players battling it out in the corners doing the dirty work- it may not be pretty, but it’s got to be done.  I was a scrappy player.  When I played hockey it never necessarily looked “easy,”- you could always tell I was working.  I worked hard on the ice, and spent countless hours in the off-season preparing for the upcoming year.  I loved the grind, and you could find me spending extra time in the weight room, running stairs in the weight vest, shooting and stick handling in the backyard for hours, or getting on any sheet of ice I could find to hone my skills.  When the season rolled around I was ready, despite the fact that I never had the look of a ‘finesse’ player.

Through both my experiences in academics and athletics I learned that there’s a great value in working hard, that it’s ok to be scrappy, and that you should never be afraid to lay it all on the line.  As I’ve gotten older the work ethic that I learned as a child has stayed with me and I still find that it’s only through extreme effort by which real success comes.  In his book “Mastery” George Leonard says, “ To take the master’s journey, you have to practice diligently, striving to hone your skills, to attain new levels of competence.”

In my current position as a coach and athlete at CrossFit Hyannis I still remind myself to “practice diligently” while always striving to break through plateaus in my training.  I try not to get down when a skill or exercise takes a little longer for me to learn, when the strength gains come slow, or when someone is moving faster than I am.    It’s too easy to look at the person next to you and compare yourself to them and what they are capable of- but it’s not about them and where they are.  It’s about you and pushing yourself harder than you thought you could, while still supporting those around you who are doing the same. We can fill our head with negative thoughts as we look around the gym or other areas of our lives and see people who it seemingly comes easy for.  That person is stronger than I am, thinner than me, prettier than me, has more money than me- the list goes on and on.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  Get back to the grind, and embrace your own personal journey.

We are lucky to have our journey pass through beautiful Cape Cod.  Don’t forget to look around and take it all in.  We live in a place where many travel to so they can relax, have some fun, and often reconnect with loved ones.  Let these ideals be part of your daily routine as you move forward.  Appreciate the gifts you have, and try not to get so caught up in comparing yourself to others.

Whatever it is you’re working on- whether it be training for your first half marathon, preparing for your sport season, or even formulating a more consistent gym routine- don’t be afraid to put your full effort forth to work toward becoming a better you.  Just because things don’t come easily, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing wholeheartedly.  Far too often we want things to be easy, but there’s great value in the effort.  Come to love the grind and embrace being the “scrappy” one.  For me personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Know that if you continue to pursue excellence in all that you do, you will reap the rewards of your effort.

 

Hyannis Life, July 2013: Sisu

Early mornings, long days, late nights…  Business commitments, family commitments, personal commitments… Time constraint, money constraints, health constraints…  Yes, life can be hard.  We all deal with a host of issues on a daily basis, and it’s easy for even the most levelheaded person to get overwhelmed.  But this is life- and instead of dreading the day-to-day grind, we’re called to find ways to embrace, overcome, and ENJOY each moment we have here- even if sometimes it seems that life can overwhelm us.

The Finnish culture has a word, “sisu,” that roughly translates to “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.”  It is not that one with the quality of sisu does not experience failure, but it is rather that they press on despite setbacks or odds that are seemingly not in their favor.  Sisu means having guts.  We can strive for sisu everywhere- in the gym, at work, at school, and in life as a whole.

Life requires all of us to have a certain level of sisu when things get tough, which they inevitably will.  In our gym we recently discussed sisu and how it plays into our workouts.   There are days you don’t want to train- so sore or tired that the thought of even going to the gym seems exhausting.  Or maybe Veteran’s Beach or Sandy Neck is calling your name- you feel like there’s simply no way to get your workout in on a day as beautiful as this on Cape Cod!  But we must remember sisu- the concept bringing us back to reality, reminding us that we must not only persevere, but thrive.  Other days getting to the gym is easy, but once there while in the midst of your training session it all seems too hard.  It’s too heavy, you’re too slow, the miles seem endless.  Sisu.  Have guts, press on.

The concept of sisu is easy to see in the gym or on the playing field when athletes work through tough days and tackle their workouts with determination, blood, sweat, and tears.  But there are certain people who, whether they know it or not, live this ideal out and inspire us with their remarkable ability to not only overcome adversity, but show amazing strength and goodness throughout their struggles.  They remind us that most of the problems we deal with are small, and that no matter how big the struggle we can be courageous and positive in the face of even the worst situations.

On Cape Cod a shining example of a man who lives with sisu- having strength, determination, will and purpose despite adversity, is Yarmouth Deputy Chief of Police Steven Xiarhos.  This July 23rd marks four years since Officer Xiarhos’ son, Nick, was killed in Afghanistan.  This type of unthinkable sadness is something no father should have to endure, yet Officer Xiarhos has chosen to honor his son by living his life fully and passionately, helping others in need, and honoring all those who have lost their lives in service.  Led by Officer Xiarhos Team Big Nick participates in charity races, bike rides, and countless other events.  In all of this Steve lives his life with purpose, pressing on relentlessly, showing us an unconquerable human spirit, and letting Nick’s memory be one that leaves a legacy.

Many have been touched by Steve through his involvement in the YPD Blue 5K, Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen, the First Responder Appreciation Freedom Ride, and the Marine Corps Honor Run.  The list goes on and on, with many of the events being physical in nature.  Officer Xiarhos truly understand how lucky we are to be alive and well, and that it is not something to be taken for granted.  He reminds us that using our bodies physically can be a way to honor those who no longer can.

Officer Xiarhos is a father who has chosen to show such extreme strength, will, determination, and love despite adversity.  He lives his life fully, passionately, and selflessly.  He realizes how short life can be, and that we must live each second to the fullest, always putting others first.  Officer Steven Xiarhos shows Yarmouth, Hyannis, and all of Cape Cod how to press on, making the world a stronger and better place by his life.

Let’s take his example and bring it to the world.  When you get overwhelmed and life seems to be too tough, keep things in perspective and remember Officer Xiarhos and the idea of sisu- be strong, press on, and make your corner of the world a better place.

 

Hyannis Life, June 2013: I Just Got Better

Each day as athletes leave the varsity weight room at Holy Cross after their rigorous training sessions they tap a sign above the door that states “I Just Got Better.”  It doesn’t matter if they’re exhausted from practice, lift, sprints, and whatever other crazy training session their strength coach had put them through that day- they lift their tired arms and hit that sign.  We learned early on in our athletic careers at HC that hitting the sign was important- and it was a constant reminder to us that working hard day in and day out did in fact make us better.  We had to put in a consistent effort, and it wasn’t easy- but we were a little bit better every time we left that weight room.

This lesson has stayed with me as I’ve moved on in to the workplace, first as a teacher and coach, then into a gym owner myself.  We live in a society where often times we want everything all at once- but life doesn’t work like that.  We need to put in the work each day, doing the little things over and over again- the right way- before we notice any real progress.  And yet despite the fact that sometimes it seems as if we’re not moving forward… we in fact get better every day if we press on putting in the work, consistently attacking challenges and overcoming life’s little obstacles.

As we voyage into the summer months it seems like everyone has a laundry list of things that they want to accomplish, and many people have had the sudden realization that the six pack and perfect beach body they had hoped to have in time for the summer isn’t quite “ready” yet.  So they hit the gym and commit to dialing in their diet.  It goes well for a few days, hey maybe even a few weeks!  But then… “Wait a second, I’ve been doing this for 2 whole weeks and I don’t have a six pack yet- what’s the deal?  I haven’t gotten any better.”  And so they stop going to the gym, convinced their efforts aren’t working.  It’s times like these that we have to go back to that lesson learned in the weight room- you did just get better.  A little better everyday, but things take time.  We want things now, but success and mastery come from the consistent effort- not for a day or a week or a month, but everyday over time.

If you feel like you get stuck in a rut, try to recruit a friend or a knowledgeable coach/trainer to get you back on track and help motivate you.  If you aren’t seeing the results you want, despite a consistent effort over time, don’t be afraid to switch it up.  Perhaps you have a friend who you know trains hard and smart- ask them what they do and see if you can join them for a workout.  Finding a training community that will push and encourage you, even during those periods where you struggle to get motivated, can be the difference between giving up on your efforts and breaking through a plateau stronger than ever.

And as you work for that “perfect beach body”, I urge you to remember the real reasons to work out and train hard: to live a better, healthier, and more energized life!  Enjoy the process.  Worry less about the number on the scale, and think more about how you feel.  Do your workouts leave you feeling strong and empowered?  Do you take pride in your efforts- knowing that you pushed on for that one more rep, that one extra mile, that one last set?  Does being fitter and healthier allow you to be a better parent and role model to your children?  Does it allow you to hold your own in your pickup basketball game or walk more effortlessly on the beach with a loved one?  Does it make you happier?  Hopefully the answer to these questions is yes, even if that six pack hasn’t quite shown itself yet.  Be consistent and patient, confident that when you put your best efforts into your training results will follow.

At the end of the day we all want to be the best versions of ourselves.  Better spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers.  Let your workouts energize and excite you, have faith that when you work hard you are getting better each and every day.  Better physically, better mentally, and all in all a better version of yourself.

Hyannis Life, May 2013

It’s hard to believe that the warm weather we’ve been anticipating for so long is finally here.  After months of being cooped up indoors, the sun and beauty of our amazing Cape Cod landscape beckons us outside to enjoy our tiny little corner of heaven.  In a technological world that would allow us to run indoors on a treadmill while simultaneously watching TV and reading about the latest Hollywood gossip, the Cape Cod backdrop begs for us to get outdoors and bring our fitness to the world.  Whether it’s running, lifting, strongman, yoga, walking your dogs, or whatever else it is you do to stay fit and be active- this time of year can reinvigorate your passion to pursue excellence and become the healthiest and best version of yourself.

As the owner of CrossFit Hyannis I spend plenty of time inside the gym trying to better myself at my sport, but there’s something truly special about taking your pursuit of fitness into the world.  We are meant to move- to run, jump, lift, push, pull, and PLAY.  Ultimately your quest to being fit and healthy should be fun.  As adults we could take lessons from children who continually remind us that to do all of these things should elicit laughter, camaraderie, and yes, even a higher level of health and fitness.  Going to the gym and working out shouldn’t be something we grudgingly do each day and “check off our list.”  If it is- perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your fitness regime.

This summer, grab a friend and get out there!  Head out to the beach and put together a workout.  Sure, people may look at you a little odd when you and your buddies start squatting, doing pushups, sit-ups, and sprinting on the beach.  If they do- invite them to join you, the more the merrier!  And don’t forget the best part of a beach workout – when you’re done you can hop right into the ocean to cool off.  Or maybe one day head to the Trail of Tears with your bike and a buddy.  There are few worries in life that a little sweat, some muddy tires, and laughter with a friend can’t cure.  Or perhaps Zumba’s your thing- why not go dancin’ in the streets of Hyannis?  The world has been waiting to see your new moves.

Hopefully you have some sort of exercise that ignites a passion in you and leaves you eager to train each day.  For me that thing is CrossFit.  One of my favorite things to do when the weather is nice is to take my love of CrossFit outside of the gym.  You’ll regularly find CrossFit Hyannis members outside pushing and pulling sleds, flipping tires, and yielding barbells.  Yes, we could do it inside- but why not take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out there and train like athletes!  For me there’s nothing quite like being with a group of friends, pushing each other to be better than we thought possible- all the while enjoying the sunshine and summertime.

I hope that you find that thing that you love to do, whatever it is, and share that experience with those you care about.  The possibilities on Cape Cod are endless.  It’s all too easy to forget that our world is a playground- this summer, grab a friend and get out there and play.

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