Tag Archives: leadership

Thank You

As many of you probably already know this weekend we hosted “Bike Ride for Black Lives.” This was a fundraiser and the brainchild of Jessie Theisen (one of our awesome members). We were able to raise close to 4,000 dollars that will be donated to the Urban League of Greater Pgh.

 

This was our first bike ride fundraiser and I was not sure how we would do. We did better than I thought we could have. 50 people got on their bikes and rode one of three options 50, 30 or 10 miles using our extensive trail system we have here in Pittsburgh.

 

This blog is more of a thank you to each and every one of you than anything else. I would be remiss if I did not add some special thank you’s to this list though. My family came through big time! I had aunts, uncles, my father, my wife, and son and a few cousins come out to either ride or volunteer. In addition, we had some members and employees who stepped up big time! Curtis and his lovely wife Liz did a great job with the rest station. CJ actually didn’t wreck this time. Sara Rusner, this couldn’t have happened without her. Matt Grayson (who is my consummate backup man) once again had my back. Matt got us shirts when our first order fell through, he took care of picking up food, coffee, etc and I am indebted to him for his help. Others involved here were Cayt, Katlyn, Cody, Dave, Racheal and the rest of our awesome staff.

 

Thanks to each and every one of you and let’s keep doing good work. One of our goals is to do something for society at least once a month, so bring me ideas.

 

Final thought, we even had a John Fetterman sighting on the trail. Next time Big John needs to be on his bike with us!

 

Thank you

 

Todd Hamer

State of the Union

Summer is quickly coming to a close and we are preparing to spend more time indoors. With the change of season we feel it is important to discuss a few different things. First we want to be sure everyone feels comfortable training in a safe environment.  We also want to show all of you other projects we are working on to make us not just a stronger community but also a better community.

 

In August we began an assessment of the gym and of our services. We have had a questionnaire at the desk for over a month now. Over 50 members responded and most comments were positive. What we did learn is that keeping a clean and safe environment is very important to all of our members. We take this very serious, and have been running through cleaning products quite fast. We are doing our best to not only make sure the facility is clean, but to also make sure everyone feels comfortable. Please tell us when you see any issue that makes you feel unsafe.

 

As you have probably seen we have done our best leaving doors open and moving outside for as many activities as possible. We will continue to do this as the weather permits. Let’s hope it stays warm so we can continue to be outside. Once the weather changes and we can no longer move outside we will review how many people are permitted in the gym (this has not been an issue yet). We are hoping that everyone can continue to work together to make us the best gym in Pittsburgh and the safest.

 

Return of the podcast.

 

We now have our own recording studio. With the help of one of our awesome members and local podcast host Josh Elsass we set up a recording studio and we are going to return to recording weekly podcasts. These podcasts can be found on all your podcast apps and is called the Union Fitness Podcast. While you are at it check out the numerous podcasts that Josh hosts.

 

Bike ride time.

 

We are hosting a bike ride on Sept 26th (special thanks to Jessie Theisen). The ride will benefit Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. We are asking for donations through our go fund me site and you can sign up on using MindBody app or through our website. The details are below and here is the link for donations.

 

 

Date: Saturday, Sept 26th

 

Location: Union Fitness

 

Ride Options: 10 mile family fun ride. This ride will leave UF at 10:30 AM with registration at 10 AM.

30 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 9:30 with registration at 9 AM.

50 Mile Challenge. This ride will leave UF at 8:30 with registration at 8 AM.

 

Other updates.

 

After our review we also discussed our classes and how we can improve the experience for you the member. We will be adding some free classes for all members until the end of the year (watch for an announcement), we are also going adjust our schedule slightly. As always if you see something that does not work for you please communicate that to us.

 

We are also beginning an instagram meet the staff series. Every Thursday you will see a short video highlighting one of our staff members. Hopefully this will introduce some of you to our amazing team here at UF.

 

As always feedback is welcome. If you every have any issues in the gym please contact Todd Hamer todd@unionfitness.com and feel free to give us the good, the bad and the ugly. We are here to serve you.

 

Todd Hamer

 

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings

When I was young, my dad had a small weight bench and a pair of dumbbells in our spare bedroom upstairs. He first showed me how to use them when I was around 10 years old or so, but after the first time that I took too much weight off of one side of the bar and it came up and hit me square in the mouth, I was over it. It wasn’t until I graduated high school that I actually found my way into the weight room.

 

Growing up, I was always extremely active and involved in sports. From growing up on my Grandfather’s farm, to helping my dad work on our 1970 Mustang, to racing dirt bikes and four wheelers, I was always doing something physical. From the age of 4, I played soccer and baseball up until the day that I graduated high school. I lived for all of it. These things were my way of hiding how shy and afraid I was on the inside. When I was standing on that pitcher’s mound or racing around a track, I felt unstoppable. Almost like a superhero. But when all of that went away and I had to go back into the real world, I was just a boy who was scared of what life was going to throw at him.

 

Eventually, I decided to put sports to the side and pursue a career for my love of cars. For a couple of years I worked in custom car shops as a metal fabricator and paint specialist. Although I absolutely loved it, there was now a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. Without the strength and confidence that I gained from sports, I was still that scared kid from my childhood. One day, my best friend Trey asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him after work. I hesitated as I flashed back to the time when the barbell hit me in the mouth at my parents house, but I still said yes. Scared and nervous, I walked into our old high school’s weight room as I was greeted by the football coaches. One of them, my History teacher Mr. Joseph, looked at me shocked and said “Miller! What are you doing here? Are you lost or something?”

 

Indeed I was lost. I was 145 pounds soaking wet, and had no idea what I was doing, but each day, I kept coming back. One month into working out 3 days per week, I received news that Trey was in a car accident, and was fighting for his life. I visited him in the hospital, and told myself that I would continue to train for him. As he progressed and got better, I began to realize what the gym had provided me during that time. It gave me the courage to keep pushing when I was sad and scared, and it gave me the strength to not give in even when I wanted to quit. 12 years later, and not a day goes by that I don’t try to repay and pass on everything that the gym has done for me. It has given me the strength to go back to school, to become an established professional, become an Elite powerlifter, build strong relationships, and face my fears every day in order to become a better human being. As long as I live, I will do my best to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the same things that I have.

 

To Mr. Joseph, I am in fact still lost, but I’m finding my way a little more each day. Thank you for the encouragement.

Questions of Command

The best Commanding Officer I ever had no idea how to do his job. Or at least that’s what he told us. 

 

Over a few week period the entire Air Wing had seen a spat of deaths, some suicides, some motor vehicle accidents, training accidents; one of the suicides had come from one of our line squadrons. Nothing was his fault, he was a great commander, smart, attentive, organized, compassionate. But sometimes that’s not enough. 

 

He gathered the entire group command in the staff conference room, hundreds of years of military experience, leadership, and know-how gathered around a grand oak table with my C.O. at the head of the table. 

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing” he said after a long silence. “I could do all of your jobs” he said smiling looking out at his squadron commanders. “I know how to lead flights, organize schedules, make sure the birds stay up – but I don’t know what to do about this”. 

 

There is a powerful mental state called “Imposter syndrome”. In its most basic form is the belief that one’s own skill, knowledge, abilities are less than what others around you view them as – simply put, you’re an imposter. You might have years of experience at a job be viewed by your peers, bosses, and employees as a total expert but in the back of your head you know that you’re just fooling them all… and yourself. 

 

There is another syndrom of sorts that is also worth examining –  the “Dunning Kruger Effect”. This effect has gotten some notoriety in past years as the wealth of knowledge easily accessible to anyone with a smart phone has grown. essentially , you learn enough to think you know everything when in fact you don’t even know enough to know how little you know

 

“I don’t know what to do about this” – vulnerability is a powerful thing. When leaders, especially good leaders, are able to be vulnerable in front of those they are charged to command it creates a powerful thing – faith. After my commander finished, every soul in that room believed in him more than ever. We believed in him because we knew that he was telling the truth. 

 

Now, I don’t know for a fact that my CO viewed himself as an imposter, but the dogged way he worked to prove he was the real deal might be an important indicator. I also cannot confirm that he ever fell victim to the dunning kruger effect but, anecdotally, most young aviators view themselves as invincible hot shots (TOP GUN if you will). However, with every extra hour in the cockpit they discover just how much more they need to learn. At some point, these two conflicting states of mind reached a convergence for my CO.  He came out the other side a wiser, better leader.

 

It’s the same in coaches. I myself am still headed towards this convergent point. In good moments of confidence I see in myself what others say they see in me – but often I don’t. I at least know that I don’t even know how much I don’t know  – that’s a start. So how do we work through these diametrically opposed forces? I think vulnerability is a good place to start. 

 

Sport coaches, or at least NBA basketball coaches seem to be catching on to the power of vulnerability. In the book The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle he discusses the first day of practice with the San Antonio Spurs and the legendary coach Gregg Popovich. Pop (as he’s commonly referred to) is a man who has been at the top of his field for decades. Seen by peers, players, and the media as a prime example of what a winning coach is. Yet he begins every season by acknowledging his fears of letting his team down, not being a good enough coach, and not being able to meet his players expectations. Vulnerability in action to bring a team together, to level the playing field (or court) so to say. What this unlocks is a level of trust and understanding in all directions that incubates a culture of success. 

 

For too long, barbarized examples of masculine strength have dominated the world of athletics, whether on the field or in a weight room. I know I have gone down this road many times myself. But another NBA coach, Golden State’s Steve Kerr sees another path to victory through vulnerability. “The whole point of competing is to be vulnerable…to lay it out on the line” Kerr said on a 2020 podcast. He links the need to play and compete with your full self; ego, fears, pride, self-consciousness, as essential to victory. And only through being openly vulnerable can our full selves be accountable to others. 

 

Dr. Brené Brown has spoken at great length about the power of vulnerability. Only by accessing and sharing the most fragile parts self can we really work to strengthen the whole. But as coaches and especially young coaches we’re faced with a conundrum. We are tasked with the welfare of young men and women (often not much younger than ourselves) we are asked to lead them and help them improve. We are told to project confidence, to be experts in our craft, to have the answers. But I am not always confident, I do not feel like an expert in my craft, and I do not have all the answers. “Vulnerability is not weakness” Dr. Brown says, “it’s the most accurate measure of courage”. In order to improve we have to investigate, acknowledge, and take ownership of how we need to grow.” 

 

I know I often feel like an imposter in the field of coaching. I don’t have the education background of those I look up to, I don’t have the years of experience of many of my peers, I worry that I won’t be able to make some of the sacrifices so many in this field have to make to advance. I also know I don’t know more than I can even imagine and this is at times almost paralyzing in its scale. The dueling states of “Impostor Syndrome” and “the Dunning Kruger Effect” is ever present – but I’m investigating it, learning to acknowledge it, and working to take ownership of my part in getting through it – I’m learning to be a more vulnerable coach. 

 

My CO said he didn’t know what to do. But he knew that being vulnerable with those other leaders in the room gave them permission to be vulnerable too. He knew that vulnerability from the top down built trust from the bottom up. And he knew that building that trust, while maybe not THE answer, was a start.

 

I don’t know what I’m doing – but telling you that is a start. 

 

 

1. Cuncic, A. (2020, May 1). What is Imposter Syndrom. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469

2. Vandergriendt, C. (2020, May 15). The Dunning-Kruger Effect Explained. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/dunning-kruger-effect