Guest Blog Post: On Minimalism

Below is a guest blog post by Aspire athlete, Jess Schulz. She’s gotten into the practice of minimalism, and we asked her to tell us a little more about how it works, and how to incorporate it into our daily gym practice. 

I am sure you have been hearing a lot about this thing called “minimalism” (if not from me, some other post you have seen on social media). Minimalism can mean many different things to many different people. Some buzz words you might hear are: freedom, less, declutter. For me, practicing minimalism means that I am intentionally trying to remove the excess from my life that is preventing me to get to where I really want to be. In simpler terms, many would consider minimalism to begin with decluttering your space to make room for the things and people that really matter. But it is important to note that it is just not your physical space or the stuff that you fill it with, but it is more about asking why you engage in this behavior.

Throughout my short minimalism journey, I have started to ask myself, “Do I really need this thing? Does it add value to my life?”* In part, my desire to live a minimalist lifestyle could probably be related to my parents’ excessive tendencies to purchase things, but it also brings a sense of freedom that could otherwise not be gained. A purchasing decision is not a single commitment. You are committing to not only buying the thing but whatever else may come along with it. This practice has also transformed how I interact with friends and family. Instead of buying things** for friends and family during the holidays or their birthdays, I will give them something that everyone could agree is expensive and fleeting–time. I try to share experiences with the people I love and care about instead of buying a gift*** that will probably just be regifted next year.

It would be remiss of me to not also mention how minimalism has made me truly focus on presence and meditation. Everyone is busy. We all have a laundry list of activities we need to accomplish on a daily basis. That is why it is so important to be present. This is something that I am constantly trying to address my life. I know I am not the only one who will probably work for five or ten minutes on a project and then pick up my phone or open a new tab in Chrome to check Facebook, Buzzfeed, Instagram, The Verge, or whatever site that I can mindlessly scroll. I have been trying to remember to focus on a single task. This includes spending time with people and not aimlessly scrolling through your social media feed while you are physically present with each other. The idea of minimalism helps me return to a space where I can truly focus on the things and people that I care about.

I think one of the things that we all love about CrossFit is that it can help alleviate the daily stressors we encounter. On my most stressful days, I yearn to get to the gym so I only have to focus on one thing (maybe two): get that damn barbell off the ground and/or get my damn self off the ground, while I’m dying during burpees. Attempting to live with intention and having a singular focus at a time**** helps reduce my stress levels, especially during CrossFit. You could have a project due tomorrow, an assignment to finish, an argument with your significant other, family member, or child, but when you are in the gym, nothing else matters except for picking things up and putting them down. During my most difficult WODs, I can feel my mind straying to, “You forgot to do that analysis. You have to grade papers. You have to drop this off. Why didn’t you do this?”, but inevitably, you have to focus on the present moment, or the weight will crush you.

When you’re in the gym next time and you feel your mind wandering, try to return it to the task in front of you. When you feel like you might not be progressing in an area or achieving a PR, perhaps just focus on one thing at a time. When you’re at work, maybe try to be more intentional with your time so you don’t have to spend an extra hour finishing that project. And when you’re with the people you care about, try to make that time meaningful, even if it’s just sitting on the couch binge watching a show together.

 

*Thanks The Minimalists.

**I will still buy someone a really funny shirt that he or she can wear to Aspire if I think it might bring value to his or hers life. 😉

***Unless you really want that gift card…

****Multi-tasking doesn’t work.

Read more

CHALLENGE: One Week Without Negativity

Overheard in the gym last week:

I suck at that movement
That WOD was the worst. I did so bad.
But I’m fat and slow.
I can’t do that.
I’m not fast.
I’m not very strong.
This workout looks impossible.
It’s too heavy.
I don’t want to do it.
It’s going to take me so long to finish this WOD.

For a community of positive people who are goal oriented and dedicated to improving themselves, we witness (and sometimes admittedly participate in) an astounding amount of negative talk in the gym.

You might think, “Well, that’s just things I say. But I don’t really mean them.” Beware….

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”

What kind of person are you? The kind of person who focuses on the negative and lets themselves stagnate in mediocrity, or the type of person who approaches a tough situation with the knowledge that if they do their best, they will succeed and improve over time?

If you go into a workout with a negative outlook, you WILL have a bad time. The weights will feel too heavy. Your legs will feel too slow. Your lungs will burn. You will need to take lots of rest. If you modify to your level and push yourself a little harder when things get tough…if you lean into the obstacles rather than try to find an easy way around…you’ll find that you’ll be a happier person on the other side.

Negative SELF Talk:
Since we are NICE, albeit negative, people, we direct 99% of this talk INWARD to ourselves. I’ve heard things come out of your mouths that you would NEVER say to/about your friend or fellow gym members.

Every day, we tell ourselves, either in our heads or out loud, that we are not good enough.

Imagine raising a child and telling them that every day? Or having best friend and pointing out their weaknesses and never celebrating their strengths?

You treat yourself worse than you treat the people who are most important to you; but aren’t YOU the most important person in your life? You deserve more credit than you give yourself.

As people who are focused on improvement, we are all to ready to assume that we are not good or worthy at the moment. We discount all of the hard work and progress that has already been made to get to where we are, and we instead focus on the things we cannot yet do.

Why don’t we flip the switch and start a new habit? Approach each workout by thinking about your favorite part of it, the best way to approach and pace it, and with a success-based mindframe that allows us to succeed by simply giving our best effort.

CHALLENGE: Starting with TODAY’S WORKOUT, go ONE WEEK without negative talk. If you catch yourself saying something negative about the workout or your own abilities, drop and do 5 burpees or 10 cals on the Assault Bike on the spot.

Read more

Working On Your Winter Body

“I’m working on my winter body, lol”“It’s bulking season, haha”… That’s what we normally say as we laugh and stuff our faces from from October 31st – Jan 1st.

But, of course. We know better. Whether we are intentionally bulking, or cutting, or maintaining, we know which foods to eat in order to perform well at the gym and look the way we want.

We use the “holiday season” as an excuse to eat poorly and we pay for it in late spring when it’s time to wear shorts again.

But we already know that caring about our health, longevity, performance, aesthetics needs to be a YEAR ROUND thing.

Here’s what I propose:

How about this year, when things get tough, you lean into that uphill battle and BUILD YOUR BEST BODY despite the dreaded lunch break room baked goods, countless attempts by other people to pull you off track, holiday parties, and family gatherings.

Today begins your journey to build your WINTER BODY, which will naturally turn into your Spring body (remember Spring? The time of year where everyone is pasty and fluffy and afraid to transition back into shorts and tank tops?) and will give you a head start on looking good for the summer.

BONUS! You will look good in (and out of) all of your clothes…all…year…round!

HERE’S HOW:

  1. THROW OUT the Halloween candy. Halloween is over. If your kids “need” their candy, then at least be an adult and stop stealing it from them!
  2. RAID your cabinets. This is where most of the non-perishable “non-foods” hide. Non-foods are edible things that are make in a factory and are marketed as food. Non-food edible items include any/all baked goods, any/all boxes crackers, pretzels, cereals, etc. DONATE these to a local Food Bank ASAP. The only foods left in your pantry should be dried fruits, nuts, meats, tuna fish, and canned vegetables.
  3. STOCK your fridge. Fill it with only vegetables, meats, fish, eggs. Add in some rice or potatoes as needed.
  4. COOK all of it once a week, if you are short on time during the week. The internet has all the recipes! (HINT: If you set up the AllRecipes app on your Alexa, you can tell Alexa the ingredients you have, and it will tell you recipes to try).
  5. PLAN OUT meals into 3-4 portions per day. Stock up on cheap To-Go containers for this.
  6. JUST SAY NO to any/all offerings or temptations for sweets or non-food edible items at work or anytime you leave the house. Keep carrots and nut butter at work to quell cravings.
  7. WEEKENDS: Plan ahead. There will inevitably be holiday parties, so HAVE FUN. And if you eat badly or drink too much, just get back into the rhythm of cooking and eating good foods the next day.

 

REMINDERS & TIPS:

-Alcohol is a poison that stalls fat loss in particular. If you choose to drink, save it for the parties. Be extra strict during the week to help jumpstart fat loss.

-ADD, don’t TAKE AWAY. Make your goal to ADD as MUCH nutrition as you can, into each meal. Don’t deprive yourself – give yourself MORE. More vegetables, more meals (4 smaller meals, rather than 2 or 3 big ones), more post-workout protein, and more water in between meals.  Add more clean eating to your life, so you avoid snacking in between meals. Keep in mind that real food (meat,fish,veggies) has a lot less calories than fake food, so you might be eating bigger portions that you are used to. And that’s OK.

-You don’t have to do this for anyone but yourself. Don’t worry that no one can see your body as you lose weight or gain muscle and then cover it up with a big sweater.

-But if you need external motivation…Get naked! Or, rather, close to it. Take a picture in your undies or a bathing suit now and keep it on your phone as a reminder. If you don’t love the way you look, make your goal to change that picture (without using photoshop!). Take another picture every 3-4 weeks until the summer to make sure you Winter Bod is moving in the right direction

-Grab a buddy. If you are the type to cheat on your plan, or conveniently ‘leave out’ snacks when you put them into MyFitnessPal, then make sure you have a close friend or family member help keep you accountable. Only choose someone who is on your team, who will support you no matter what, and who genuinely wants to see you succeed. They are your Winter Body Buddy. Use them as needed 🙂

 

GOOD LUCK on making this winter the BEST one yet!

Need more specific info on what to eat? Ask a coach!

Read more