Jurg Widmer Probst - fitness

A minimalist approach to fitness

Every popular thing experiences ‘crazes’ – and of course the world of fitness and exercise is far from immune. In many ways it can feel like an industry that is built on fads – the latest nutritional plans to help you to lose weight or gain muscle, the newest technology to help you record your progress, the latest running shoes or highly advanced synthetic materials to help you perform that little bit better.

And yet we’re not going to say that all of this is rubbish, and should be ignored – not least because a lot of these changes are indicative of the great progress the industry has made over the years and the booming popularity of the sector. But also because a lot of this ‘stuff’ – the tech, the clothing, the shiny new theories – are all just a part of the fun of getting fitter. Most of us enjoy looking at the latest trends and trying out new things, and this continual evolution can be an important factor in keeping us fresh and engaged in whatever particular kind of exercise it is we enjoy.

All that being said, there is also a good argument for just stopping occasionally, and reassessing exactly where we are and why we’re doing it – it is a chance to think properly again about why we wanted to get fit in the first place. (Ironically, taking a more ‘minimal’ approach to fitness has become a kind of fad in its own right, and you could quite easily stop reading this post right now and spend the next couple of hours looking at which minimal running shoe is right for you). But, before you do, here are some thoughts on other ways in which you can shed just a few of the things that you maybe don’t actually need on this fitness journey you’re on.

Re-think about why you are really doing this

If you are going running or heading down to the gym every other day because you love buying running gear or losing yourself in the endless variety of new workout plans, then that’s great – but it is unlikely that these really were the original reasons why you started trying to get fitter. So, take some time to re-assess where you are right now.

Why did you originally start to do this? Are these still the same motivations you have now, or have they evolved? Looking at it from a slightly different angle, what is it that you really love most about the exercise you do? When do you feel at your best, truthfully? What is it that gives you the buzz – is it putting on that brand new digital fitness tracker, or is it the feeling you get when you lift more weights than you’ve ever done before, or run your PB for a 5k?

We’ve found that by taking another look at why you are exercising, and maybe revisiting and reminding yourself of those original motivations, you can begin to look at the things that are actually helping you to realise these goals, and the things that aren’t. Is that new running vest you’ve just bought yourself really going to make you run any faster? Or are you just buying it because it feels good to buy things now and then? Of course, there is nothing wrong with this – we all love buying stuff – but it is worth thinking about how necessary these extra things really are to helping us achieve our fitness goals.

Shed and unplug

This process of reassessment is all a part of drilling down to the basics – remembering why it is we’re exercising, and getting rid of anything that isn’t helping us to actually get fitter, or happier, (or both).

And once we’ve taken the time to think about our motivations, we then also need to start a process of getting rid of what we don’t need. This is the time to experiment – you might think that you need your headphones when you go for a run to stop yourself getting bored, but just try a short run without them for once, and see what happens. It might be that you find that the experience of hearing the world around you as you run is actually just as invigorating as the exercise itself. Or, if it isn’t, find someone else to run with, and use the time to have a proper conversation while you exercise. And if you love lifting weights, maybe try a bodyweight workout that you can do at home, rather than having to pay for a monthly gym membership. Or, save the money you spend on expensive gym equipment or membership and take up a cheaper, (but still tough) outdoor activity instead, like bouldering.

There are countless ways for you to exercise with less – whether it is less money spent on equipment, or fewer distractions while you’re doing it. Either way, it is a great way to reconnect with whatever it was that you loved about the activity in the first place.

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