Why is minimalism becoming increasingly popular? I think it’s because people are starting to take literally the old adage ‘quality over quantity.’ This, in my opinion, is a very good direction for the world to be moving.
I never thought I would consider myself a minimalist. When I was younger I definitely loved having lots of material things. I think the main catalyst that allowed me to smoothly switch my lifestyle over to a more minimalist one was when I began traveling. When you travel, having lots of stuff can be really annoying. This forced me to get rid of things I didn’t need or wasn’t using while on the road. When I got back home, I applied these same minimalist principles to my life and I haven’t looked back since.
So why should you consider a minimalist lifestyle? Here’s why I do it in fitness and in life.
- Reduces Excuses – When you don’t need to rely on a gym or a bunch of fancy equipment, you can stay incredibly fit by using just your bodyweight and some simple tools such as gymnastic rings, a skipping rope, rubber bands, a yoga mat and a dowel. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the atmospheres of many gyms and using weights like barbells, and kettlebells is very beneficial, but when you’re on the road and/or on a budget, knowing that you don’t need to rely on a gym or a fitness class makes things a whole lot easier.
- Quality V.S. Quantity – No, this doesn’t mean you never have to train for long periods of time. When you train your cardiovascular system the truth is you need to rack up the minutes; and sometimes doing a longer non-cardio based workout is advisable. But, for the most part, a long workout does equate to a good workout. If you’re training like shit for 2 hours and someone else is dialling themselves in and focusing on quality movements for 45 minutes, then you want to find yourself in the latter category. A quality workout should include an adequate warmup where you get your heart rate up and move every joint, a prehab section where you focus on injury proofing your body by doing integrated mobility, a main set where you perform the bulk of your work (strength, core, circuit work, etc.) and a cool-down section where you lower your heart rate by perhaps doing some passive stretching, maybe some light cardio, self-massage and more prehab work. I see so many people rushing through workouts and performing movements with horrible technique. If you’re strapped for time, it’s advisable to simply shorten your training session instead of trying to rush through whatever it is that you had planned.
- Greater Attention Paid to Fundamentals – Let me start by saying that adding diversity to your training is very important, buy only after you have a solid foundation. Your body improves by being forced to adapt to new stressors, but first you need to know it’s ready for those stressors. I see a lot of people wasting time and energy in their workouts by focusing on things that aren’t giving them the best bang for their buck. In general, the average person should focus on a few key elements of training: Full body joint mobility, general flexibility (pike, straddle, squat, lunge, thoracic extension), Hinge/core work (deadlifts, kettlebell swings, hollow body, plank, L-sit, hanging knee/leg raises) and specific strength work depending on your goals. By focusing on the fundamentals you reduce your risk of injury and get more out of your training.
- Less Expensive – Taking a minimalist approach to your fitness makes it quite cheap in the long run if you invest in learning how to do things properly. I’m a huge believer in self-empowerment, which is why when I work with clients I like to show them literally everything I know so that they never have to rely on anyone else for their fitness again. Having a good trainer is definitely beneficial for many people, but obviously if you want to have someone by your side every time you train it’s going to cost you.
- Gratitude – Intentionally getting rid of things (not just physical things) and having less makes you a lot more grateful for what you decide to keep. Ensuring that everything in your life serves a practical purpose can make you feel organized and efficient. ‘Practical purpose’ will mean different things to different people, but I think that anything that ads significant emotional, mental, spiritual or physical value to your life is worth keeping around. The hard part is being honest with yourself about what ‘value’ really means to you. I think it’s also possible to hit a ‘value bottleneck,’ where you have so many things competing to be deemed valuable that they start to lose meaning. For example, if I had 12 outfits that I considered to be my favourites, what does that even really mean? Or if I book 4 massages per week as a treat for myself is it even a treat anymore?
- Clarity of Thought – There’s no doubt that having less material things and less items on your schedule or to-do list will make you more mentally clear. I think the quality and ease of meditation sessions can serve as a good indication of how mentally clear we actually are. I remember that before adopting a minimalist lifestyle I found it impossible to meditate. My mind would go insane if I tried to sit and observe it. My desires would consume me and my fears of losing what I had became overwhelming. I was so caught up in the whirlwind of my cluttered mind that I gave up and never picked meditation back up for another 5 years. I definitely still do find meditation very challenging at times, but now more-so than ever before I can usually rely on my meditation sessions to give me the ability to choose to be calm and clear.
- More Freedom, Money and Time – Less stuff and obligations means you can do more of what you enjoy without breaking your bank. There’s a peace of mind that comes with minimalism that is very hard to describe. You feel like you begin to live life instead of life living you. By being a minimalist you’re making a from decision to go against the grain and chase down your freedom. The first couple of times I embarked on long term travel I was terrified that I would miss out on certain experiences because I had little money. After having the time of my life on these trips I realized that by going with the flow, being totally present and making the most of what you have, there’s no way you can miss out on anything. Minimalism is the death of FOMO.
- Increased Well-Being – I find that there’s something deeply fulfilling about feeling more independent and not desperately hoping that external circumstances go a certain way in order for you to be ‘happy.’ Being content with the way things are and the way they may soon be is powerful beyond words. Minimalism makes you rely on less, which can improve your well-being by making you feel more in control of your mental state.
Minimalism is empowering and incredibly simple to incorporate. In the beginning it can certainly be a bit daunting, but once you gain momentum it’s hard to even consider going back to the way you did things before. As with anything, it’s best to start small and gradually build your way up. If you slowly begin to eliminate the excess from your life and focus on what truly matters to you, day after day and week after week, you’ll notice that within a year you will have drastically changed the way you live.