What is Eco-Minimalism and How Did it Start?

Minimalism and environmentalism are gaining traction in the mainstream, as global issues like climate change and wealth inequality rise to the front pages. Minimalism and environmentalism overlap so often that we’ve come up with a word for it. That word is eco-minimalism. Where did it come from?

Eco-minimalism started as a design approach pioneered by architect Howard Liddell and energy consultant Nick Grant in the early 2000s. They considered it a set of guidelines and principles for creating buildings that have a minimized environmental impact.

As eco-minimalism grew in popularity amongst green building designers, Dr. Paul Knights took an environmental ethics approach, and defined the virtue eco-minimalism, in a paper published in 2011.

Today, we’re seeing the beginnings of a cultural revolution; as influencers, bloggers, and YouTube personalities practice eco-minimalism as a lifestyle. I hope to explore eco-minimalism in the context of these three categories.

  1. A design approach,
  2. a personal virtue,
  3. and a lifestyle

As a design approach eco-minimalism can be understood in terms of buildings and architecture, as it was initially proposed, and in terms of the stuff we use in our day-to-day lives. Eco-minimalism as a virtue can be defined from the design approach it evolves from, and by exploring what makes up the practical wisdom it requires. We’ll explore eco-minimalism as a lifestyle by looking at popular, self-proclaimed eco-minimalists.

Eco-Minimalism: A Design Approach

The term eco-minimalism was first coined by architect Howard Liddell, most notably in his 2008 book titled: Eco-Minimalism: The Antidote to Eco-Bling. The term was used to describe a more sustainable and common-sense guide to “green” buildings.

The eco-minimal approach was developed in opposition to what Liddell described as “eco-bling” or “eco-cliches”: expensive technologies touted as “green” that do more to harm the environment than help it. Like greenwashing, the primary focus of eco-bling is appearing green; how well it works is a secondary consideration, if it’s considered at all.

Eco-minimalism is the solution he proposed. The goals of eco-minimalism are to minimize environmental impact while maximizing human wellbeing and economic benefit. It means taking a simpler approach to reducing a building’s environmental impact. This may mean reducing size, using less energy-intensive technology, or investing in the basic structure.

Minimalism in this sense doesn’t refer to the style of the building; the design doesn’t have to fit the “minimalist style” in order to be eco-minimal. In fact, its Grant says that eco-minimal designs should be judged “by how successfully they minimize environmental impact, not how minimal they are”.

Eco-minimalism is not about minimalism as a style; it’s about environmental minimalism, and also technological minimalism.

Technological minimalism doesn’t mean avoiding technology, but it does mean avoiding overly engineered and complex solutions. Eco-minimalism demands that we critically assess “eco-gadgets” in terms of their actual contribution to overall sustainability, instead of blindly applying the latest green technologies. It also asks that we look at simpler options, that may not be as flashy, but have less of an impact on the environment.

Once we have our eco-minimal design, how do we ensure that it’s implemented, used, and decommissioned in such a way as to fully minimize the environmental impact?  One solution is to approach all of the stages with the same eco-minimal approach we took to the design. And that’s where the virtue of eco-minimalism comes in.

Eco-Minimalism: As a Virtue

Liddell and Grant focus on the design aspect of eco-minimal buildings. Naturally, they skim over the stages of construction, use, and the eventual deconstruction of buildings. This leaves a lot of room for error and departure from the intended eco-minimal design.

In Eco-Minimalism as a Virtue, Dr. Paul Knights argues that everyone, from architects and designers to construction teams and building users, must adhere to values, behaviors, attitudes wherein they focus on minimizing environmental impact and maximizing human benefit, in order for eco-minimal designs to succeed. Knights refers to this set of virtue beliefs as the virtue of eco-minimalism.

Knights defines the virtue of eco-minimalism as “the disposition to use the minimum resource we need to live within the community consistent with personal well-being and the well-being of others.” Essentially, the decisions you make should minimize environmental impact, provide value for money, and maximize human benefit. Eco-minimalism as a lifestyle can thus be characterized by living according to the virtue of eco-minimalism.

Eco-Minimalism: A Lifestyle

What does it look like to live as an eco-minimalist? To answer this question we can look at YouTubers and bloggers who consider themselves eco-minimalists.

Shelbizlee

On her YouTube channel Shelbizleee, Shelbi has over 200k subscribers. On her channel, she posts videos like anti-hauls, which criticize consumerism, and lists of zero-waste swaps. She has a playlist dedicated to videos about eco-minimalism. Shelbi became an eco-minimalist after she began pursuing a sustainable lifestyle. Her definition of eco-minimalism is

  1. a lifestyle technique used to create the smallest demand possible for natural resource use in efforts to save mother earth.
  2. a method used to form a holistic view of your footprint (carbon, water, waste, etc) left on this planet. Including but not limited to the upstream as well as downstream effects of consumerism.

Eco Ally

In her blog post, A Concise Introduction to Eco-Minimalism, Deanna on Eco Ally defines eco-minimalism as an approach to minimalism from an environmentally conscious standpoint. Like Shelby,  she also started as an environmentalist before focusing on eco-minimalism.

Her 3 guiding principles for minimalism are:

  1. Simplify your life
  2. Purchase thoughtfully
  3. Build habits that are environmentally positive

Check out my article for more eco-friendly bloggers, YouTubers, and websites to see how they’re approaching sustainability.

Final Thoughts

Eco-minimalism is a set of principles we can follow, when designing buildings or products, when making decisions, and to reduce the environmental impact of our lifestyle. Eco-minimalism encourages us to think critically about the consumerist society we live in, and focus on what matters most.

Are you an eco-minimalist? Is this your first time hearing about eco-minimalism? Let me know it a comment.

If you’re interested in living zero-waste check out my article about zero-waste swaps you can DIY.

Inspiring Eco-Influencers and Green Content Creators to Follow

This is a list of bloggers, YouTubers, and media companies sharing information about eco-friendly living and advocating for social change. This is not an exhaustive list, and I hope to update it over time. If I missed someone you think should be a part of this list, leave a comment and let me know!

Sustainably Vegan

Immy talks about low-impact living on her channel, Sustainably Vegan. I love her 100 Sustainable series, each video has 100 tips and swaps for reducing your impact, AND she’s made tutorials on making your own plant-based milks, mayonnaise, and nut butters!

Polly Barks

Polly on Polly Barks has a really entertaining and straightforward style of writing. She takes a fresh approach to write about living zero waste and sustainability. She focuses on systematic issues creating the current climate crisis. Like this post where she talks about the big companies controlling most of the products we buy.

Gittemary Johansen

Gittemary talks about her zero waste, vegan lifestyle over on her YouTube channel. I especially love her series where she looks at the environmental impact of products and materials; her videos are incredibly thoughtful and well-researched.

JHÁNNEU

On her YouTube channel, Jhánneu explores low impact, intention living and minimal fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. She made a video about food deserts and why sustainable living isn’t inclusive, which is an incredibly important topic that isn’t talked about enough.

Levi “Save the Planet” Hildebrand

Levi Hildebrand is a Canadian Youtuber who focuses on making sustainability easy. He showcases brands and individuals that are using creative ideas and solutions to make the world a better place. His message is that “you don’t have to be a hero to save the planet!”

Just Joe Lee

Joe Lee is another Canadian Youtuber who talks about eco-friendly living. In addition, he covers topics such as health and wellness, minimalism, and eating a plant-based diet.

Sarah Therese

Sarah’s YouTube channel highlights her sustainable, minimal lifestyle as a young mom and wife. In her videos, she shares recipes, vlogs, and what she’s learned in her minimalist journey.

Sweet Potato Soul

On Sweet Potato Soul, Jenné talks about eating vegan on a budget and shares a bunch of vegan recipes. Reducing your intake of meat and dairy significantly lowers your environmental footprint! So check her out and get inspired to do a little plant-based cooking!

Dose of Whit

Dose of Whit is where Whitney talks about eco-friendly living, natural health, and veganism. A lot of sustainability experts advise eating less meat and dairy, so check out her awesome vegan recipes.

Heal Your Living

The YouTube channel Heal Your Living covers mindfulness, sustainability, minimalism, and wellness. Her approach to minimalism is a lot more extreme than most of the other people I’ve mentioned. But even if you’re not an extreme minimalist, it’s worth watching a few of her videos. She also has an Etsy shop for her self-care e-books.

Eco & Beyond

Eco & Beyond‘s vision is to create a directory and guide for eco-friendly living. They cover topics such as creating less food waste and using less packaging, plastic, meat, and dairy. They talk about how the importance of buying more sustainable, fair trade, local, and seasonal products and produce. They also have a section where they define and explain how to do more social good.

MsAceAmazing

Abby, a college student, shares stories about her sustainability adventure on her blog MsAceAmazing. In her post Minimalism Vs Eco-Minimalism, she describes different situations where minimalism and eco-minimalism disagree.

On her blog, she talks about minimalism, sustainability, and the problem with food waste. She also covers topics like environmental activism, digital minimalism, and mindfulness.

Eco Warrior Princess

Eco Warrior Princess isn’t just a blog, it’s a media business and community. They have a whole team of writers who cover “environmental issues, conservation, sustainable fashion, conscious business, social justice, politics, feminism, eco beauty, wellness, green technology.”

They were founded by Jennifer Nini, who is an environmental activist and writer. She owns a certified organic farm and is the current editor-in-chief.

The Eco Hub

The Eco Hub is a Canadian media company focused on helping people live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. They cover a range of topics from style and beauty to living and home to health and wellness.

Candice Batista, the founder of The Eco Hub, is an award-winning environmental journalist and one of Canada’s leading eco advocates. She’s been on her eco journey for almost 20 years!

Eco Ally

Eco Ally focuses on sustainable living, eco-entrepreneurship, and environmental activism. She has a post about how to become an eco-entrepreneur, a post defining impact blogging, and she talks about eco-minimalism.

Eco Ally’s founder, Deanna Pratt, also does content marketing and consulting for ethical and sustainable businesses.

Shelbizleee

Shelbi, known as Shelbizleee on YouTube, is starting to become well-known in the environmental sphere on the internet. She has a Bachelors in Environmental Science. On her channel, she talks about living zero waste, and also covers topics such as eco-fashion, eco-beauty, and eco-minimalism.

She has a saying she says at the end of all her videos, which is, “You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

Shelbi also has a blog where she goes more in-depth into the topics she talks about in her videos.

Going Zero Waste

Going Zero Waste is one of the biggest zero waste blogs on the internet. Founder Kathryn Kellogg breaks down the steps of how to transition to living more sustainably. She talks about the benefits to the planet, as well as to your personal health and wellness.

When you subscribe to her blog, you get a short e-book introducing zero waste living. If you enjoy that (which I did!) she also has an e-book called 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

Trash is for Tossers

Trash is for Tossers is about Lauren’s zero waste journey. Lauren jas a college degree in environmental science, and was inspired by zero waster Bea Johnson. Lauren also has a YouTube channel that has lots of content but doesn’t seem to be active.

Lauren is also the founder of Package Free Shop. This is a really cool online shop for people trying to live zero waste. They also use 100% recyclable and compostable shipping materials. I thought it was really cool that each product also has end of life instructions.

Final Thoughts

Did I miss one of your favorite eco-influencers? Leave me a comment so I can continue to update this list with people doing important work and spreading great messages.

3 Zero Waste Swaps You Can DIY

The Zero Waste movement has been growing since the beginning of the 2000s, and especially recently due to bloggers like Kathryn Kellogg at Going Zero Waste. The zero-waste lifestyle is quickly becoming more mainstream and is reaching a wide audience.

A really common topic that comes up a lot in the zero waste community is things we can swap that will reduce the amount of waste we create. There are tons of YouTube videos and blog posts out there full of ideas like carrying a reusable water bottle, using your own grocery bags, and of course infamous reusable straws.

All these swaps are great ideas and can be really helpful for people seeking to reduce the waste they create. But all of these ideas can be overwhelming for someone new.

For someone brand new to the zero waste lifestyle it can seem expensive to buy all these alternatives to wasteful items. Especially since usually these swaps are to use something more long-lasting which is usually more expensive. This can make the zero waste lifestyle daunting to newcomers and might discourage people from making these changes.

The thing is, zero waste swaps aren’t all or nothing. You don’t have to buy every swap in order to live a perfectly zero waste life. In fact, you shouldn’t!

In this article, I’ll talk about three common zero waste swaps, and how you can do them without buying anything new! The swaps you can DIY are

  • cleaning rags (sometimes called “un-paper towels”),
  • produce and bulk bags, and
  • glass storage jars.

While it’s great that more people are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, it’s more important than ever that we’re conscious of the impact of every product we buy. Shopping second hand and repurposing what we already have is a great way to minimize our impact.

You don’t have to buy every zero-waste swap out there. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

One of the 5 Rs (an updated version of the 3 Rs we (hopefully) all learned about in school) is to reuse. Lots of products have already been produced and manufactured. Instead of buying something new every time we want or need something, we should see if we can get it secondhand, or if we can make it ourselves with stuff we already have.

Kitchen / Cleaning rags

Paper towels, a staple in a lot of North American homes, are incredibly wasteful and bad for the environment. And it’s not just the trees that are being cut down; fossil fuels are burned transporting materials between factories and then to stores, factories require energy to process the materials, tons of water is used, and harmful chemicals such as bleach are leaked into the environment during manufacturing.

Single-use items are a modern by-product of companies trying to increase profits, and a lot of us have fallen for the marketing that tells us we need to buy these items. We don’t!

You can find them reusable cleaning rags on Amazon to replace paper towels. If you’re particularly creative and care about aesthetics, there are also lots of tutorials out there about how to make “un-paper towels” which are more or less fancy reusable rags.

If you don’t care what your rags look like, there’s an easy DIY to make un-paper towels for free!

If you have stained or damaged clothes you’re about to throw away (or promotional shirts you never wear), it takes less than 5 minutes to take some scissors to it and make yourself some rags that you can use once or twice on spills, and then keep in a bin until you do laundry.

Bulk / Produce Bags

Most grocery stores provide thin plastic bags for carrying your produce and bulk goods home. This is another single-use item that humans did without for a long time and can continue to do without. The alternative? Reusable fabric or mesh bags.

There’s lots of reusable bulk and produce bags you can buy online, and you can even get them in some stores.

This DIY swap requires a little bit of skill with sewing to make yourself. The reusable produce and bulk bag tutorial by The Kiwi Country Girl is really easy to follow.

Whether you’re buying bags from someone, or buying fabric to make your own, consider the material it’s made with; some fibers, such as cotton, require a LOT of water to grow, which adds to the impact that cotton bags have.

Just like reusable cleaning rags, these can be made by reusing fabric that may otherwise go to the landfill. So by using old sheets, thrifted curtains, or something else, you can make your produce and bulk bags with very minimal environmental impacts.

Jars

Once you bring your bulk goods home in your reusable bags, you’ll need a place to store them. That’s where jars come in.

The zero-waste community is full of pictures of impeccable shelves of food and items stored in glass jars. It can be really tempting to buy a case of (NEW) mason jars on Amazon (I made this mistake when I first started switching to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle) but think twice!

Remember, EVERY item we buy new had to be manufactured and shipped to us, and the resources used to produce it had to be extracted and transported to the factory. So we always want to find ways to avoid buying things that are new; whether that’s by reusing what we have or buying something second hand.

Think of all the different pantry items that you can find at the store packaged in glass jars and bottles. Often, once we’re done with them we toss them in the recycling. But recycling should never be our first step! We should start by finding a way to reuse them.

Some ideas for items you can get in glass jars include sauces, pickled vegetables, fruit, and jam. The extra upside of buying pantry items for the jars is that you’ll even further reduce the plastic you get rid of. Double win!

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying you should never buy anything. Oftentimes, the superior craftsmanship of someone else is necessary. But what I am saying is this:

Don’t blindly buy every zero waste swap someone suggests. Consider whether you will use it. Reflect on whether you already own something similar you can use instead of buying this. Decide if you can reuse something you own for this purpose, or if you can get it second hand.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the zero waste things you should be doing. No one can be perfect, and it’s okay to transition at your own pace. You don’t have to do everything, all at once. And things that work for others, might not work for you. And that’s okay.

Benefits of Starting a Bullet Journal

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for 5 years now, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I’m not sure exactly why I started; perhaps I wanted the benefits of a planner without the rigidity, or perhaps I just found myself watching bullet journal videos during a YouTube rabbit hole.

Regardless of why I started, I want to share 4 of the reasons why I’ve continued.

Using a bullet journal helps me be more organized, makes me conscious of my time, lays a foundation for making other changes, and serves as a little bit of art therapy.

A Bullet Journal Helps You be More Organized

I started my bullet journal in 11th grade — right when school was starting to actually get hard. Science class was now physics, chemistry, and biology, and maths was now pre-calculus. I was realizing that my previous methods of skating through school would no longer cut it.

Some of my more organized friends had been using planners since the start of high school; it only took me 3 years to realize that they were onto something. My rebellious and ADD self wasn’t content with the school planners you could get at the office, and so when I stumbled upon the idea of bullet journals I was hooked. I implemented it, and it worked!

I found myself getting better grades, remembering assignments, and doing my homework.

Whenever I misplaced my planner for more than a day (which would happen at least once a month) I would find myself forgetting things more and stumbling back on my progress.

Whenever life gets difficult and out-of-hand, I often find that it reflects in how I keep up with my bullet journal.

And when I need a fresh start, I simply take some time to go through my bullet journal, set up some spreads, and figure out my priorities.

You Become More Conscious of Your Time

As you use your bullet journal, you’ll create a map of what you spend your time doing (meetings, grocery shopping, lunch with friends) and you’ll also get a sense of how many things you can check of your to-do list in a day.

If you find yourself with an unfinished to-do list every day, you might be overestimating how much time you have, or underestimating the time that certain tasks take.

If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you may find that your bullet journal is always full of meetings and errands.

Seeing your tasks written out, you may realize they’re not all important, and decide to schedule more time for yourself.

Creates a Platform for Other Lifestyle Changes

Exercising, school work, small habits — it’s so much easier to follow through when I’m using my bullet journal every day. The little reminder, the nudge it gives helps me be consistent with other behaviors.

One thing I’ve noticed while bullet journaling, is that when I’m consistent with it, everything else falls into place.

Since a bullet journal is used every day, and it’s multi-purpose, I find that once you’re consistent with it you can easily use it as a tool to implement other good habits.

It’s a Form of Art Therapy

I love art. I come from an artistic family; if we’re not consuming art, we’re creating it. Woodworking, painting, drawing, writing, playing music — it’s what I grew up with.

Part of my initial draw to bullet journals was the aesthetic aspect of it: pretty weekly spreads, doodles, and collages. I would set up my weekly spread during the weekend, spending maybe an hour, and it was a nice break to allow myself to destress. It’s hard to find time to create art for art’s sake, but you need to set up your weekly spreads.

I don’t set up my spreads a week at a time anymore as university tends to get crazy; I usually set my whole term’s worth of weekly spreads all at once. I also don’t spend as much time on the little pretty things, but sometimes I like to spend some time doodling or making my titles pretty.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has convinced you that starting a bullet journal is for you. Check out my other articles about all the supplies I use for bullet journaling as well as how I set up my 2020 bullet journal.

5 Fitness Goals and How To Achieve Them

Lose Weight

Wanting to lose weight is almost cultural at this point; there are books written about it, diets dedicated to it, we’ve even invented new technologies. Websites, forums, and social groups exist to pander to our desire to lose weight. Nearly 1 in 7 Americans will go on a diet this year, and as a whole, they will spend $33 billion on weight loss products. But the number of people who are overweight only continues to grow.

A strategy that may help those looking to lose weight may be to frame their goal in a new light; the wording we use can affect us mentally both negatively and positively. Instead of thinking about your weight as a problem that needs to be fixed, reframe it as a goal to be healthier physically. Positive thinking solves the motivation problem as it’s no longer a chore that needs to be done.

Since it can be difficult to assess your own body-fat level, we may turn to other tools that can make approximations. One tool is the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which is calculated based on your height and weight.

There have been some criticisms of BMI in the past few years due to it not taking the amount of muscle mass into consideration, but since BMI is based on the average person, if you have an average amount of muscle mass (ie. are not a powerlifter or bodybuilder) it should be accurate enough to give you a good idea of whether you may need to lose some fat. And a rough estimate is really all you need.

The rest comes down to how you feel physically; someone with a healthy BMI is not necessarily healthier than someone whose BMI says they are overweight. There is more to health than your weight on your body fat percentage, but those do contribute.

This is all to say that there isn’t a straightforward guide or solution. There is no perfect weight that we should all strive for, and there’s no one diet that works for everyone. But in general, we should all aim to achieve a weight where we feel healthy. And the key is to eat healthy, nutritious food.

Start Weightlifting

Perhaps you’ve heard about the new exercise trend, weightlifting. It’s not really a trend, as people have been lifting weights to get stronger (and bigger) for a few thousand years, but compared to the cardio-centric first decade of the 2000s (and even into the 2010s) weightlifting is for sure coming back into trend. And for good reason! If you’re interested in looking good, building muscle plays a big part in that.

No matter how much fat you lose, you will still have fat on your body! There is a level of fat that your body needs to maintain itself, as it’s a backup source of energy. If you want a toned look, or if you just want to decrease the appearance of fat, you need to build muscle. Larger muscles are needed to give your body certain shapes; you will never see your abs if you never work on growing them! With the bare minimum amount of muscle, you mostly just see the outline of your fat underneath your skin. But when you have bigger muscles, they show through your skin. The layer of fat is still there, but it mostly just smooths out the look of your muscles. If you look at people with big muscles and very low body fat, you can see their veins and the striations of their muscles peaking out.

To start weightlifting, you’ll need a program. While it’s possible to create your own fitness routine, I recommend following an established program focusing on strength, like the 5×5 Program. Following a program will ensure that all of your muscles are being trained equally, and will help you maximize “beginner gains”. After 6-12 months of following a strength-based program that teaches you basic lifts and increases your overall strength, you can look most closely at your goals and change your program. It’s important, however, to have that base level of strength as well as knowledge about proper form. I explain the 5×5 gym program over here.

Get Thicc

Big butts are in, there’s no denying it. If you weren’t blessed with a naturally big bum (or even if you were) there are exercises you can do to create the appearance of a bigger bottom.

Disclaimer, all bodies are beautiful and if you have a smaller booty that’s okay! Small bums are cute in their own right, and you don’t have to change yourself for anyone (except yourself if you want to). That being said, there are some tips that can help you if you’re looking to get thicc.

The biggest tip for someone who wants to achieve a thicker bottom is to lift weights. While you cannot change your fat distribution and move your tummy fat to your bum, you can make your glutes (that’s the butt muscle) bigger! (It’s also worthwhile to work on your quads and hamstrings (front and back muscles of your thighs), not only for the sake of balanced strength but also because the look of your legs affects how your bum looks.

Generally, you want to do between 8-12 repetitions, at a comfortable weight, of an exercise if your goal is hypertrophy (which is a fancy word for increasing muscle size). Movements such as hip thrusts, squats, and deadlifts all focus on the muscles in your legs and bum. There are even more exercises that target smaller groups of muscles. A combination of movements focusing on multiple muscles and more targeted exercises is one of the best ways to increase your muscle mass.

Improve Cardiovascular Endurance

Enough talk about weightlifting! As much as we may enjoy dissing cardio, it is a necessary evil. Having good cardiovascular endurance is important for your heart and lungs, which are pretty important! And it’s easier to improve cardiovascular now, then when you’re older and already experiencing problems.

Before you pull out your dusty treadmill from the basement, let me share an alternative to what is considered traditional “cardio”. Let me introduce you to HIIT.

HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a method of improving your cardiovascular endurance by making your heart pump, a lot! That’s the high-intensity part.

In a HIIT Circuit, you do a series of exercises that get your heart rate up. You do these exercises at a high-intensity and make your cardiovascular system work. And then you take a break. That’s the interval part. The higher your endurance, the more times you go through the series of exercises.

What most people think of when they hear “cardio” is actually steady-state cardio, such as running on a treadmill for an hour. Steady-state cardio raises your heart rate, but not as much as HIIT. So, no breaks. It takes a lot longer and it actually may not be as effective as HIIT.

What if you actually prefer running or cycling? You can still do HIIT! Instead of running or cycling at medium intensity for a prolonged period of time, alternate between high and low-intensity intervals. Steady state cardio has its benefits no doubt and including it in your exercise program will yield returns. A healthy mixture of both with more focus on the one you enjoy the most will be the most beneficial.

Just Exercise

All these goals are great, but they can be overwhelming. Sometimes an easier approach is better for right now. If you’re not able to commit to a set training program, that’s okay! But this does not mean that you shouldn’t do anything. It means you should do something. Anything!

Whether it’s a few pushups and situps in the evening, a yoga sequence you found on Pinterest, or going for a bike ride, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your body is to move it. Preferably in a way that increases your heart rate, and ideally (almost) every day.

Why a 5×5 Gym Program Should Be Your First Program

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re considering changing your gym program or starting a new one. Maybe you’re just starting to get into lifting, or you’ve been hearing the benefits of lifting, or maybe you’ve found your strength gains starting to plateau. In any of these situations, and in many others, a 5×5 program is a good place to start. If you’ve never heard of it, or are unconvinced, here’s what you need to know:

What is a 5×5 Gym Program?

A 5×5 (read “five by five”) program is a program meant for building strength by focusing on incrementally increasing the weight you lift. In gym programs, you have sets and reps. Reps, or repetitions, are the number of times you do an exercise in a set. You usually rest in between sets. If you were to do 3 sets of 8 (3×8) for squats, you would do 8 squats, 3 times. So, simply put, a 5×5 gym program is one where you do 5 sets of 5 reps for every exercise.

Another feature of a 5×5 program is the type of exercise you do.

There are two types of exercises you can do at the gym: compound and isolation. Compound movements use multiple muscles, while isolation muscles work specific muscles (you could say they isolate the muscles you’re working). In a 5×5 program, you focus on compound movements, as they’re the best way to increase strength and muscle quickly in all your muscles, this is because compound movements work multiple muscles at the same time as in the squat working your quadriceps, glutes, and calves.

Why do you need a gym program at all?

If you’re thinking this is all over complicated and you would rather just go to the gym and do what you’re feeling, it’s worth considering the benefits of following a program:

  • Having a set structure makes it easier to be consistent; this is obvious when you see how often students struggle to transition between high-school and university.
  • Another benefit is that you can easily see and track your progress as the program inherently keeps track of how much you’re lifting.
  • A third benefit is that your workouts will likely be more effective due to being planned out in advance.

Advantages of a 5×5 program

Now that you’re convinced you should follow a gym program, allow me to explain why you should try a 5×5 program.

  • A 5×5 program is incredibly easy to follow as there are only a few exercises in each workout, and the only changes from week to week are increasing the weight.
  • The focus of the program on compound exercises that work all body parts, along with the incremental increase in weight from week to week, is the reason a 5×5 program guarantees almost consistent strength gains through the beginning of the program.

Disadvantages of a 5×5 program

One concern with a 5×5 program is that all the exercises are barbell movements, and if done incorrectly they can cause imbalances between the left and right sides of the body, to prevent this, it’s important to ensure you always practice proper form and even asking a more experienced person for advice.

Who should use a 5×5 program?

Simply put, I believe everyone can benefit from a 5×5 program. If I had to be specific, I would highly recommend this program to anyone who has less than 2 years of lifting experience, to anyone who is trying to increase their strength, and to anyone who wants to take advantage of beginner gains in order to pack on muscle quickly.

How to start a 5×5 gym program

There are many 5×5 programs you can choose to follow. The one I followed when I first started lifting was Strong Lifts which has a really convenient app that is easy to use at the gym.

Additional resources

If you’re a beginner at the gym you’re probably confused about exactly what you need to be doing and there is a lot of information out there and what I’ve found to be insanely helpful are YouTube channels be careful with these because some of them provide a slew of misinformation. A simple but often very helpful measure is to get information from multiple sources as long as you’re always making sure you’re not in an echo chamber.

Supplies You Need to Start a Bullet Journal

What is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is part journal, part planner, and part to-do list; the exact ratios depends on the owner of the bullet journal and how they use it. All you need is a pen and a notebook to start a bullet journal, but there are some extras you can get to add a little extra flair.

A Pen

The pen is one of the most important parts of your supplies since bullet journaling You can use any pen to get started, but if you want to be picky there are some pens that are better than others. There are different qualities you can look at when picking a pen.

Thickness

0.5 mm is my favourite for day-to-day, but I use 0.1 mm and 0.3 mm when I want finer details. A lot of pens that you would find around an office are 0.7 mm or 1.0 mm; I personally don’t like how these write. My favourite all-purpose pen right now is the uni-ball deluxe micro 0.5 mm roller point black pen.

Type

A fountain pen uses water-based ink which flows from the ink reservoir into the nib of the pen. The ballpoint and roller point pens both also have a reservoir from which ink flows, but there is a ball at the tip which gets coated in ink. The difference between the two is the type of ink they use.

Ballpoint pens have thick, oil-based ink which dries quickly but appears dull. Rollerpoint pens have either gel or water-based ink, the latter of which is the slowest drying ink, but appears the most vibrant due to the larger number of pigments which reach the paper. Gel ink is a mix of oil and water-based. A benefit of oil-based inks is that since they dry quicker they are less prone to smudging, which is extra helpful for left-handed people.

A felt pen has a felt nub through which ink flows. Brush pens work like felt pens except they are finer at the tip and wider at the base, and are often used for calligraphy. I’m a big fan of this set of three black brush pens by Kelly Creates.

Colour

I like to stick to black pens in my bullet journal, although I have a blue 0.5 mm roller point pen I like to use for school work. Some people prefer lots of colour, and it can be fun using colour all over you spreads! You can get big sets of colourful felt markers or small sets of colourful roller point pens.

You can even get sets of pens and highlighters in one colour palette if you want a coherent colour scheme throughout your journal.

A Notebook

You can get lined, dotted, grid, or blank notebooks. There are pros and cons to each and it largely depends on how you plan on using your bullet journal.

Lined

A big benefit is that it’s really easy to find lined notebooks, and you can also get them a lot cheaper than the other styles. There are a lot more options for how the journal actually looks. A downside is that you don’t have vertical references like you do with dotted or grid notebooks, so drawing columns of even thickness requires extra measuring. Lined paper may be for you if you’re looking to do lots of writing.

Grid

Grid paper makes it easy to draw graphs, trackers, or boxes, however, some people may not enjoy the vertical lines when trying to write.

Dotted

This is my personal favourite for bullet journaling; it has the benefits of graph paper but I like how the pages appear almost blank.

In 2019 I used a Dingbats dotted notebook which was extremely durable and the paper was quite thick. This year I’m using an emerald dotted leuchtturm1917, which I talked about in my 2020 bullet journal setup. I got my journal at a bookstore. Online store like Indigo always have gorgeious journals and planners.

Plain

A blank notebook might be a good choice if you want to do collages or paintings in your journal. If you want to write on a straight-line however, you’ll either have to trace the lines yourself or be a very careful writer.

Moleskine is a brand I’ve used before for bullet journaling. They hold up alright and the paper is pretty good, but you are paying a bit for the brand name. But they have a really large selection of plain, grid, dot, and lined notebooks in tons of colours so you should be able to find a combination you like!

Extras

Ruler and Stencils

A clear 15 cm (6 inches) ruler comes in handy when setting up pages in your planner. I’ve also seen people who use stencils for drawing uniform shapes.

Washi tape

Washi tapes are colourful masking tape you can use in your bullet journal as a kind of sticker. I think a good place to start is a set of solid colour washi tapes since they’re easy to incorporate. You can get different tones, like this set of natural colour washi tapes that I think is super pretty!!

A lot of washi tapes have prints on them and come in sets with matching colours, like these blue and purple astronomy washi tapes or these pastel and gold abstract washi tapes. There are even Christmas washi tapes!

Stickers

There are tons of stickers made for planners you can get, but if you like the look of lots of art in your planner, you can also get packs of stickers that you can put anywhere in your bullet journal! Just remember to be careful with stickers that have 3D details since they can get in the way while writing on other pages. And that sucks.

Final Thoughts

If this list seems overwhelming, don’t worry! You don’t need all this extra stuff to get started. At a minimum, all you need is a pen and a notebook. Start with the basics, see what works for you, and then you can expand into the extra stuff.

Let me know if you use any of my suggestions in your bullet journal!