SISU Transformation: Aaron Kutz
I was born and raised in Minnesota and haven’t made it too far since. I grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis not too far from the SISU gym in Plymouth. As an only child, my neighborhood is where I made many of my good friends, bonding over games of backyard baseball in the summers, pond hockey in the winters, or just hanging out. This naturally transitioned into playing sports all through our younger years and even into college. Hockey and baseball were the main sports I enjoyed until high school, and I continued to play hockey after high school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the Club Hockey team for my first 3 years of college. Yes, I root for the Badgers over the Gophers…..but I will ALWAYS root for the Vikings over the Packers!!
I graduated with a degree in geology/hydrogeology and moved back home to Minnesota where I started my current job at an engineering consulting firm right out of college. It’s great because I get a good balance of working indoors and outdoors.
Outside of work and the gym, my fiancé Brooke and I enjoy cooking together, being active, playing cribbage, traveling, or just sitting on the couch and binge Netflix. I also enjoy playing hockey and other pick-up sports with friends. For the past few winters, I’ve also helped coach the peewee level goalies for the same program I played for growing up which is so much fun!
I started coming to SISU almost 2 years ago now (still can’t believe how fast time has seemed to fly by). When I finally made the decision to start CrossFit, I was at somewhat of a crossroads in my life.
A few months prior to my first class at SISU, I lost my dad to a long battle with ALS. He had been diagnosed 13 years earlier when I was a young teenager. We were blessed to have much longer than most do before he finally passed away, and I will forever be grateful for that. I was able to finish college and then moved back home to help take care of him and spend as much time together as possible while also being able to begin my career. But between working and helping at home, it didn’t leave time for much else.
After my dad passed away, my routine didn’t really change. I would go to work and then come straight home and sit down on the couch for the night. On weekends, I would go out with friends to drink and eat. Come Monday, the cycle would repeat. Eventually this caught up with me, and after a year, I was probably 30lbs heavier and it showed. That’s when I knew something needed to change. If I didn’t do something soon the situation was only going to get worse.
I found SISU from searching online and stopped in one day on my way home from work. I sheepishly walk in the door and must have looked totally out of place. Coach Christina came over to first talk to me, gave me a quick tour of the Plymouth location and said to come back anytime for my first class. I came the next day, and after the first couple weeks, I was hooked! I started working out 4 to 5 times a week. My daily routine was no longer to sit around the house and be lazy. I started eating better so that I wouldn’t feel like crap for the evening workout. I began limiting myself to only a few drinks on a Friday night, knowing I’d regret it Saturday morning doing burpees. But, really, it was a choice to change my mindset. The hour or so I spend in the gym is a way to work through the stress. If something happened at work, I’m feeling frustrated or it’s just an off day, I get to put my head down, work hard, and come out the other side feeling better.
I’ve met so many great new people and joined a community that is so welcoming. I cannot say enough about how happy I am with my decision to join SISU. It was a major turning point in life and big step to getting back on a path to both a physically and mentally healthy life.
Making a Change
There were a variety of reasons I finally decided to make a change towards being healthier. The usual list of: losing weight, getting in shape, doing something different from my normal routine that wasn’t working, etc. I had tried CrossFit before, but never really committed to it. The biggest reason I started making changes was that I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I was sluggish and tired all the time. Even a beer league hockey game would leave me sore for a day or two. One wakeup call was being far too winded after running up the stairs at home twice in quick succession.
When I first started at SISU, the goal was to just lose some weight and get back in shape. My pants were too tight, my stomach budged out in shirts that used to fit. I couldn’t suck in my stomach and fool myself anymore that I wasn’t gaining weight and becoming unhealthy.
After a few grueling months at SISU, I started to see changes. By month 3 or 4, I’d already dropped 20-25 pounds and by about 6 months to a year in, I was probably in better shape than I had even been in high school or college. I loved being able to go somewhere to workout and compete again against friends, pushing each other to do our very best and to get better every day. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about SISU and the community. We work hard and push each other. It keeps me coming back every day. The community and your friends at the gym really keep you accountable and makes it difficult to skip going on those days when you might not quite be feeling it.
Since starting CrossFit, I have stayed pretty consistent with trying to workout out as many times during the week as possible. This was great in the beginning. I lost weight, felt good, and was setting new PRs nearly every week. Then I started to feel like I was plateauing. How I felt during workouts was inconsistent. Some days I felt great and then others I felt like I had no energy. Having a competitive background, I didn’t like that and wanted to find a way to get over my plateau and continue improve. After debating for a while and with some hesitation, I signed up for the SISU Nutrition program.
With nutrition coach Billy Rodgers, we got a plan together to focus on eating better and finding the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat through macro counting to get me feeling and performing like I wanted to. It took a couple week for me to get used to weighing out all my food and being diligent about logging all my meals. After I got the hang of it, though, it started to get easy, and I could definitely tell a difference in my performance at the gym and on the scale. I had energy for every workout and the pounds started to drop off each time I stepped on the scale. Even with doing the program over the holiday season, I was able to stay consistent.
A New Perspective
This process has affected myself in a number of ways. The biggest being the way I look at food/nutrition now. Before, I looked at food the way a lot of people generally do who are actively thinking about what they are eating and trying to be healthy. I just looked at food as calories. I thought that if I burned more calories by exercising and eat “healthy” foods, I should lose weight. But after working with Billy and completing the Nutrition Program, I’ve come to realize that I need to look at food as energy my body needs, not just calories to burn off. Calories aren’t necessarily bad…it’s how you consume them. Working with Billy, we focused on macro nutrients and finding the best ratio of protein, carbs, and fat I should have each day that would keep me feeling and performing my best. I also learned how my body responds to certain foods and how to time my meals during the day to get the most out of what I was eating.
I didn’t think I’d have that much to lose since I was working out regularly, but I was able to lean out and get stronger. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since starting the nutrition program, and I started to consistently PR lifts in the gym again and even took 3rdplace in the scaled division of the SISU holiday competition this past year with my partner Steve Sinclair. I got my first muscle up a few weeks back and surprised myself with being able to do pistol squats now too. I’m looking forward to my second CrossFit Open this year and to see how much I can improve since last year.
Any words of encouragement to someone starting out?
Just start! Don’t wait until the end of a month, the end of the holidays, or a new year to start trying to accomplish what you want. It only makes it that much easier to procrastinate and delay. There’s never a perfect time to start and there will always be an excuse to put it off again. It’s a process, not something that will happen overnight or after one week of eating correct. Start with small steps, stick with it, and try to stay consistent.
New Habits Going Forward
The awesome part about the nutrition program and working with Billy is that over the 12 weeks of the program, I have learned the process and formed a routine/habit. It’s not stressful or difficult to eat health and continue following the program. I now know the correct portions of protein, carbs and fat I should consume each day to feel and look how I want. I’ve learned to meal prep and plan out my meals each day so I don’t overeat or miss my macro goals. And I’ve gotten much more comfortable in the kitchen at home, learning how to cook new meals and even created a couple of my own recipes I like to make regularly for lunches or dinners. I also look forward to finding new foods or ways to make healthy substitutions to some of the old foods I love!