Aja Barto on Embracing the Discomfort
6 months ago
Much of the time we are given is dedicated to avoiding problems, issues, and challenges. In fact, it may be safe to say that so many of us are constantly seeking comfort. We will eat the food that makes us feel good for the brief and fleeting moment that we have it. We’ll lounge around on a sofa or take to our bed in a large blanket while we binge whatever show that gives us the thrills we so actively seek to avoid in our own life. In truth, this is perhaps easily described as an attempt to avoid discomfort. We avoid it, whether it is uncomfortable interactions or an activity we may not wish to do. However, that very thing that we avoid, that discomfort, is where we find our growth and if we work at it, that discomfort can become something we crave. For Aja Barto, that is what CrossFit became for him: a discomfort he learned to crave. It would be a lie to say that the pursuit of this discomfort did not add to his other areas of life, shaping him into someone who understands the value of hard work and dedication.
Always in the Mindset of Health
“Early on in my career I knew I wanted to help people for a living,” explains Aja Barto in an interview with BUBS Naturals. “I’ve always been very passionate about the health and fitness side of things.” He had spent a great deal of time as a professional athlete prior to his time on the CrossFit scene, and perhaps to many people’s surprise, the drive for excellence in one’s health is very apparent for many athletes. Aja grew up in Houston, Texas, and played baseball from the age of 10 until he was 23. He had conveniently had the exposure to hard work and dedication early on in the world of sports. His mindset that leaned towards self-improvement only benefited him all the more. “Strength and conditioning, health and wellness…have always been a big facet of my life,” he said. As a dedicated athlete, the value of proper nutrition and taking care of one’s self in all areas of life was apparent; this included, of course, his training. “The gym was a big piece of my routine,” he explains, having unknowingly had exposure to functional fitness that was much like CrossFit early on in life. Strength and conditioning were a big part of his life outside of the games, and he feels that many athletes, such as himself, took it very seriously.
Aja’s exposure to training was not always ideal. “I was very old-school minded,” he explains, as he would always pick up the typical magazines and articles that many people did. Between the coaches he encountered in high school and the coaches who trained with him during his time at Tulane University, he felt he was never fully given knowledgeable advice. “I still don’t think those coaches knew much about strength and conditioning,” explains Aja. He notes that the baseball athletes were trained as the football team was trained, and even how the women’s swim team was trained. There was no set understanding of how different athletes need different types of training to optimize their performance and avoid injury. When he got into the Texas Ranger organization he had a coach with whom he had developed a solid relationship. During the offseason, Aja was a regular at the gym, putting the most time and dedication into his training. Obviously, the coach noted this and saw how Aja trained and guided him toward CrossFit. Aja had randomly selected a workout from the CrossFit website and that was the start of what has become a life-changing and life-directing element of his life. He felt that because the workouts were so intense and knew he was going to work his body in an intense way, the end reward was so great. “The discomfort of it…there’s something about that that I need more of,” he explains, noting how the experience of each workout leaves him feeling accomplished and just wanting to embrace the discomfort all the more. “It’s like adult play, almost.” From there he was able to open his business operating out of Behemoth Gym in late 2011, not long after his exposure to CrossFit in 2010. He knew it was going to be a big facet of his life and knew that he had a passion for the exercise and the community.
Getting Uncomfortable With a Purpose
The hard work and dedication that Aja applied to his training, really he managed to apply to other areas of his life. In particular, as a father of two children, a husband, and the caretaker of two Belgian Malinois dogs, he knows there can be no shortage of hard work. “Be that person for your family, show up for your family, do what’s necessary for your family,” he explains, applying the same dedication to his training to his role as a father and husband. Aja believes that his priority is his family and it is apparent that the principles he has grown up with have contributed to how he has come to shape his efforts. That same drive for discomfort has been fuel for him to be the best father and husband that he can be. It is what shaped him into the major-league baseball player he was and has built him into the athlete he is today. All of this has come by seeing how to improve and optimize himself and knowing that it has to come hand in hand with embracing the discomfort.