Catherine Ballas & Angela Beeler of REFIT: How To Slow Down To Do More
Create space in your schedule to be creative. To think about the future and what you want for your business. Whether that means for you turning off all music on your commute or journaling — that “recharge” time is actually pivotal to being effective with your time because it helps you remember where you’re headed.
I purposefully create non-work time into my schedule. I’m a mom of three and CEO of a growing company, and discovering how to blend both roles is challenging. I’ve realized that feeling successful in both of those roles means me very intentional about being present in each role. My schedule reflects my priorities: I work 9–3 Monday through Thursday so that I can pick up my kids from school, but this also means I’m working at night after the girls have gone to bed. It’s a give and take, but at the end of the day, I want to feel good about where I’ve spent my time.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Ballas and Angela Beeler.
Catherine Ballas is the co-founder and CEO of REFIT, a fitness company based in Waco, Texas. Her passion is to inspire people to reach their fullest potential and she occasionally attempts this by moonwalking. One of her strengths is building community through authenticity with others, and has used that skill to develop REFIT into a meaningful presence in the lives of thousands of people. She also leads product development and operations for REFIT. She’s an alumna of Baylor University.
Angela Beeler is the co-founder and CEO of REFIT, a fitness revolution built upon the idea that fitness should be a place where everybody belongs. Angela is passionate about empowering women to take the driver’s seat of their own lives, something she gets to witness this each and every day through REFIT. Angela is heavily involved in strategic planning, ideation, and REFIT instructor training, and she manages these roles while being the mom of three daughters and still personally teaching fitness classes. She’s a graduate of Texas A&M University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
AB: In 2009, we started teaching fitness classes in Waco, Texas community. Our desire was to see fitness as a vehicle for community, friendships and belonging. Our small class of 4–6 people became one of the largest classes in the Waco area, but it wasn’t until we innocently started a YouTube channel that we saw the potential for this fitness revolution. YouTube quickly expanded our borders and people began to contact from all over the globe with questions about our specific form of fitness. We knew that something we were doing was resonating with all types of people, and it was then that we realized this could become a product that we created for those who wanted to teach a similar format in their locations.
Our goal was never to be a big deal. So we didn’t choose this path — our community found us, told us what they wanted, and it grew into something we never expected.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
AB: Time is our most precious commodity — something everyone values but never has enough of. We also live in a modern-day world where boundaries that respect time are almost nonexistent. Alerts, messages, reminders, and even other people can access us via a screen 24 hours a day, and this constant access creates a sense of urgency and a feeling that something is always due or upcoming. The constant future-focused thought of “what’s next?” can easily cause us to feel rushed at all times.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
AB: Feeling rushed by the push and pull of projects, deadlines, and busy schedules can chip away at our focus. If you think about it, we’re never really doing one thing at a time anymore — we’re always multitasking. This creates low-level anxiety that starts the moment you wake up and lasts until your head hits the pillow. If you don’t take proactive steps to prevent the constant push and pull, that anxiety becomes part of your lifestyle. An anxiety-filled life isn’t sustainable and can have devastating effects mentally and physically.
CB: My grandfather always told me, “Haste makes waste,” and I think that idea was valued in previous generations but has been lost both in business culture and modern culture more generally. Activity doesn’t equal advancement. Being busy always sounds good, but being effective is what’s actually valuable.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
AB: As a CEO, my focus is to ensure that we have a team that can create “PEE” — productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. This can lead to a performance and behavior culture, and if we’re not careful in balancing the ecosystem, the morale and unity of the team can be negatively affected. Relational equity can get easily overlooked in the hustle, and if you have employees who are unhappy because they don’t feel valued, it affects their productivity. I think it’s vital to a workplace to communicate that I not only rely on my team members but that I care about them as individuals.
CB: I’m the co-CEO of my business, so not only do I work with my team on a daily basis, but I work with my co-CEO. So, relational health is important — making sure we’re generally on the same page, or that if we aren’t, we resolve the difference so that it doesn’t hold us back. And all of that takes time, but slowing down to invest in that relationship with my co-CEO and team has never been a waste of time.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Create space in your schedule to be creative. To think about the future and what you want for your business. Whether that means for you turning off all music on your commute or journaling — that “recharge” time is actually pivotal to being effective with your time because it helps you remember where you’re headed.
- Making time to talk with the visionaries on your team. For me, that’s syncing with my co-CEO to have conversations dedicated to what we personally want for the future. Those conversations are good for team-building and developing a shared vision, but also for having a stronger working relationship.
- Knowing what to say no to and be willing to follow through. You have a limited capacity and there are parts of the business where only you can provide oversight. Learn to say no to requests for your attention that pull you away from the areas where you’re needed.
- Know yourself well enough to know what will recharge you and to do it. Hang out with friends. Turn your phone on silent for one hour. I cook, journal, read fun things like Harry Potter that aren’t related to my work — and all of those things help me return to my business with more energy and ideas than when I started.
- We need to be comfortable creating physical boundaries around our work: showing up and shutting your office door for alone time, sending a text message to the staff that communicates upcoming availability, silencing your phone in order to focus on the work you created space for. We recently moved into our new REFIT headquarters and there’s a lot of glass windows and open, shared spaces. We’ve had to learn how to communicate a boundary without a physical boundary. Creating intentional “do not disturb” zones may feel like a slower pace, but it usually ends up being more productive and effective.
- Another strategy I use is to purposefully create non-work time into my schedule. I’m a mom of three and CEO of a growing company, and discovering how to blend both roles is challenging. I’ve realized that feeling successful in both of those roles means me very intentional about being present in each role. My schedule reflects my priorities: I work 9–3 Monday through Thursday so that I can pick up my kids from school, but this also means I’m working at night after the girls have gone to bed. It’s a give and take, but at the end of the day, I want to feel good about where I’ve spent my time.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
CB: Our business is so relational. We don’t just help people lose weight — we try to help them know in their core that they belong. There is always something to be done, but when our customers come to me with their personal problems, if I don’t have time to listen and be part of their community in an authentic way, then what am I doing here? They can go to any gym and just be a number, but when they come to REFIT, they’re my family and I’m committed to being there for them if they need me.
AB: We provide a community to people through fitness. Community is built on relationships, and fitness requires the body. So it’s an obvious goal of ours to connect the physical experience to the mind and the emotions — encouraging our participants to focus on how they are feeling in the moment and to let go of the other things that are pressuring them from the outside world. Our workouts are never just physical — we take participants through a physical and mental journey that leaves them transformed at the end of class. And the great thing about this transformation? They can take it with them when they leave: moms feel ready to step back into their families, people feel capable of handling their real-life burdens and obstacles, and negative vibes become positive ones.
Another example of mindfulness occurs in our staff meetings. We always try to bring the focus back to our core values, which is why the business exists and who we are serving. This focus brings meaning to what we do and helps keep the main thing the main thing.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
CB: Don’t allow the tyranny of the urgent to get the best of you. Set aside times during the day when you turn off the alerts and shut the door and focus on what you want from the day.
AB: start each “thing” with an intention. Whether it’s a workout, a meeting or even cleaning the house — create a centralizing thought around the work you’re about to do. This act of focus gives meaning and purpose to even the most mundane things, and I (secretly) believe it makes the work go by much quicker!
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
AB: We use the enneagram a lot. I love the enneagram because, unlike other personality assessments, it takes the focus off of you and asks you to consider other people and those interactions. I’m still learning as I go so I rely a lot on podcasts that challenge what I know to give me a new perspective on how the enneagram can be used in both personal and professional spaces. I also subscribe to a ton of podcasts and try to find topics that relate to an area of my life that needs more development. I love the Entreleadership podcast and How I Built This.
CB: How I Built This with Guy Roz. There are so many stories on there and situations I identify with. It’s great to learn from other leaders and people who’ve gone before.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
AB: “Get off the sidelines.” My husband coached my daughter’s basketball team as a hobby, and he always yelled “get off the sideline” because girls would get trapped by the other team when the dribbles scared into the sidelines. I think that’s a very applicable life lesson: get off the sideline and step onto center court. Women often get afraid of pushing forth ideas, pursuing their dreams, or stepping outside of traditional roles and become resigned to the sidelines. This approach can quickly become a passive approach to life. One thing I love about REFIT is that it empowers women to get into the driver’s seat and take charge of their own life, happiness and dreams. We help pull women off the sidelines and away from the fears that may be keeping them there.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
CB: I am passionate about helping empower men and women to become who they’re meant to be. Whether for them that means conquering a fear or feeling a new sense of belonging — I want to encourage and guide them to that. If more people saw fitness as encompassing the mind and soul, I think we’d actually address real needs in people’s hearts, which is what makes someone truly well.
AB: I’m so happy to say that I’m living out my dream “movement.” On a surface level, we’re breaking down barriers to fitness, but our real work is helping women find their voice, authentic friendships and a sense of belonging. This discovery leads to whole women who are hell-bent on changing the world!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!