What the hell is the Whole Life Challenge? And why would anyone want to do it?
Someone aptly described January as the “Monday of Months” to me this week, and man was that spot-on. January can be kind of a drag. A lot of us are broke from Christmas, have an extra layer of… shall we say… “insulation”, and we’re fighting hibernation mode from shorter daylight hours.
We’re often trying to push past a feeling of burnout and malaise. Yet somehow we’re supposed to find more energy to take care of ourselves and get 2018 off to a strong start.
The Whole Life Challenge
I don’t know about you, but that is just not going to happen for me unless I put systems in place. Enter the Whole Life Challenge. This is essentially a six-week game of health habits. There isn’t a focus on perfection, but rather developing a clear view of your health big picture.
So while many challenges are focused on nutrition and workouts, the Whole Life Challenge is geared towards overall, sustainable wellness– including what’s happening in your noggin.
For the uninitiated, the 7 daily habits scored in the Whole Life Challenge are:
Find out about the different Nutrition Levels here. (No, you should not automatically go to the toughest one.)
TL;DR? Okay then. Here’s the Quick Start Guide.
I know what you’re thinking. I already know to do those things. But I’m guessing you’re just… well… not doing them. Most of us are far skewed in one direction or the other on this list, leaving some of these areas completely neglected. And they matter!
As a coach, we hear the excuses all the time. An athlete tells me they are doing EVERYTHING they can to see better performance, improved health markers, more desirable body composition. So perhaps I’ll ask about their sleep, which they often tell me is dismal, because we’re self-loathing Americans.
“Do you know what cortisol is?” I’ll inquire how much they know about the stress hormone’s proven role in holding onto fat. Not to mention proper sleep helps us regulate cortisol and recover properly from high intensity exercise.
“Yeah sure, but I’m in the gym ALL the time and I’m Rx’ing all the workouts and I just can’t seem to get a six pack! Isn’t cortisol a problem for people who watch Doctor Oz?”
So maybe all of us could be better in the areas we’re neglecting, and who knows what could happen? Maybe we’ll actually get what we’re chasing after.
The Whole Life Challenge kicks of January 20th, leaving a few days to sign up. Without further ado, let me tell you why I think this particular challenge is a great choice for most people, and why I’m personally looking forward to it.
1. I get to be selfish AF
Sometimes going into the workday feels like throwing oneself into a rabid pack of dogs and hoping you still have some semblance of a face when you crawl out on the other side. Add in family, friends, and community commitments and it’s easy to feel like there’s going to be nothing left of you after it’s all done.
(Can you tell I’m an introvert? Large amounts of interaction cost me dearly in the energetic department.)
A lot of the commitments we less-than-whole-heartedly say “yes” to can feel like a one-two punch. Not only are you drinking cocktails for someone’s birthday, but you’re super likely to also end up staying late. You feel obligated to join your sister for breakfast after yoga time and time again, but her favorite place costs too much and there’s really nothing on the menu that suits your tastes. You stay up late listening to your friend bitch about her idiot on-again-off-again boyfriend for the tenth time, and your early morning workout is all but ruined, if you get up in time at all. There are second- and third- order effects to our choices.
That is absolutely not to say you shouldn’t go out of your way for others, but it’s imperative to take stock of the true cost of the things you repetitively allow into your life.
I’m an empath, One that is absolutely terrible at setting boundaries, at that. If you struggle on drawing your lines, I’m right there alongside you. The Whole Life Challenge gives a person the opportunity to do things perhaps perceived as selfish while diverting blame to a previously held commitment.
Frankly, I’m just happy to be able to tell friends “Sorry, I can’t meet you for wine again tonight, I’m on the Whole Life Challenge and I’m doing really well at it. Want to come over to my house tomorrow evening at 8pm and I’ll make some Turmeric Tea instead? I have to be in bed by ten but we have a little time to catch up before then.”
We can all stand to have our priorities and rituals tested. Maybe it’s time for new ones that actually suit our needs.
2. Fewer choices (and that’s a good thing)
Yeah, there are some rules and restrictions in the Whole Life Challenge. But the filters built into this system don’t make me feel constrained. They’re refreshing. We spend a lot of our processing power making decisions on things that don’t necessarily move the ball forward, nor increase our overall happiness. This helps me move past all that B.S. so I actually have time to blog, be a better coach and dog mom, work on my business, take care of myself, and so on.
Nutrition: I’m automatically forced to ax most restaurant options, especially if it’s not explicitly clear what’s in a menu item. And my grocery list gets simpler, as well. I usually pick out some delicious Whole Life Challenge recipes off of Pinterest, meal prep for a few days of it, and I’m set. Check out the Nutrition guidelines for the Whole Life Challenge here. (Yes, you can do Keto, Whole30, Intermittent Fasting (IF), etc. on the WLC. It’s another layer on top of the 3 allowed nutrition levels in this game.)
Sleep: I have set my morning routine for 7:00 – 9:00 AM on weekdays. And I’ve also committed to sleeping 7.5 hours nightly during the Challenge (option to go up to 9 hours if I need extra recovery– I use the 90-minute REM cycle rule). From there it’s easy math to find my bedtime target. I just have to turn off my phone, make Sleepytime tea, get my zit cream on, and be under the covers by that deadline. No meme-scrolling, obsessive reading, or watching a marathon of Game of Thrones into the wee hours of the morning.
Training: It’s gotta happen. 10 minutes daily, at minimum. Anyone can do that amount without feeling overwhelmed or beat down. The Whole Life Challenge even gives free workouts and steep discounts on affordable-but-awesome bodyweight options through GMB Fitness. There’s no excuse not to do it, even if you can’t get to a gym.
Hydration: I’m going to be honest and tell you this is my worst area. I will slam iced coffee all day long, and top off with a kombucha. (Hey, everyone should care about gut health!) But it’s extremely easy for me to jump into bed at night and realize I’ve had very little water. Like camels drink more water.
Hey, I have no excuse on this one. I have the perfect overpriced water bottle and I can suddenly drink all the ones on the floor of my truck now that they’re not boiling in the Florida heat. (Sorry about the freeze, northerners.)
So the thought of fewer options and less wiggle room does not freak me out. It’s with good reason great minds like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are known for wearing the same outfit over and over. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
3. It’s Easy to Prioritize
Non-compliant foods and alcoholic beverages cost you 1 point each on the Whole Life Challenge. (Unless you’ve been steady enough to cash in some of your earned Indulgence Points.) You get 5 points each day for nutrition.
So that means if something is going to cost me a point, I’d better think about whether it’s actually even worth it to me to follow through.
Someone brings Publix cupcakes to the office for a birthday. Bob decides he’s already had so many subpar Publix cupcakes in his life, he will certainly not miss out by skipping their disappointing blandness today.
However, Bob really, really likes cupcakes from Sweet Divas in downtown St. Pete. So he waits until the weekend and cashes in an Indulgence Point to get his favorite cupcake in the whole world, the Appleina Jolie. He relishes every bite, and then goes on about his business, making sure to get all his other points that day.
Important Side Note: No, I’m not kidding. There is a cupcake called the Appleina Jolie at Sweet Divas in downtown St. Pete.
3. Save cash moneyyyyyy
Sometimes my athletes tell me they don’t want to do the Whole Life Challenge because of money. Which, on one hand I totally get because it’s just after Christmas and whatnot. But then I usually see the same athlete on Instagram pounding $13 cocktails a day or two later, and my empathy goes poof!
Guys, the Whole Life Challenge costs $49 at full price. And if you’re smart and sign up early, or come back as a returning athlete, you can get it for a $10–$25 discount. (I paid $24 for mine on this get-go.)
Not to mention, as we’ve already discussed, we’re not going to be dining out nearly as much. It’s going to be much easier to cook for yourself at home or sign up for a healthy delivery meal service like CateredFit (my personal track). And you’re going to save a lot of dough in the process.
Bar tabs? They’re all but nonexistent, if we’re doing this whole thing right.
Once we cut that out, you’re sure to save some money in the process.
4. Less inflammation
I’ve covered this in the past following the Whole30. My big takeaway from axing sugar, processed food, and whatnot?
I have a lot of inflammation. And while we’re young it’s not as noticeable, but as we age, our margin of tolerance decreases drastically.
I had ACL surgery a couple of years ago. And I’ll be damned, if my diet isn’t on point, that knee gives me a lot more creaky aches and pains. So much so, sometimes I can’t train. It’s so much easier to squat, run, and pretty much do everything when my joints are happy.
And God love ya if you’re still in your 20s. Someday soon you will know what I’m kvetching about.
5. The camaraderie
At CrossFit9 we complete the Whole Life Challenge as a team. We break into small groups to keep accountability high and help each other along the way, but we also check in daily on our team board.
It’s so nice to know other people go through the same things I do. We all get sick of our own recipes after a while and need one from someone else’s toolkit. We give each other our life hacks and ingenious tips and tricks. We laugh about our ridiculous cravings and cheer each other on when we break through a milestone.
You can always go it alone on the Whole Life Challenge, but there’s something special that happens when you have an involved team looking out for you.
If you’re looking to sign up for the Whole Life Challenge, I highly suggest doing so ahead of January 20th.
You can sign up here if you’re looking to go solo.
Or you can always join us on Team CrossFit9 if you’re looking for some like-minded accountability buddies.
If you’re not sure, that’s cool too. The Whole Life Challenge happens several times a year. At least get on their newsletter, because they send out Grade A content.
In closing, I hope you’ll find some way to push yourself just a little outside your comfort zone this month. Because that, my friends, is where the magic happens.