Saturday, March 08, 2014

My Whole Life Challenge Experience

This weekend ends the Whole Life Challenge, an 8 week challenge to help make some positive lifestyle changes and provide a framework for some accountability. My CrossFit box, Cascade CrossFit, along with many others started this shortly after the beginning of the year and pushed our way through until now.

All in all, it was a good experience. I stick to a pretty clean, paleo lifestyle and do CrossFit regularly, so the workout and mobility daily challenge wasn't that tough. I played by the advanced nutrition rules, which were really, really strict - no sweetener other than Stevia and the anti-caking agents in lots of spices were excluded, too.

But the things I liked the best from this challenge were the Life Style Challenges.  The early ones were slam dunks, too: drink half your body weight in ounces in water and  get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. I know what it takes for me to be effective and stick to a pretty good schedule; in fact, my kids poke fun of me for having a bed time. After starting CrossFit, I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go, so that was easy.

But then it started changing up a bit.  We had to practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day. I had meditated as part of a Hapkido class when I was a kid, but never had done it as an adult.  And it was awesome.  Ten minutes of time to clear my mind just wasn't enough. It helped me deal with a bunch of external stresses in my life.

The challenge changed to 10 minutes of meaningful reading. I would regularly read before going to bed to help draw my day to a close, but nothing that I would call meaningful. A good friend of mine had given me Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties , by Ajahn Brahm a few years ago and after the meditation, reading his Buddhist tales seemed to follow well. And again, it was well timed. Several of the parables had direct connection to my life right now.

The challenge started with a benchmark workout. You can do any workout as long as you can score it. We did Rankel at the start and after the challenge, 20 minutes As Many Rounds As Possible 6 225 pound dead lifts, 7 burpee pullups, 10 53 pound kettlebell swings and a 200 meter run. After the challenge, I got 17 more reps, almost a full round more.

At the beginning of the challenge, I would eat Lara Bars before and after working out. To help control costs, I started making my own Awesome Bars. This is something that I know I'll keep up with, I enjoy cooking and making my own food. I also have made almond milk from raw almonds, twice (more to come on my blog for that later).

It was a good experience. I can make a commitment to some pretty strict rules and live with them. I learned more about meditating and its something I want to continue. I learned how much I have going through my head and recognize the benefits of the clarity that mindfulness provides.  I learned how to make some nutritious and clean snacks.

Would I do it again? I don't think so. I'm coming from a pretty good starting point and have been making great progress with my strength and fitness. In the last 8 days, I've had 3 PRs (CrossFit Open 14.2, Overhead Squat max weight and the re-test of Rankel). Some of that is due to the challenge and some of that is due to the lifestyle I've already implemented.

If you're a person who likes to compete against others, do things for points and need to implement some healthy lifestyle changes, the Whole Life Challenge is a really good thing. The community is helpful and supportive and the guys that run it are involved. What really matters is what you take from the challenge and how you go on living your life.

Did you compete in the Whole Life Challenge? What did you think? What habits are going to stick?

I did not receive compensation for this post; however, I was given a free entry into the challenge. I wasn't actually even asked to write this post, but its all my honest opinion. Get out there, challenge yourself and see what happens.

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