The Whole Life Challenge Survival Guide - The Box

The Whole Life Challenge Survival Guide

Boxes around the globe are taking part in the fitness game begun at CrossFit Los Angeles. Here are 8 keys to getting the most out of your challenge experience.

If there’s one thing CrossFitters love, it’s a good competition. So it’s no surprise that boxes everywhere regularly participate in the Whole Life Challenge, a fitness game co-founded by CrossFit Los Angeles owner Andy Petranek and former CrossFit coach Michael Stanwyck.

“Andy and I were looking for a way to coach our clients in nutrition the same way we coached them in fitness,” Stanwyck says. “Out of that idea, we created a game that’s based entirely on a self-evaluation of daily actions: Here are the rules, come back tomorrow and tell me if you did them or you didn’t. It was amazing that simply putting that responsibility in our clients’ hands made the difference we’d been trying to make for years.”

Soon, Petranek and Stanwyck were sharing the concept with other boxes, and after a few challenges, it had become a full-blown online fitness game that tens of thousands of people have now played with phenomenal results, from dramatically improved fitness levels to weight loss to a completely different relationship with food and, well, life.

In addition to the nutrition rules, the game awards daily points to participants for other healthy habits, including workouts, stretching, taking a nutritional supplement (e.g., omega-3s or probiotics) and drinking enough water (one-third your bodyweight in ounces). Although it’s not a Paleo diet per se, the food rules do draw heavily from the caveman camp. Specifically, the Performance (previously known as “Advanced”) level of play requires that you avoid all grains and soy, dairy (except butter), sugar and sweeteners (except stevia), artificial ingredients and alcohol.

“We based the rules on Paleo nutrition but allowed legumes because we had several vegetarians in the gym, and we allowed butter because it’s a great source of fat, but mostly because I’m a butter lover,” Stanwyck says. The beauty of the WLC? It wasn’t created by extremists. You also can play at the Lifestyle (previously “Intermediate”) or Kick Start (formerly “Beginner”) levels, which bend the nutrition rules quite a bit with the ultimate goal of getting people to clean up their diets. “We’re not here to declare any kind of ultimate nutrition,” Stanwyck says. “The most significant step isn’t going full Paleo; it’s making the commitment to [eat healthier]. Once people start down the path, they can make more and more changes.”

For additional challenge specifics, visit It may seem a bit daunting at first, but even people who’ve completed the Performance level multiple times will tell you it’s worth every annoying question you have to ask your restaurant server, every weekend cocktail skipped instead of sipped, and every 10-minute block of stretching and exercise and even meditation logged. They’ll also tell you that it’s hard work, but the following success secrets will make it a bit easier, and perhaps even ensure your place atop that leader board.

The next Whole Life Challenge starts January 17, 2015.

For the rest of this article, pick up the February 2015 issue of The Box on newsstands now.