Heather Herbeck is a professional kayaker and owner of Fitness and Sport Evolution in the Columbia River Gorge
I was definitely skeptical going into this “Whole Life Challenge” thing. I didn’t have any idea what it was really about and no one around me seemed to be able to explain. All I heard from people who had done it in the past was, “It’s different for everyone.” I also didn’t think I could get much “healthier” or “fit” than I already was at the time.
Boy, was I wrong!
I played at the “Performance” Level of the WLC, which meant I chose to be pretty strict with myself. I’d lose points for eating things that were “bad” for me: grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and artificial ingredients. I’d earn points for doing things that were “good” for me: Exercise, stretching, drinking, taking a supplement, and reflecting every day. As the weeks went by, I’d also earn points for things like getting good sleep, being mindful, and actively supporting my teammates.
Since I was going to be playing a game about my own life, I decided to add my own rule—no caffeine. I figured as long as I was going to be accountable, I should pick something personally important to me, too.
I found myself sipping coffee all morning long, every morning, out of habit. When my cup was empty, I’d fill it and keep drinking. This equaled way too much coffee. I was really curious about two things: could I actually follow through with this rule, being that I’m so dependent on caffeine? And, would it make a difference in how I felt?
Well, the challenge is over. I finished 294 out of about 20,000 participants (whoa!)—but I don’t really care about where I finished overall because how I feel is almost indescribable.
I have never had so much energy. Before the Challenge, I would be mentally and physically done with anything that involved focus and significant energy by 2:00 p.m. Now I have high energy all day, right up until I go to bed!
I used to hear people talk about mental clarity all the time, but I had no idea what they actually meant. I do now! I think clearer and my head isn’t in a fog anymore.
I’m already really active, and it wasn’t that important to me to lose weight, but I was surprised that I even dropped a couple of pounds. How I look changed, too. My arms, shoulders, back, abdominals and legs all look more defined and tone.
Being active, I always worry a little about chronic injuries. Because the ten minutes of stretching a day my shoulder and hips are much healthier, making the sports I participate in much more enjoyable.
I can’t say that the Challenge was easy. There were times when I was tired, emotional, cranky and I wasn’t sure how to fit all these “habits” into my everyday lifestyle. But, by mid-way through the Challenge, I felt and saw changes. And, that’s when I realized it’s worth it. Getting there wasn’t the easiest thing, but once I started to see the results, it was so much easier to stick with it.
I am 100 percent going to continue this lifestyle practice. I’ve already made a habit of setting my stopwatch for ten minutes to get my stretching in.
One of the important things I learned from playing is that I can eat foods that aren’t considered healthy as long as I am paying attention to my daily habit of feeding myself good, clean food. So I’m giving myself two indulgence tokens a week to eat foods that I really want.
I’m going to continue eliminating grains, dairy, sugars (except fruit) and…drum roll please . . . CAFFEINE!!!!!!
I would recommend this challenge to anyone. Whatever level they play at, they will definitely see positive changes.
My team’s motto for the Challenge: “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!” If someone asks me what the Challenge is like, I will tell them, “It is different for everyone, but it’s worth it for everyone, too!”
Photo courtesy of Rick Brown of Blackfire Photography, Portland, OR.