When you ask most people why they sign up for the Whole Life Challenge, it usually comes down to one of two specific reasons:
- “I want to lose weight.”
- “I want to get fit.”
This wasn’t the case for 64-year-old Jim Warnock. At 5-foot-11 and 170lbs, Jim was not overweight, nor was he out of shape.
Jim, a native of El Dorado, Arkansas, has long had a passion for long-distance hiking, sometimes tackling 100-plus mile long trails, including finishing the 180-mile Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas and the 211-mile Jim Muir Trail in California. So, it might seem reasonable to think that Jim might not get much out of the Challenge.
But the truth is, Jim reaped life-changing benefits from his first Challenge in 2018 — so much so that he’s now currently tackling his third Challenge.
“I was struggling with keeping balance in my life. I exercised, but I wasn’t focused enough on other important things like sleep, stretching, and nutrition,” said Jim, a self-proclaimed “snacker.” His vices: chips and chocolate, which he has since replaced with roasted peanuts, almonds, walnuts, or cashews.
Beyond nutrition and fitness changes, though, Jim’s first Challenge helped him uncover blind spots in his life, areas he didn’t know were even a problem.
First: What Does It Mean to Have a Blind Spot?
It’s the whole idea that:
- You know what you know — Jim knows he likes chip
- And you know what you don’t know — Jim (presumably) knows he doesn’t know how to fly an airplane.
- But you don’t know what you don’t know you don’t know. In Jim’s case, he didn’t realize how much he didn’t know about quality nutrition, and he didn’t realize some of his daily actions, like being on his phone while he ate, were harming his life.
The Whole Life Challenge helped him uncover these blind spots.
The Real Context of Healthy Eating
“There was the one lesson about technology-free meals, and it made me so much more aware of being present during meals, instead of being on my phone,” said Jim, a school principal, who sometimes eats lunch with his students.
“I used to be on my phone checking e-mails when I was with them, and now I try to carry on more conversations with the kids. It feels way better, and I get so much more out of those conversations,” he said. The same is true when he eats dinner with his wife, he added.
“I just didn’t realize how much technology was getting in the way,” he explained.
Also, although Jim thought he was eating well before — minus the chips and chocolate — he learned during the Challenge that there’s more to nutrition than he realized.
“I didn’t even know there were so many kinds of oils. I would always just have canola oil or corn oil,” said Jim, who switched to olive and avocado oil when he started the Challenge. “Before the Whole Life Challenge, I literally had no idea some oils are healthier than others.”
How Even the Fit Can Actually Be Healthier
While Jim’s main goal for embarking on his first Challenge in 2018 wasn’t necessarily to become more physically fit, he said that has been another huge win for him.
“I just have much more stamina now. I used to get draggy in the afternoon — you know, a big lull in my energy — and I don’t feel that way anymore,” Jim said. “And it has definitely helped with my long-distance hiking and backpacking trips. It ensures I get up every morning and hydrate and row and keep a baseline level of fitness.”
In the past, Jim used to be inconsistent with his workouts until just before a big hike was around the corner. Then he would up his game and cram in some fitness to make sure he was fit enough to get through the trip. Now, he makes fitness a priority at all times of the year, which has made his hikes easier, he explained.
“I used to have soreness in my back, but I think with my consistency on the rowing machine every day, that has been eliminated,” he said.
His thinks his commitment to the Mobility Habit of the Challenge might also contribute to this improvement. If nothing else, stretching in the evening helps him wind down at night and sleep better, he explained.
“I have noticed when I take a few minutes in the early evening to stretch, it really helps me get more relaxed and helps me hit the sack,” he said.
Playing the Whole Life Challenge Outside the Challenge
The benefits Jim reaped from his first time playing the Whole Life Challenge were significant enough for him to realize that he needed to maintain his Challenge behavior even once he returned to regular life. According to Jim, he has generally been quite successful at this.
“Now, I wake up every morning and prepare a nutritious breakfast and always have a vegetable — usually a bowl of broccoli, but sometimes spinach with my eggs. This is something I started during my first Challenge and I still do it now. I notice when I start my day with a vegetable first thing, it makes me feel like I’m getting a good jump on the day,” Jim said.
Despite these new habits being integrated into his life, Jim said he will continue signing up for Challenges, as it’s a great way to reinforce those habits and solidify them even further.
“It’s a good reminder. Even though those 7 Daily Habits [the Challenge teaches] are ingrained in my mind, doing the Challenge helps me stay in balance and pursue good health so I don’t get out of whack,” he said. “Like if I start losing motivation and I don’t want to exercise, being on the Challenge motivates me just enough to push me over the edge to work out.”
It’s About Remembering What’s Important
Playing the Whole Life Challenge also helped Jim become more present and ultimately a better writer when he blogs about the trails he tackles, he explained. (Check out Jim’s blog here.)
“I write about my thoughts about hiking and nature, and I tended to rush the reflection part in the past. Now I make an effort to slow down and think about what’s actually happening and why it’s important to me,” he said.
Continuing to play the Whole Life Challenge and practicing the 7 Daily Habits supports Jim in his commitment to himself, or at least making sure he doesn’t fall off the wagon, he explained. This is especially important to him as he moves through his 60s and beyond.
“I’m 64, so to still be able to hike long distances is a big deal for me,” he said. “There’s a tendency for people my age to start ballooning in the mid-section — I don’t want that to be me — and the Whole Life Challenge allows me to remember what’s important and to stick to those habits so I can be as healthy as possible.”