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The Story of the 3-Foot Toss

By July 23, 2014Running a Gym
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The next Whole Life Challenge starts in:

The way people make change is ass-backwards.

They set giant goals. They want to go bigger, stronger, faster—and they want to do it now.

Goals have to be aggressive and ambitious, they think. They have to scare you. They have to be so burly that if you don’t push yourself 110 percent all the time, you will not succeed.

This is the trademark of most CrossFit programs.

And I think this idea is bogus.

In fact, we created the Whole Life Challenge because we knew that the opposite is true, and we wanted to give our affiliate partners an opportunity to impact their students’ lives outside of the gym—and make money while doing it!

(And by the way, consider yourself invited to join this partner program now, or keep reading to learn how we used the notion of “small changes” to grow and serve our community.)

When Big Change Smacks You Down

There’s nothing wrong with having a vision that is big and bold. But that vision should exist as something long-term: three or five or even twenty years out.

Big change takes time. It happens slowly. Trying to make burly changes immediately will not work—at least not work for long. Eventually, the intensity of the change will smack you down.

People are most likely to succeed when the changes they make are so small that they barely even notice.

Change, by definition, must be regularly occurring and consistent over time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be intense. Showing up, day after day, is the important part.

In fact, most anyone can get off the couch and throw himself into an intense and focused three- to six-month period of hard core diet and “get fit” training…

But you cannot declare yourself a “changed person” if you then go back to your wily ways: eating the crap, gaining back the weight, and returning to the couch.


True change has occurred when the gurus have long gone home, the onlookers are asleep, and you are left to your own devices. What choices do you make when no one is looking?

The journey to becoming a changed person begins with one infinitely small step that is both simple and easy. Taking this step is nothing short of psychological momentum. When you meet one small goal, your brain says, “Okay, I can do that. Check. What is next?”

Success builds upon success.

Change Is a 3-Foot Toss, Not a 25-Foot Gamble

I saw the importance of small steps in action when I was a student at the University of Santa Monica.

Think of the children’s “ring toss” game. Our teacher took four students and assigned them to stand at different distances from a post: One was assigned to stand 3 feet, one stood at 10 feet, the third at 18 feet, and the last at 25 feet.

Each player got 5 attempts to throw a ring over a post from his or her distance.

The 3-foot thrower was almost guaranteed to make the toss. After all, she could lean forward and stretch her arms out, which put her almost right above the post. She earned 3 points per successful throw, for a maximum of 15 points.

The player at 10 feet earned 10 points per successful toss, the player at 18 feet earned 18 points. The farther player earned 25 points for each successful toss, for a total of 125 points.

The rest of the class was watching this game, so we got to vote on who we thought would score the most points.

Most of us (including me) went BIG. We guessed the player at 18 or 25 feet would win the whole thing!

But guess who won?

The player who tossed from 3 feet ended up with 15 points, a perfect score. Plus, she had fun! She said it was easy and felt great.

The others? Not a single person from any of the other three distances managed to get that rope over the post even once.

Plus, it wasn’t fun at all for them. It was stressful, and they felt defeated when it was all said and done.

For lasting change to happen, it must occur as a series of 3-foot tosses.

The Whole Life Challenge: A Series of 3-Foot Tosses

This is why Michael Stanwyck and I created the Whole Life Challenge. In fact, the WLC challenges people to bite off way less than they think they can chew when it comes to making changes to their daily life. Harder, longer, heavier, faster isn’t better, nor does it earn them any points.

  • Did you drink 30 percent of your weight in water? If you can answer “yes,” you score two points!
  • Stretched for ten minutes? Another two points.
  • Took a minute to reflect on your day? One more point.

Now, if my “easy does it” attitude lands on you as strange, I want to clarify something…

I own a CrossFit gym.

Our programming hammers our students. We don’t let our students give up — and they don’t let themselves give up. Some of the biggest physical, mental, and emotional results happen through high-intensity, puke-inducing CrossFit workouts that occur inside my gym.

But what happens outside of the gym is just as important. And we want people to choose consistency and repetition when they are at home, when the gurus aren’t looking.

The Whole Life Challenge gives them a framework to show up, be consistent, and make those 3-foot changes all day long.

And it works for everyone. Rich Froning and your mom might be starting in different places, but if either one of them wants to change—to succeed—they have to start with 3-foot tosses.

From world-class athletes to people who have never stepped foot in a gym, making changes is the same for everyone.

And that means that integrating the WLC into your gym represents a rare opportunity to throw a much larger and wider demographic net than you can cast just by being labeled a “CrossFit gym.” Giving everyone in your community, as well as their family and friends, a platform for making easy change outside the gym gives you a larger group of fans, the power to influence more people in your community, and a much bigger pool of future students.

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Andy Petranek
Andy is what you’d call a modern day Renaissance Man: a former professional trumpeter who attended the Eastman School of Music; a snowboarder, mountain biker, surfer, kayaker, outrigger paddler, mountaineer, and former Marine (Gulf War veteran); a professionally sponsored adventure racer; and the oldest participant to qualify for and participate in the CrossFit Games at the age of 43.

Andy is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. He holds a spectrum of certifications from CrossFit and is also a Vivobarefoot certified running coach. He has trained as a Zen buddhist and graduated with a Master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

Andy founded CrossFit LA one of the first and most successful CrossFit training centers in the world and the first to be featured in national media. He is the co-founder of the Whole Life Challenge, Inc, currently its president, and is also a consultant and life/business coach. Andy lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Julia, and son, Dashel.