Whole Life Challenge Workout Tips and Scaling

Each Whole Life Challenge we create a special full-body workout to do at the beginning and end of the challenge. It's meant to be a general fitness test done in a short amount of time, and it's a great way to measure your progress in the challenge. But chances are there are some of you out there reading this that looked at the workout and said "nope!" and moved on with your life. I'm going to try to convince you otherwise - you can do it, and you should!


If this workout looks impossible to you because you don't have experience with CrossFit, or you think you're too out of shape, or your body won't move that way, there's good news: you can do it! One of the fundamental pillars of CrossFit is scaling: modifying the workouts to meet you where you are. We want everybody to be able to participate without hurting themselves - after all, lying in hospital bed isn't really our idea of fitness!


Everybody should be able to modify this workout to fit their current fitness level, and I encourage you to do so, for a few reasons:

1. It will help you measure progress when we do it again at the end of the challenge.

2. It will help expand your fitness 'tool-belt' with some new tools.

3. It will help you discover what you're really capable of.

4. It counts as your exercise for the day!

If you want help modifying the workout so it's appropriate for you, you can ask me or any other coach the next time you're in the gym. But for those of you who live thousands of miles away from the gym, you can read the novel-length description I've written below:


The workout:

For time, complete:

30 Push-ups

30 Sit-ups

30 Wallballs

30 Calorie Row

30 Air-squats

This workout is a 'chipper', a classic workout type where you have a list of exercises to do one after the other, and once you're done with them you're done. Keep a running clock and mark your time when you finish. In six weeks we'll do the workout again, and you're gonna do your best to beat that time!


Now, if that workout looks like a lot of work to you, you're right. It's supposed to be hard, but it's not supposed to kill you. So if you think it'll kill you, let's modify so you kill it instead. The key is to find movements and reps that work for you but are still challenging and can be done in 10 minutes or less total.

The first way to scale is by changing the movements to meet your comfort level (and equipment availability!). If any movement seems out of reach, questionably dangerous for you, or like you can't get 30 reps without causing extreme distress, then choose one of the modifications I've listed below. 

The second scaling option is repetitions. 30 can be a lot, so feel free to make it 20, 15, or even 10. Keep in mind that the last three movements (wallballs, rowing, and squats) all target similar areas (posterior chain - legs and butt!), so if you think "oh, 30 squats isn't that much," keep in mind you'll actually be subjecting your body to much more squatting than that. Your body will thank you for being a little cautious with reps here.

And finally, if these are not regular movements for you, or you feel you're out of shape, I encourage you to cap the movements also: if you have not completed all 30 reps of a movement within 2 minutes of starting it, move on to the next one. Just remember how many you got, so you can compare performance when we retest later.


You should aim to complete the entire workout in 10 minutes or less, so check in with yourself as you're working. If you think you won't make it under 10, then adjust the movements or reps and keep going. If it gets to 10 minutes and you haven't finished, stop where you are and take note of the number of reps that you got. Your mission will be to beat that number next time!


And of course, if you experience "bad" pain at any time, abandon the workout entirely and don't look back.


Warm-up:

Please warm-up appropriately before attempting any of this! You'll want to spend 5-10 minutes getting your heart rate up and getting your muscles moving. That means some cardio-type exercise (walk/jog/bike) for a few minutes, then some dynamic motions (not holding static stretches!) to get ready for the movements. Think arm circles, hip circles, lunges, things like that. Here are some nice appropriate dynamic movements to get you started: https://youtu.be/Dy3yB_I9FBA


Workout movements and scaling options:


Push-ups:

https://youtu.be/_l3ySVKYVJ8

Start in a plank with hands on the floor directly under shoulders, feet together, and core tight. Lower your body until your chest touches the ground, then push up to full extension of the arms each time.


Push-up Modifications:

1. Knee push-ups:

Everything is the same, but start with your knees on the ground, not your feet.

2. Box push-ups:

https://youtu.be/nVfiCylxdos?t=93

Push-up off a box or other stable surface (countertop, car hood, etc) instead of the floor. 

3. Wall push ups:

Push-up off a wall instead of the floor. Stand a few feet from a wall, keep your body straight, and lean against the wall with both hands. Bend your arms until you touch the wall with your head or chest, then push off the wall until your arms are straight. You can adjust the difficulty by moving closer to or farther from the wall.



Sit-ups:

https://youtu.be/_HDZODOx7Zw

Lie on the ground with an abmat or a rolled up shirt in the small of your back to keep it slightly arched, with your feet together in a butterfly position. Touch the floor behind your head, then sit up and touch your toes.

Sit-up modifications:

1. Banded sit-up

https://youtu.be/BNcuwGYT21E

Start in the same position, facing a pole or other fixed apparatus with a rubber workout band attached. Hold the band as you go through the situp motion. It should stretch and add some assistance.

2. Reduced range of motion sit-up:

Start in the up position, and lean back for only a portion of the full range - stop half- or partway down.


Wallballs:

https://youtu.be/fpUD0mcFp_0

Hold a medicine ball to your chest, stand about arm's distance from a wall, squat down until your butt is below your knees, then stand up and toss the ball to a target above you. Catch the ball when it returns, and repeat. The standard for men is a 20 pound ball thrown to a 10 foot target, while for women it's a 14 pound ball to a 9 foot target.

Wallball modifications:

1. Reduce medball weight and/or reduce target height. Try to avoid reducing the range of motion of the squat! Stopping the squat above parallel just puts additional pressure on our knees. It's better to use a really light ball tossed just above your head than it is to do only a partial squat.

2. Thrusters:

Grab an object (ball, barbell, potted plant, book, etc), and hold it to your chest. Squat down with it held there, then stand up and raise it above your head. Return it to your chest and repeat. Don't smack yourself in the face with it!

3. Plain old air-squats works as a sub also (see below)

Calorie row:

On a rowing machine, row until it counts 30 calories.

Rowing modifications:

1. Run/jog/walk 400 meters or Bike 800 meters. Feel free to adjust distance - your goal should be to complete this in around 2 minutes.

2. Do 100 jumping jacks, or 200 jump ropes.

Air-squats:

https://youtu.be/C_VtOYc6j5c

Stand with your feet flat on the ground, feet just outside your hips. Keeping your core tight and back flat, lower your butt down and back until your hip crease is below your knees. Focus on keeping your knees tracking over your toes - it may help to think about pushing them out as you do this. Stand back up, focusing on squeezing your butt.

Squat modifications:

1. Squat down to a chair and stand up. Try not to let your body relax when you sit; focus on keeping your core tight and muscles engaged.
2. Lunges. This may be a good option if you have trouble getting full depth in the bottom of the squat. Step forward with one leg, and with your front foot flat on the ground lower your body until your rear knee "gently kisses" the floor. Your knees and hips should form 90 degree angles - be sure to step far enough forward that your front knee does not go in front of your toes, and not so far forward that you feel an excessive stretch in your rear leg as you come down.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas about how to make this workout accessible to you. Please let me or any other coach know if you have any questions! Good luck, and see you on the leaderboard!

-Richard Banister

Kaj Larsen