Based in Boulder, CO, CrossFit Roots has been a fixture in the CrossFit community since 2009. Owners Nicole and Eric Christensen have grown Roots from a 200 sq. ft. garage gym into an incredible example of a top-tier affiliate. Along the way, Nicole and Eric have created an environment that features top coaches, a strong community, and Games-level athletes.
Roots has held many nutrition and lifestyle challenges over the years, but this year they decided to try something new. You can hear Nicole's thoughts in this video from the CrossFit Affiliate Roundup series, Food Challenges.
Nicole agreed to share her motivations and insights below...
Have you run nutrition challenges at CrossFit Roots in the past? How is this one different?
Nicole: We have run over ten challenges since we opened in 2009. In the past, we have been very active with our athlete's food logs. Each athlete was assigned a coach and coaches viewed their food logs daily through a shared Google Doc. The nature of the interaction was mostly 1-on-1 and through the internet, kind of behind the scenes. The type of challenge was always some combination of Paleo and Zone with varying buy-ins and levels of compliance.
This challenge is different in that we are not reviewing food logs on a daily basis. It is up to the athlete to view the materials, know what they can and cannot eat, and self-report the points earned on the day through a workout we created in SugarWOD. This puts more responsibility on the athlete but we feel they have enough resources (Challenge office hours, Google group message board, and an extensive challenge packet/How To).
What do you hope the challenge will accomplish at Roots? What would be a great outcome?
My goal with any challenge is for athletes to move their meter a little more toward the Fitness side of the CrossFit Sickness, Wellness, Fitness continuum. I find that each challenge, athletes learn 1-3 things that truly resonate and stick with them going forward. Sure, they might slide back a little after the challenge, which is the nature of any focused effort, but they walk away with a few life-changing habits. Package that into a few food challenges and someone can make a drastic change in their health and fitness for the long run.
A great outcome for this challenge would be that individuals learn balance while making a conscious effort to do the best they can everyday. In the past, most of our challenges have been overall very restrictive in nature. Things like eating out on special occasions, going on a vacation, or just wanting to have an off day were things that it was hard to recover from in regard to doing well in the challenge. This time, each day is scored out of 15 points. Should an athlete go out for their birthday and not earn a number of points, they can get right back into the mix the following day. I hope that we find that it's the consistent effort that yields those big changes, not the all or nothing approach from challenge mode to non-challenge mode.
Are you running this challenge "in house" or using outside consultants?
We are running the challenge mostly in-house although we have paired with a few outside consultants to help bring elements of the challenge to life. Basically things that we could not offer at Roots - blood work testing and meal delivery service.
We have done hydrostatic body fat testing in the past, which provided a great indication of LBM and body fat percentage change. One drawback is that athletes started to get very focused on weight loss and lost sight of other potential successes of a food challenge, such as blood markers. We wanted to bring the information under the hood (i.e. blood work) out into the open this challenge and let that be just as important of a gauge of fitness and health as body fat.
We also paired with a local meal delivery service - RADBoulder. We wanted to give our athletes a resource to have challenge-approved meals delivered at their convenience.
How does technology enable this challenge?
Technology doesn't enable this challenge as much as it enhances it. Anyone can read a Paleo foods list and commit to eating them for a month or more - but it's hard, and honestly, not that fun.
Technology, whether it be Google Groups message board or the SugarWOD app, connects our athletes so that they can find motivation from one another, learn from each other, and generally stay motivated. I think the biggest thing SugarWOD has done is keep the challenge effort at the forefront of people's minds. By logging everyday, and seeing the many names that are staying committed, talking about their struggles in their notes, and persevering even on a bad day, we are reminded that we can make dietary changes. In the same way that wen you seen an athlete on the leaderboard making progress and give them a fist bump, you start to notice the folks who are making progress in their nutrition and lifestyle factors. That is motivating.
As a SugarWOD affiliate ambassador, Nicole has provided incredible expertise and guidance for gym owners and coaches. You can find more of her articles here.
Nicole Christensen, Owner, Director, Head Coach
Nicole is a Certified CrossFit Coach (CF-L4), one of a handful worldwide to hold this distinction. She is a wife, Mom of two, and flowmaster for the CrossFit Headquarters Level 1 and Level 2 courses. She oversees all aspects of shop operations and teaches group classes.