The holidays are upon us, the weather is colder, and we are most likely layering on the clothes. With all of the celebrating, we may also be making the switch from jeans to spandex/sweats because there is nothing worse than your jeans cutting into your turkey dinner and Christmas cookies!
- Education- This is crucial and should not be overlooked! The coaches running the challenge should be knowledgable enough in the area of nutrition especially when it relates to Crossfitters. For example, if you are running a paleo challenge, does that mean strict paleo or loose paleo where some dairy (tolerance permitting), beans, or grains are allowed? If it is strict, what is your purpose behind it (know it and explain it to your participants) and how will you prepare your participants before or during the challenge to ensure they are eating enough carbs? Paleo is lower carb and not ideal for everyone especially those that are naturally lean or very active. The importance of protein intake is another topic that needs to be discussed frequently especially since most people under eat in this area to begin with. I think a great way to approach your challenge should be with a focus each week. Pick 1-2 days per week to sit down with your athletes pre or post workout to go over that topic. If this is not an option due to the same coach coaching the next class or you only want to provide this service to the athletes that signed up for the challenge, then perhaps you can communicate via a newsletter, email, or FB group.
- Get Social- As an extension of the education piece, a newsletter or email would work fine, but what I think is an even better idea is a Facebook group. This gives you a place where you can share recipes, articles, tidbits of info, and develop a supportive environment. It is a comfort zone where people can share progress, struggles, and questions. They will realize they are not alone in their struggles and may even be able to offer advice to their fellow challengers!
- Set Realistic Guidelines- In a perfect world, we could all give up alcohol, all forms of bread, and drink enough water each day, but perfection isn’t life so what do you deam realistic? 1-4 servings of alcohol each week (not more than 2 in one day)? Ezekiel or sprout bread instead of wheat or white bread? 1-2 servings of grains vs none? Remember if you provide some flex to your participants, more than likely they will stick with it versus completely giving up.
- Goals- What do you hope your participants will get out of this challenge? How will you know if you are successful? What are your athletes’ goals for the challenge? These are three very important questions to ask yourself/them before you put on the challenge. If your goal is for the participants to have an understanding of macronutrients and how to fuel for performance, then where will you get this information (what credible sources will you use), how will you go about delivering it (in a group setting post wod or in a FB group), and how will you know if they have learned anything (do they apply the info to their new lifestyle)? If your goal is to simply have your athletes lose body fat, then you should be testing their body fat at the beginning and end, looking over food logs, and educating them to ensure they are eating enough so the body fat doesn’t just fly back on after the challenge is over. When you talk to your athletes, you have the opportunity to educate them on goal setting, outcome goals, behavioral goals, and what makes a goal measurable. This will decrease the amount of stress for you and your athletes when your athletes come to you wondering why they haven’t lost the 10 pounds they wanted to lose in a 30 day challenge or to determine if they reached their ambiguous goal of “getting stronger and leaner”.
- Let’s Have Fun- Make this challenge fun! What makes your gym’s challenge different from the others’? Why would people want to do it again in the future? Personally I love learning so that alone would make me want to sign up. Other people like to see progress (before and after pictures are a great tool for this). Maybe you throw a healthy foods party at the end? Get creative with it and that will ensure people will come back again for the right reasons.
There is no one way to put on a challenge, just better ways! Use the tips above and you will have a successful experience and healthy and happy athletes at the end!