Chris Wulff is our guest blog poster this week. Read about her experience with our January group Whole30 challenge…

You’re at least a little curious about Whole 30. I know you are because you’re reading this. But you’re also in training which means you don’t have a lot of time to read articles by non-experts. So I’ll cut to the chase: just try it, seriously.

However, if you do have a couple of minutes and you want a reason why you should try it, then get a beverage and read on and I’ll tell you about my experience of Whole 30.

When Heather first mentioned that she and a few others were going to try a Whole 30 challenge in January I was intrigued. You see back in September I’d started taking group exercise classes at Phoenix. While I made some progress in my overall fitness, it was difficult to be consistent. Repeated injuries and poor recovery kept me in a “one step forward two steps back” nightmare. I was starting to think that multi-sport is for the genetically gifted only which is to say not for me. After seeing little to no physical progress and lots of physical therapy bills, my mind was in a very defeated place. To be honest I was starting to feel like a loser. So when I heard about Whole 30 it seemed like something that I could do to regain a sense of self-control and accomplishment. That’s the whole reason I tried it.

At the outset I didn’t at all believe the claims made by the program that it would change my body or outlook on food. All I figured was it was something that, with some work and discipline, I could accomplish to convince myself that I could achieve a goal. Surely, I thought, it would be less taxing on the body than side planks or a TRX circuit. Now if you know nothing about it at all, the Whole 30 plan is fairly extreme. For thirty days you promise yourself that you will not eat any dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol or sugar. When I first read up on it my heart sank. No dairy for thirty days? Are you kidding me? I will die (no really, I actually thought that). But they are not kidding and on January 2nd I began this last ditch experiment to help restore my sense of self-esteem. To help give myself the best possible chance for success I did pretty much all the prep work they suggest (clean out your pantry, tell some friends, join a support group – in my case the Phoenix Whole 30 Face Book group, and subscribe to their daily emails which by the way are pretty much dead on when it comes to helping you understand all the physical, mental and emotional changes that you go through on this). Within days of starting I noticed changes in my body.

Now keep in mind I was doing this as a psychological/emotional/spiritual exercise. I wasn’t looking for or expecting any kind of physical benefits out of this. In fact I was honestly half expecting things to potentially get worse for me physically without my beloved dairy. I was wrong. Within days of starting I noticed that the near chronic pain in my lower joints went away. Being well over forty, and having had multiple knee surgeries I’d always assumed that those pains were mostly a result of aging and basketball – apparently not. After a week and a half, I no longer needed the near daily ice baths and ibuprofen to keep me going. Then I notiwhole30ced that I was sleeping better – not necessarily more, but the sleep I was getting was more restorative. About three weeks into the month I cheated a little and got on a scale (you’re not supposed to do that but curiosity got the better of me) and was stunned to see that I’d lost eleven pounds. Losing weight hadn’t even been on my radar screen when I began, but it happened anyway. Food started to taste differently. Now that I’d reset my taste buds away from sugar, everything gained a complexity that I’d not noticed before – especially fruits and vegetables. Finally the thing that stunned me the most was my recovery after workouts — in that I was actually recovering and getting stronger between workouts. In fact so much so that I was able to make all my planned sessions without injury. The icing on the cake was doing a step test with Heather a few days after the Whole 30 was over and discovering that my heart rate had dropped over twenty beats per minute for the same pace I ran back in September. That was absolutely astonishing to me. Here I’d started this journey just hoping I could say that I had the discipline to finish something, and now I was staring at aerobic max and pace numbers that I could hardly believe. I never expected on January 2nd that I’d discover that this middle aged body still had the ability to rebuild itself.

So what’s in the future? Well, one shouldn’t stay on this regime forever. It’s far too restrictive and there are lots of great and nutritious foods on the forbidden foods list – did I mention the dairy thing? However as I transition into a more life-long way of eating I will take what I learned with me. First, lots and lots of lean protein is your friend. Second, fruits and vegetables are not tasteless. Third, the modern day supermarket is full of sugar land mines just waiting to trigger out of control inflammation and so I will be ever vigilant when it comes to reading labels. Finally, I discovered that with supportive friends and some hard earned discipline the human body and spirit is capable of surprising us every single day.

See you at the finishing line! Now if I can just figure out how to stuff an orange in my jersey pockets ……..