“I’m a Vegetarian (or Vegan). Can I do the Whole Life Challenge?”


In case you missed it, we’re participating in The Whole Life Challenge again, an 8-week diet/fitness challenge that starts September 15th. I’ve heard a lot from Vegetarians and Vegans asking if they can/should participate.

The answer to both (IMHO) is yes. Crossfit LA member, Vegan, and two-time Challenge veteran Danette Rivera wrote a great post on the Whole Life Challenge site about her approach and it applies to everyone taking the challenge, not just the Vegans and Vegetarians. She captures the spirit of The Challenge and prescribes a psychologically healthy approach. The Challenge isn’t about “The Perfect” diet. It’s a restrictive diet that causes most EVERYONE to consider their existing habits relative to their desired habits and be deliberate about what you consume along with prioritizing healthy movement on a daily basis. I doubt many exit The Challenge adhering to the confines of the diet long-term. But I bet most exit having adjusted their diet and fitness habits positively, with more knowledge of what’s *in* that thing they’re buying at the market or ordering at the restaurant, and prioritizing regular exercise higher than they did previously.

No matter what your current diet is, you can participate in The Whole Life Challenge. It will be a Challenge for you, just as it will be for everyone else. And that’s the point.

I hope you’ll join us. If you’d like to, please simply join the Facebook group. Once you’re approved in the group, click “Files” inside the Facebook group. Signup instructions are there.

More to come!


Bones Brigade: An Autobiography

Please take a read of Bob’s post regarding the release of Stacy Peralta’s new film, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, before you read the below. Done? OK! Carry on…

Laurent Martinsky and me outside Penguin Point, Goshen, Indiana, some time in the 80s

My first skateboard was a present from a boyfriend of my mom at age seven, a green plastic little thing with “HOT DOGGER” imprinted on the top. I rolled around a bit but it didn’t mean much, auspicious but just a toy. Later, at twelve or thirteen, I saw some kids skating on and around a park bench on the University of Michigan quad when visiting my aunt in Ann Arbor. For me, coming from Goshen, Indiana at that time, Ann Arbor represented all things cool, from Schoolkids Records to Middle Earth, and seeing these dudes jumping off/on the bench was pretty much the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. It was a brief moment but one that changed the course of my life. My eyes opened as wide as my jaw and I knew there was more to what they were doing than just playing around. They were part of something athletic that didn’t resemble team sports at all; in fact it looked more like an assault on the city than an organized sport. It took some time but on a different family trip to Colorado months later my parents succumbed to months of begging any dropped ninety dollars on a real skateboard, in this case a Santa Cruz “Special Edition”.

In Colorado just after the purchase of the aforementioned board but clearly before I was ridiculed for bringing “bermuda shorts” to Goshen, Indiana. Thanks, mom, for texting me this photo after reading this post. xoxo

I took that board back to our small town in Indiana where, as far as I knew, I was the only person with a skateboard. I skated solo for a couple of months trying to figure out what to do with it, but with no example of what you were supposed to do with a skateboard the best I could conjure was the ability to go up and down a curb on my own. One day my step-dad came home with a copy of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine he’d picked up at the Hallmark store in town. It was like getting a manual to another universe where *EVERYONE* rode skateboards, dressed differently, and listened to punk rock. I couldn’t believe what was possible with what my parents considered to be my new “toy”. Armed with this print portal it was easy to recruit my two best friends, Nate Weaver and Kris Kurtz into the “we ride skateboards” club. One issue of Transworld turned into a subscription, followed by a subscription to Thrasher, and we were hooked. Skateboarding was our all-day every day mission.

Me and the family VCR in our living room, late 80s, Misfits shirt, Skate Rags shorts.

We were an early-adopter family. My step-dad had a Denon CD player when about the only thing you could get on CD was Dire Straits, and we were quick (among Goshen families) in the VHS “movie rental” market, too. The first movie rental place in Goshen was a tiny one-room house across town from us with a very limited selection. Who knows why, then, they ended up with a copy of The Bones Brigade Video Show, but they did. Seeing this flick was the next revelation our little skateboard trio. Taking the photos from the magazine and MAKING THEM MOVE was magic. Not only could you see how tricks were actually done (for a while we thought an ollie involved jumping off of something onto your board) but it gave the people we’d seen in the mags a personality. We were already all-in but seeing The Bones Brigade Video Show for the first time further cemented our allegiance to the world of skateboarding. I don’t remember which of us was first to get Future Primitive when it was released but you can bet we had it as quick as we could get our Indiana hands on it and all watched it DAILY as skate-spiration. When The Search For Animal Chin was released it was an EVENT, we would have skated to Chicago to get an early look if we could have.

Me, to 5-0, Goshen Public Library, late 80s

Living in California now it’s tough to recall how we were treated by our peers for dressing in clothes we mail ordered from skate mags and riding skateboards all over our small town. High school expanded our ranks a bit, adding Jason Kincaid, Andy Hoffer and a couple of others who had been on a similar path on the other side of town. While we were still a total skateboarder population of less than ten, we were devoted, started early, and both Kris and Jason were genuinely talented athletes. If they would go to contests anywhere within driving distance they would take 1st and 2nd place. Yet we were hated at home. “Fags”, “Gayboarders”, etc. While they held a press conference for Rick Mirer when he chose to go to Notre Dame to play football, my friends and I weren’t even allowed to bring our skateboards to school. One night I had a real and scary near miss with a classmate trying to hit me with his car. I think he meant it. We couldn’t have felt any less welcome and supported.

Me, up and over, Parkside Pharmacy, Goshen, Indiana, in the 80s

In this way it’s accurate to say we felt closer to the characters in the skate magazines and videos than we did to our own peers. It’s an allegiance I carry with me to this day. Most of the best people in my life I’ve met through some connection to skateboarding in one way or other. For skateboarders my age the first three Bones Brigade videos were the lingua franca of the time. I’ve spent my years since meeting people who grew up in situations exactly like mine and the scenes, tricks and lines from these Bones Brigade movies are one piece of an incredibly common language.

All of this to try to give some perspective on just what it means for me personally to see Stacy Peralta releasing his new documentary on the Bones Brigade team using Topspin. Stacy and that team were guiding lights for us growing up. That we could repay in any small way by helping him release this film in a way he finds empowering and in-line with the ethos of skateboarding is humbling and overwhelming. It’s hard not to feel like it’s all a part of some universal plan.



ps – I want to take this opportunity to give a little shout out to our own Bones Brigade from Goshen, Indiana. Nate Weaver (far left, above) is now a video director living in Pasadena.

Jason Kincaid (center, above, method air, below) is now known as Pastor Kincaid and you can see him shred weekly at First Assembly of God in Goshen, Indiana.


Kris Kurtz passed away a little less than a year ago. I wish I could share this with him now. Please enjoy a few rad photos of Kris from the 80s, and pour out a little for him this evening.






Kris and me at our 20 year high school reunion, 2010.

pps – The person I would have emailed Bob’s article to very first would have been Adam Yauch. As the resident skateboarder and filmmaker in Beastie Boys, he would have fuckin’ loved this for all the right reasons. Damn.

Whole Life Challenge Signup Starts This Week

Below is an email I sent to the folks who expressed interest in joining us for this fall’s Whole Life Challenge. If you, too, would like to give it a go, please get in contact with me (Tweeting @iancr would do the trick, so would leaving a comment below) and I’ll send you signup details.


Thanks for your interest in joining us for the Whole Life Challenge! I sincerely hope you’ll join us. Please feel free to invite anyone you think might both benefit from it and take it seriously. Just forward them this email as I’ll include some basics about what WLC is and how you sign up below. Please note that proceeds from our team (signup for the 8 week challenge is $45) will be donated to Pablove so not only are you doing something great for yourself but you’re donating to a great cause by participating in this fall’s challenge. THANK YOU.

Whole Life Challenge begins! GAME ON!

Brief background: Whole Life Challenge was developed by Michael Stanwyck and Andy Petranek who run Crossfit LA. We at Topspin were introduced to it when Chris Carlson in our office announced he was doing it in the spring. 14 of us at Topspin participated in the spring and for at least a few of us it was life changing. Better eating and exercise habits and fitness all around. When Michael and Andy announced they were building new software for it and taking it beyond just Crossfit LA I asked if we could participate again. Because of our relentless enthusiasm, they are letting us lead a challenge as if we were one of their affiliate gyms. I’ve had a lot of folks ask me about what I’m doing fitness-wise and where they might begin; THIS IS IT. The Challenge works not because of any gimmicks but for 3 simple reasons:

  1. Simplicity.
  2. Accountabilty.
  3. Community.

More on that below.

Signup: Now! [Get in contact with me if you’d like signup instructions]
It costs $45 and proceeds from our team will be donated to Pablove. http://pablove.org/

Challenge starts: September 15th. We’ll have a preliminary here in Los Angeles on September 16th (please mark your calendar — details forthcoming). If you’re local, please join us to kick it off proper like. Details forthcoming. If you’re not in LA, don’t worry, you’ll be able to participate from afar just fine.

Join the Facebook group: This is the place to share recipes, post goals, frustrations, etc. http://www.facebook.com/groups/270712833043356/

What is The Whole Life Challenge?

Being human in the 21st century means a battle between biology and abundance, and the result (for most of us) is being less fit than we’d like to be. The Whole Life Challenge is an 8-week diet and fitness game that, when followed, will change your lifestyle in enough ways to make a difference. The goal isn’t a score of 100% and it’s unlikely you’ll adhere to the rules of the game 100% when it’s over. But you’ll discover some things about yourself and find some new, better habits to be sure, from better food choices to more regular exercise.

“Challenge” is the appropriate word. It’s not complex, but it’s not easy. It’s work, but rewarding. Personally I believe it works because:

  1. The rules are simple, black/white. It’s not about calorie counting. It’s easy to look at any food and simply answer yes/no to the question of “should I put this in my mouth”? Also, the answer is never “no”, but the answer may be, “if you do you’ll lose a point…”
  2. You’re accountable. It’s funny to find yourself eating better because of a silly game, but it happens.
  3. Community is built-in. We’re all in this together, and help each other along the way. Researchers studied a number of diets side-by-side. Which diet someone followed didn’t correlate with success. They all worked or didn’t work, equally well. What correlated with success was which of the dieters had a support group. Fact: changing your lifestyle is easier when doing it with friends and loved ones.

How does the scoring work?

There are a maximum of six points per day. You get:

+1 point for doing at least 10 minutes of exercise in a day
+1 point for at least 10 minutes of stretching/mobility
+1 point for taking fish oil (more on that later)

You start the day with 3 food points and lose 1 point any time you eat something on the “NO” list. The lowest score you can get in any one day is 0.

The NO list:
No grains or starches (except legumes and sweet potatoes/yams)
No corn or soy
No sugar or sweetener of any kind (this includes honey, agave, etc)
No alcohol
No soda
No juice
No dairy (except butter)
No artificial or processed foods

Additionally, there will be weekly bonus points that can be earned.

So wait, what DO you eat?

Don’t let that list of NOs scare you away. It shouldn’t. Challenging existing habits is the name of the game, after all. Does it mean you’ll stop eating grains and dairy forever? No. But if, over the course of 8 weeks beginning September 15th, you exchange your boxed cereal breakfast habit for eggs + veggies and start choosing the salmon + veggies option at the restaurant instead of the pizza/pasta you’ll be making a change for the good. It’s not that you’ll NEVER eat those things but you’ll find yourself making conscious choices to dive into the NO list instead of habitually eating things which aren’t great for you.

Is everything on the NO list evil? Definitely not. They’re on the list because it’s easier for most people to have a very clear NO list than it is to moderate their habits, particularly under stress. Beyond The Challenge I HIGHLY recommend Ben Greenfield’s Food Pyramid, the best science-based “what to eat” list that celebrates moderation and says “NO” to nothing except things which are truly bad for you: http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/01/why-the-food-pyramid-is-wrong/

To try to help answer the “what do I eat” question, share, and maintain some accountability for myself, I started a diet/fitness blog at http://fitfulayen.tumblr.com. Take a browse and you can see some of the things I’ve changed my diet to. Note some of them will go away for me during the week of the challenge. But most of what I eat on the daily is challenge-friendly now. Croissants at Topspin yesterday? I skipped ‘em and went for some fruit instead. Lunch meeting? I’ll have the salad plus protein, please. Breakfast? No more cereal for me, thx. I haven’t stopped drinking yet, but I’ve definitely cut way back.

My advice: give it a try. It won’t be easy but I’ll tell you from experience, it’s freeing and feels great. It’s great to feel healthy and in control, and I feel more of each now than I did before. Also, my overall knowledge and awareness relating to my health/fitness has gone up which can’t be a bad thing. That’s what The Challenge is all about in my humble opinion. Don’t get too caught up on the particular rules. Take it as a challenge, a puzzle meant to change habits for the better. It’s 8 weeks. It’s with a group. It’s, well, challenging. Challenges are fun and rewarding.

Thanks for joining us. It’s honestly an honor to get to change our lives for the better together.


Whole Life Challenge Returns This September, and You’re Invited

Regular readers know about the 8 week fitness program a few of us piled into earlier in the year, The Whole Life Challenge. It changed quite a few habits (for the better) for me personally and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why it worked so damn well. Bottom line: it has the ingredients needed for people to make meaningful change: It’s simple (oh, it’s HARD, just not COMPLICATED), a support community is built-in, and it keeps you accountable.

I was really excited to learn the great folks who invented and host this, Michael Stanwyck and Andy Petranek at Crossfit LA, are taking it wider, to Crossfit gyms everywhere. I’m not a Crossfit gym but I make up for that in enthusiasm đŸ˜‰ so they’ve agreed to let me sign people up as if Topspin *were* a Crossfit gym.

So, if you want to change your life with 8 weeks of improved diet and fitness come September, hit me up and I’ll get you the information to get signed up under my group.

More info to come.