This a guest post by Tara Claeys (taraclaeys) of Design TLC, LLC. When she’s not working, Tara enjoys cycling, running, watching movies and spending time with friends and family.

Peer reviewed by @boonebgorges.

Total Wellness Challenge site


Ginny Wright started an outdoor boot camp fitness business, Body By Ginny, in Arlington, Virginia in 2003. The business grew and Ginny expanded into nutrition and wellness coaching. As a result, she began offering “Challenges” on printed sheets to her clients a few years later. They could track their daily wellness activities (nutrition, fitness, and mental health) on the sheet, giving themselves points for good behaviors and subtracting points for negative activities. This “game” became popular among her clients, just as online wellness communities started offering similar experiences on websites and apps.

Tara Claeys, a fitness client and friend, offered to help Ginny expand her existing WordPress site by adding a membership component, allow commenting to create interaction between members, and also include the ability for people to track their “Challenge Points” online using a Google Spreadsheet. This was the rudimentary beginning of the online program for her Challenges.


In 2015, Ginny decided to brand her Challenges and decided to launch a separate website for this program, The Total Wellness Challenge (TWC). Her goal was to expand the program beyond her fitness clients and to offer branded Challenges for corporate wellness programs. Tara worked with her to create a multisite installation with BuddyPress and MemberPress that would have:

  • Subsites for individual, private Challenges in corporate and other groups
  • Restricted access to Challenges for members only
  • Allow a “Reflections” commenting page for Challengers to interact with each other
  • Point Logging for 3 components of the Challenge
    • Limit submission to same day after 8pm until next day until 5pm.
    • Allow users to select one day to be a “Free” day where they would receive the maximum nutrition score, no matter what they ate
    • Add a “bonus” point automatically if a user logs 5 consecutive 12-point days
    • Show points for all Challengers on a Totals Page
    • Limits to only one entry per user per day
    • Each category (nutrition, fitness, lifestyle) has limit on max points per day
    • Ability for admin to edit user points on the back end

Tara hired Tom Ransom of One Big Idea to help develop a custom plugin that would connect MemberPress with BuddyPress. They chose BuddyPress because is primed for multisite configuration, it worked well with MemberPress, and is very customizable. Plus, the BuddyPress Groups functionality was a good fit for the separate Challenges. For TWC, each Challenge is a unique BuddyPress Group, set up on the front end by the admin.

The TWC is a point-logging game at its core. Participants keep track of their activity throughout each day for about 4 weeks and must log in to the website each day to record their points. There are 3 components of the Challenge:

TWC groups

1. Nutrition: Players can earn up to 12 points per day. Everyone starts the day with 5 points, and can gain points for positive food choices, such as avoiding white flour, eating 3 cups of greens and drinking a specified amount of water based on their weight. Players lose points for unhealthy choices, such as eating too much sugar, eating processed foods, and consuming more than one serving of beer or wine.

2. Fitness: Players can earn up to 2 points per day. They earn one point for doing 30 minutes or more of exercise per day and another point for stretching for at least 10 minutes.

3. Lifestyle: Players earn one point for posting a daily Reflection on the website, and a second point for participating in the lifestyle challenge of the week. Each week, a different lifestyle activity is listed, including behaviors such as noting 3 things you are grateful for each day, getting 7 hours of sleep, or doing an act of kindness for someone. A maximum of 2 lifestyle points can be earned each day.

Log Points

The participant can go to the Totals page to check their score against other players.

Totals page

Tom’s plugin includes code that directs the PayPal IPN to the respective subsite for MemberPress (MP) purchases. In addition, this plugin adds the new MP user into the corresponding BuddyPress group once the MP transaction was returned compete. (twc-fit-challenges-member-management.php)

TWC custom plugin

Other components of the custom plugin include:

  • buddypress.php: sets up BuddyPress (message for logged out users, custom date picker)
  • Challenges-bp-points.php: Extends BP Group functionality: add_points => adds to database
  • admin-menu-points — UI for front end
  • admin-points — Doing work
  • admin-menus — puts nav in Dashboard
  • twcfit-challenges.php — timezones – offset GMT, returns city timezone (php only reads city)

In addition, a separate twc-utility plugin hides some BuddyPress content that is not needed and redirects login to BuddyPress.

Tara customized the style sheets and some BuddyPress theme files to add a custom button to the BuddyPress Group page, and edited the BuddyPress navigation and styles. For example:

  • activity > post-form.php customized “What is your reflection for the xx Challenge today, name?”
  • groups > single > group-header.php — Adds RESOURCES button to header
    BuddyPress Customization

The site also uses the BuddyPress Custom Profile Menu and Custom User Profile Photo plugins.

Current Status

Over the past 13+ years, Ginny has hired 4 instructors, expanded her business to McLean, Virginia, and wrote the “Good Food Recipe Book” which is available for sale on her website. At this time, Ginny is still deciding whether she wants to invest in marketing Total Wellness Challenge or keep it small, mostly based on word of mouth. The increased competition in this space has made it harder to gain exposure without a large marketing budget.

The Total Wellness Challenge website has been running well for a little over a year. Six Challenges have been conducted so far, and participants have loved interacting with each other. Tara and Tom are happy with the positive feedback on their customized “gamification” of BuddyPress and how it has helped provide additional clients and exposure for Ginny’s outdoor boot camps.

Tara Claeys Tara Claeys of Design TLC, LLC provides custom website and graphic design services, with a focus on creating effective, clean and personal communication platforms for small businesses. Tara has a marketing background, combined with design and website coding expertise. Tara is the proud recipient of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce 2016 “Best Technology Business Award.”
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