By Jennifer LeDuc
Right about now, statistically speaking, eight out of 10 of you reading this article will give up on a New Year’s resolution. According to a 2015 U.S. News and World Report study, by mid-February most people who set life-changing goals – be it in career, health, relationships, financial – shift their thinking from the jump-start, can-do mindset in January to slouching, slacking, excuse-making couch potatoes just in time to tuck into that box of Valentine’s truffles or make a second pass at the box of donuts in the breakroom (no one has to know you brought them in).
Luckily, you live in one of the healthiest states – if not counties – in the entire country, which means you have more resources at your fingertips to commit to a healthy lifestyle (if you already don’t) than nearly anywhere else. Jefferson County is only second to Denver in the number of fitness-centric facilities in the state, edging out not only uber-fit Boulder County but Arapahoe, El Paso, Adams and Douglas counties as well. In fact, the approximately 240 fitness facilities in Jeffco offers nearly twice as many options for residents as the entire population of West Virginians (which may or may not correlate to it consistently ranking as one of the least healthiest states).
So you can’t blame the coal mines or lack of options for what’s stopping you from getting, and staying, fit this year. Perhaps it’s lack of awareness into your options. While it may seem like there’s a fitness center on every corner – and in some places there may be – how many have you tried? Fitness centers are like stretch pants: no matter what they say, one size does not fit all.
Rec centers and big-box facilities offer more of a homogenized and price-conscious setting and although personal training sessions are available, the individual is mostly left to use equipment and create a regimen independently.
Boutique gyms – smaller facilities with a bit more esthetic and flex appeal – are on the rise. Though pricier, they offer a more intimate, attentive environment that typically revolves around a session with a small group and more opportunity for personal attention.
Fitness Together is a small, one-on-one personal training franchise. Pueblo-native David Dias owns the Edgewater location. The former high school coach agrees that in order to stick with a fitness regimen, be it at his facility, a rec center, kickboxing or Crossfit, it needs to be the right fit. “Not everyone who comes through buys in,” he said.
For some, stepping on a scale, checking your heart rate or staring at yourself in the mirror while beads of sweat glisten on your bat wings – er, triceps – is neither pleasant, nor motivating, even with someone like Dias encouraging you on. One industry study revealed 67 percent of memberships go unused, meaning two thirds of the multi-billion-dollar industry profits are made by people just giving up.
Which is why one fitness program, despite stereotypes, has defied the trends and competition and boasts a seven-year average retention when other gyms hope a member sticks around for six months.
Founded in 1969, Jazzercise, the “original dance party workout” is not, as instructor and franchise owner Missy Ahr assures, about leg warmers and leotards – because she knows that’s what just crossed your mind.
It is also not about weigh-ins, mirrors or monitors, and although many of the attendees at a recent mid-morning class in the very unsexy gymnasium of the Wheat Ridge Anderson rec center were grandmothers, Jazzercise fuses cardio, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and dance, and will very much kick you in your gluteus maximus, and you will probably go back for more.
As a guest at Ahr’s class, I joined a group of nearly twenty women who sashayed, kicked, sweat, crunched and pumped for an hour. After 10 minutes I was seeing stars, at 11 minutes I was exhausted, and on or around the third round of side-kick-lunge-ish maneuvers, I could only laugh. The woman in front of me appeared to be in her late 50s or early 60s. She had the poise and rhythm of a trained ballerina and the body of someone who stayed as fit. Another woman to my left modified her moves as it suited her and offered a supportive smile and understanding “it’s ok” when I apologized, worried I was throwing her off.
Kimberly Giles, 53 of Edgewater, was 80 pounds heavier in 2006 when she tried Jazzercise. A “yo-yo dieter,” Giles was hooked. She admits she stepped away from Jazzercise to try out other programs and a gym, but she was unmotivated. She came back. “This is the only thing that keeps it off.”
Christine Meyer took her first class when she was 28 years old and eventually became an instructor. Now 65, the Golden resident has few, if any physical complaints, and doesn’t supplement her Jazzercise regimen either. “You don’t have to do anything else if you do this regularly,” said Meyer. “You’ll see for yourself: you’re going to be worked out from your neck to your toes.” She wasn’t exaggerating.
It was evident speaking to many of the women at class that the program wasn’t intimidating or competitive yet there was camaraderie, and enthusiasm from the instructors, to stay motivated and challenged. There are no spin-off products to buy into and its month-to-month annual rate and class availability makes it a commitment without pressure, but as Ahr reflected after class, it’s a promise of an hour of the day spent feeling good, and that means many of her classes see between 30 and 40 attendees .
At Fitness Together, Dias recounted asking a former boss to share the secret to his success. “Just love them,” he told Dias. “He told me ‘If we take care of them, they’ll keep coming back. And here, it’s more than just jumping jacks,” Dias said of his studio’s personal approach. “If we can maneuver our way into someone’s heart, that’s what gets people to grow. I want someone to try and become more confident, and a lot of times it takes going deeper into the psyche.”
An initial session with Dias is really an introduction to each other, and Dias assesses not just physical condition, but mental and emotional, while exploring what the individual’s goals are.
Finding that right fit can be the fun part. Most facilities offer a free initial session or discounted day pass to give new customers a feel before committing, making it possible to experience several facilities in a week – provided you aren’t too sore.
Club Pilates, with locations in Edgewater, Lakewood and around the country, offers a free half hour intro which gives some meaning to the complicated system of ropes and pulleys that is Pilates. From there, guided exercises at varying levels help to develop one’s core strength.
At Break the Stigma Fitness Studio in Wheat Ridge, however, one needs an invitation. Described as the first cannabis-friendly fitness facility in the country, Break the Stigma Fitness was founded by in 2017 Jennessa Lea after suffering through years of illness and subsequent opiate addiction from pain management of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – a connective tissue disorder.
Since Break the Stigma is on private property, one must be submit an application for an invitation to a drop-in session or membership. From there, you can experience yoga, high intensity interval training, and cardio classes infused with cannabis and nutritional and training support.
With so many stereotypes and misinformation surrounding the benefits of cannabis, Lea explained, she is passionate about providing an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to explore what she experienced in cannabis’ benefits as a fitness and life-changing supplement.
Whether you’ll find motivation through a group or one-on-one training, the fitness options in the metro area are vast. Exploring new approaches and adventuring beyond the dreadmill may make the difference between the resolve to reach your fitness goals, or reaching for an extra donut.