During the lethargy of summer, I have virtually zero guilt about setting aside my responsibilities and goals for a pint of Sweet Action Ice Cream’s salted butterscotch and a few hours of Grey’s Anatomy reruns. It’s when the back-to-school commercials start that I begin feeling an itch to cross projects off my to-do list, and shake up the complacent routine I fell into when the broiling heat zapped all my energy. The change doesn’t need to be groundbreaking; it could be jumping into (and vowing to stick to) a new workout program or simply figuring out a better way to balance my responsibilities. And one of the best parts about the Denver area is that it’s full of brilliant and motivating people and organizations who can help me—and, of course, you—make that shift. These are two of my favorites:
For Physical Wellness: Fitlosophy’s 6 Week Comeback Program
Colorado native Angela Mader struggled with an eating disorder for seven years before she found solace in journaling, that crazy concept where you write about your feelings—and it actually helps! (Plenty of studies, including this one, have found journaling improves mental and physical distress.) In response, she launched Fitbook, a journal that helps you set fitness and nutrition goals and track your progress.
That was 10 years ago. Mader and her company, Fitlosophy, have both evolved since then; they now sell products such as calendars, sticky notes, and yoga mats in addition to journals, and Mader moved to California in March to try to grow her business even more. But her first priority is still helping those in pain, which is why she launched a six-week fitness program, also in March, designed to help those recovering from injury, depression, and other stressful situations. In fact, she was motivated by a traumatic experience in which a stranger barged into her house and attacked her with a large piece of wood. (Seriously.) “I had these moments when I’d be laying there in bed, scrolling through Instagram, seeing killer workouts and booty shorts and six-pack abs, and I’d just want to walk without hurting,” Mader says. “I’m trying to give people permission to step back a little bit and just do some healthy movement that’s good for your body.”
The program’s 62-page e-book is broken down into three phases: starting to move, building strength, and sweating more. Each stage includes five days of workouts that vary from total body conditioning and arm-focused exercises to Pilates-yoga fusion and a wicked booty burn, all created by certified personal trainer Erica Ziel, who helped Mader get back on her feet after her horrifying assault. The routines last just 15 to 20 minutes and include suggestions for both easier and harder modifications. Ideally, you’d have access to a kettlebell, light dumbbells, and a resistance band, but Mader says you could do the movements without any equipment and still reap the benefits.
The program sets aside Saturday for your choice of cardio and Sunday for recovery and relaxation, whether you do that by getting a massage, reading, or, of course, journaling. “Coloradans don’t rest on the weekends; they’re heading up the mountain and boarding or skiing or hiking or bouldering all weekend,” Mader says. “When your ability to do those things is taken away from you—if you have a baby or get injured on the mountain or heaven forbid you lose someone you love—if you don’t have an outlet to process life, a lot of times it will set you back. That’s why I’m trying to turn little setbacks into a big comeback. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can always choose our response to it.”
If all that wasn’t enough, Mader also partnered with food blogger Katy Allan to create 24 healthy recipes that come with the program and added a social component through a private Facebook group. The most impressive aspect, though, is the price: just $39.99. “We don’t want it to be cost-prohibitive,” Mader says. If you buy a Fitlosophy journal within the first 24 hours of purchasing the program, Mader also knocks the price of the book down to $10. (Normally, Fitlosophy journals are $17 to $22.) And that means the only barriers to feeling better are your own mental blocks.
For Mental Wellness: 7 Weeks To Bliss
From a distance, it seems like Jacki Carr has got it made. She lives in a cabin in Evergreen with her bearded, flannel-loving husband and an adorable two-year-old daughter also named Evergreen (and a baby girl who’s just as cute). She spends a good chunk of time taking women on “goals hikes,” as a way to smell the pine-fresh air, share inhibitions and dreams, and develop new friendships with fellow pioneering females. She leads workshops on goal-setting and happiness-finding with her best friend, Mary Beth LaRue, a blonde, bohemian yoga-instructor/goddess who’s graced the cover of Yoga Journal and regularly teaches at Wanderlust festivals. I believe the phrase “What is your life” is the appropriate response.
But the best part about Carr is that she’s honest with herself about how she gets off track sometimes. And she wants to make it known that it’s OK if you veer away from your values, too—as long as you find them again. “If I’m not living my own values, I’m most likely living someone else’s, and that gets you really ungrounded,” she says. “Realizing that sometimes shocks you or leaves you confused, which is actually great if you want to disrupt your life.”
Step one to disruption is joining 7 Weeks to Bliss, Carr and LaRue’s seven-week all-women program that helps you figure out what’s most important to you and how to spend more of your time embodying those core values. Each week is themed (“root,” “embody,” “create,” etc.) and includes corresponding exercises, journal space, a playlist, and recommended reading in a provided PDF workbook. For instance, week one asks you to come up with your top 10 and then top five values, define them, and journal about whether you’re aligning your life to the things you care about or not. (We know, it sounds a bit New Age-y, but trust us: We’ve tried it, and it’s an incredibly cathartic exercise.)
Every Monday night, participants jump on an hour-long conference call, go over what they’ve taken away from the previous week, and learn about what chakra they’ll be working on next. If you’re busy, never fear; you can listen to the recording of the call when you have time. If you’re shy, no worries; you can just sit quietly and let others share their anecdotes. There’s also a private Facebook page for each edition of 7 Weeks if you’re more comfortable posting about your troubles or goals there. And you can even choose to partner with one other person in the group, dubbed your “bliss accountability partner,” to talk individually about how you’re progressing. “When I sign up for stuff, I get really excited in the beginning,” Carr says. “But if there aren’t touch points or different ways for me to learn, I don’t do it. That’s why we worked on creating an accountability system and a lot of ways to make sure the program lands right on time for everyone.”
7 Weeks does cost $300, but scholarships are available for those who can’t afford the sticker price. And you have access to all the components forever; Carr tells of women who have gone back through the program for a second or third time on their own to see how their mindset has shifted. Unlike Fitlosophy’s comeback program, which you can join at any time, 7 Weeks typically takes place about four times a year. The next sessions, titled the Back to School edition, start on September 11—a good day for us all to reevaluate what’s most important to us.