Are You Up For The Santa Cruz Challenge?

santa cruz challenge logoIt’s now the middle of February — how’s your New Year’s resolution to exercise more going?

If you were already wary by the time you read “New Year’s resolution,” then the Santa Cruz Challenge may be just the thing for you.

When LeTa Jussila and Michelle Bean, owners of Optimal Health and Fitness here in Santa Cruz, started the Santa Cruz Challenge three years ago, they knew that not everyone likes working out in hardcore environments like the one their business offers.

Dr. Michelle Bean and  LeTa Jussila, owners of Optimal Health and Fitness

Dr. Michelle Bean and  LeTa Jussila, owners of Optimal Health and Fitness

“We know that bootcamp isn’t for everybody,” Michelle says.  “There are so many amazing local fitness studios in town and we are always referring out to what would seem like a good fit for our clients who don’t have an interest in our classes.”

With that in mind, Michelle and LeTa started the Challenge, a twelve-week health and fitness program that offers a variety of different workout classes, from endurance training to yoga to dancing at the Palomar Ballroom.  For Michelle, the amount of options are key for distinguishing Santa Cruz Challenge from other fitness programs

“The idea is that everyone finds a form of physical movement that they enjoy and that doesn’t feel like the often dreaded ‘exercise’.”

Among the benefits of this multifaceted approach — each week has a different fitness theme — is that it encourages participants to step out of their comfort zones in unexpected ways.

Santa Cruz Challenge 2014 Poster“The mere adventure of the program makes it a huge success,” Michelle says.  “One of the comments I hear the most from Challengers is ‘I never would have tried that (insert fitness activity) without this program.'”

Participants who follow through on their commitment to attend certain classes are entered into a raffle to win gym memberships, movie tickets, and more.  But the Challenge isn’t all about physical workouts.

“Health is not only about fitness,” Michelle says. “We know that when people are stressed out about finances, or relationships, or can’t figure out how to manage their time in the most efficient way, or any other stressor in daily life, than they are less available for optimal health.”

The Challenge hosts lectures and workshops to help participants deal with these factors as well.

Although each person can customize their own fitness regimen, the Challenge is far from a solo act.  Michelle says that over 40 local community businesses contribute in some way to the program, and the “Challengers,” as she calls participants, bond in the process of growing healthier.

Santa Cruz Challenge Running on the beach“They begin to form accountability buddies and LeTa and myself are in communication with our Challenges almost everyday as we participate along side with them,” Michelle says.  “The Challengers form a community and camaraderie amongst themselves.”

Last year, LaTe and Michelle scaled back the program to eight weeks, which Michelle saw as being less optimal.  The Challenge will return to its original 12-week format this year, starting on Saturday, February 22nd.  The pair hope to eventually expand the Challenge by sharing their expertise with other communities.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Michelle says about her experience with the Challenge. “The program is getting better each year.”

The Santa Cruz Challenge costs $599 per person (group discounts available). It starts Saturday, February 22nd, which means you have a week left to register here.  To learn more, visit the Santa Cruz Challenge website or watch the video below:

Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Challenge

About Blair Stenvick

Blair Stenvick is a freelance writer who has lived in Santa Cruz for four years.