Jose Santa Cruz woke up early on a recent morning with a serendipitous thought. He wanted to do a sunrise workout. And he wanted to do it somewhere beautiful.
Just after 3 a.m., he left his Manitou Springs house and started the hour-plus drive to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. He had all he needed for a full-body workout: a custom-built piece of wood and some resistance bands.
It’s a morning some Colorado adventurers might recall as “epic.”
Santa Cruz, who moved here in March, used a different word: “Emotional.”
The sight of the stars and the sunlight and the rock formations, he said, overwhelmed him. His surroundings had a lot to do with creating the “beautiful moment.”
So did that piece of wood. At just 8 pounds, it gave him the freedom to work out at Red Rocks or Garden of the Gods or his house or anywhere else. That’s why it’s etched with the words “Workout Whenever Wherever.”
Santa Cruz built the fitness board himself, after searching for ways to ditch traditional weightlifting while still maintaining muscle.
At 31, he had lifted weights since his high school years. For many of those years, every lift brought pain, left over from breaking both of his wrists. One break came from getting shot in the arm in 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.
“From being in the military for so long, my body has been put through the ringer,” he said.
He didn’t want to end up more broken. By early 2020, Santa Cruz had already been researching ways of building muscle without lifting. Then, shortly after he moved to Colorado Springs, gyms closed down amid the coronavirus pandemic. He didn’t really like going to the gym anyway, since the outdoors is his “happy place.” As an infantry officer with the Army, he still needed to find a way to stay in shape.
“Guess what you’re going to do,” he said to himself. “You’re going to figure this out.”
He decided to give resistance bands, those colorful stretchy exercise ropes, a try. But while there’s a long list of exercises people can do with just the bands, that wasn’t working for Santa Cruz.
“When I would try to do a full leg workout, my feet would move all over the place,” he said.
He got the idea to build something to help keep his feet stable. Luckily, he had already turned his garage into a makeshift woodshop.
After some trial and error, he crafted a fitness board with four rectangular slots for tying the bands in different formations.
“I was my own test dummy,” Santa Cruz said.
Over time, his joints started to feel better. The wrist pain was gone. And, he loved being able to take his workout outside.
“It was changing my body,” he said. “And it was working for me.”
He thought it might work for others, too.
In September, he launched a business around the fitness boards called Fitmilia. The name borrows part of the Spanish word for family, honoring Santa Cruz’s Paraguayan and Argentinian roots.
Santa Cruz teamed up with TimberWolf Design & Woodworking to manufacture the boards, so that the founder can focus on building other parts of the business.
For now, that means showing off the beauty of his fitness board via short videos with beautiful nature in the background.
“I’ve never felt so much joy being able to go on adventures while being able to work out,” he said. “I think it brings a lot of joy to my life.”