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'This place is magical': Denver gym offers community for sober and 'sober curious'

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Posted at 10:39 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-04 00:39:01-05

DENVER — January is always a busy month for gyms and fitness centers, as many of us kick off the new year with new goals. A recent Forbes Health survey found that improving fitness is the top priority in 2024, with nearly half of respondents selecting it as their New Year’s resolution.

Just like any other gym, The Phoenix in Denver is well equipped to help with that goal, with group classes ranging from yoga to CrossFit to rock climbing and all the necessary gear free to use. But it is also the home of a community pursuing a less common but growing resolution.

Like the mythical bird it’s named after, The Phoenix is a place to be reborn and get a fresh start from the things that have been holding its participants back.

“The Phoenix is a sober active community,” explained Mason Morgan, a CrossFit instructor at the gym. “It’s completely free. We supply everything. If it’s rock climbing, we’ll have a harness for you. If it’s biking, we’ll have bikes for you. Whatever it is, we supply everything. All you need to do is show up in the proper attire and have 48 hours of sobriety.”

Building strength and endurance is the name of the game at The Phoenix. Participants find mental and spiritual power by pushing their limits physically. For them, Morgan said, fitness can serve as a sort of “healthy addiction.”

“This place is magical, for sure,” Morgan said. “It’s helped a lot of people way more than it’s helped me, and it’s helped me immensely.”

In any class you visit, you may run into athletes ranging from 48 hours to decades without drugs or alcohol. Provided you are there to help others in their sobriety journey — however long it’s been — you are welcome.

“The Phoenix is just about rebuilding your life and creating it to be, you know, a healthy version of whatever you want it to be,” said participant Ashlee Uden.

“I can, like, meet with a bunch of friends who are also sober, and have that in common with me, but we don’t have to make it about being sober,” agreed fellow participant Bethany Biggerstaff.

It’s a relatively small group cutting drinks and drugs out of their lives. That same Forbes Health survey found just three percent said they plan to drink less alcohol this year. But The Phoenix calls itself a place for both the sober and the “sober curious,” welcoming those who have been sober for years as well as those who are giving Dry January a try.

“I love The Phoenix so much, but it’s not like the workout specifically that really makes me come here every time,” Uden said. “It’s the people. It’s the community, the connection that I have with my friends here at The Phoenix. And I think for anybody in sobriety, that’s so important. People need that. People need people in life.”

'This place is magical': Denver gym offers community for sober and 'sober curious'

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