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Colleen Werner of Lulafit: “Give yourself permission”

Give yourself permission. It’s also important to remember that taking time for yourself is ok. It’s more than ok, it’s necessary. When there are so many competing priorities, it can be tough to feel comfortable taking even a moment for yourself. If you’re looking for permission, let me give it to you right now. You’re […]

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Give yourself permission. It’s also important to remember that taking time for yourself is ok. It’s more than ok, it’s necessary. When there are so many competing priorities, it can be tough to feel comfortable taking even a moment for yourself. If you’re looking for permission, let me give it to you right now. You’re not a bad employee/parent/spouse/friend if you take time for yourself. In fact, it makes you a better one.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Werner.

Colleen Werner is the CEO and Founder of lulafit. After a decade as a professional ballet dancer and suffering a serious foot injury, Colleen Werner pivoted to earn degrees in Kinesiology and Dance. She turned her attention to the wellness industry where she noticed something wasn’t quite working.

People can quickly go from being active and engaged to stationary and unhealthy because of their careers. When work doesn’t offer a sense of community or focus on wellness, people get disconnected and multiple aspects of their lives suffer.

So, Colleen built a team to help solve this problem.

With the help of lulafit, organizations and communities have an opportunity to take an active role in wellness. To become a thriving culture where engagement and retention improve. Their people are empowered to be their best instead of getting burned out. And all done through programs promoting physical, mental, and social well-being at work, at home, and anywhere in-between.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Prior to founding lulafit, I was a professional ballet dancer for over a decade. Being a dancer helped shape my entrepreneurial spirit as the creative side of my brain pushed me to launch my own health and wellness company. One of the most important disciplines you can have as a dancer is to manage your health, fitness, and wellness, and I have always carried that mentality with me. Unfortunately, after an injury, I had to take a break from dancing professionally. I had been teaching fitness and wellness classes at different luxury condo buildings and offices across Chicago. One of my clients introduced me to the management of their building, and they hired me to run their entire wellness program. From there, I incorporated not only fitness classes into my offerings, but mental and social offerings as well, and lulafit was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

At the age of 3, I felt like I had found my calling with ballet. As a teenager, I was dancing professionally, living away from home most of the time, and traveling the country. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had suffered a major foot injury, undergone knee surgery, and ultimately was in physical therapy twice a week, permanently. Towards the end of my career as a dancer, I started lulafit. I was a solopreneur at the time and was enjoying the side hustle, but still focused on dancing. Over time, as injuries began to pile up and another surgery was on the horizon, it became obvious I wasn’t going to continue at the professional level without risking long-term damage to my foot. I was absolutely terrified at what would come next. Like most professional athletes, being a dancer wasn’t just my career. It was my full identity, and it had been for my entire adolescent life. I didn’t see myself as anything else, especially an entrepreneur.

But I had to stop dancing. With all of the energy I had put into my dance career, I poured myself into my very small business. And it began to grow. And grow. And grow. It grew 400% the first year I retired, and I was in over my head and needed help. I began to hire and scale, and pretty soon I realized that everything I had ever learned from being a dancer, made me an entrepreneur. I was born an entrepreneur. The skills that set me apart and allowed me to be successful in a crazy competitive world of ballet were the same things that made me successful as a business owner.

It’s often easy to overlook what we’re good at and focus on what those skills produce. For me, it was my personality and drive that made me a good dancer, not just my physicality. I think it’s important to reflect on not only what we’re good at, but why. Give yourself credit for that. And if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, but feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs and successful business people wear their workaholic tendencies as a badge of honor. It’s hard not to look at these people and think you need to be completely miserable, sleep-deprived, and void of any social life to be successful. I spent a couple of years working this way and as I look back, I don’t believe it needed to be this extreme. Of course, you need to work incredibly hard to be a successful entrepreneur, but you also need to prioritize your own mental, physical, and social health to be a high performer. I know, you’re probably asking yourself…doesn’t this woman run a company whose mission is exactly that? Yes, I do. And yes, I was so busy focusing on the success of my wellness business that I completely forgot to take care of my own wellness. Luckily, some people close to me stepped in to support me as I found a better balance, but honestly, I’m still working on it every day.

Over time, my belief in what we do at lulafit has grown stronger. Our bodies are the most sophisticated pieces of technology we are ever going to own. We must treat them as the high-performance machines they are. Recharge, refuel, and constant tuning. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to dedicate my career to helping other people overcome their own wellness challenges.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

To say there has only been one person along the way who has helped me would be an understatement. I have a beautiful network of friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs, clients, employees, investors, and mentors who are consistently there for me through thick and thin. I learned early on that the only qualification for being an entrepreneur is being willing to fail. Everything else you must learn on your own. I decided to start collecting people, a team, around me to help me fill in the gaps where I needed assistance.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I truly believe in the idea of doing well by doing good, but you can only do well if you feel good yourself. Our aim at lulafit is to help people live well, work well, and be well to empower them to make a positive impact. A “positive impact” can mean something different for everyone. Perhaps it’s with your children, your community, or your job. But our goal is to help people feel their best so they can have the energy they need to make their positive impact on their world.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Give yourself grace. I’m the first to admit that as a former ballet dancer, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I’m also a brand new mom. What I’ve learned over the years (and am currently re-learning with a newborn at home) is that you need to give yourself grace. As a wellness founder, people often expect that I must have an extremely balanced lifestyle. Often, I do not. To build this company I have had to oftentimes pour myself into work and not focus as much on my well-being. Right now, my world is completely consumed with work and a baby. Yes, it’s important to take care of yourself, but we also live in the real world and it’s important to recognize the cycles we go through in life and ride those waves.

Give yourself permission. It’s also important to remember that taking time for yourself is ok. It’s more than ok, it’s necessary. When there are so many competing priorities, it can be tough to feel comfortable taking even a moment for yourself. If you’re looking for permission, let me give it to you right now. You’re not a bad employee/parent/spouse/friend if you take time for yourself. In fact, it makes you a better one.

Give yourself support. I’ve seen countless times that successful well-being comes from having a supportive network. If you’re striving to find wellness in your life, bring your family and friends with you! Encourage your partner, children, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to join you on your mission. Instead of taking a 10-minute walk alone, call a friend and ask them to join you.

Give yourself time. If you’re like me, nothing happens without it being on my calendar. So block it off and prioritize it like you would any other project or deadline. When you’re in a moment of high stress or limited time (or maybe you’ve been in that “moment” for a decade or two), don’t forget that spending 5–10 minutes a day on something good for yourself is enough. If you have 5 minutes to make yourself a healthy breakfast or practice mindfulness or walk your dog, that is enough. Ask yourself, what do I really need today? Perhaps it’s connecting with someone socially on the phone or a quick conversation at lunch with a colleague that isn’t about work. Whatever time you have, take it!

Give yourself some fun. We’ve all had that moment where we’re about to sit down to force ourselves to meditate and 37 seconds in are reminded that we hate to meditate. Maybe it’s working out for you. Maybe it’s eating spinach or perhaps even socializing in large crowds. When focusing on your well-being, you shouldn’t be suffering. That tends to have the opposite effect! So while I recommend pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone once in a while, it’s also important to make wellness enjoyable. Personally, I find it difficult to sit still and meditate, so I do it during my yoga practice. I’m highly encouraged when working out with friends, but if you send me to the gym on my own I have a hard time staying focused. When I find myself discouraged to do anything, I know getting outside is the cure for me (social, mental and physical). Find what works for you and find what you enjoy!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Failure is the best part. It’s where you learn, where the best ideas come from, and how ultimately, you’ll be successful.
  2. Develop your core purpose. Something that will drive your business forward for the next 100 years, even if your products or services change. That is what will get you and your team up every day.
  3. You’re most likely going to need to make some pivots (which doesn’t mean abandoning your core purpose). Sometimes what got you here, won’t get you there. Don’t get married to things that aren’t important.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need whether that’s help, an introduction, money, support, or anything. You’re going to need other people, and that isn’t something to be ashamed of.
  5. You don’t need to be an expert in everything. You can hire people for that. If you’re doing a good job, you’ll constantly be firing yourself from every role in your own company.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Absolutely mental health. Over the last year, I’ve seen many people in my personal and professional life struggle with their mental health. Being locked down in a pandemic is incredibly difficult. Lulafit found one of our partners, Boon Health, to first offer mental health coaching to all of our employees as a benefit. Later, we launched them as a partner in our APP so all of our customers could have access to coaches and therapists.

If we don’t do a better job at prioritizing mental health as a society, we will not be able to conquer other major issues like the environment, sustainability, and more. As employers, it’s more important than ever to put this at the forefront of our benefits and encourage our teams to be open about their emotional and mental health.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

  1. Instagram @lulafit 
    https://www.instagram.com/lulafit/
  2. Facebook at @lulafitconcierge 
    https://www.facebook.com/lulafitconcierge
  3. Linkedin @lulafit
    https://www.linkedin.com/company/lulafit/

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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