Going to the YMCA: So Far

Abby slid from the backseat and raced me across the grassy meridian in the parking lot towards the front doors. It felt good to run- my legs stretched and quickened. Beanie was already inside, racing ahead and hiding between the water and pop machine in the foyer like he does everyday. I’ve learned to keep my ID cards in my pocket rather than fishing around in my purse every morning. The kids each like to scan their own cards, and the lady at the half-circular desk usually smiles and humors them. She hands me my clean white towel, and the kids are already at the daycare gate, printing their names on small stickers in green marker. They know the routine by now.

Since that first day in early, frosty January, we’ve established a new normal for our family. The kids know that four or five times a week, we’ll be here. Rain, snow, hail , ice or fog, makes no difference. They’ve made friends in the children’s center, and the leaders know their names and greet them with smiles. We’ve watched the nursery leader’s belly swell from a bump to a baby ready to be born. We’ve climbed rocks and played basketball and triumphed Beanie’s fear of the water-slide and getting his face wet.

I clip the little laminated number to my shirt that claims my children and head to the locker room. At first I was invisible. Or at least I wanted to be. Now I walk in the locker room with purpose, no longer afraid. I grab a locker in my favorite row, toss my stuff in, shove my iPod down my shirt, grab my water bottle and towel, and head upstairs. Today I am going to step it up.

At the top of the stairs, I see familiar faces, and equipment that not only doesn’t intimidate me anymore, but some of it I really genuinely love. Making my way across the vast semi-circular room, I grab my chart from the rolling drawer, and attach it to a clipboard. My trainer, Heather, who has also become something of a friend and cheerleader, worked out a training program for me, and I have a clear list of how many and what to do each day. It’s exactly what I wanted that first day- someone show me what to do, and I will do it. They did, I do, and it’s working.

Heading to the the bank of elipticals, I see my yoga teacher talking to Heather, and I stop to chat too. We have kids that go to the same school, and I really like her. She’s a powerhouse of strength and the cadence of her voice is soothing. She heads off to the rowing machine for some cardio, and I jump on my second-favorite eliptical. The Foo Fighters cheer me on from my iPod.

Ten minutes later, I’m good and sweaty. Thats been a pleasant surprise- the sweating. I never used to sweat. I hated to sweat. I would do anything to avoid it, and actually I don’t think my sweat-glands worked very well due to disuse. Now, after almost 3 solid months of working out, they work great, and I actually love the feeling of heating up. I check my heart-rate on the little handles, and then jump off and head to the weights. In a course of 20 minutes, I move through 12 stations, and then back on the eliptical. Then I repeat the whole thing again. By choice. I only really have to do it once, according to my map. But like I said, today I was stepping it up, and I did a total of 30 minutes on the eliptical and 40 minutes on the weights. I thought I was going to puke when I finished, yet I’ve never been so pleased with myself.

My legs are shaking as I wobble down the curving staircase and back to the locker room. In my ears, fed by thin white wires, Iz Kamakawiwo’ole serenades me with his divine rendition of Over the Rainbow. I feel high, in the best possible way. This is the real payoff. Yes, I am losing weight. Actually, a lot of weight. But the real payoff, besides looking better in my jeans, which is not to be understated, is how fantastic I feel.

I can run through the park with my kids now, and I’m not out of breath. My back almost never hurts anymore. I sleep better. I’m happier. My kids are moving more. We go swimming together. I’m not dieting, only eating healthier, because I’m valuing myself more. I refuse to diet. Ever. And all this started because I was terrified, but did not want to be invisible anymore.

I am so grateful for the kind people who helped me and showed me the way. I am grateful that the YMCA is a family-friendly gym and there are people exercising with every shape and type and age of body. I love the salt and pepper-haired gentlemen who are pumping iron right next to me, and their sweet silver wives, who have their own iPod’s while they walk on the treadmills. I love that you must dress modestly and not wear booty-shorts to work out at the Y, and that you get two free hours of child care every day, while you work on getting healthy.

I love that I can do my custom workout, or jump in any one of a dozen classes. I can go swimming, or do Zumba, or kick my own butt in the stair-stepping class with crazy yelling mic’d lady (who also happens to be very nice) When I get a little braver, I’m going to try to rockclimb myself. The boys love it, and when Abby turns four next month (I know!) she can try it too.

So far? So far, so good.

{Back in January, I wrote an essay about my first trip to the Y. That essay got noticed by the powers that be at YMCA HQ in Washington DC. HQ requested permission to link my piece to all the Y’s in the country. Yeah, all of them. The feedback has been tremendously positive and I’ve made some new friends. The really nice woman in DC has asked to reprint my essay as part of a training program they are instituting to catch the people like me, that first day, and keep them from falling through the cracks. I am not being paid to say this: The YMCA really cares about making the population healthier, and they are looking for ways to better serve the community. If you’re looking for a jumping-off place to take care of your whole self, the Y is a great place to begin.}

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33 thoughts on “Going to the YMCA: So Far

  1. You know Tracy, you are an amazing writer. I’m surprised that was the first time someone solicited you to have something published all over. You have a ton of talent.

  2. You get a trainer AND a towel?? Okay, my Y officially sucks.

    Well, not really. I actually love the Y too (although haven’t been there in a while—went running this week, and ouch is the word of the day). But I don’t get a towel, not even when I forgot my towel and asked at the front desk. Having towels available would be really, really great, and would cut the size of the bag I haul to the Y by half!

  3. I love you and i love this. i’ve said before that hearing your gym stories are hugely motivating and inspiring to me. I hope you will keep sharing them.

  4. Tracy, okay you’ve convinced me, I need to check out the Y. I’m taking a weightlifting class at school which I love but it ends in May, then what. Several people have said that given my lack of income I may qualify for help with my membership. So when we get back from Utah for Spring break I’m going to bite the bullet and go check them out. Thanks for the push!!

  5. As I was reading this, I was thinking how great it could be if the powers that be at the Y could see what a positive influence they’ve been in your life. So I was happy to see the epilogue.

    And I agree, your gym stories are very motivating. What a wonderful thing this is for your little family.

  6. so happy for you! good stuff. wish i had a Y closer. though i think i’m pretty close to those DC headquarters! :)

    keep it up. so proud of you. as i’ve said, an inspiration.

    A

  7. Thank you for this! I just went to the school track and walked two miles, while my son had t-ball practice. It was hard, and pretty much sucked. This gave me hope that eventually it will get better! I just have to keep going back!
    Thank you!

  8. Congratulations! I love my Y as well. I was hoping they’d paid you for the essay, or at the very least given you a year free membership or something! Maybe you should suggest it.

    It’s great that you’ve made it part of your life, now. It makes you feel better in so many ways to exercise regularly. Particularly the improved quality of sleep is wonderful. And of course how it makes you look and feel. But even more than the extra stamina, I like how exercising regularly makes me like my body more. Not even because of how it looks, because it works right away before my looks have changed at all. But just because of how it feels to live in it. Exercise seems to connect your body with your mind and spirit more, and just make the three get along a lot better and be happier with one another or something. You know what I mean? I love it!

    I’ll be so glad when I get well so I can exercise again. That’s one of the things I miss the most since I’ve been sick… well, having an income was nice too, it’s true. =) Keep up updated on how your workouts evolve. Oh, but, if you feel like you’re going to throw up, you might want to ease off a little. Exercising until you throw up, as I said to someone else on facebook today, is kind of like using your smoke alarm as a done-timer in baking.

    • LOL, Tatiana- yeah, I don’t plan on making it a regular thing. But it was kind of awesome to push myself that far. I feel so much stronger than I did even two months ago. Our bodies respond so quickly when we start taking care of them.

  9. What a wonderful expression of your appreciation for a comforting place and people that have helped you. I have similat experiences with the Y. National recognition? You so deserve it. Your writing is always a joy to read no matter the subject. Congrats on all!

  10. Oh, you make me miss the Y in Indiana! It has all the great features you mention, it was a wonderful way for me, as a newbie, to plunge into the gym routine.

    I’ve found other great gyms too, but where we live now in PA the Y is not somewhere I’d take my kids. It is run down, dirty and poorly staffed. It does provide great community activities for the inner city, but I wish the inner city could have the kind of Y I had in an Indiana suburb.

    Your description of the benefits of exercise is spot on. I don’t necessarily exercise to loose weight – I do it to be happy, feel good, and to accomplish more in my life. The weight loss is the cherry on top :)

  11. I am on several blogs where people are praised for their writing and most of the time I feel like the praise is overkill, but not here. I feel like you deserve all the kudos you get – you have the ability to say things in a way that makes me wish I had the same gift. Often when you describe an emotion I feel like I know where you’re going to go with it, but then you surprise me and mold it to sound even more clear, more raw, and make even more sense. I hope someone DOES pay you soon!

  12. Tracy,
    I’ve had the same wonderful experience at the YMCA — my kids love it, I’ve made some wonderful friends, and the physical, mental, and emotional benefits are amazing. Your writing is wonderful, as everyone else has mentioned. I hope to see you at the Segullah retreat this year!

  13. What a delightful resource! I want a Y. We’ve only got the city-run club which panders to the wealthy and a glorious private club with atrocious pricing. The one has a family price for a family of four ($119 + $119 = you’ve got to be kidding/month) At the other, you pay a membership fee for each person, details to be revealed at the end of a long tour through the facility. They both have totally different goals than the Y. Or at least the goals that are the same are overshadowed by their exclusivity.

  14. I loved the first time at the gym essay. I’m not a fragile person normally but the day I had my “free consult” with a trainer and had my fat pinched was one of my lowest days. E-ver. But you are totally right, once you exercise and eat well for the way you feel and how you are–you don’t ever want to go back to that sludgy life again. Or at least not for very long. Give yourself a ha-uge pat on your back!

  15. You are a gifted writer. So many mediocre writers out there get paid. Your life is compelling, especially the last few years. ;) But honestly, that’s not why I consciously seek out your posts, here and elsewhere.

    It’s the writing. It’s a joy to read such good writing. I’d read and buy anything you write.

    Huh. This comment is feeling vaguely creepy/stalkerish. But it’s hard to praise enough. Bet you could write this comment and pull off the praise vibe without any creepiness.

  16. You continue to inspire so many of us. You have such an amazing way with words! When we move after this baby comes, I am certainly going to check out the new Y up on Hwy 2! Thanks to you I am extra excited!!

  17. Congrats to you and your success. Every day we have people walk through the door feeling the way that you do and I just wanted to thank you for telling your story and allowing others to know that they are not alone. I have the best career ever! I work for an organization that wants to change lives. You are an amazing person and again THANK YOU for sharing your story. May God bless you, your family and your journey to healthy lives.

  18. Hi Tracy,
    Congratulations on your success! I will share your updated blog with our Y team out here in Los Angeles. What you wrote about how you can now “run in the park with your kids” and “will not diet! Ever!” That is so wonderful. You must feel so good! We’re all proud of you. We hope to use your story to help our teams train their empathy muscle (as it were) and ensure that our Y’s have a supportive environment, recognizing that many people share your fears, but may not have your conviction to “no longer be invisible!” Well done!
    Jennifer

  19. Your original blog was mandatory reading for all our staff in Central Kentucky. As we sharpen our work with health seekers (and really aren’t we ALL health seekers?), your message was and remains a vibrant reminder of the power of the YMCA and our amazing members! Keep going!

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