Thursday, December 9, 2010


“Village People” connotations notwithstanding, I love the YMCA. It’s the best health club I’ve ever found.

My YMCA, the Shelby County Family Branch in Pelham, Alabama, is housed in the most architecturally-interesting modern building I’ve seen in this county. It has a good-sized, well-configured weight room, a bright, spacious exercise room, a spinning room, a stationary cycling/treadmill room, a tiled steam room, a wood sauna, an indoor pool and an outdoor pool!

There are day and evening adult classes in Spinning and Water Aerobics (high and low intensity), along with high-energy Aerobics classes with names like Bodypump, Bodyjam, Bodystep and Bodyflow, plus Pilates and Yoga! The locker rooms are clean and well-appointed. The staff is friendly and professional, and the clientele are a cordial and like-minded community of people who like to exercise.

My husband and I pay $56 a month to be members. This, my friends, is a deal.

I swim at the Y a few times a week. I started when I was engaged in the battle to lose 30 pounds -- a battle I won, thanks in part to the swimming. I’m not a great swimmer, but I love to swim. In the winter months when the frigid air discourages me from walking, I swim laps for exercise.

I start my regimen in the steam room where the moist heat soaks into my creaky joints and hydrates my skin and my breathing passages. Then I return to the locker room and do my stretches at the barre in front of the full-wall mirror. Based on the yoga I learned back in the day, my stretching routine is as important to me as the cardio and muscle workout I get from swimming or walking. Stretching makes me more flexible and improves my posture. I like to think it makes me more graceful – it certainly makes me more relaxed.

After the stretch, I swim my laps, interspersed with a couple of sets of a Deb-designed water exercise that tones my residual ab-flab. Last, I sit in the sauna and soak up the heat. The whole routine takes about an hour, and I always leave feeling great.

Depending on the timing, sometimes I share the pool with the kids on the YMCA swim teams. They inspire me – they’re fast and they’re strong. It pleases me to see young people committed to the discipline of a strenuous exercise program, and I commend the parents who facilitate this.

If you’re thinking you could stand to lose a few pounds – or a lot of pounds -- may I recommend the YMCA? If you’ve been thinking it for some time, saying it to friends and family, making excuses to yourself and everyone else, and feeling lousy because you can’t catch your breath, move without a twinge, or zip up your jeans – then may I say, “Quit whining and do what you know is good for you.”

Exercise, sensible eating habits, and perseverance are all it takes.

Follow these two simple steps:

1) Start.

2) Don’t stop.

You’ll feel and look better, I promise. Give it 3 weeks and you can call me to complain if you don’t see a difference.

Whatever your exercise of choice, you’ll find what you need at the YMCA. It’s affordable and there are branches everywhere. See you at the Y!