Small Changes, Big Results

Two years ago, I had an epiphany.

image (3)I realized that I was purely existing and not truly living. I had a three-year old son that I needed to take care of and I didn’t feel like I was doing my best by being a good role model for him. I grew up an overweight child and it pained me that still, at age 36, I hadn’t yet figured out how to be healthy.

I almost always had the desire to be a healthy person, so much so that I majored in Health Studies in college and graduated with honors, although I could never get it to work in my life. One day, while driving, I thought to myself that I would probably be dead by 40 if I didn’t truly change my life. I decided that I needed to “Be There For Ben,” and from that day on, that has been my mantra and my motivation.

My journey began when I read about the Y’s Weight Loss Challenge Program in their program guide. See, I had been a member for years, but I only worked out a handful of times during those years. I used our membership primarily for the wonderful children’s programming. This time around though, I wanted to to make time for me. After all, if I wanted my family to be healthy, it had to start with me. So I registered for the class and, even though I was terrified, I took the biggest and hardest step of my life—walking through those doors. By doing so, I met Kevin and Lisa Hir, who, while I did not know it at the time, would change my life forever.

Their Weight Loss Challenge class was incredible. They are the “no nonsense, no excuses”-type but they GOT IT. They both had personal, compelling success stories that resonated with me. I knew I had to be willing to change if I wanted to have a better life for my family and me, so I committed to doing what they said, even if I didn’t want to for the entire 12-week program. This meant following a certain food plan and journaling everything I ate.

It also included weekly weigh-ins, an education session on nutrition and exercise and, lastly, weekly group workouts. With our first workout, Kevin led us in a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) style workout and I was terrified. I honestly did not think that I would be able to finish. He showed us modifications and, somehow, some way, I did it. After class, we huddled as a team and he told us he was PROUD of us. I broke down in tears. That was a life changing night for me.

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Member Profile: Mark McGaffic


IMG951430Determined to lose weight, Mark McGaffic tried it all. Exercise. Trendy diets. Weight loss programs. You name it. Mark simply wasn’t seeing any results. That is, until he signed up for Nutrition for All and the Get Fit Challenge at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA. Because of these weekly classes, Mark has undergone a complete transformation. In 2014, not only has Mark lost 60 pounds, he’s also completed a triathlon—a feat he could’ve never possibly imagined.

“It’s been phenomenal. I’ve loved the journey,” he said, while sitting in the lobby of the Avery Y. With a slight grin on his face, Mark paused and added, “Shirts I bought that I was disgusted buying, I’ve now given to Goodwill.”

Mark’s transformation began in January when he started Nutrition for All, a 12-week class that helps members eat right and stay healthy. He took on a paleo diet, kept food journals and completed weekly weigh-ins. With the support of instructor Julie Miller and his peers, he cut 30 pounds.

By springtime, Mark’s momentum hadn’t let up. He began the Get Fit Challenge, continued the paleo diet and started prepping for his first triathlon. By this point, Mark had shed upwards of 50 pounds. In August, Mark’s hard work paid off when he completed the Naperville Sprint Triathlon.

“I’d have to say, I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he said. “The triathlon itself. The training. Working with Julie Miller and the group. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

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What is Nia?

“What is Nia?”—That’s the million-dollar question, says licensed Nia instructor Kendra Dicker-Deutsch. Is it a dance class? A martial arts program? Well, according to Kendra, it’s both. In fact, Nia even draws inspiration from yoga. Nia, which is now offered at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA, is perfect for those looking for a change of pace, but still want to focus on cardio, strength and meditation. Learn all about Nia in our Q&A with Kendra below:

How would you describe Nia to someone who has never heard of it?
Nia is a fusion-based fitness class that combines the fun of dancing and expression, the power and intensity of martial arts and the meditative feeling of yoga.

To what ages would you recommend this program?
I think it’s great for any age. I found it in my late 20’s. Nia is perfect for anyone who is looking for a cardio workout that is fun, gentle and healing for the joints.

What kind of movements do you do?
We have so many routines that have their own flavor and feature their own style of music. Nia is based in seven cycles. We work to get your body moving as to how it was designed, usually focusing on a body part or a sound.

What else should be our readers know about Nia?
It’s a time to connect with yourself. Nia blends so many things into one class—cardio, meditation and strengthening. Each hour hosts a variety of expressive movements. We don’t simply jump into high intensity. We take time to warm up the joints so that the body is ready to go and ready to move.

Video Profile: Jesse Chavez

Jesse Chavez completely transformed his life at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA. Because of classes like AM Boot Camp, Jesse went from being overweight to becoming a fierce competitor. For a closer look at Jesse’s amazing transformation, watch the video above, which includes testimonies from YMCA instructors Kevin Hir and Kristen Derengowski, and of course, Jesse himself.

Member Spotlight: Angela Townsend

YMCA member Angela Townsend has made quite a transition since she began coming to the Y, and she has seen amazing results. Below, she describes her past, talks about Y staff, and tells us why she hasn’t weighed herself in more than six months!

My story is simple and not too different from others. I never thought about my weight/figure during my younger years. I always ate whatever I wanted and I didn’t think twice about it. Sweets were my weakness and still are. I don’t know what it was that forced me to get off the couch, but thanks to a good friend, Marenda Eison, who put me in check, I’m looking and feeling the best I have in years.

Thanks to the C.W. Avery Family YMCA’s awesome staff and classes, it’s been “easy” to get fit. Kristen Derengowski has been my teacher and whipping me into shape. She puts us through the wringer, but makes it fun at the same time. It’s great to change it up to target different parts of the body, so I’ve tried to take advantage and get into whatever classes I’m available for.

I’ve also slowly modified my eating habits. I’ve gone from candy bar snacks and ice cream EVERY night, to kale smoothies, double servings of veggies and significantly less sugar. I say “forget the scale”—I haven’t weighed myself since October 2013. Be proud of yourself and be satisfied when you start to see and feel a difference—even if you haven’t reached your ultimate goal. Enjoy the view while you’re on your road to greatness!

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