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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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!

Running For The Right Reason

2014 MS Run The US photo me and Mom

Kelli and her mother Peggy.

This summer, YMCA member Kelli McDonald will run 142 miles over a six-day period. For those counting—that’s almost one marathon per day. Kelli, a long-time athlete turned triathlete, was one of 16 runners chosen to be a part of MS Run the US, a relay across America that benefits the 2.3 million people that are affected by multiple sclerosis worldwide.

To prepare for this event, Kelli has been training nonstop at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA since January, sometimes twice per day. She’ll continue to train until July 7, the day she departs from Davenport, Iowa, beginning her 142-mile trek across the state of Illinois.

The seven months she spent training will finally pay off when she reaches her final destination in downtown Joliet on July 12. There, in her hometown, Kelli’s journey will come full-circle, when she crosses the finish line with her mother and biggest inspiration, Peggy, who has battled MS for 25 years.

“I just think about what my mother has to endure everyday. What I’m doing is nothing,” Kelli said. “She lives with pain everyday. She lives with numbness and fatigue—24/7. Every day is a challenge for her.”

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