It’s Our Right to Play!

November 20 is National Child Day.

This day is a celebration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada and countries around the world celebrate this day as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to ensure children’s rights are observed.

You can read about the rights of all children here. This treaty is the most comprehensive treaty in support of children and was signed and ratified by more nations than any other human rights document in history.

This year, our National Child Day theme is “It’s Our Right to Play!” It is based on Article 31 of the Convention, which says “Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.”

Play is an integral part of childhood. It is how children learn, develop, and grow.

At YMCA Calgary, we will be celebrating National Child Day in the following ways:

  • Lots of play! Games, colouring and crafts, sports, and more.
  • Staff and volunteers in children’s programming will wear blue to show support for the rights of children.
  • In November, our social media feeds (Twitter and Facebook) will share quotes, information, and tips about the importance of play and how to play.

To learn more about National Child Day and the other activities happening in and around Calgary, check out

Let us know what fun things your family is doing to celebrate National Child Day and the child’s right to play by tweeting us a note or photo with the hashtags #YYCPlay and #NCDAlberta!

The Sno-cone Sprint

winter running

Winter running is a different beast, that much is true. There are many different factors you have to consider when heading out into the Arctic surface of Calgary (even in May). The air is colder, your muscles and lungs react differently and your water that you brought with you freezes. Let’s talk about water…or lack thereof in this case.

About to embark on a tasty 16 k run, I felt confident, like a Titan in sea breeze and ocean mist sailing to conquer new lands. Or like the tall guys in the Lorax who made a fortune making Thneeds.

I started the 16 k run feeling good, water bottle in hand. 1, 5, 7 kilometers go by and I didn’t even take a sip of my water. The path was mine and I was tearing it up. I reach 9 k and go to take a sip of my water but I realize the worst has cometh. My water bottle is a brick of ice. Hmmmm….

So I brainstorm. I screwed the lid off and licked the ice…not the hydration I was looking for. Apparently rubbing your tongue across a large ice cube like a puppy dog doesn’t offer a satisfactory level of liquid after running 9000 meters.

Then it hits me! “Well look around Chad! There is hydration everywhere! Hydration falls from the sky!” So I divert off the beaten path and crouch down behind some trees like Gollum from Lord of the Rings in his cave dwelling and start eating all the snow I can shovel into my face.

“I am brilliant! I should win an award for my brilliance,” I think to myself. I start running again, super dehydrated and believing that snow is the answer. Every half a kilometer, I briefly stop and look both ways for judgemental onlookers. Once the coast is clear, I avoid all signs of yellow snow and chow down on the white, fluffy goodness like a badger in the night.

When I get home, I am shaky and not feeling overly well. The dehydration seems to not be solved with my ingenious snow burgers. HOW COULD THIS BE?!

As it turns out, eating snow actually dehydrates a person further because the energy it takes your body to melt the snow is actually more than the liquid you are retaining from said snow muffin.

My advice?

1. Don’t eat snow when you run as it is not beneficial (and you look silly).

2. Don’t use a hydrapack as the water in the outer tube will freeze in under 15 minutes.

3.  Add Gatorade crystals to your water. The water will take much longer to freeze.

4. Use a large water bottle. The more water present in the container, the longer it takes to freeze


Don’t be a night badger or Gollum in the woods. Stay hydrated and stay safe.

What Can Someone Expect in a Private Swimming Lesson?

Andrew D


Thanks for joining me Andrew Daw, the Aquatics Supervisor at the Saddletowne YMCA!

What’s the difference between a private swimming lesson and a regular swim class?

The main difference is that we are able to really get to know the individual and it allows us to work one-on- one with them.  We can quickly identify their strengths are and opportunities for improvement. The good thing about a private lessons is that the student is the boss- people can decide what they would most likely focus on and the instructor will be able to follow through with it on a lesson-by-lesson basis.


What can someone expect in a private swim lesson?

Someone can expect a knowledgeable instructor who is able to identify the needs of the individual. Regardless of someone’s swimming ability, people can expect to grow as a swimmer.  People can expect not only instruction for while they are in the class, but we coach our swimmers individually to practice skills outside of the class.  For example, I will always leave people at the end of their lesson with something to work on before their next lesson.   We see more improvement when people are able to practice outside of the lesson as well.


Who would you suggest sign up for a private swim lesson?

There are a few different types of swimmer that could use private swim lessons. First are those who are uncomfortable around water, and feel like they need someone right next to them as they learn to swim. In this type of a lesson we would go over breathing techniques, horizontal body position and kicking technique. These are essential components in developing one’s swimming ability.

Those looking to improve technique, such as people who want to use swimming as a fitness routine, should also sign up. If people aren’t using proper technique they will not get the most of their swim and will not get all the cardiovascular benefits of a good swim.

Children and youth who are uncomfortable in a formal swim lesson will also thrive in private swim lessons. This may be because they are shy or need that extra one-on-one attention. We have had great success building the confidence of children up to the point where they will feel more comfortable in a group lesson with their friends.

I’ve seen children as old as 14 who have done exceptionally well in a private lesson. In a group lesson they may have been placed with younger children due to their swimming experience; in a private swim lesson we can reach their full potential before they move into a regular class with their peers.


How can people register- who should they contact?

People can contact me at 403-537-2726 to book a private swim lesson at the Saddletowne YMCA. You can also e-mail me at


What would be the best Aquatics-themed costume choice for Halloween?  

Hmm. Ariel [the Little Mermaid -Steve] is always a popular choice.


What would you dress up as if you had to teach a private swim lesson in costume?

I’d probably dress up as Spider Man because I always tell my students when they are doing their back glides that they have to stand on the wall like Spiderman.


Thanks Andrew!


‘Twas the Night

YMCA Calgary has been chosen as the charity of choice for ‘Twas the Night, Calgary’s largest holiday celebration and after-hours shopping event!

‘Twas the Night will be held on November 27 at the downtown shopping centre, the CORE, and all donations collected will benefit YMCA Strong Kids.

Kick off the Christmas season and enjoy a fun night of shopping filled with:

  • special deals from retailers
  • a performance from Juno nominated artist Matt Dusk and his big band
  • a walk down a red-carpet hosted by eTalk’s Tanya Kim
  • FREE parking
  • Spectacular tree-lighting with special lighting effects and pyrotechnics (including a 45-foot Christmas tree!)
When: Thursday, November 27, 2014 | 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Where:  The CORE (TD Square/Holt Renfrew) Valet entrance at 751 3 St SW (Remember, the valet parking is FREE!)
How: RSVP at
What to wear: Feel free to dress holiday retro chic a la the glamorous 1960s. Prizes will be awarded for the most impressive retro-themed attire.

The event is open to all, and is free to attend, although donations are encouraged. Donations can be made online when you RSVP, or  in person at the door.

Last year ‘Twas the Night raised over $60,000 for local non-profit organizations. Let’s see if we can beat that record to help even more Calgary kids get a YMCA experience through the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign!

Encouraging Self Help Skills in Children

A YMCA Childcare participant prepares her snack

A YMCA Childcare participant prepares her snack

As a healthy part of their development, children have a natural drive to be independent and to do things on their own. As children grow and have opportunities to develop their skills, they learn to do more and more independently.

YMCA childcare staff support children in their quest for independence by regularly providing opportunities for them to take personal responsibility. While it can be faster and less messy for adults to do things for children we want to help children develop competencies they can take pride in.

When children practice self-help skills, such as feeding and dressing themselves, they are utilizing their gross and small motor skills, gaining confidence in their abilities and developing self-confidence. These early successes lead to them being more willing to try new things while recognizing that practice leads to skill development.

Ways to encourage self- help skills at home; 

Meal times – Encourage your child to serve themselves, pour liquids into a cup and eat without direct assistance during meals

Dressing and grooming – Allow extra time for your child to dress/undress themselves and to perform personal grooming tasks

Hygiene and toileting- Encourage children as they learn to use the toilet, climb on and off the toilet seat, pull clothing up and down, and wash their hands

Daily chores- Involve your child in age appropriate household chores. Studies show that early involvement leads to greater independence in early adulthood.

Celebrate your child’s success!

Submitted by Margaret Ferriss, Eau Claire YMCA Childcare Director

Sac Dene Presentation and Story-Sharing

Camp Chief Hector invites you to an evening of story-sharing and information about Sac Dene 2015.

Sac Dene is a six-week canoe trip and a two-week counseling experience for 17 year old co-ed youth. Focusing on leadership development, the Sac Dene group travels north to paddle the Mackenzie River, visiting communities along the way. Sac Dene participants, as part of the Leaders-in-Training program, return to Camp Chief Hector YMCA to become part of the counseling team for the final two weeks of the summer.


Hearth Room
Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Center
1320 5 Ave NW, Calgary

Oct 22 | 7:00-8:00pm
RSVP required. Please click here for more information.

*Attendance is not mandatory for Summer 2015 applicants but the night is a great way to learn about the fun adventures coming next summer.

Yoga for Peace

TwoHappyYogis_71426491   yoga pose_114481720

In celebration of the 2014 YMCA Peace Week, Eau Claire YMCA will be hosting Yoga for Peace on Wednesday November 19th from 10:30 – 11:15 and at 12:50 – 1:30.

YMCA Peace Week is unique to Canada.  It originated in 1984 when YMCA Canada decided to add an entire week of peace related activities to follow Peace Day. This year, we will be celebrating our 30th year! Why yoga? Yoga is an innately peaceful activity with the goal of encompassing the overall essence of peace. Please come and join instructors Gary & Pam and be a part of this national celebration!


Fitting Health and Wellness into Your Day

Many people are aware of the health benefits of exercise, but did you know that health and wellness means much more than one hour a day at the gym? If you dutifully put in your hour of exercise, but spend the other 23 hours of your day sitting, you are still considered to have a sedentary lifestyle with all of the risk factors that entails. See the following link for details: Sedentary Behaviour Risks

If you have a sedentary occupation, how can you overcome this challenge? Try getting up from your desk and walking around the office for 5 or 10 minutes every hour or two. You may feel that you’re too busy to add this into your day, however, you will likely find that these mini-breaks increase your productivity when you return to your desk. Walk to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question, rather than phoning or emailing. Even standing up at your desk and stretching once in a while will be helpful. If you are having a small meeting with just two or three people, suggest a walking meeting to your colleagues. Pedometers are an excellent way to track your activity over a day to ensure that you get in your minimum number of steps each day.


Stay-at-home parents have a great opportunity for activity; dance with your children, play tag, go for a walk to the park and push them on the swing. Not only will you enhance your own health with activity, you will set a great example for your kids and perhaps even deepen your parent-child bond!

hill climb

Belly Dance versus Bellyfit: What’s the Difference

Belly Dance versus Bellyfit: What’s the Difference?

Written by Serena Kerbes

Serena Headshot

What is the difference between a Belly Dance class and a Bellyfit class? My Belly Dance classes offer a more cultural and artistic approach to learning dance, focusing on Egyptian styles, learning about music through interpretation, and choreography. This is for women who really want to dig deep into the technique and style of Belly Dance, and get personal feedback from yours truly.

Bellyfit is for women who want to get a full workout utilizing elements of dance, yoga and pilates. Sometimes you just want to take a class where all you do is dance, sweat, breathe, and liberate yourself from the daily grind. If you are that type of person, then Bellyfit is the class for you!

The cardio dance portion of Bellyfit not only uses Belly Dance movements, but also East Indian, Bollywood and African dance. The core and stretch portions are inspired by yoga and pilates.  Bellyfit is one hour of continuous movement flow without pauses in the music, however, I do breakdown each movement in the cardio segments and give students time to get into the rhythm before moving on to the next section. There are also different layers of movement and levels of intensity, so it is up to the student how she wants to use these levels and layers. So the intensity of the class can be different for each women depending on what her goals are.

One thing I have observed from teaching Bellyfit is that it seems to bring happiness to the ladies who have tried it. They are laughing, smiling, glowing and radiant after class, and they feel good about themselves. As an instructor I can find nothing else more rewarding than that. I also feel fantastic after Bellyfit, because I get to do the whole class with you!

If you would like to see what a BellyFit class looks like in action check out the following Youtube video of Alice Bracegirdle the creator of Bellyfit, explaining it in more detail.

Classes are available at the Saddletowne YMCA Wednesday and Friday starting November 5th and 7th respectively, from 5:30-6:30 PM.  Our traditional Belly Dance class still runs on Monday 6:30-7:30 PM; a new class starts November 3rd!

Register today online, or stop by and chat with one of our friendly member services staff.  Please quote classes #96203 and #96213, or #94165 for Belly Dance.