Richard – Why the ‘Y’

Why I like the ‘Y’

I became a senior member of the YMCA in April 2013. I was sixty-nine. My wife persuaded me to join because she thought that I needed more physical activity and social interaction. Or did she just want me out of the house? Regardless of her motives, it was great advice.

A staff trainer, Laura Byford-Richardson, got me started. She balanced my goals with my age, physical abilities and state of health. Three years earlier I had a deadly form of cancer that went into remission after a blood stem cell transplant. So my main goal was to remain healthy and avoid other problems that occur with aging like heart disease and diabetes. She designed an initial program for me and showed me how to use the equipment. And so it began. By last July I was hooked. My body now craved exercise. And then I discovered FitLinxx. It goaded me to do better. It got my dormant, competitive juices flowing again. I actually wanted to beat the monthly performance of other members. And I did occasionally earning words of encouragement and praise from Laura.

It is now fifteen months later. My physical goals have been met. I have lost substantial weight. I have lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol to safe levels. I can sustain long, strenuous workouts. I feel more alive. I have no new health issues and my cancer is still at bay.

But how have I done socially? The staff and the community atmosphere of the gym gave me the confidence to meet other members. After all, we shared a common interest, the pursuit of physical fitness and we saw each other frequently. Our brief hellos have led to conversations and in time, to friendships.

And that is how I met Fran. We ran into each other when we were both headed to the same weight machine. Somehow this encounter led to war stories about shoulder injuries and the beginning of a new friendship. We wound up doing our cardio together in a corner of the gym with Fran on the Cross Trainer and me, beside her, on the Stationary Bicycle. Like a typical male, I thought she was going to slow me down. Then I found out that she was a former Masters competitive swimmer, still swims two miles per week and spends hours at the gym using most of the weight machines. It was I who was going to be the laggard. But Fran is gracious and she always makes time for our cardio workouts.

People on Cardio Machines
When we exercise together we have conversations on a wide range of subjects: life, family, health, etc. These conversations inevitably descend into moments of breathless laughter. Fran is very funny. We also encourage and advise each other. And so the time passes quickly and the physical exertion seems less demanding. Exercising with a partner like Fran adds fun to an experience that sometimes can feel like work.

And that is why I like the ‘Y’.

Richard Cross
South Health Campus YMCA
July 2014