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An exercise in friendship

Three longtime friends at the YMCA share the tools they’ve used to stay healthy, encouraged and conn

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Jeanie Smith, right, does pectoral fly exercise and Denise Grimes, rear, does chest press. Jeanie Smith, right, does pectoral fly exercise and Denise Grimes, rear, does chest press.
Jeanie Smith, right, does pectoral fly exercise and Denise Grimes, rear, does chest press.

Standing in the hallway before a workout, three women chatted easily, filling the gym with laughter and pausing only to say hello to friends passing through their conversation.

“These ladies have been together forever,” said Gwen Bagley, director of the Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA.

She smiled, watching the longtime friends and local residents try to remember who started at the YMCA first. Together, the four women quipped back and forth, laughing and trading glances with smiles.

Who initiated the group’s friendship didn’t matter — just the color of their shirts.

“A couple years ago, on a Monday, almost everyone wore pink (to a group class),” said Jeanie Smith, her voice quickening with the fondness of the memory. “So we decided to have Pink Mondays. Then came Purple Tuesdays. So of course we had to have Green Fridays.

“Then we decided we should stop,” she said to the familiar sounds of her friends’ laughter.

Though themed dress at the YMCA is voluntary, it’s catching.

“This Monday, about 14 or 15 ladies wore pink,” Smith said. “It creates camaraderie.”

Agreeing with Smith, the others added that everyone gets to know each other at the YMCA.

“Which is what makes people stay,” Smith said.

Denise Grimes said they work out together, encouraging each other toward a more successful outcome.

“But,” she said, lifting a finger with dramatic pause, “I only wear purple when it’s clean.”

In addition to friendships, the YMCA offers programs that help support its members.

The three women met while participating in the Healthy Lifestyles program.

“The focus of the (Healthy Lifestyles program) is helping people create lasting healthy habits,” Bagley said.

To establish those habits, the program offers a personal counselor, various group classes, coaching in strength training and a high-tech tracking fitness tracking system, said Debbie Bennett, a 22-year member and current coordinator for the Healthy Lifestyles program.

Healthy Lifestyles, which comes with membership, also offers a goal-oriented, 12-week program. Beginning with an orientation, a personal counselor will assess health, body mass index, any injuries, possible obstacles and then craft a personalized program.

Working toward a specific goal, the member will commit to working out three times per week for three months, Bennett said.

If the member is back after a long break in working out, or if the member is new to working out, the counselor will walk through each machine in the fitness center, which offers a selection of strength training and cardio machines.

While touring the center, Bennett will have the member try each machine to set a personalized height, positioning, range and weight.

When Bennett is gone, however, she doesn’t have to worry about the quality and safety of her clients’ workouts.
The FitLinxx system, a high-tech tracking system, stores all that information, logging the correct settings, number of reps and target weight for each member, based on an ID login.

“When they come in, each machine tracks time, distance and calories,” Bennett said.

Counselors can track what members are doing and not doing, to help adjust the program toward what works along the way. And the counselors are always available for questions and guidance when a workout gets stale.

“It takes away the intimidation,” Bennett said. “It’s good for people who are learning the right way to do things, so they don’t develop bad habits.”

“I don’t feel overwhelmed here,” Grimes said. “I feel like I can accomplish what I need to accomplish.”

The three women gathered up their workout gear, heading down the hallway.

“We encourage each other,” Smith said. “And the friendships you make here are lasting.”


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