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Laughing, Sharing Stories and Encouraging Each Other: Q&A with a Longtime YWCA Fitness Member

By Michelle Lee, YWCA Health and Wellness member
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Michelle first joined YWCA Minneapolis as a fitness member around 1995 – for her, it was a comfortable, convenient, affordable gym within running distance. Throughout the years, she has paused and re‐joined a couple of times, sometimes exploring other gyms and team sports. She is a longtime member because she enjoys supporting the mission, building community and exploring all of the different classes, services, events and amenities YWCA has to offer.

In the Q&A below, Michelle discusses her experience taking yoga classes and why she feels like YWCA is a small, supportive community where she can improve her fitness.

What were you doing for fitness before you joined YWCA?

Everything under the sun – I’ve always loved working out and found it helps relieve stress. In high school, I played sports all year and was captain of the cross country ski team. In college, I did a lot of different activities: step aerobics class, long runs, dancing in clubs, swing dancing, bike rides, hiking and walking all over the city, canoeing, the occasional softball team, roller derby, etc.

Since turning 50, I’ve opened myself up to taking just about all of the classes at YWCA. Mixing the classes up instead of just taking one and being open to all three locations has made regular attendance more accessible. I learned to paddleboard in the ocean at age 48 and have learned Latin dancing, kickboxing and ballet in the past couple of years.

What was your first experience taking hot yoga classes?

Yoga classes with YWCA have always been a part of my exercise rotation but I was super excited to see hot yoga on the schedule. About 15 years ago, I practiced hot yoga sculpt at a studio and absolutely loved it. At that time, I didn’t lift as a part of my normal exercise routine, so I used the smallest weights. Even still, I enjoyed the cleansing feeling of working up a sweat and building a sense of well‐being. The prospect of attempting the class again at YWCA now that I regularly lift was intriguing. Even so, the very first class I took I needed to take a break about four times! I took that as a sign to work harder on my fitness, so I did for about a month and tried again – I did much better the second time.

“Hot yoga has led to my breath awareness throughout daily life and my other physical activities. Because of the heat, my muscles are no longer sore all of the time from lifting. I love it!”

How is YWCA different from other fitness centers?

The variety is amazing, especially for a gym that feels like a small, supportive community rather than a corporate gym. I can ask any of the teachers for fitness tips before or after class and they are happy to share knowledge. Also as a member, I can make suggestions for improvement, anywhere from the leak in the parking lot to can we try this class or experience and be heard. Recently I asked a teacher if we could do outdoor classes and WHALA! – they are on the schedule at YWCA Downtown. And of course, now I have to attend!

YWCA fitness member with hot yoga instructor

How have the fitness instructors helped you succeed at YWCA?

I find laughing together, sharing stories and encouraging each other to be the most motivating factors in getting to class. This is the first time I’ve been a part of a gym where I know the majority of the staff and enjoy the different aspects of everyone’s personality instead of feeling as though the classes are taped and completely scripted. The instructors honestly take a personal interest in members. The policy of allowing and welcoming people even if they are five minutes late is much appreciated. Haley, my yoga teacher, has been so positive and proficient at communicating all of the adaptions to make the experience accessible or challenging, depending on each individual’s fitness level.

“I find laughing together, sharing stories and encouraging each other to be the most motivating factors in getting to class.”

What advice do you have for those who may be interested in joining hot yoga classes?

Please do not judge yourself or think you can’t work up to any class. So what if you have to sit in child’s pose, even if it’s for half the class? I’m always focused on improving my form which means I am not looking at others in class. We are all just doing the best we can.

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