Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Kenneth Fights Obesity and Wins

"My name is Kenneth Sledge. When I started here in July 2015, I was…with no hope waiting for death to come. I was 535 lbs and unable to get out of bed. Since coming here, I have had weight loss surgery and lost 114 lbs, but how I did it was most important. I was too large for the machines, and the pool was all I had. The pool has become home and ...family."

I met Kenneth this morning for an interview at the Kerasotes YMCA at 8:30AM. This was the start of my day, but he’d already been here for three hours.

Getting to the YMCA Kerasotes facility early to exercise in the pool has become a daily way of life for Kenneth, who will often take multiple water fitness classes in one day. What seems like a lot of exercise for most, has become a God-send for Kenneth.

Before Kenneth started water fitness at the Y in July of 2015, he felt hopeless. He weighed 535 lbs and was unable to get out of bed. He felt like he was just waiting for death to come.

Trimming down!
He had suffered the loss of his wife ten years earlier to cancer. Food had become his best friend.

Because of his weight, his knees were in bad shape. His doctor sent him to the staff at Memorial Sports Care for physical therapy. As soon as they met Kenneth, they urged him to get into the water.

Since Kenneth was too large for the machines, the pool was the only choice he had. He would walk and jog in the therapy pool and do exercises his therapist taught him. Soon, he began meeting others and decided to try water fitness classes. Now he takes water aerobics, water fitness for arthritis, and water Zumba, and will spend 4-4.5 hours a day at the Y. I couldn’t help but to ask how he felt with this sudden onslaught of so much exercise! He admitted that in the beginning he was tired and sore, but was driven to keep going. He had to change.

Eventually, Kenneth had gotten in good enough shape to be approved for the weight loss surgery he wanted! Peoria Surgical Group performed the surgery, and he is down 114 lbs. He now gets about without his walker, something he used to depend on daily. He never uses motorized carts anymore.

Today, his health is better than ever. Most of his ailments are in remission or completely gone. His Type II diabetes is completely under control and no longer an affliction, his blood pressure is down, and his cholesterol is down. Most touchingly, he explains, “What people don’t understand is that the Y is as mentally therapeutic as it is physically. A lot of people come in here and talk to each other for hours. It extends their lives.”

Before turning around, the lifeguard joked and laughed with Kenneth. He's a main stay at the Y.

Kenneth went on to speak about the psychological effects of obesity. Since getting healthier, his entire perspective has changed. People no longer stare at him when he walks into a room. He used to be very limited in the places he went and only visited one grocery store where he felt comfortable. Not feeling singled out has made an enormous difference to his psyche. Now, he goes anywhere he wants.

Kenneth thanks the Y for helping him overturn his lifestyle and alter his health. He praises the staff and members for being so motivational and keeping him accountable. If he doesn’t show up, they will ask why. They would even double check and make sure he had a way to get to and from the Y! He has found community and comradery in his new Y family and like so many others, looks forward to his visit every day. He says, “This is home. That other place is just where I pay rent.”

Congratulations Kenneth, and thank you for inspiring us with your ambition, courage, and heart. We are so proud to have you in our Y family!

Interested in taking a dip in water fitness? Learn more here.

Kenneth poses with the pool he calls "home": the Hoogland pool at the YMCA Kerasotes facility. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Better Late than Never: 365 Workouts

Gary, a type II diabetic, is now insulin free. He set a goal for himself that would be challenging but attainable, and most importantly, he made it about a lifestyle change – not a quick fix. Gary committed to working out 365 days in a year. On “rest days” he will go for a 30-minute walk instead of his typical weightlifting and cardio routine. He lifts weights every other day.

A low carb lifestyle helps with his diabetes. He enjoys a lot of vegetables and meat, as well as low glycemic fruits. Though, he does not completely deny himself the good things in life. When it comes time for a treat, he subscribes to the “one bite method.” He will take one bite of a dessert and savor it, enjoying its aroma and flavors. He will tell you the way he feels now is a much bigger treat than taking another bite of dessert or pasta!

As part of his lifestyle change, Gary invested in an Apple Watch so he could track his vitals and performance. As he was getting in shape, losing a lot of weight, and losing dependence on insulin, his low heart rate was still not improving. Though critical, exercise cannot solve every medical problem. He was given a pacemaker, and now his heart does not go below 60 beats per minute. With all the fresh blood and oxygen flowing through his veins, his workouts are now even more enjoyable!

Not only did Gary lose 65 lbs, discover and treat a heart issue, and control his diabetes, but his cat also lost 3 lbs!

Read in Gary’s own words how he changed his lifestyle a little later in the game:

“On my 63rd birthday in 2012, I decided that I needed drastic life changes if I wished to continue to an excellent retirement. On July 8th of that year, I decided to start walking 10,000 steps a day. For the next two months I reached that goal, but my weight was still 265 lbs. I suffered from a severe case of type II diabetes. On September 8th, I went against my endocrinologist recommendations. I quit taking four insulin shots a day and eliminated all carbohydrates from my diet. Afterwards, I showed my endocrinologist that my blood sugars were normal so he reluctantly said I could do a low carb diet for only two years. I lost 65 lbs in two months while continuing walking 10,000 steps a day.
I learned that I needed to do more than just walking so I joined the YMCA in 2013. In June 2015, I bought an Apple Watch. I had had low heart rate problems for about five years and worked very hard to improve it to no avail. I ended up getting a pacemaker November 15, 2015.

That is when I decided to up my workout schedule to every day for a year. My Apple Watch tracks and records my daily activities every day. Each day, it measures the calories I burn moving, the number of minutes I do aerobic activities, and the total number of hours I get up and move – at least a few minutes each hour.
I rarely have days when I do not greatly overachieve my goals. When the Y is closed or I just need a slow day, I still take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes. I have now done this for over a year without missing a day and see no reason to stop.

It has been over four years since I took my last insulin shot, and I am still on my low carb diet. Life seems hard sometimes without eating bread, pasta, cereal and all grains. I eat only meats, dairy, and green vegetables. I do allow myself to cheat on this diet once a month or so and just eat small portions of these forbidden foods. I plan to eat well but smartly on Thanksgiving. I hope that reading this will inspire some people to learn to quit going on diets to lose weight and instead, change your diet for life so you can be healthier.

But most importantly, be sure to go to the Y as much as possible.”

Retired from the State Board of Education, where he worked on education for homeless children and youth, Gary understands the importance of the Y in our community. In addition to his workout, he enjoys coffee here every morning with his friends. Gary found an exercise and healthy eating routine that can worked for him. Start, and you can find one that works for you too!

Gary completed his goal of 365 days or workouts and is now hard at work on year two.

Become a Member or give the gift of Membership today.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Kristi Finds a New Way of Life at the Y

"It started as a journey and turned into a lifestyle.

Several years ago, I sat with my husband at a restaurant after a doctor’s appointment. My knees hurt and after two rounds of medicine my next step was a steroid injection. That was my wake up call.

My family joined the YMCA shortly after. I began by walking laps in the water at the Kerasotes branch. When my legs got stronger I decided to try water aerobics. It wasn’t so bad. I was working at my own pace and soon keeping up with the class. I started noticing small changes. My clothes weren’t as snug anymore.

I was really starting to lose weight with the water aerobics and getting much healthier. So healthy, in fact, our family was blessed with a new little boy. I continued attending water aerobics after my pregnancy, but I felt stuck. Was this as good as it gets? My family physician suggested I visit the Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center to help me overcome the plateau. They gave me the tools I needed and the confidence to not give up on my journey.

The YMCA has become a part of my routine, and I spent many of my lunch hours there. I still do water aerobics, but now I’m able to swim laps, use the cardio and strength machines, and I’ve recently started attending a Zumba class. I’ve done everything at my own pace and have met many new friends at both branches of the YMCA.

My journey isn’t complete, but I’ve come a long way. What all started with one walk in the pool has created a much happier and healthier person. It’s not just a journey now. This is my way of life."

Want to start with water fitness? Check out our programs.

Monday, October 24, 2016

John Finds Intensity, Motivation, and Friends at the Y

John competed in his first Triathlon this August – the Dan Adaire, MD Memorial Triathlon. He placed 2nd in his age group. 

John is 56.

He also completed his first century bike ride this September.

No, this is not another story about a member losing weight, or going from weak to fit. John has been active since college. A few years ago, he amped up his workouts so he could challenge himself with running and biking, but generally, he’s been in good shape his whole life. He’s just extra focused right now.

Instead, this is a story about finding long term motivation.

John originally caught our eye because of his recent racing achievements and strong commitment to a more intense exercise routine at age 56. We wondered what his story was. When we found out, we found out what motivated him, not just for the past three years, but his entire life.

He’s been a member of the YMCA for a total of seven years. His office is downtown, so it is convenient for him to drop in at lunch time. He took a “Fitness Over 40” program that Memorial SportsCare hosted because he wanted to compete in running and biking events. Dr. Dan Adaire recommended that he increase the intensity of his workouts – that it would be good for him. John had heard about Ultimate Workout downtown, an hour long intense circuit class that uses cardio, body weight exercises, weights, endurance, core and more, and decided to give it a try. He’s been showing up regularly for the past three years.

Ultimate Workout, along with his triathlon training has prepped him for higher intensity workouts, events, and races. He says he loves the personal challenge. He doesn’t need to win. He only wants to do better than he did last time.

His goals for 2017? Compete in four triathlons and complete two century rides!

As we look towards 2017, we realize it’s easy to get started. What’s hard is to continue. So, we asked what advice John would give someone who needs help committing to exercise for the long haul.

“Just start,” he said. “It’s important, especially as you age. Make time to do it. The difference between people who work out and people who don’t is a lack of motivation. Find what you like to do and establish a routine. Don’t worry about other people and what they are doing. Go at your own pace. You will be surprised how quickly you can gain strength and endurance if you simply stick with it. Before you know it, you will be in Ultimate Workout.”

Besides finding something you genuinely enjoy doing, making time for it, and creating a habit, John also suggests, “Make goals.” Making shorter term, attainable goals can encourage you to keep going. Making long term goals can give you something bigger to work towards!

Finally we asked, “What motivates YOU?”

It was simple: 1. He feels better, and 2. He looks better. He says, “Who doesn’t want to feel better and look better? If you don’t, you’re silly!”

His wife Deborah also comes to the Y. She enjoys yoga, Strive Fit, and circuit classes. His children also grew up playing Y sports!

Today, John rarely misses class. If he does, he misses the people and his whole world is upside down. He believes there is something for everyone – every age and every fitness level – at the Y. He encourages people to try the Y and discover a program they can get into.

Not only will you look better and feel better, you will make great friends that make you want to show up. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fitness Instructor Celebrates 30 Years at the YMCA of Springfield, IL

Wendy Glisson is a mother of three, a full time marketing professional, a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and a face you look forward to recognizing at the Y. Wendy has been with the YMCA of Springfield, IL for 30 years.

What started out as a way to make extra cash while working her first full time job out of college, ended up being a long term commitment to the members of her local YMCA.

Wendy graduated from Eastern Illinois University where she majored in Communications and minored in Business Administration. She played volleyball, ran track in high school, and also taught fitness classes at EIU. When she landed her first full time job working for former Governor Jim Edgar (who was then Secretary of State), she decided to start teaching for the Y. The YMCA was close to her work and home, and teaching was a great way to supplement her income, fit in exercise, and make friends.

She started in September of 1986 teaching Low Impact Aerobics in what is now the Gymnastics room. Throughout the years she has taught many lunch hour classes, some morning, some off site, and a lot of aerobics and cardio centered workouts. Today, you can benefit from her experience and feel the burn on Mondays during Turbo Kick in the Walnut Room from 12:15 to 12:45PM. 

When asked what her favorite fitness fashion trend has been, she laughs and says, “The headband, and I still wear the headband! I match it to my shirt.” Though she has committed to the headband, her sources of music have changed, “I used to use a cassette player and boom box. Now I download CD’s and music to my iPod.”

The only time she took short breaks from teaching was during her three pregnancies, but she still stayed active. Wendy has been married to her husband Rick for 23 years. One of their first dates was playing racquetball at the Y. She has two boys in high school and a daughter at Ole Miss. Her daughter is majoring in Exercise Science and also teaches fitness classes at the university! Working at the Y worked well with family life. She would sign her kids up for Gym & Swim and other programs. It was a place they could feel comfortable too.

When asked why she has committed to the Y for 30 years, she explains, “It doesn’t feel that long. It’s gone by so fast! It’s the people. I love the people: the members, the staff, the people who take my classes. I met my best friend Cindy here.” She also loves that it’s so easy to drop in at lunch from work. She loves the Y values and how they complement family life. “I’m not muscle bound, and I’m not super thin. I’m a normal person. I love how fitness makes me feel, and I love encouraging and motivating people.

With the busy life Wendy leads, she exudes energy and calm at the same time. She is a picture of balance and is another positive role model for our Y members. She is a walking advertisement for the benefits of regular exercise. We are so happy she has wanted to motivate, encourage, and befriend us for the past 30 years. We are much better with her encouragement and friendship and are so happy she has done her part to create “A Better Us.” 

Interested in group classes? Check out the Y Schedule. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trainer Jim Wants You to Make Healthy Choices

The only currency required between an unhealthy lifestyle and a healthy one is choice!
"Nine years ago, after living an unhealthy lifestyle through my late 20's and early 30's, I decided enough was enough. I went from a healthy and steady 185 lbs in my 20's to 230 lbs by age 33. After spending a day playing with my then toddler daughter and finding myself completely gassed after a short amount of time, I decided a change in lifestyle was a must, not only for me but for my daughter. I dumped all junk food, including sugary drinks and fried foods, and started eating veggies and fruits. I drank nothing but water. I started to exercise up to 2-3 times a day, split between cardio and weight lifting. I noticed early on that not only was this new lifestyle changing my body, but it was also eliminating daily stress, which was a nice surprise and bonus. This is a lifestyle I continue to this day.

In 2014, I volunteered to coach the Lose Big program at the Downtown YMCA and fell in love with helping other people achieve their personal fitness goals. Clients who participated in my first two Lose Big programs/competitions, came in 1st place, and although I felt great pride in helping them achieve a much healthier body fat percentage, it was more enjoyable to witness them break out of old bad habits and push themselves over and beyond what they thought was possible. Change comes from within, not without. To see positive change in others based on their own choices is very satisfying.
The Y staff noticed how much I enjoyed coaching and encouraged me to pursue a certification in personal training. In August of 2015, I became a certified Personal Trainer through AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America). The YMCA hired me as a part-time Personal Trainer, and I absolutely love it! I love to work with people one-on-one, helping them to not only achieve their personal body composition goals, but to feel the benefits in their overall lives."

To sign up for personal training with Jim or another Y trainer, visit our trainer page today!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Brenda Makes a Lifestyle Change at the Y

We often hear that if you want to reach a goal, you have to make a plan. Brenda took the opposite approach.

“Part of my success was that I didn’t have a plan,” admits Brenda. “I didn’t count calories, or weigh myself regularly. I just knew I needed to make a change.”

That’s when Tracy, group instructor at the YMCA, invited Brenda to her 5:30AM morning class. “She didn’t tell me it was an advanced class at the time so I didn’t know! I was just competitive enough that I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”

Brenda took the class, and made 35lbs and 4 belt loops history. However, she did it over 6.5 months. Brenda doesn’t believe in fad diets or short term programs. She wanted a lifestyle change.

“I didn’t realize how badly I felt until I’d gotten healthy and fit.”

Together with her husband, who also lost 50lbs by changing his diet, she increased her activity level and made healthier eating choices. She notes, “No bread, no pasta, no sugar." However, the transition from a heavier, less energetic Brenda, to the healthier, glowing Brenda we see today included cheat meals. “We went to Florida. I still worked out, but I enjoyed my vacation. My diet wasn’t perfect during that time, but you have to be realistic and create balance. You have to live your life.”

She knew she would never get better in Tracy’s class if she only went once a week, so she started lifting weights at home until she felt comfortable enough to use the Y’s weight room. Now she runs to the Y, lifts, and runs home. She’s now stronger in class.

Brenda has been a member of Kerasotes since the facility opened five years ago. “My sons played baseball; they would use the gym. My husband liked the elliptical and likes to run. Before Tracy encouraged me, I would sometimes half-heartedly swim. I’ve always been athletic, but when the boys were at home, I would always push it back.”

When we asked what piece of advice she could give to working mothers she said, “Get it in… in the morning. I would sleep in, tell myself I would work out at night, and then night would come. I’d be tired and tell myself I would do it in the morning. I just kept pushing it back, but now I make my workouts a priority. Morning is really the best time, because the rest of the day will get away from you!”

She recalls a day when she and her husband were traveling. He mentioned he would like a water out of the cooler, which was in the very back of the vehicle, so they would have to pull over. Instead, she got up out of the seat, shimmied back over the luggage, grabbed the water, and maneuvered and stretched her way back up into the front seat. She sat down and gave her husband a water and a smile. He exclaimed, “I don’t think you could have done that 6 months ago!”

Interested in reclaiming your healthy lifestyle? Ask the front desk about a free wellness session today, and begin your journey to looking and feeling better.