Change Your Lifestyle, Not Just Your Pants Size at the YMCA

Bringing together mind, body and spirit the YMCA of Rock River Valley has plenty to offer its members, especially as facilities and programs re-open for in-person activities. Get a sneak peak at what’s new right now.

YMCA members can now place reservations on equipment and facilities before they visit one of the area’s three YMCA branches.

At the YMCA of Rock River Valley, well-being is about much more than simply “being fit.” It’s about healthy living by bringing the spirit, mind and body into balance.

“We don’t look at it as just ‘fitness’ but as promoting healthy living,” says Gina Karvelis, healthy living director. “The services we provide are meant to offer a holistic approach and serve people where they are.”

To help build healthy bodies, SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA, 200 Y Blvd., in Rockford, has a variety of amenities including cardio and weight rooms, swimming pools and walking tracks for members. Steps away from the building is the Rock River recreation trail, which follows the riverbanks from downtown north past Sportscore I.

Additional YMCA branches in Loves Park, Ill., and far-east Rockford offer additional opportunities to connect with The Y.

Indoors, group exercise and aqua fitness classes give people of all ages a way to keep their fitness goals on track. In-person classes have recently resumed, and there are now more than 100 options between the three branches. Well-trained instructors are motivating and encouraging, and their feedback is immediate. And, they can always adjust for someone’s physical limitations.

Virtual classes are still available, too, and they include sessions on Zumba, Hiit, Pilates, yoga, strength and conditioning, and workouts for active older adults.

“I think one of the benefits to taking a class is accountability,” says Karvelis. “We form little communities within the classes, and people really get to know their instructor. There’s definitely an atmosphere and a vibe in the class that can be motivating. Sometimes you tend to work a little harder or show up for yourself a little more when you’re in a group environment.”

Class sizes are still limited in capacity and social distancing is encouraged, although mask-wearing in class is now optional. There’s a reservation system that allows YMCA members to schedule time in any facility. 

Supporting more than just a healthy body, the YMCA has a spiritual team on site. Spiritual Development Minister Gary Schwerin leads a team of chaplains who support YMCA members and regularly check the prayer box at the front desk.  

Healthy living is also affected by one’s diet, so there’s a licensed dietitian on staff who can help to craft individualized plans to bring diet and exercise into alignment.

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming,” says Karvelis. “There’s so much nutritional information out there. There are many different diets. There’s paleo, keto, vegan – you name it. Meeting with someone can help you gain a better understanding about areas of your diet that could be improved while identifying what tactics would work for you.” 

The nutritionist, who has a four-year degree in dietetics, can also help to zero in on those “mindless eating habits” that have a subtle impact on one’s health. 

“Maybe you fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your child and you lick the knife before you put it in the sink to clean it,” says Karvelis. “Or, you’re packing almonds in your lunch for the day and you pop a few extras in your mouth. Those things can add up.”

The YMCA is a good starting point, but it isn’t the only place to begin implementing a healthy lifestyle. So, a new podcast called Let’s Be GR815 connects the Y’s experts with the general public, offering content that can help to motivate and inspire people. It’s available on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and Spotify. 

“We have already tackled a variety of topics from un-sitting yourself and the importance of stretching to vision boards and working-in versus workout-out,” says Karvelis. “A new topic is shared every week. We’re excited to grow the channel and hopefully inspire more people.”