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Y offers peace of mind, health of body

Date: 10/10/2014

AGAWAM – The newly opening Agawam YMCA Wellness & Program Family Center, 63 Springfield St., provides a quiet, state-of-the-art facility for residents and passersby alike. Recently, this reporter was given an opportunity to try out the new site, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Kristine Allard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, asked if I wanted to try out the new and critique its offerings. Having just toured the pristine site, I immediately accepted.

I am not in shape. I haven’t always been this way – growing up I was always active, playing baseball, basketball and practicing karate. I began putting weight on a few years back and now I want to get back in shape.

Upon seeing all the gym has to offer, I jumped at the chance to boost my fitness. Prior to Allard’s generous offer, I had recently begun a regular cardio exercise routine and had cut soda, coffee and fast food from my diet. I am still working on stifling my sweet tooth, or should I say changing my diet so that I crave natural sugars such as those found in whole fruit.

While I will discuss my experience at the Agawam location, there are numerous YMCA sites throughout the Western Massachusetts area. Feeling inspired or just curious because you’ve never been to a Y? Learn more about your local facility at

This article will cover the two weeks of my experience. Now, that might not seem like a long time, but I lost eight and a half pounds, simply by working out and limiting unhealthy food in my diet.

Lesson number one: This chubby rumpkins was not up to a 45-minute workout on the elliptical machine. Overzealous? Just a wee bit. So, I settled for 10 minutes before switching to a treadmill. I set a goal to work up to 30-minutes on the elliptical by the end of one month. By week two, I was up to 15 minutes, halfway there.

As for treadmills, not my favorite, but a good starting point.

For the record, I have never been, am not now, nor will ever be a runner. When I was in shape, I suffered multiple sprained ankles, one to the point of near breakage, and a repeated knee issue. So, no, this girl doesn’t run. But I Zumba and to my delight, the Agawam Y has Zumba classes.

The first day, I toured the facility with Katie Weiss, program coordinator, and she showed me the proper way to use the machines to ensure that I was using proper technique and safety precautions.

Right away, I started with the strength-training machines and free weights. That’s what had been missing from my workout. I love to lift and find the newer machines don’t provide wear and tear on your joints because they are built with hydraulics, providing a smoother, safer means of weightlifting.

My first class was Strength Training. I loved it, although I realized afterwards that I needed to use slightly heavier weights because I wasn’t challenging my muscles enough. Weiss led the class and provided a great variety of upper body exercises, with some lower body ones mixed in.

The second class I attended was Zumba, which was also the first time Weiss had taught that particular class. While she confessed her nervousness, it didn’t show to those of us – three students, including myself – taking the class. The music was upbeat and she knew the steps well. The only suggestion, take five minutes prior to class to demonstrate the more difficult steps that newcomers might have trouble with.

During the second week, I made the mistake of trying the Boot Camp class. Participants should be at a level of fitness where they have been working out awhile, with success, and are ready to take that next step to bust through their progress plateau.

Even with modifications, I disliked this class. It’s just not my style. All I could picture was my over zealous little league coach – there’s always that one – yelling “hustle!” I didn’t like that we completed a sequence of exercises that targeted the same muscle group, it should’ve been switched up more to allow for recovery time. To be fair, Weiss switches the routine up each session, but I won’t be returning anytime soon.

I also had the odd fortune of being the first one to use the shower in the women’s locker-room. The water pressure was fantastic and thankfully the water flow merely paused when the toilets flushed rather than changing drastically in temperature temporarily.

I like that there’s an adjacent changing stall to hang towels and/or clothes without getting them wet. The shower curtain is sturdy, but the outside stall curtain is white and practically see through.

Clearly, a man designed the locker-room because no woman installs a see-through curtain nor would she place the lockers and changing area right next to the door. Thankfully, the door is key-coded, so us modest people have a second or two to ensure we’re covered before someone enters. It’s rather small to accommodate the number of members the center hopes to serve.

On the bright side, I love the facility. It’s clean and the staff is friendly and extremely helpful. I have never had to wait for a machine.

There’s plenty of parking, with the exception of the Big E, especially Agawam Day. That was horrific! I had to park by Dave’s Soda & Pet Food City. The other days, I was accosted by the people selling parking spots every time I pulled into the lot.

For me, the Y is a site that has much to offer. Now, I look forward to my workout because I have a place to go regardless of my reporter’s schedule. The best part is that the other patrons are polite and refrain from pestering you while you workout. I just crank my tunes up and go.