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Why I Love the Y & Teaching Group Exercise

I hope your Monday has been lovely and that your week is off to a nice start. I’m happy to see Monday arrive because my weekend kind of nuts. It was one of those perfect storms where everything hit at once…I had a book discussion to lead, an extra class on my schedule to sub, a workshop to teach and it was my turn in the rotation for my new once a month classes at the Y. In short…it was all work and not a lot of play.

So I know some of you were probably scratching your head that I said I was taking on a new teaching opportunity at the Y immediately after I wrote a post about feeling overwhelmed.


I kind of tried to explain my reasoning behind it in my last post but let me take a moment to really talk about why I love teaching group exercise and the Y and why it’s important for me to feel connected to the organization in some way.

In college and for a few years after, I exclusively ran and swam for exercise. I joined the YMCA when I moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 2006. I would try group exercise classes here and there…yoga, step, cycle…but I always felt like a fish out of water. (Gosh…especially in step…why did I ever think that was a good idea? All I did was trip over the bench and stand there looking confused.) Nothing really stuck. I mostly just used the treadmill and left without really interacting with anyone.

I finally made my way to BodyPump in 2007 at the encouragement of a friend and it completely changed group exercise for me. I was HOOKED! I loved that there was no grapevine warm up to fumble through (you totally feel my pain, right?) or tricky choreography to memorize. It was just weightlifting with fun music and motivational teachers.


I started attending BodyPump classes 2-3 times a week, every Tuesday and Thursday after work and weekends if I was in town. Going to BodyPump after work was the highlight of my day. I still remember rushing to the Y to get changed and standing in the hallway outside of class with all the other regulars waiting for the previous class to finish so we could go in and get set up. I started feeling connected at the gym as I worked out with the same people several times every week and took classes from the same teachers religiously. Nine years later and I still remember my first “favorite” teacher’s name, Allison. She worked for a local law firm and would always be changing from her suit to her workout clothes in the locker room. She was a total bad ass.

One day I saw a flier posted at the Y for a BodyPump instructor training. I had been regularly attending class for a year at this point and had seen massive changes in the composition of my body. I loved the class so much and wondered if maybe I should do the training. I nervously asked my teachers about it and they encouraged me to go for it. At this point I had NEVER dreamed I would ever teach group fitness.

I completed the training. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done but it also set me on the path to where I am today. It pushed me WAY outside of my comfort zone in all the best ways. I spent the next 9 months subbing any chance I could get…5:30 a.m., Sundays, lunch break classes, whatever was open…I couldn’t get enough.


(circa 2010!)

I moved to Charlotte in 2009 and immediately joined the Y. I attended classes regularly and it took six months of networking and follow ups to finally get a class of my own. I started teaching BodyPump on Mondays at 6 a.m. and Thursdays at 5:45 p.m. and continued teaching those classes for the next four years. During that time I also started teaching some rotational strength and cardio classes at other Ys as well.

1.10bpFast forward to today…I have been an employee of the Y for eight years now and I’ve spent countless hours inside the gym teaching classes. Teaching group fitness was the gateway to getting where I am today and I am forever grateful to the Y for offering me a place where I could learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment.

I gave up my permanent Y classes about a year ago when I had to make some tough decisions on how best to allocate my time in order to be able to financially support myself but I’ve had this constant pull and yearning to still be there. I begged my group exercise coordinator not to take me off payroll and subbed classes every couple of months to keep me an active employee.

Getting busy and overwhelmed again was the catalyst for me to reach out to her about teaching opportunities. I know it sounds crazy but I miss the Y and I miss group exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE teaching yoga and it’s my favorite thing in the world to do but there’s nothing like putting on the mic and motivating a crowd of hard working students from all walks of life through a tough workout. It challenges and excites me as a teacher and it is my sincere hope that I can make my participants feel as comfortable and happy in a group exercise setting as my first teachers did for me.


I think the Y is an incredible organization and I am continually blown away by the incredible reach it has and the breadth of programming. We are really lucky here in Charlotte to have a very strong Y system (one of the strongest in the country) and the Ys here serve so many people in our community. I am honored to be a part of it.

So that’s why I’m teaching at the Y again. Although my plate is completely overflowing, this is something I need to do for me. And my first class back just totally sealed the deal that it was a good decision. I left sweaty and with a huge smile on my face.

Are you a member of the Y?

If you are a group exerciser, what was your “gateway” class into group exercise?


{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run April 20, 2015, 5:33 pm

    I’d love to take a Body Pump class from you! Just curious, why was the training so hard? How long was it?

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:31 pm

      back when i did my bodypump cert it was a three day certification and we didn’t receive any of our materials ahead of time. so when we showed up on friday we were given assignments of what we had to learn to teach the next day. for someone with no experience teaching, it was overwhelming to say the least. these days, les mills trainings are two days and you get your assignments and materials a few weeks ahead of time so you have time to prep.

      also, les mills just does a really great job with their trainings. i swear that i credit bodypump training for teaching me how to actually teach. it really pushed and challenged me. they teach you how to connect, use your voice, use music…all while executing perfect form and coaching students through everything. we also had to do a bodypump instructor challenge which left me more sore than i was after i ran my first marathon! it was a great experience.

  • Dani @ DaniCaliforniaCooks April 20, 2015, 6:05 pm

    I taught spinning for a long time – I definitely enjoy getting motivated off of my students and the other people around me. It’s a great high to put on the microphone and some great music and raise people’s spirits through fitness!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:28 pm

      totally agree! it is such a high and a special thing to be able to give people!

  • Cassie April 20, 2015, 6:06 pm

    I love group exercise in kickboxing! It’s so energizing!

  • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine April 20, 2015, 6:14 pm

    Group Power WAS my gateway to ALL things fitness!

  • Erin April 20, 2015, 7:15 pm

    LOVE the Y. It’s such a great organization. I lived directly across the street from the Y in downtown Kansas City a few years ago. Waking up and seeing it outside my bedroom window meant I never had an excuse to not workout! They worked with me to get my membership fee down when I got laid off, and I got my first introduction to yoga there…as well as Body Pump!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:27 pm

      erin – that is such a great story about living across the street and how they helped you when you were laid off. yay for yoga and bodypump…and the y!

  • Sarah April 20, 2015, 7:33 pm

    Funny, the Charlotte Y was my first introduction to Body Pump! I lived in Charlotte from 2001-2003 and worked out at the Dowd YMCA. Thanks to a good friend who encouraged me to attend a class with her, and some supportive instructors, I became a group fitness regular. Good luck with your new class!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:27 pm

      hi sarah, that is funny! i didn’t know that the dowd even used to offer bodypump. they do not now. thank you for the well wishes!

  • Liv @ Healthy Liv April 20, 2015, 7:35 pm

    I go to the Y when I’m at home since my family still has their membership. I actually lifeguarded and taught swim lessons at the Y in high school 🙂

  • Emily @ My Healthyish Life April 20, 2015, 8:39 pm

    I had such a similar experience at my Y! I still remember my first Body Pump instructor. I was so sad when she moved away. Body Pump was my gateway class!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:26 pm

      i think bodypump gets a lot of people into group ex. i love it! and yes, it is always crushing when you have a favorite teacher who moves away or stops teaching.

  • ali April 20, 2015, 8:47 pm

    i have been a member of the Y for a few years now and recently an employee as well. I am a Health Coach at the YMCA in Traverse City Michigan http://www.gtbayymca.org/ and love it!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:25 pm

      that’s awesome ali!

  • Mikaela April 20, 2015, 10:06 pm

    I moved away from Charlotte almost a year ago and cannot find anything near comparable to the Charlotte Y. I miss it and the endless group exercises classes offered at a reasonable monthly price!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:25 pm

      mikaela, we are so spoiled here in charlotte with our fitness offerings. it’s a special place!

  • Shannon April 21, 2015, 7:29 am

    I’m in college, about to graduate and move to Birmingham for grad school, and do a lot of running and swimming (in addition to yoga & circuit training). I still haven’t been converted to group exercise classes, but I probably just need to find the right one.

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:25 pm

      hi shannon, yes…trial and error and also just being ready for something new and different. so much of it is a matter of timing. hope you enjoy birmingham!

  • Jenn April 21, 2015, 8:17 am

    Body Pump was also my gateway and now I love taking all different classes to mix it up!

    I recently was licensed to teach Zumba, which I also love. I am subbing and am starting my own class in May. I was wondering if you could let us know about networking and follow up tips for getting your own classes!

    Also, I noticed a couple of months ago you went to Villa Rolandi for a yoga retreat! I recognized it bc I went there for my honeymoon before they changed to Zoetry! Will you give a review of the hotel?

  • Ashleigh April 21, 2015, 9:23 am

    Ironically, your BP class at CKY was my gateway class.. It just isn’t the same without you and Cynthia!! Looking forward to catching some of your classes at the Y!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:22 pm

      gosh, those were the DAYS! i so miss cynthia and andre!

  • Georgeann April 21, 2015, 9:52 am

    What class are you teaching now? Looks like the Dowd Y, but I know that they (unfortunately) don’t offer Body Pump!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:21 pm

      hi georgeann – as much as i love bodypump, it’s much easier for me to get to the dowd than uptown to CK. also, it was a lot of choreo to learn when i was only teaching once every month or two. so i’m teaching cardio strength and a circuit class at the dowd on a monthly rotation. and i’ll pick up a few sub classes too…probably yoga, athletic conditioning, total strength, cardio strength, etc.

      • Georgeann April 22, 2015, 10:19 am

        Athletic conditionings are my favorite! Hope to take one from you soon. 🙂

  • Hayley@HealthyRegardsHayley April 21, 2015, 9:59 am

    I have also been associated with the Y for quite a while! In college I taught youth soccer through the Y. Once I graduated and moved to Colorado I started teaching group fitness and writing for the Y’s blog. I have taught many places and the Y is one of my favorite. I love the atmosphere and the group of people. They are all so REAL and I find more of them are exercising for their health and happiness than any other gym. I will always seek out the Y wherever I am.

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:20 pm

      hey hayley – so cool that you write for the y’s blog! i also agree that it just feels different to teach at the y versus other gyms. there’s just something warm and friendly about it…and yes…real!

  • Kelly Rabun April 21, 2015, 10:07 am

    I have a very similar story with our downtown Y in Augusta, GA. I have been a member for 14 years. I started attending BodyFlow classes after my divorce. I was a mess and needed something to calm my nerves. I fell in love with the class then all the Les Mills classes. I attended instructor training after a year of loyally attending the classes. The Y is a great organization, and I am proud to be an instructor for them.

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:19 pm

      kelly – this is such a great story. how special that you were able to start teaching after 14 years of taking. especially teaching something that really spoke to you during a time of need. i’m really excited that you’re teaching.

  • Amy April 21, 2015, 10:47 am

    I’m an instructor at the Y here in Tulsa but only on a sub basis. They’ve been incredibly supportive and the members are all so nice! I love group exercise classes because I think they push members to work harder than they would on their own. I love seeing my regular faces at the gym where I primarily teach. My gateway class to group exercise was back in the late 80s when I was 12. My mom and I started going to Step classes and I loved them. Though now my knees don’t love Step nor can I imagine how I used to know all that choreography!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:18 pm

      amy – my “regulars” are one of the highlights of teaching. they totally make my day! 🙂 i LOVE that you went to step in the 80s. my how times have changed!

  • Jessica April 21, 2015, 12:09 pm

    I have been teaching GX for 11 years- I taught MOSSA’s Group POWER for 4.5 years, (and also Group RIDE and Group Centergy) and our club has since switched to Les Mills, where I am certified in Body Pump, R.P.M., and Body Flow. Ironically, I was an athlete in college and thought that “aerobics” were for “chicks who didnt know how to work out!” My gateway class was actually a precursor to ZUMBA- a “Latin Aerobics” class taught by a guy who was trained in ballroom dancing- I LOVE teaching BP – it is one my favorite hours of the day!! My “favourite” instructor (who I got certified with) moved to Charlotte- Every time we launch, I FB him about how it just isn’t the same without his booty dance!

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 12:17 pm

      hey jessica! who is the instructor? do you know if he teaches in charlotte now? if so, i’d love to catch his class!

      i love the story about your perception of “aerobics” and how that’s changed for you!

  • Sarah April 21, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I loved Angela’s Total Strength on Wednesday evenings at the Dowd! She is so consistent and you always know you’ll get a great workout with her. I was also hooked on Tuesday/Thursday BP at the CKY when I worked uptown – miss those classes! I still try to go to Winnie’s on the weekends when possible.

  • Mary @ Fit and Fed April 21, 2015, 6:44 pm

    That’s great that you are so motivated to give back in that way by teaching at the Y. Even though you are so busy, I hope it will be something that renews you instead of contributing to overwhelm. As far as being confused by new steps/choreography in classes, I have the same problem, I always feel like the worst one in the class at picking up new steps (although I know a lot of people feel that way). I did a skating workshop on Sunday where we learned a group piece in a couple of hours and I felt that way most of the time, especially after rushing to my spot in the circle and starting a turn without getting my balance and taking a pretty spectacular fall! Somehow all that doesn’t stop me from putting myself in these situations though.

    • Jen April 21, 2015, 8:12 pm

      my hope is also that it inspires and renews me instead of drains or overwhelms. that’s why i feel called to do it! i must say about the skating that the only two times in my life that i’ve broken bones have come from skating accidents! 🙂 i really love your comment about not letting it stop you from putting yourself in those situations. i think there is so much growth to be had in slightly uncomfortable.

  • Amy April 22, 2015, 10:11 am

    I have been a member of the Y since I moved to Charlotte in 2000. I can’t wait to try your class! Are you teaching at the Dowd?

    • Jen April 22, 2015, 2:14 pm

      yep! just on a sub and rotation basis. i’ll try to announce when i am!

  • Dee April 22, 2015, 12:50 pm

    I am a proud and loyal Y member! I joined when I was in high school- I tore my ACL and MCL playing soccer and was told to only use a stationary bike for rehab. My local YMCA gave me a super discounted membership so that I could rehab my knee. I have stayed a member ever since! My “gateway” group ex class was spin- tried it for the first time and loved the energy of the group environment.

    I first read about Body Pump on your blog, and started going at my local YMCA. I became one of those regulars that lined up before class and had “my spot”. After a year of taking the class I too did the teacher certification and am now a teacher! I teach Thursday mornings at 6:30am and on Sundays. Could not imagine my workout routine with Pump, so THANK YOU!

    • Jen April 22, 2015, 2:14 pm

      hi dee! this comment made my day! seriously, thank you so much for taking a moment to share this story. it makes me so happy!

  • Elizabeth November 8, 2015, 6:14 pm

    I am only seeing this now in November, as I was googling around looking for advice articles info on teaching for the first time. I am taking a training class on Group Power in about a week or so and while I am SO excited, I am also terrified!!
    I have never ever taught, just mostly a group exercise junkie, but I really think teaching is going to be HARD, but also so exciting. I am pretty worried how long it will take me to get the hang of it. Like your initial training, I won’t get materials ahead of time and it will be 8+ hrs a day for 3 days! Eeeek! Alll the insructors at my gym have been so encouraging and just tell me it is hard, but to stick with it and eventually I will “get it”!

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