Cheryl Alvarez of Lexington rises before dawn each day to begin her shift at Tyson Foods.
Her work ethic is part of what has inspired two of her sons to become disciplined young men who are determined to live healthier, stronger and more confident lives.
Daniel Alvarez, 20, is a junior studying business administration at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He remembers in his early teen years going with his mom to the Orthman Community YMCA when it was in the old library.
At that time, he knew nothing about lifting and had little desire to exercise. But, that was about to change. Through personal research, tips from
YMCA staff and eventually the Lexington Public Schools powerlifting team, he started learning about strength training and living healthier.
Once the new Orthman Community YMCA opened, Daniel started waking up early – around 5:45 a.m. – and going to the YMCA to lift weights.
“The facility was new, and I really liked all the machines that were there and also the affordability of it,” Daniel said. “I liked the atmosphere.”
He exercised six days a week, focusing on different muscle groups each day and built up his strength. While he didn’t lose weight, he gained muscle and was happy with the results. He was feeling stronger and healthier each day.
Daniel eventually started dragging his younger brother, Gabe, with him.
Gabe, who is now 15 and a sophomore at Lexington High School, said he didn’t want anything to do with exercising as a middle schooler.
“In middle school, I was a hefty fellow, and some people actually made fun of me for that,” Gabe said.
But, about the time Gabe started high school, Daniel’s good habits started to impact him. He decided to join Daniel in strength training and exercise.
Gabe became disciplined and started lifting, walking and running at the YMCA six days a week. He also changed his eating habits as he learned how important food is to feeling good. He ate more protein and fewer carbs and started counting calories. He also started powerlifting at the high school in addition to his YMCA exercises.
By the end of Gabe’s freshman year, he had lost 55 pounds.
“I definitely feel a lot better,” Gabe said. “I feel like I can run faster. I feel like I can run longer without having to take breaks in between. I’m a little bit more athletic. I definitely feel more confident.”
Gabe’s current routine includes waking up at 5:30 a.m., eating eggs for breakfast, walking to school for early band practice, attending classes and then exercising for an hour or so at the YMCA followed by homework and an early bedtime around 8:30 p.m. He plans to participate in the powerlifting team again at school this year and to continue his workouts at the YMCA.
His goal is to qualify for a national competition. His weight-lifting goals by the end of his senior year are bench press 285, deadlift 475 and squat 435.
YMCA Role Models & Support
Gabe said he appreciates the advice he’s received from YMCA staff, including personal trainer Casey Ford. The Y staff and other members striving to live healthier have been positive influences in his transformation.
Daniel said many staff members at the YMCA have encouraged him throughout the years, especially former director Katie Bohnhoff, current director Riley Gruntorad and front-desk associate Linda Shaw.
“People are really friendly at the Y,” Daniel said. “Everyone is really polite. It’s really easy to make friends there, too.”
He also appreciates the variety of equipment at the YMCA and that new equipment is frequently added.
“The Y has a variety of equipment that I could not have used at the high school,” he said.
Daniel said his future career goal is to start a health and fitness-related business and continue to help others gain confidence in themselves through living healthier.
“You only have one life, so I want to push the limits on what I can do,” Daniel said. “Lifting weights, living healthy and being comfortable in your own body are important to me and help me be more confident. Plus, knowing that you put in the work and the time to diet – just the work itself can make you feel better.”
Daniel said that when he hesitates about getting up in the morning to exercise, he thinks of his mom.
“I remember that my mom went to work for me – she works hard,” Daniel said. “I really respect and admire her.”