Friends Help Each Other Live Healthier at YMCA

Three Holdrege friends found a way to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. They joined the Don Sjogren Community YMCA, together.

Kelli Chatwin of Holdrege decided to join the YMCA in October.

“I started my weight loss journey at the end of September, and I knew that being more active would speed things along,” she said.

She is a stay-at-home mom of two children with autism and spends most of her time focusing on their needs.

“I forgot to remind myself I need to focus on myself as well,” she said. “My ultimate health goal is to lose my weight and be around for my kids as long as possible. I want to enjoy a better quality of life and to show my kids how important it is to be and stay healthy.”

Kelli recruited two friends, Jennifer Hammond and Valerie D’Amato, to join her at the YMCA.

“Joining the YMCA with friends was the best thing I could have done,” Kelli said. “Everyone has those days where you don’t want to go out and do much of anything. My friends push me to get out and to be the best me I can be.”

After trying out several forms of exercise, the three friends found a routine that they all enjoy — swimming together four mornings a week.

“I found since I am a bigger lady that swimming is something I can do that doesn’t hurt my knees, and I can really enjoy it,” Kelli said. “The pool has been a real lifesaver for me. I had to get over the thought of being seen in my bathing suit, but the staff and people at the Y made me feel so comfortable. The first day, a group of ladies said ‘good morning,’ and the lifeguard smiled and made conversation. I haven’t felt awkward or uncomfortable since!”

Kelli has already lost more than 35 pounds and 9 inches with her new exercise routine and a low-carb eating plan.

Jennifer joined the Y with Kelli when she asked her to accompany her on her weight-loss journey.

“I want to support her any way I can, and we support each other,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer’s previous exercise included occasional walks in the park or on her home treadmill.

But, exercising with friends at the Y is more fun.

“Having Valerie & Kelli with me has motivated me more than if I would be doing it on my own,” Jennifer said. “We support and encourage one another to do the best that we can.”

Jen said since starting her new routine, she has more energy and is sleeping better at night.

“So far, I’ve lost 20 pounds and gained some muscle,” she said. “I feel better knowing that I’m going in the right direction.”

Valerie joined her friends at the YMCA at the end of October.

“I wanted to tone and lose fat and wanted to have my son have something to do besides staying home all the time,” she said.

She is a single parent of two boys, and she enjoys spending time with her sons at the YMCA on the weekends as well.

Valerie said joining with friends “is more fun, and it’s a great support system.”

She lost 3 pounds in her first few weeks at the Y and already reported having more energy and feeling healthier.

Kelli said their new exercise routine isn’t just about the physical benefits and losing weight.

“When we get together at the Y, we talk about how we are feeling, whether it’s about kids, politics or adventures we want to go on,” she said. “It’s a great way to get together and get healthy both physically and mentally.”


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