This is going to be the first post in a new series of hopefully twelve over the course of the next year. As you know, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to workout local. The thing is I could also do this very thing here in my own community. There are a ton of gyms/fitness centers/studios here that I have yet to explore. Thus, the idea to feature local gyms, fitness studios/centers in the Champaign-Urbana area was created.

I was going to wait and start this as a new years series in 2019 but I figured it made sense to start now. Just as you shouldn't wait until the new year/new week/new day to begin an exercise program, why should I wait until then to write about it? I hope you aren't thinking, okay great, but I'm not in Champaign-Urbana, what's in it for me? Point taken. You might not be able to try these gyms, but I hope you can take inspiration from the idea behind this. Find a new gym or studio in your community to try, take a fitness class that you have never been to before or just get motivation to get back to the gym after a holiday hiatus.

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The first gym in these series is my home away from home, The Stephens Family YMCA. I'm there at least five or six days a week and it is one of my favorite places to be in this community. Not only do they have amazing group fitness classes which I will share much more detail about, but they have a huge fitness floor with a ton of strength training and cardio equipment, an indoor track, multiple gymnasiums, wall climb, indoor pools, kids watch area and a ton of family friendly activities and offerings available throughout the entire year.

One of my most favorite things about the Y is the huge amount as well as variety of group exercise classes. There is literally something for every body and every fitness level. From 5:30am to 7pm on the weekdays plus additional classes on the weekend, you can always find a class that fits into your schedule.

I am a regular of Bodyflow and Intermediate Yoga probably more so than any other class, but I have a fondness for many of the classes offered. Bodyflow is absolutely my favorite thing ever. I didn't even know I needed it in my life until I went to my first class and then I was hooked. It is the perfect blend of strength, stretch and relaxation and I go to this class at least three times a week.

My favorite cardio classes when I'm not training for a half-marathon are Bodyattack, Grit and Bodycombat. Bodyattack is not for the faint of heart but it is a super effective cardio class. It's pretty high intensity but the thing I also love is that the instructors offer options and different approaches based on your skill/ability/comfort level. If you don't want or can't jump or go at highest intensity level, you don't have to and nobody thinks less of you. I actually miss Bodyattack since I've taken it out of the routine now that I'm running. I will be back come February and am already looking forward to it. I enjoy hopping into a Grit and Bodycombat class every now and then for a mix on cardio. Grit is sometimes cardio, sometimes strength, sometimes plyo and sometimes all of the above. Again, it's intense but the thing I love about it is you have the ability to go at your own pace within each drill. I've only gone to Bodycombat a couple of times but loved it. It's fun and a great stress-relieving workout.

I am a do-it-on-your-own strength training person and the Y has a great fitness floor with a vast selection of strength training equipment. However, when I could use a little extra instruction or want to mix things up from my own strength routine, Bodypump is an awesome alternative. It takes all the guesswork out of lifting and you are guaranteed to get a good calorie burn and likely muscle soreness the next day or two. CWworx is another strength and core stability/mobility favorite that I do when not running but also mixing it in here with half training to continue to work my abs and backside. My core always feels it after each class so I know things are working!

I've also been in to Barre, Piyo, and Sha'bam which are all great classes that I will hit up every now and again to mix things up. There are so many more classes offered at the YMCA like spinning or aquatics that I haven't even had a chance to try yet. Perhaps that will be something I can work towards in the new year!

The thing that ties all of these classes together though and actually makes the classes more fun and worth attending are the people. The instructors at the Stephens Family YMCA are fantastic! Seriously some of the best! For those classes I mentioned above, the energy that the instructors bring to each class is unmatched. I'm not sure how they do it, but their energy is contagious and when they are bringing it, the class brings it too. They also always know just the right thing to queue to stay safe, correct your posture and keep you pushing yourself. I know that I work harder when I have a great instructor in class and for the most part at the Y, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a great instructor.

Except for my Zumba teaching days way back when, I wasn't always a group fitness person but with the program at the YMCA, I am definitely a group fitness person. Instructors are awesome, everyone in class is always welcoming and friendly and I've made new friendships as a result. I love the sense of community at the Stephens Family YMCA and definitely a reason that I consider it my second home.

The ability to bring my kids to the YMCA while I workout is also a huge benefit. My kids love to go to kids watch at the Y. In fact, they will actually ask to go and play there on a weekend when I was intending for a rest day. A lot of their friends go as well so it makes it fun for them to see friends, play, run out their energy and I can get in a great workout at the same time. Win-win for everyone.

If you can find a gem like this within your own community, I'm sure you will feel the same about it as I do. It's so great to have a place the entire family can benefit from. From my own workouts, to weekend youth basketball, swim lessons, kids play area and a whole lot more in between the YMCA is the place to be especially for families here in Champaign-Urbana.

Thank you Stephens Family YMCA for being a great part of our community! My kids love it, my husband loves it (when he goes, wink-wink) and I absolutely love it!

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Check back next month for December's featured gym, Pursuit Institute!