When a friend suggested I visit the Petal Family YMCA for my feature, I had to turn to Google maps to decide whether my schedule would allow me to commit to trekking across the bridge for workouts. Surprised to discover the non-profit was only 15 minutes (and one time when running late for a Toning Express class, a memorizing 12-minute jaunt) from my doorstep, I contacted Membership Coordinator Ginny Reynolds to schedule an orientation.
Ginny toured me through the facility located at 547 Hillcrest Loop in Petal – the standard issue workout zone with updated fitness equipment (including, to my surprise on a jog one morning, treadmills that have fans built into the main console) and pleasantly absent of the usual Top 40 soundtrack; a full-sized basketball court, part of which was being utilized by a HIIT group exercise class making their way through a workout that included pushups and quick sprints around the court’s perimeter; an Olympic-sized pool, where both an array of aquatic classes (including Aqua Dance - like Zumba, but in a bathing suit) and other aquatic programs for both local area swim teams and amateur lap-swimming enthusiasts are held; the Alpha Center, a smaller workout atmosphere perfect for those just beginning their fitness journeys or those recovering from injuries with a variety of user-friendly, low-impact machines (enter the seated stair-stepper and even seated elliptical machines!); a full-service locker room, with plenty of storage, showers and even a dry sauna complete with a polite sign asking patrons to refrain from creating electrical malfunctions by trying to create steam by pouring water on the rocks; and finally, the group exercise studio, where I would spend many mornings.
Among the 50 classes offered each week were some options I’d been curious about and unable to find elsewhere – PiYo, a blend of yoga poses and traditional pilates moves; a Kettlebell class with a regiment of exercises that targeted upper body, legs and even core; even a boxing class. Led by former Marine Corps member Michael, the 60-minute action-packed class included an intense warmup, a circuit of HIIT exercises done to condition our fighter bodies to sustain during a match, and of course, throwing some punches.
Michael walked us through the basic mechanics – keeping a defensive stance light on our toes, expelling air quickly as we punched to allow our core muscles to retract for better protection, and even making contact with our opponent (in this case, a highly- alert Michael ready to dodge the wayward blows of this newbie).
The inclusion of the word “family” for the Petal YMCA is not just given lip service – from the Childwatch program offering parents a way to workout, to the financial assistance given to families in the community to further their fitness, and even the crew of regulars I got familiar with during my visits (including some friendly faces I already knew!), the Petal Family Y succeeds in embodying not just their principals of building spirit, mind and body, but in helping the city of Petal live up to its moniker.