Woman taking BodyPump class at YMCA holding a barbell and smiling

First Friday Message

“Dirty Little Secret”

Whenever I get the chance to meet current students at my alma mater or those considering that fine school in Charlottesville, I have to work on keeping my pride from overflowing. I am a loyal University of Virginia alum and my four years there had a profound impact on who I am today.

Recently, I shared with a student going to UVA next year, that I wish I could roll back my time there with the college survival knowledge that it took me three years to accumulate.

I was not a very good collegiate student. I lacked the study skills and overall academic focus necessary to succeed at UVA and for the better part of three years there, I took many hits to my self-confidence until I was able to figure things out.

Barely getting by and on the verge of academic suspension, a professor recommended that I reach out to our Academic Support Office. I had walked by that building easily 300-400 times in three years and never knew what it was there for. A few visits and assessments later, the staff told me that I should only take tests in essay format and never take another multiple-choice test. I learned that I had a unique but otherwise undesirable “talent” to justify any reasonable option in multiple-choice tests and that normally spells trouble.

Thankfully, fourth-year students at UVA complete tests almost exclusively in essay format, and I finished my final year there with A’s across the board. I guess I wasn’t that bad of a student after all.

I still love writing, but now I’m focused more so on reprioritizing my health goals. Over the last eighteen months, I’ve been slowly losing the battle of the belt holes. And now that I’m getting back into a regular fitness routine (I’m down 7 lbs in 8 weeks!), I’m spending more time as an “undercover” Y member in our family centers.

During or after a workout, I overhear some of the best comments from members. I hear about great instructors and great classes and I hear about equipment that is down or why we should be open for longer hours. But my favorite conversation that I invariably overhear at this time of year is the dirty little secret of the Y.

Normally, it’s a few of the Y veterans huddled together on the pool deck or just outside of a group exercise studio or on the wellness floor and it normally sounds like this:

“All of the New Year's resolution people are here now…we just have to wait them out for a few more weeks.”


All joking aside, this is the conversation I hear every year in January and February and I’ve always had mixed emotions about it. I love the loyalty that our members have for the Y. You know that the Y is a special place where lasting friendships are formed between people from all cross-sections of the community.

That said, I’m also very cognizant of just how challenging it is to start a new routine, in a new place, and how difficult it can be sometimes to ask for help. I almost squandered my entire collegiate experience away because I didn’t proactively seek the help that was so readily available.

So, for the newbies out there, prove the veterans wrong! Make the most of your new experience and let us know when you invariably hit the wall. We’ve all been there and we’ve managed to overcome it and recommit to the journey of better health. And for our Y vets, go easy on the newbies! Let them into the handball group, invite them to the 6:00 AM Masters Swim, and save them a spot beside you in Les Mills BODYPUMP™. You never know, your next Y buddy might just be a smile and a handshake away.

Until next time…

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®