Waynesboro rocks! New YMCA fitness director aims to change fitness, wellness paradigm

kari davisThe model for fitness centers has been, come to the gym, do your fitness here. The Waynesboro YMCA is turning the model on its head with a new approach to fitness.

“Our demographic trends are not good right now. I would love to see us turn that around. I would love to see us become one of those model cities one day. I would love to see Waynesboro rock the health and fitness world,” said Kari Davis, the new group fitness director at the Waynesboro Y.

Davis and YMCA executive director Jeff Fife are changing the Y paradigm to extend the offerings outside the walls of the 648 S. Wayne Ave. facility. The focus, Davis said, “is on motivating the younger generation to implement a healthier lifestyle, making them aware of how to get healthy, and promoting a variety of types of wellness. Not just, you have to be in a gym to get healthy.”

“We’re not only going to be increasing our offerings to our membership, the number of classes and the types of classes, we’re going to be offering wellness outside these walls, and looking to engage in the entire community in the group fitness arena,” said Fife, adding that he is “excited” to have Davis on board to bring those plans to fruition.

“One of the things that attracted us to Kari is her overall holistic approach to wellness,” Fife said. “She’s dedicated to improving the lives of people. Her mission of making people’s lives better, and the skill and intentionality of her wellness background, is a perfect fit for the Y and the challenges that are facing Waynesboro.

“Kari brings an amazing amount of skill, energy, dedication, to the wellness arena. We’re just thrilled to have her talents here at the YMCA,” Fife said.

Davis started her fitness training career in college teaching spin classes. A mother of five, Davis also brings with her the experience of having taken part in mission work in Africa that opened her eyes in particular to what needs to be done to get kids moving toward a better level of fitness.

“I was very impressed with the simplicity of life there. It made me realize how the American culture has complicated things so much,” Davis said. “These kids in Ethiopia have two toys. They have a bicycle rim with a stick, and they’re outside running this bicycle wheel to see how fast they can run with it, and they have a soccer ball. These kids are playing, playing, playing, and if you look at their diet, it’s meats and vegetables, and a few grains. There’s a lot that we can learn from just trying to simplify things.”

Fife feels strongly that the Y needs to be a community leader in pushing wellness, health and fitness as keys to the overall quality of life in the Waynesboro-Augusta County area.

“Just as an example, the BMI indexes for third-graders in Waynesboro Public Schools are higher than the state and national averages. If we’re going to make a dent in that trend, we’re going to have to impact families, The Y is the frontline in working with families,” Fife said.

“There’s no other way to say it, no nice way to say it, except to say that Waynesboro is getting poorer and fatter. We need to find ways to impact the families and changing how they look at physical activity and engagement. And the Y is the perfect place to have that happen,” Fife said.

Davis will be taking the Y to local schools and civic and senior groups as part of the effort to get the community literally moving in the right direction.

“We’re all so busy these days with our lives going a hundred miles an hour, and sometimes we forget the family piece of it,” Davis said. “Focusing on family time together, being healthy, whether it be hiking, walking the Greenway, playing family soccer games, whatever it may be, it’s important to do these things.

“I think just educating people is important,” Davis said. “I think people want to be healthy, they want a healthier lifestyle. They just need a little guidance, a little knowledge and know-how. The Y has the ability to go beyond our walls to educate the community.”

An important part of the outreach is getting across the important point that fitness and wellness isn’t just for those who are already fit and healthy.

“What we hope to provide at the Y is a venue for all shapes, sizes, all ages, to use to be able to meet their fitness and health goals. We want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in the classes, and that they can adapt to their needs,” Davis said.

“You don’t have to be perfect. I’m certainly not perfect. I’ve birthed five babies. I’ve got a mombod. I have my backaches. I have days where I sit on the couch and eat chocolate chips all day. We all have those days. We’re all working to improve our health,” Davis said.

– Story by Chris Graham


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