YMCA executive director takes personal fitness journey

jeff fife ymcaBy Jeff Fife

For decades, I’ve been able to proudly tell my story that I’m not only an employee and alum but also one of the many lives that have been impacted by the YMCA.

My Y journey started at age 13 when I was recruited to volunteer by Merv Wooten and Tony Wagner. I’d come down to the Y on Saturdays and line the gym floor with chairs, crank down the baskets, and keep score of the games.

Shortly thereafter, I started volunteering on the weekdays, banging out membership cards (before the age of computers).

At age 16, they made me official and hired me. I was working the front desk and transitioned to childcare. College came and I continued to come home for the summers and work for the Y. Even after I took my first position as Youth Program Coordinator for the City of Waynesboro, transitioned to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and stepped into the corporate world doing business development for Brett Hayes and RentQuick.com, I continued my journey volunteering and playing sports at the Y.

Up until last Thanksgiving, my story was primarily volunteer- and sports-based. Now there’s another chapter: fitness.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that my 30+ year career as an employee and volunteer, I’d never touched a dumbbell (accept to place them as a door stop). I was personally moved by the stories we’ve shared on our website and Y magazine. Chris Graham, Jeff Hoke, Rob Bond, Jenn Frye, Larry Bryant, all members, all had life-changing experiences with the Y.

So last year, my orthopedic surgeon told me I had to stop playing impact sports or I’d be facing knee replacement surgery (on both knees). I hung up my basketball shoes and sought the advice of George Goodloe, Stephanie Duncan and Tony Cooper on our staff. The fitness staff here is top-notch and the membership extremely supportive.

People were surprised to see me hopping on an Arc Trainer, taking a body sculpt class, or getting in the weight room. I surprised myself, actually. Even as the director, I was intimidated by the weight room and taking classes.

It’s not easy taking that first step, but it’s worth it. I’m happy to say I’ve dropped 25 pounds since last Thanksgiving and kept it off. I’ve increased my core strength, and my knees feel better that they have in 10 years. I’m playing basketball again, and I can’t begin to describe the personal satisfaction I feel and appreciation for the staff and members at the Y that continue to encourage and support my fitness journey.

My New Year’s Resolution is simple: maintain and motivate. Maintain the journey that I started this year, and motivate others to start their own path. We have phenomenal staff, a supportive environment, and make lifelong connections that can change your life.

Whether its weight loss or weight gain, the Y is the best place to make that happen. I’m not just an employee, I’ve been touched by this organization. Come join us, say hello … and be the next story.

Jeff Fife is the executive director of the Waynesboro YMCA.

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