It’s a chilly 5:20 a.m., and the Fredericton YMCA’s morning crew is waiting in the parking lot for the doors to open. The girls jam into a truck that’s blasting warm-up music, while the guys huddle at the door.
Rain or shine, this group of friends are in front of the Y nearly every weekday morning. They’re the first ones through its doors, where they exercise and catch up with each other before sprinting off for their busy days as electricians, doctors, teachers and more.
Rob Dymond has been a member since 1987, well before the YMCA’s move to its new state-of-the-art facility on York Street. He first came to the Y in Grade 10, and through the years, hasn’t missed more than a few weeks of training.
“You meet a lot of people at the Y,” says Rob. He should know: that’s where he met Daneen, his wife. The pair met after a common friend planned a ruse to get the two to bump into each other in the gym. They married shortly after.
“The Y is way more than a gym. Our morning crew has become our family,” says Daneen. Now a physical education and leadership teacher at Fredericton High School, she got her professional start 18 years ago as a swim instructor, when she taught a popular morning YMCA Aquacize class.
“When I first came to Fredericton, I knew absolutely nobody,” she says. This changed quickly, as the Aquacize class became her second family.
“At Christmas, they knew I didn’t have any decorations for my tree, so they brought me out for brunch and all 30 of them made me a homemade ornament.”
This act of kindness showed her another side to the Y, where support and love are taken with the same care as physical wellness. “To me, that’s what the Y is about.”
This generosity is characteristic of Y members. Rob, an electrician with the City of Fredericton, found his current job through a friend at the Y. He recently returned the favour by suggesting the city hire another electrician he met at the Y.
Whether it’s a doctor who sees a relative’s sick child in off-hours, or finding a friend to borrow ski or bike gear, the couple says the Y offers them a precious network of helpful and reliable members.
Daneen points out that her husband has never even been to another gym. “If you are really excited about making a lifestyle change, this is the place for you,” she says. “It’s not about going to the gym, weights or cardio. It’s about making a change that will affect every single part of your life.”
Her own YMCA journey led her to becoming a personal trainer, fitness director, and later a full-time coach at the University of New Brunswick. “Throughout the whole way, all my references from the YMCA helped me to get where I want to be.”
In her day job, Daneen teaches wellness, physical education and leadership, and brings YMCA staff to speak at wellness fairs she hosts for students and teachers.
“The YMCA touches all the elements of the wellness wheel every day for us,” she says. “That means so much more than going to a gym.”
Rob and Daneen say there’s one important motivating factor that gets them out of bed for their early morning workouts: knowing their friends will be there.
“When it comes to wellness, the social part is as important as the physical part. The inclusion portion of the Y is huge,” she adds. “It’s that feeling of constant welcome.”