Carrying on a Health & Wellness Legacy
When Emily Gustafson became a YWCA member in her own right, the experience was a sentimental throwback to her younger days. Back then, her grandparents were the members and she was the guest. As an adult in 2020, she saw times change in unfathomable ways. But she also witnessed YWCA Minneapolis evolve, too — meeting her and her contemporaries exactly where they are!
When did you first become a member and what brought you here?
I first officially became a member back in 2019 when I moved into Uptown. The funny thing is that I’ve known about YWCA for years because my grandparents used to live right next door at Kenwood Isles and were members themselves. I’d already been a few times when I was in high school and struggled through a few aerobics classes while my grandma absolutely kicked butt. I had great memories of going with them, so it only seemed right to join myself when I moved into their old stomping grounds!
What’s been the impact of the pandemic on your workout experience?
Initially, it was really tough for me to figure out how to motivate myself to workout without access to a gym, like I was used to. But it was so cool to see how many options popped up from YWCA almost immediately to help us stay active and in community with each other. At the beginning, it felt like we were all figuring it out together and learning how these new formats could integrate into our new ways of life, which was very reassuring!
I think the upside to not having access to a full gym has made me more flexible in how I stay active — my routine is more varied now, I’ve learned that I don’t need to lift super heavy or run on a treadmill to get the results I want, and if I can’t make it to my virtual YWCA class, I have a better idea of how to craft an interesting, effective workout on my own. I’ve become a lot more independent and creative in how I workout, rather than feeling like I can only make a workout happen at the gym.
I love the feeling of community that YWCA instructors create, whether in-person or virtually. Back in the lockdowns of 2020, especially, it was nice to have this group of people going through the same things that I was, who were also showing up and looking for a workout and some time together.
What do you like most about in-person or virtual workouts?
I love that I have a set routine where I try to make it to certain classes each week, but that those classes will have something new and different each week to keep me challenged and interested. I also love the feeling of community that YWCA instructors create, whether it’s in-person or virtually. Back in the lockdowns of 2020, especially, it was nice to have this group of people going through the same things that I was, who were also showing up and looking for a workout and some time together with other folks. I think the other benefit to virtual programming has been how easily it’s slotted into my schedule. I could fit an effective workout in over my lunch break when working from home, which was amazing.
And of course a huge part of it is how incredible every YWCA instructor is! They all work so hard to make sure everyone can workout at their level, feels comfortable and welcome, and makes a huge effort to get to know everyone, even over Zoom. It’s funny, because I’m still in classes with a lot of other people, but my workouts have felt much more personalized since coming to YWCA, since the instructors give so many options for doing the right thing for my own body. I love the workouts, but I keep coming back because of the people leading them.
Outdoor classes: What are those like?
I was thrilled when YWCA started offering outdoor classes, especially yoga! For all the amazing things about virtual classes, one of the hardest activities for me to do on Zoom was yoga, simply because I’m so used to doing yoga in-person. I’m a certified yoga instructor myself. I tried a few different classes over Zoom, and while they were lovely, I knew that something was missing. Yoga on Peavy Plaza has really filled that gap for me — it’s incredible to be outside, in the middle of this city that I love, moving in community with other folks who have also dedicated this hour to themselves and their well-being, whether that’s physical or mental or emotional or whatever.
And it’s been amazing doing it with my cousin! He lives super close, over by Loring Park, and he’s been my workout buddy since the beginning of the pandemic (and actually, long before then too!). I love sharing activities I love with people I love — it makes them even more fun and meaningful!
Wellness means taking care of my mental and emotional health as a way to get stronger and more comfy in my body, rather than trying to look a certain way.
For those who haven’t ventured into workout facilities due to the pandemic, what that’s been like?
The times I’ve gone into the gym have been great. The front desk staff are friendly, everything feels very clean and safe, and other members are friendly and respectful. It’s been fun augmenting my virtual routine with in-gym activities!
What are your favorite parts of being a member?
There are so many things I love about being a YWCA member! I love the community and instructors, I love the classes and the flexibility and challenge they offer. I love that the mission focuses on racial justice and empowering women and girls. I love how supported I feel here. I love that I can do more than 10 toe push-ups in a row now, too, haha.
Any advice for others?
For me, wellness is really a holistic venture — that means taking care of my mental and emotional health on top of my physical health, and seeing working out as a way to get stronger and more comfy in my body, rather than trying to look a certain way. I think it’s all about finding the things that keep you interested and engaged, making a routine for yourself that you can commit to, and getting a buddy or two to work out with.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Come to yoga on Tuesdays at Peavy Plaza at 5:30 pm!