Denver YMCA Personal Training Mental Health Wellness

YMCA personal trainer helps clients achieve healthy bodies and minds

Exercise is key for physical health, but it plays a large role in mental wellness too—something to remember especially during Mental Health Month this May. Just ask retired physician and YMCA member Jenny Wood. As a doctor, Wood knew that exercise is an important part of self-care, but recently she experienced it firsthand—through a bad ski day in February. Wood was just recovering from a broken knee on top of a previous double hip replacement.

“I found that my left leg kept giving out and I was falling… Having had that bad experience, I really realized how important it was to pour my willpower into losing some weight and get committed to being more fit. I didn’t want to give up skiing,” she explained.

Wood found a way to overcome the discouragement and push toward her goals, with the help of YMCA of Metro Denver Personal Trainer Amy Ventura and her local YMCA. A member since the 90s, Wood has always appreciated that the YMCA is a place for “people of all ages, shapes and sizes committed to being healthier.” She was encouraged to seek personal training with the Y when her husband began seeing great success with his trainer.

“I thought, ‘If he’s doing it, I’m going to do it too,’” Wood shared.

Now she works once a week on a range of strength and cardio exercises coached on by Ventura, who Wood describes as “very calmly encouraging.”

“When [Jenny Wood] first came in, she expressed to me that she was just kind of down and didn’t feel good about her own health practices,” said Amy Ventura, who has also recently become the Y’s Senior Manager of Health and Well-Being. “She told me she was in a rut, and so our goal was to get out of that rut.”

Ventura’s recommendations to Wood from her years of coaching experience have had positive results, and not just physically, but mentally as well.

“Since I’ve been more committed, I’ve probably lost 9 pounds, and I just feel better and know I’m getting stronger and more hopeful about everything,” Wood shared. “I feel much stronger in my abilities to tackle whatever challenges are ahead. I think that’s huge.”

At the same time, she’s reconciled to the fact that life doesn’t always allow time for the ideal amount of focus on physical exercise, and part of being mentally healthy is giving ourselves grace in those periods.

“In the past, I tried to exercise more and understand my eating better and lose weight, and I’ve had lots of attempts, but nothing really took for a long period of time,” Wood explained. “I was always active, but never active to the point that I was actually helping my body and mind. I always used to think ‘I just can’t do that’ in a negative way. What all of us need to realize is that there are just times you are better able to manage those areas than others. They shouldn’t be seen as failures.”

Setting realistic goals is a key part of a positive mental perspective as well. Since Wood and her husband have always loved to cycle, they are currently training for an eight-day, 325 kilometer European bike trip along the Danube from Germany to Austria.

“We’ve done trips when we were younger that were far longer than that, but this is the first time we’ve done this in our 60s,” she explained. “It’s very exciting. We didn’t want to do something that was out of our reach, but something that was encouraging.”

Reflecting on her journey, Wood encouraged others to take the time to prioritize exercise as a key element of self-care, especially this May (Mental Health Awareness Month). Her story is not unique. Recent studies have found that physical exercise can significantly improve mental health, and that regular activity boosts cognitive functioning and can combat depression.

According to Fitt Insider, the studies found that “physical activity, especially high-intensity exercise, was 1.5 times more effective than counseling or leading medications in treating depression.” This is true for everyone from teens to older adults.

Ventura agrees, speaking from her own experience as a health coach and personal trainer. “Chemicals are released in the brain when we move, like serotonin and endorphins. There is science behind it for sure… but I often see people when they just need someone by their side to encourage them to meet their own physical goals, which a huge mental and emotional boost of its own.”

Just take it from Wood: she is now “on a road to doing what’s best for my body and my mind. I’m much more hopeful, and definitely much more committed to making this journey stick.”