Before you know it, 2018 will be here. And if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to shed those few extra pounds or to start eating better, the Richard G. Snyder YMCA may have the tool you need to finally accomplish those goals.

Bethany Riggle, director of marketing for the YMCA, talks about the My Virtual Y online service, which launched in April 2017. Development of the service, which includes access to videos of fitness classes, a nutrition tracker, searchable recipes for healthy eating and customizable workout plans, began in October 2016 after the YMCA’s new executive director came aboard. Riggle says a community needs assessment and area demographic survey were conducted.

“We determined that we have a lot of people in our county who are unable to utilize the services that the Y provides, but definitely were interested in everything we were doing and wanted to see it expanded into the community more,” Riggle says.

After brainstorming possible solutions, staff came to the conclusion that an online service could fulfill some of those needs.

After investigating different types of programs, the YMCA staff came across My Virtual Y while at a training program. The service, provided by a third-party vendor, is completely customizable for each YMCA member.

One of the features that has gotten the most enthusiastic response so far has been the online videos of YMCA group exercise classes. Riggle says anyone can go onto YouTube to watch fitness videos or workout routines, but the My Virtual Y service allows users to localize their experience.

“What is unique about My Virtual Y and these group exercise classes is that these are individuals leading these classes who are in your community,” she says. “It brings more of a sense of community and a sense of ownership to it.

“When you watch the videos, they are very real and they are very raw. It is building a sense of community and belonging, even when you are not walking through our doors. That’s been the biggest thing people have liked.”

Class types run the gamut of the fitness world, such as barre, yoga, weight lifting, cardio intervals, workouts for seniors or those with special needs, strength and toning and Pilates. There are even workouts for cycling.

“It encompasses pretty much anything you’d want to get from a group exercise class,” Riggle says.

Another feature of My Virtual Y is the nutrition tracker, which allows users to search for different foods and log them into a food diary. Users can also search for healthy recipes.

“There are so many different programs that offer one thing or the other,” Riggle says. “But there are not a lot of programs that offer all of this in one package.”

Other parts of the My Virtual Y service include links to preventative wellness, such as how to prevent diabetes or heart disease; local community resources for health and wellness; and print-and-go customizable workouts. The latter can be specific to gender, part of the body, the equipment being used, length of workout or even the intensity of the pre-workout warm-up.

The online service is great for those who are looking for an easy framework upon which to build a healthier lifestyle. It also takes away some of the inconvenience of having to travel to a specific location to exercise or learn more about health and wellness.

“Everybody is always busy and running around,” Riggle says. “We all have things to do. Nobody ever has time for themselves or to take care of themselves. It usually is low on the priority list.

“We wanted to be able to give people the opportunity to do this stuff at their convenience, wherever they are at. Anywhere you can access the Internet, you can get onto My Virtual Y — and you can do a workout, or track your nutrition, or read healthy articles and watch different recipe videos. This (service) really encompasses all the YMCA has to offer.”

It also offers another substantial benefit.

“I think it is a great way for people to engage with the community and with the Y, and to feel welcomed by the Y,” Riggle says.

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