First Coast YMCA’s Operation Strong and Ready to serve military’s fitness needs

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 3/24/21

CLAY COUNTY – The First Coast YMCA is offering a new military-focused wellness course that’s a first of its kind for the organization.

The global COVID-19 pandemic affected people in a number …

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First Coast YMCA’s Operation Strong and Ready to serve military’s fitness needs

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – The First Coast YMCA is offering a new military-focused wellness course that’s a first of its kind for the organization.

The global COVID-19 pandemic affected people in a number of ways. Military base gyms and fitness facilities had to change the way they worked as a result, and in some cases, National Guard and Reserve members lost access to those facilities. The military has also seen a decline in its members’ fitness during the last year.

The YMCA is looking to help with its new Operation Strong and Ready wellness program.

“We have both members from the military community and organizations that support military operations and we wanted to come up with strategies to support them during this unprecedented time,” First Coast YMCA vice president of operations Jon Dearolf said.

The YMCA worked with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture and military outreach councils to create a new eight-week wellness course designed to keep people in shape, get people in shape, and teach new avenues of fitness when going to a gym might not be possible for everyone.

Dearolf said the program was originally going to be an in-person course and it even made it through the first few weeks in-person last year before the pandemic began. It was shelved, though, in order to give everyone time to figure out how to bring it back safely. That time is now and the solution and it’s now a virtual program.

“We’re five weeks into the first ever course and it’s been a great opportunity to expand from the local service area to the nation at this point,” Dearolf said. “We have 28 participants so far and it’s really breaking down geographic barriers for the First Coast YMCA.”

Dearolf said there are participants from all over Northeast Florida and the country, even as far as Arizona. The course is run by specially-trained professionals to be great for those at home. It doesn’t require any expensive equipment and the trainers will even suggest everyday household items for those interested to use as weights or resistances.

The program can be viewed live during the two sessions that happen each week or viewed on-demand at a later time. The program doesn’t end with each session though. That’s because the trainers check in afterward with the participants for feedback, questions and answers, nutritional help, which is where UF’s IFAS program comes in, and more.

“It’s a wellness course so it’s about all-around wellness, not just the physical workout portion,” Dearolf said.

Additional eight-week courses will be offered soon over the coming months and signups are already available on the First Coast YMCA’s Military Outreach website page. It’s completely virtual for now, but post-pandemic, the virtual classes will continue and in-person classes will be offered.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of participants so far,” Dearolf said. “The course seems to be a great success and we’re excited for it to continue growing.

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