I had it pretty good at the Knoxville Downtown YMCA. It was built in 1929, and they've kept the original facade and many of the interior fixtures. They even kept the old velodrome-style banked running track suspended over the gym. (30 laps = a mile. That's right. 30.) This place just has style.
Built four years before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened.
I visited the Y maybe 3 or 4 days a week during the spring and summer, more often during the winter. People started to recognize me. I had regular Y-friends and friends-from-school-turned-Y-friends. Erin, the fitness director, is 100 percent committed to her job, and she makes it her business to improve the lives of the members. The vibe was supportive without being stifling, and I really enjoyed my time there. I was in such a hurry to move that I forgot to empty my locker and left behind some (fairly expensive) bike shoes. They held my shoes and my lock for me. That's class.
As soon as we moved to Raleigh, I joined the Alexander Family YMCA, the main branch of the Triangle Area Y, just down Hillsborough. This building is well appointed, and I understand that it's recently been renovated. They teach more classes than the Knoxville YMCA, probably to service the campus + downtown crowd, and the only class I haven't been able to get into (because of space) is yoga.
The instructors at the Alexander Y are intense. They pay close attention to every participant and make corrections in form while also (enthusiastically, I'll say that) cheering everyone on. I attend fitness classes to have the luxury of mentally checking out. In the past, this disengagement has led to a lot of work without much reward, since I'd be so checked out that I wouldn't do much beyond going through the motions. It's uncomfortable to be called out when I'm obviously phoning it in, but it's also beneficial. I hope this kind of hands-on instruction will take my fitness to another level.
A different kind of retroI'm still working out my weekly schedule, but I'm excited about the possibilities. Class rotations begin at 5:30 a.m. run until 7:30 or 8:00 most nights. They offer sports- and fitness-specific courses (5 or 6 different yogas, a few different spin classes, a triathlon class). I would like to see a course along the lines of BodyAttack or BodyPump, but their circuit training class (45 intense minutes) comes close without using any free weights.
Outdoor activities are my preference, but there are days when gathering gear and getting to a space just takes too much (time, energy, focus). Memberships are affordable, and if you're coming from another Y, you can get a "good standing" letter from the membership director to waive the $110 join fee. They offer childcare until 6 or 7 p.m., and the facilities are always clean and stocked. Towel service is offered, and both the men's and women's locker rooms have steam rooms and saunas. In settling into life in Raleigh, the Alexander Family Y has given me something familiar while introducing me to a new group of Y-friends.