The Healthy Habits New Year’s Challenge

What’s New at the YMCA of Coastal Carolina

by Melissa LaScaleia

YMCA is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that has been promoting its values of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, through its programs and offerings, for more than 150 years. 

The YMCA’s offerings are vast: they teach over 107 classes per week in disciplines like aqua fit, strength training, and yoga. Many are geared toward those aged 55 and up or those with physical limitations. They also have after-school programs that are academically and physically focused to provide a safe, supportive space for children and teens.

“I like that the Y is a place for all,” says Hatton Gravely, director of mission advancement for the YMCA of Coastal Carolina. “Any child can participate in our youth sports, summer camps, and after-school programs because our fundraising dollars support the families who need financial assistance. That is the social responsibility part of our mission.”

In anticipation of the New Year, Hatton teamed up with health and wellness directors and the leadership team, as well as directors from Tideland’s Health, to create a New Year’s promotion—the Healthy Habits 90-Day Challenge.

“Most people create New Year’s resolutions and then fall off the path,” Hatton says. “But ultimately, we want to support the community in achieving their healthy living goals year-round. So our promotion is centered on helping people build healthy habits over the course of three months, with all of the benefits we offer through the YMCA. We’ll track their progress on a leaderboard, and they can win prizes in addition to getting healthier. It’s friendly competition, personal accountability, community-oriented, and fun.”

The YMCA has pools and fitness equipment; all classes are free for members; and they provide babysitting services for children so parents can focus on their workouts. In October they finalized a partnership with Tideland’s Health, which gives members access to additional resources, like lectures with health professionals and health screenings. Throughout next year, they’ll be providing more content and services at each of the YMCA branches.

“Anyone who wants to participate can adopt healthy habits every week– things that are easy to do but enhance your lifestyle,” Hatton says. “Often people choose trendy goals like losing weight, but I can’t necessarily check off “lost weight” on my goal log after a week at the gym. When we try to measure things out of our control, it gets defeating. So we opted to concentrate on simple and measurable things: I exercised for 30 minutes, cooked at home, got eight hours of sleep, or took a mindful moment.”

Tricia Harrison is the healthy living director at YMCA, a role focused on wellness and fitness that she stepped into this past August. She’s been with the YMCA for over twenty years, mostly in Ohio, and has always been, along with her entire family, a fitness enthusiast. Tricia thinks of health as a circle comprised of adequate water; sleep; exercise; nutritious food; mental peace and spiritual nourishment. When she accepted the new position in Myrtle Beach, she envisioned helping people to implement all pieces of the circle.

Not everybody just wants to get on a treadmill,” she says. “I want to bring programs to the table that are geared towards specific goals, like heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer in America.”

The Y will be incorporating new daily fitness programs and also special population programs— things like a diabetes prevention program, blood monitoring, and Parkinson’s patient treatment, where they train, prevent, and monitor people. They have already implemented something called Fitness After Rehab.

“Usually when a patient is done with rehab, they are set free into the world with exercises to help support their healing,” Tricia says. “If they’re not used to exercising, they’ll come look at the fitness center and get overwhelmed. We are trying to bridge the gap from the rehab space to the real world. We set them up with a trainer for several sessions to teach them proper technique and create an at-home program to support them on a new path.”

“We’re so excited for our new partnership with Tideland’s Health, which will enable people in these programs to work with health care providers and trainers hand in hand,” she adds.

“Our partnership will go a long way in contributing to our mission of helping people live better lives through better health,” says Dr. Sean Nguyen of Tideland’s Health. “It simply makes sense. We encourage our patients to live active lifestyles, and the YMCA provides three convenient locations to help people reach their fitness goals. Add in new educational sessions and programming led by Tideland’s, and you get a winning combination of resources and education, focused on overall better health. Tideland’s Health physicians and experts are eager for the opportunity to bring added value to YMCA members.

“And the YMCA’s Healthy Habits Challenge is a brilliant way to help turn a generalized “get healthy” New Year’s resolution into a concrete plan of action that will track progress and actually lead to results. Often, resolutions are doomed from the moment they are made because there’s no plan with specific goals or a system for steady accountability. The challenge can provide that crucial guidance with a simple tracking system to help participants achieve their health goals and start to live better lives through better health.”

“We’re branding it as a lifestyle change,” Tricia says. “One of our slogans is: ‘Your greatest wealth is your health. Don’t make resolutions, build healthy habits.’”

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