As part of our cause for strengthening community, the Y seeks to bring community members together to support each other in their efforts to forge healthier lifestyles. Few programs exemplify this goal like the Smallest Winner, the Y’s team wellness program. 

Earlier this month, the Smallest Winner trainers and participants invited Ricky Mejia, one of the Y’s Aquatics staff and Cause-Driven Leaders on Duty, to join them for their celebratory banquet at the end of the fall session. Below, Ricky shares his thoughts after attending the event. 

For years, our Y has been running the challenge known as The Smallest Winner. In this 10-week program, you are grouped with a team and each is assigned a coach. In the weeks that follow, you meet with your coach as a team once a week for an hour, and as individual for half an hour. Although the program started as a weight loss challenge, it has grown and evolved to really be about healthy lifestyle changes, with weight loss being a direct effect.

I was not part of the program this year, but Lisa Hooker and Nicole Szeliga, two coaches and healthy lifestyle specialists, invited me to the banquet on December 10th where everyone celebrates their progress and hard work. Right off the bat, you could feel the passion, camaraderie, and determination in the room, and from each and every person involved. From the coaches to the participants, everyone had so much fun in the program and learned to love getting active.

I first talked to Kate and June from Nicole’s team. I asked them why they decided to join this program and what appealed to them. June said she has been a member at the Y for years and heard so many good things about the program and just decided to do it to learn some new things. Kate wanted something to give her a jolt, and to kick start some real change in her lifestyle. She has always been an active person, swimming, aerobics, running, but she needed something more. Something that would truly spark change. What also appealed to her was being accountable for her actions, and having people that truly cared and wanted her to succeed. Accountability was a big factor with everyone.

Next were Lisa’s Tuesday night group, consisting of Doiran, Sharon, Jenn, and Nancy. Wow, were they a rambunctious bunch. High energy, laughter, and jokes are what made this group, and they were awesome. It was also wonderful to see that they all didn’t know each other before the program, but that over the couple of months, they all found things that connected and bonded them. Because all of them are full-time working moms, they understood each others’ demands in life and how easy it is to forget about yourself sometimes. What really appealed to this group about the program is having peer support while also having personal training time, which is the best double whammy you could ask for. They even set up a group text so they could motivate each other and setup times they could work out together.

Then Lisa’s Monday crew, equally as crazy as her Tuesday, with Andrea, Diane, and Natalie. Andrea and Diane both started off as yoga people, and a real motivation for joining this program was that they wanted to be more well rounded with strength training and cardio. This program, being wonderful and amazing, delivered on giving them that. These ladies were so hilarious and funny, and truly loved being in the program and giving Lisa a hard time, which Lisa enjoys a nice challenge.

Then there came the moment to announce the winner. Lisa and Nicole stood in front of all the groups, saying how everyone did a wonderful job and really made strides to better themselves. Then Nicole started to tear up, thinking about how much the winner really did strive to be the best person she could be, and then she looked at Kate and announced her as the new reigning Smallest Winner. Everyone clapped, Kate got choked up and said how much this experience has changed her, I got teary eyed, everyone was. Changing your lifestyle and health habits is a hard thing, and something that we all can relate to.

In January, the coaches will reveal some new changes to further enhance this program – which will now be called SHAPE Up Team Challenge. Instead of 10 weeks, it will be extended to 12 – with a week zero that involves all of the introductions, body composition, basic information, etc.

Even with these changes, the core of the program will stay the same. It’s a program that gives you tools to better yourself while also helping and learning from others. You can’t get better than that. So who knows, maybe you will get an inside look at how the program is, firsthand, if I decide to do it next session. We will all have to see!

– Rickyricky-m

Ricky Mejia has worked at the Attleboro Y for 7 years. Although he’s worked primarily in the Y’s Aquatics Department during that time, he’s spread his great energy and enthusiasm throughout our Y by participating in group exercise classes, late-night volleyball, and more. Recently, he’s begun contributing his writing talents to the Y’s blog and will assume a new role as one of the Y’s Cause-Driven Leaders on Duty.