The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Jen Van Dalsem

Jump Over Hurdles to Achieve Your Goals


     Jen Van Dalsem is a great role model for others to persevere through their physical and mental hurdles to meet their goals. Dedicated to home-schooling her two children – Daniel, 8, and Amelia, 7, she manages hurdles to schedule her workouts around her children’s Y activities, including gymnastics and swimming lessons. Her husband Shane likes exercising in the Wellness Center.


     Earlier this year, Jen decided to try boot camp because she wanted to better accommodate her children. The late afternoon class allowed her kids to play in the family fun room, which they love, and yet gave them time to return home early enough to make dinner. “While I had been taking step classes and Zumba classes, I had not taken boot camp and wasn’t sure what to expect,” Jen says. “I thought I would just hide in the back corner and see how the class goes.” Jen quickly learned that there was no hiding in Troy’s boot camp class. “We circled up and all stared at each other eye-to-eye. The first thing I noticed is that I was the oldest in that class by a good 15 years,” says the 41-year-old Jen. “I immediately felt intimidated by all of these young, athletic bodies circled around me. I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into.”


     One reason Jen enjoys taking a variety of classes offered at the Y is that she’s more likely to work-out harder and longer; she’s motivated by other participants. At the boot camp, however, she says she could hardly keep up with the warm-ups. She did her best to continue with the session, but found herself by the exit door after 30 minutes. “I lost all confidence and decided that if I stayed longer, I would only humiliate myself,” Jen says.  But the instructor met her at the door and asked her if she was going to jump back in the class. She admitted to him that it was beyond her capabilities and she felt scared. “He could have let me leave, but encouraged me to stay,” Jen says. “At the last second, I swallowed my pride and continued.” The teacher did as he promised, going with her to each exercise station and helping her with each one.


     “By the time I was done, my body was shaking and I felt a little sick to my stomach,” Jen says. “But I had to fight the tears as a new sense of accomplishment overcame me. I felt really good that I stuck through it.”  Not only did the instructor’s encouragement overwhelm her, but the other members’ kindness did too. It’s all part of the great reality for the Van Dalsem family that the Y is “tremendously wonderful,” Jen says. “I love all of the instructors. I expect them to be all professional, but their genuine kindness and friendliness is beyond expectations.”


     Jen encourages other Y members to jump over their hurdles to try a new class or exercise longer. She took the boot camp for nine months and grew stronger and more confident. Lately, she’s active in kickboxing and step aerobics. As a home-school family, Jen says, that equates to a one-income family. Yet the membership is worth it, as each one of her family likes their own niche. “The Y also is a great place for us to hang out together,” Jen says. They swim, shoot hoops and enjoy the Family Fun Nights. With her strong belief in the YMCA, Jen is known as an effective and hard worker for the Y’s Strong Kid’s Campaign. “I loved the campaign,” Jen says. “The Y is very generous with its scholarships.”

– By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink, LLC