The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Kathy Friedhof

Renews Her Health After Returning to the Y to Prevent Diabetes

Kathy Friedhof knows first-hand the life-changing difference between maintaining an exercise program and not working out. She left the La Crosse YMCA 14 years ago. The good news is that she rejoined this spring. "It's been amazing how I feel since I've been exercising again," says Kathy, age 54. During her first work-out back at the Y, she felt excited about the endorphin rush. She had forgotten about those "little endorphins" that improve your sense of well-being. 


Now she's determined to never give up the Y again, and she enjoys encouraging others to keep healthy. "Exercising may not be the easiest thing you do, but if you quit, you won't feel the same," she says. "Go step by step. It will take you where you want to go."


Kathy admits she quit the Y because she began to think negatively about exercising, that it was too much work. Since her return, she's experienced the joy in exercising, along with a few normal, minor aches and pains as her body adjusted. "Persevere, it will pay off in the long run," she says.


Her doctor, Dr. Gerlyn Brasic at Mayo Clinic, inspired Kathy's re-appearance at the Y. Dr. Brasic recommended that Kathy try the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program, before taking medication to decrease her high blood glucose levels. "She motivated me to get back to it," Kathy says. "I'm thankful that she did."


Kathy gives a lot of positive feedback to the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program, especially about the people she met through the class that offer one another support and friendship. Making healthy choices and having proper food portion control are the most important lessons she's learned.


Balance between exercise and nutrition is key to success in the program. Kathy dedicates every Tuesday and Thursday morning to the Y, which has made a profound impact on her health. She enjoys the group exercise classes and the Nustep recumbent bike in the Wellness Center. Not only has she lost several pounds, but her strength and appearance have dramatically improved. 


Kathy once slouched in her posture due to weakness in her upper body, which is remarkably strong now. Shake her hand and you'll feel her strength and confidence. Today she sits straight and proud in her wheelchair. Kathy uses her wheelchair to get around, but she says that she's not bound to it. "When I need to get out of my chair, I do," she says. "I have cerebral palsy, but I'm not my disability."


Exercise has become so vitally important to Kathy's life that she works out at home in addition to her visits to the Y. She rides her stationary bike and work out with various fitness DVDs. She's determined to spend 30 minutes exercising six days a week. Having earned a bachelor's degree in library science, she's a natural learner. Since she has renewed her program, she checked out a DVD series from the public library on the physiology of exercise, which further inspired her to keep working out.


"Life is an adventure," says Kathy. She has gone hang gliding and graduated from a self-defense class, as just two examples. "You will get out of anything what you choose to put into it. I enjoy being the best that I can be, and I like to encourage others to do the same."


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2013