The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Member Spotlight:

Leah Misch

Overcoming incredible odds, discovering renewed health & life mission


Thirty minutes of daily exercise began the incredible transformation of Leah Misch, an active YMCA member. Taking one step at a time to improve her health, she lost 90 pounds. Taking one step at a time in her free time and volunteering, she’s visited 49 states. Taking one step at a time in her relationships, she left an abusive boyfriend. She counted on the Y for support.


 “I remember feeling scared and overwhelmed when I first started making changes, and it was hard,” Leah says. “Focusing on each small step and keeping a positive attitude helped make the mountain easier to climb.”


Seven years ago, she embarked on her weight loss journey, after learning she had elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. To keep motivated, Leah started a “bucket list” in a small notebook, and has carried it with her ever since. Her original list included running a 5K. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it was going to take serious mental and physical work,” she says.


She summoned the courage to register for the community’s Minutes in Motion. As captain of her team, she named it - “You Go Girl!” She learned these inspiring words of motivation from her mother. In 2010, Leah ran her first 5K at the local Fitness Festival, praying just to finish. One year later in 2011, after breaking her back in a motorcycle accident, she ran the 5K again and placed third in her age category. It’s not surprising another year later, Leah placed first in that 5K. The next day she completed her first half marathon, and got back on her motorcycle and started riding again! Since then she’s completed eight full marathons and a Half Ironman.


It took three years to lose 90 pounds. As a registered nurse, Leah knew this approach guaranteed her continued success, which wasn’t a straight path. Yet the Y was always there for her. “Swimming in the pool and going to yoga class helped me to regain my strength,” she says. “Yoga really changed my life. It taught me how to stay calm during times I wanted to give up.”


Following the cycling crash, a year later she injured her hip and sustained whiplash in a car accident.  “I’m truly thankful for the scholarship I received from the Y, which allowed me not only to physically recover from my injuries, but also recover financially.”  Along with her bucket list, she kept a calendar with her weight loss goal and tracked her eating and exercise habits. As an active Y member, Leah sets and reaches new goals in the workout center. Her latest goal is to run a marathon in the only state – Alaska – that she hasn’t watched the sun rise or set. (It’s a bucket list goal she’s nearly finished through volunteering with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Health Service and other groups, as well as road trips on her Indian Scout motorcycle.)


Of all of Leah’s challenges, leaving her abusive relationship “was the hardest thing I ever had to do.” Signing a restraining order was scary. He’s currently serving time in prison; her testimony helped to put him there. Many people have taken notice of Leah’s courage and positivity to overcome obstacles. Her 10,000-mile solo adventure on her motorcycle has brought her national attention. She encourages others to keep their dreams alive with a bucket list. She’s invited to speak at various venues and helps motivate others with her “You Go Girl!” attitude. ~ By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC