Like many of us, 17-year-old Sunshine Hughett tried a lot of new hobbies in 2020, to balance being stuck inside during the months of the pandemic.
“I got bored and tried new things, but none of them really stuck,” says Sunshine. “I knew I wanted to be active and spend time around other people.”
Her sister began working out at the Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius, and Sunshine wanted to join her – but didn’t have a clue what activity she wanted to participate in! Helping people discover their athletic niche is an important goal of every YMCA branch, and Sunshine found her happy place as a member of the Student Athlete Program.
“During COVID, we saw with all the cancelled sports and activities, that teens were struggling,” explains Julie Doerr, Healthy Living Director of the YMCA. “We wanted to provide them with an opportunity to connect with others and do something to promote good health.”
The program meets two days a week, Monday and Wednesday, from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Students work with a personal trainer to build strength, increase agility, and prevent injury, as well as learn how to safely spot and encourage others. Sunshine began weight training in September of 2021, and is pleased and proud of how far she has come!
A senior this year at Hough High School, Sunshine has her own motivation that she taps into on a daily basis. “There are certainly days I don’t want to go. But I remember how far I have come since I started, and how much I want to continue to improve.”
And she has already overcome one of her early obstacles.
“I was super shy when I started, and I was worried people were going to judge me because I hadn’t done anything like that before,” says Sunshine. “When I started doing classes, however, I realized no one was judging me! Everyone teaching and taking classes encouraged me to keep at it, because over time, I was getting better.”
Sunshine usually works out a total of four or five days a week, and on days she is not doing the Student Athlete Program she is either lifting and working out on the YMCA’s fitness floor, or participating in a small group functional training program. (She might also be found working on math homework in the lobby, when she’s taking a break from lifting!)
Sunshine says dead lifts and back squats are her favorite exercises, and she has clear cut advice for other young people looking to become involved in a weight-lighting program.
“Ask questions!” she says! “When I started, I wasn’t good at it, but the only way to improve is to practice, and be aware of what you are doing wrong. Don’t stop! You might get discouraged or feel awkward at first, but after a while that starts to go away.”
She does remember a time when she realized just how much the classes have meant to her. “During the summer my family usually has a lot going on, so when I couldn’t drive myself, I couldn’t be at the gym as much as I’d like,” explains Sunshine. “Taking a break during that time made me realize how much I enjoyed being around everyone at the YMCA, and how important it was to me to show up.”
Right now is the perfect time to contact your local YMCA to find your own wellness niche, and build your routine to be ready for spring and summer! Part of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, the Lake Norman YMCA is located at 21300 Davidson Street in Cornelius, NC, and serves the Cornelius, Huntersville, and Davidson communities. Reach them by phone at 704-716-4499, or online at Ymcacharlotte.org.