Geauga Y Commits to Helping Patrons Fulfill New Year’s Resolutions
January 3, 2024 by Rose Nemunaitis

The festivities, fireworks and indulgences of ringing in the new year may be over, but new beginnings await at the Geauga Family YMCA in Chardon.

The festivities, fireworks and indulgences of ringing in the new year may be over, but new beginnings await at the Geauga Family YMCA in Chardon.

“Nothing is more rewarding than making a difference in someone’s life,” said Lana Niebuhr, who was named director of the Geauga Family YMCA in spring 2023. “We look forward to doing great things in the new year.”

Wellness is “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence,” according to the National Wellness Institute.

On any given day inside the YMCA’s spacious location at 12460 Bass Lake Road in Chardon, Niebuhr can be seen buzzing around with a genuine smile and attitude.

Previously director of the Lake County YMCA, Niebuhr has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry and is dedicated to making a difference in Geauga through the YMCA’s special programs.

“In order to do this, we have to look to see what the needs are in the community,” Niebuhr said. “We are not just a gym. I think it’s important that we are intentional about our work.”

One glance at a monthly newsletter confirms their holistic approach, which includes presentations from University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, local food drives, a book club, veteran’s celebrations and more.

“Our focus in the new year will be on mental health, where we will offer the Women’s Wellness and Recovery Program in the spring and hope to offer a free program tailored to meet the specific needs of our adult cancer survivors,” Niebuhr said.

The WWRP is offered twice a year and combines a 12-step spiritual recovery program with exercise and basic nutrition, she said.

The Geauga YMCA also plans to launch a new teen strength training class.

“We have an amazing team here at the Y,” Niebuhr said.

The new year can be very challenging after the holidays. Niebuhr said the most common obstacles many face include time constraints, not having any goals or having a lack of support.

“Our staff at the Y is here to assist in providing social support and can help members with their fitness goals,” she said. “The new year will be filled with fitness fun.”

In January, the YMCA will be offering a new Aqua Zumba class on Saturdays at 9 a.m., a Barre class at 10 a.m., Bamboo Fusion on Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and a Les Mills CORE class on Saturdays at 10:15 a.m., Niebuhr said.

“The YMCA is a non-profit organization committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, which is why when you join the Y, you become a part of a community,” Niebuhr said, recalling her own desire for connection when she first joined the Lake County YMCA in 1998.

She was a young mom then, looking for a place offering classes for her son who was 6 months old at the time.

The YMCA offered gym and swim, and a variety of classes for kids, as well as adults.

“Over the years, I developed close relationships with the staff and later on, started working part time,” Niebuhr said. “Throughout the years, the Y became an intricate part of my life and was truly my second home. My children also grew up at the Y.”

Her son’s first job was at the Willoughby YMCA, where he worked as a lifeguard, and her daughter worked at the Painesville location as a gymnastics coach.

“The Y played a significant role in my family’s life,” Niebuhr said.

Later, while she was working an internship for school, she met Kristy Giza, a social worker and coordinator for the Lake County jail.

Giza asked if she would be interested in teaching in the jail as a volunteer instructor. “Years later, I saw a need for the Y to do more than just teach a class inside the jail,” Niebuhr said. “We wanted to reach these women outside the jail and help provide social and spiritual support in order to prevent relapse. Kristy and I later developed the Women’s Wellness and Recovery Program.

“There are many health benefits to exercise which may include weight loss, reduction in BP (blood pressure), cholesterol and reducing risk of certain diseases,” she added. “However, studies have shown that exercise can also improve mental health status for those who suffer from mild to moderate depression, anxiety and ADHD. Exercise also helps improve a person’s self-confidence and self-worth.”

Prior to joining the Geauga YMCA, Niebuhr worked at Signature Health as a case manager.

“Although I enjoyed working in the community as a case manager, I missed my work at the Y,” Niebuhr said. “The Y’s focus is to strengthen the community. My day is never the same and I wear many hats. My day consists of meetings, working on new programs and wellness challenges while engaging with staff and members.”

She also loves leading fitness classes.

“What I enjoy most about my job is when I teach … seeing members smile and laugh while exercising,” Niebuhr said. “Everyone is welcome at the Geauga Y. We look forward to doing great things in the new year.”