Physical Health and Wellbeing Plus Personal Connections from South Sound YMCA Instructors


Physical fitness is at the core of an importantly interconnected practice of overall health. The South Sound YMCA has a variety of learning formats from small group classes to virtual Y access including programs for families about food, fitness and strength. Your neighborhood YMCA is accessible and down-to-earth. Being in a place where the instructors really care about your health and wellbeing makes for time well spent. Meet some of the instructors who decided to change the course of their lives to practice and share the healthy approach they found prominent at South Sound YMCA.

Membership at the South Sound YMCA also led to future employment for Sprint8 instructor Vanessa Morgan who wanted a career in fitness to help people with personal training and with achieving goals. Photo Courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Vanessa Morgan’s Pathway from South Sound YMCA Member to High-Intensity Sprint8 Instructor

Joining was Sprint8 instructor Vanessa Morgan’s son’s idea. Her son liked playing basketball, and her daughter liked swimming, so they joined the South Sound YMCA, where they could all go to the same place together.

Membership at the YMCA also lead to future employment for Morgan who wanted a career helping people with their fitness. She got trained and started working at the YMCA, helping people with personal training and their achieving goals. Her Sprint8 class is a high-intensity interval training class designed to burn fat and tone muscles.

“I hope people will gain confidence and strength from taking my classes,” Morgan says. “I hope they can build friendships and the love of working out.”

South Sound YMCA personal trainer and intuitive eating specialist Heather Sundean specializes in strength training and intuitive eating. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Heather Sundean Connects Strength and Nutrition at YMCA in Thurston County

Personal trainer and intuitive eating specialist Heather Sundean worked at a nonprofit before teaching courses at the YMCA. She decided that she needed a change, and now in the personal trainer role, she specializes in strength training and intuitive eating and enjoys working with a variety of clients.

“After 11 years, I decided it was time to turn over a new leaf,” Sundean says. “I’d always loved resistance training myself. Coming to the YMCA was a natural move.”

Sundean facilitates the Strength Lab, a weightlifting class for the intermediate level and teaches Intro to Power Lift at the Plum Street YMCA and Rise and Grind at the Briggs Street YMCA.

Individualized approaches fit into her repertoire too as she once worked directly with a senior client for approximately eight months, beginning with overcoming the challenges of simple squats and raising arms overhead. Her client worked toward an independent, more personalized program, eventually not needing one-on-one guidance anymore. As a personal trainer and intuitive eating guide emphasizing well-rounded health, Sundean helps people establish their own relationship with food and movement.

“Intuitive eating is not a diet,” Sundean says. “It is more about stepping away from conventional wisdom about diet, weight and health into a more holistic prospective. When we have a natural, relaxed relationship with food we are much more able to create a sustainable exercise program.”

Zumba instructor Diana Yu brings a valuable background in health and education as a former Thurston County Health Officer to her role at the South Sound YMCA. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Longtime Community Health Professional Diana Yu Shares Her Love of Zumba

Zumba instructor Diana Yu brings an extensive background in health and education knowledge to her role at the YMCA. Now retired from the Thurston County Board of Health after 23 years, the former Thurston County Health Officer teaches Zumba Gold and Zumba Toning at the Plum Street location. Yu’s kids grew up going to the YMCA, and she herself had taken different classes for active seniors. Later, she taught those very classes.

As a longtime advocate for health and wellness, Yu led free outdoor Zumba classes in Olympia and has had participants ranging in age from 30 to 90s.

“People tend to stay at the YMCA,” Yu says. “I see people in my classes who were teachers to my kids growing up.”

Yu’s Zumba classes are different, but they all have one thing in common, fun.

“Zumba is an exercise in disguise,” she says. “It works on your flexibility, balance and endurance. It’s a class anybody can do. I think it’s great they offer this benefit as part of Medicare. When you come to the YMCA, you get the benefit of moving, socializing and being happy. It’s your endorphin feed.”

Take Time for Self-Care With a Trip to a Thurston County Gym at South Sound YMCA

Physical and mental health issues are at the forefront in the United States, and concerns are reflected in countless studies. There is also good news. Simply getting active, like what the members and staff at a South Sound YMCA gym love doing, is a good first step to becoming healthier overall. Physical activity brings head-to-toe benefits including better sleep and cognition and a reduction in anxiety and depression according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Something as simple as connecting with others at a local YMCA where the instructors care about meeting you and leading you in learning about how to keep your body moving and strong, improves overall health. Check out the classes and extended resources of the South Sound YMCA on their website and sign up for some fun, healthy activities.

South Sound YMCA Locations
Briggs Community YMCA
1530 Yelm Highway SE, Olympia
Plum Street YMCA
505 Plum Street SE, Olympia
Shelton Family YMCA
3101 N. Shelton Springs Road, Shelton


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