Seeing Stars: Stepping in to the Burbank YMCA

"Oh, it's been a really long time since you've done a step class." my muscles screamed to me loud and clear after an intense hour at the Burbank YMCA. I was seeing stars for sure. The next day it was quite the struggle to walk up any stairs but two days later, my body recovered and was ready for more.

There's something about group exercise that makes it so much more enjoyable than just going on the elliptical machine in my perfectly adequate apartment gym. The truth is, I never do weights or crunches unless I'm in a class. The Brazilian teacher Rosana is beautiful, buffed and boisterous! Even though we don't talk a lot, we bond quickly in that class.

I've wanted to join the YMCA since moving here because it's very close to my apartment and it's an organization that has been helpful to me since my daughter was very young. I was just a bit embarrassed to ask about their sliding scale fee rates and kept hoping I'd get a full-time job.

Well, nine months later, I finally sucked it up and went in. They gave me a great rate of $25 per month and were nice about the sliding scale part. I'm hoping I can convince them to let me start teaching some kids cooking classes there, which I started to do before I left San Jose. More on that later.

Attention parents: The YMCA in San Jose had a program for my tween daughter when I was working full-time that saved our lives. It was a day camp in the summer that took the kids on really fun outings and occasional weekend overnights.  My daughter met life-long friends through that program and was well supervised while still remaining an independent tween. They also have a leadership program that really helped my foster daughter learn confidence skills, and then she worked as a lifeguard for several years. I'm sure this Y has similar programs and again, sliding scale.

It also had a program sponsored by Stanford University for people in cancer treatment that offered free memberships, supervised light exercise and meditation. This really was a miracle for me during the dark days of chemotherapy. Then later when I recovered, I helped coach the frequent newcomers to the program. I owe the YMCA a lot and that's not an exaggeration.

The philosophy of the YMCA is based on a mind, body, spirit health plan that I can totally appreciate and there's no preaching. I'm just getting to know the Burbank YMCA but I've taken Zumba, belly dancing and step so far and they've been wonderful. I'm looking forward to taking yoga and aqua aerobics too.

Cassandra M. Bellantoni is a Los Angeles freelance reporter, producer, video editor and featured front-page blogger on Huffington Post. She is also a former chef, restaurant owner and breast cancer survivor. Follow her on Twitter @StarShineSpeaks or email





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