May 17, 2022
By Sue Glass, President & CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Denver
On April 4, my big 5-0 birthday, I declared to the world my intention to complete an IRONMAN to commemorate my milestone birthday. It has been a month, and my training is in full gear. In the last 30 days, I completed 2,160 exercise minutes (36 hours!). My longest distance ride was 41 miles, run 9 miles and swim .71 of a mile (not continuous, still working on form and technique).
Why would I subject myself to such insanity, you might ask? The answer is simple, yet complex.
As a child and throughout my adult life, I have faced many hardships and life-altering circumstances. Looking back, I never expected to be where I am today, leading a committed team at one of the most inspiring organizations in the world. Those grueling, painful, lonely, and harrowing circumstances I endured produced in myself grit and determination to overcome obstacles. They taught me how to push through pain and discomfort, to rise above the challenges, and to not be defined by my circumstances but be defined by my God given purpose. It was a long faith journey - filled with pain and forgiveness, perseverance and resilience, healing and self-acceptance.
Reflecting back, my journey was incumbent on three interdependent critical factors: my faith, my mindset and my physical health. My spiritual journey led to my physical and mental transformation. That is why I’m passionate about the mission of the YMCA, which is all about developing healthy spirit, mind and body.
You will often hear me talking about wellness, but today I want to specifically talk about mental health. We are in the middle of a mental health crisis. Over the past ten years and during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have experienced high levels of isolation, grief and a shift in their normal routines. The Y can be a transformative place where we can learn and practice resilience, as well as adapt and cope despite tough and stressful times. We can practice connecting with ourselves and others, and learn new coping skills that help us thrive.
To support the mental health of people in the Denver metro area, the Y is investing in programs and creating caring spaces to help our community spend time together, have fun and feel connected to something greater than themselves. These “third places”, a place to belong in addition to home and work, are so essential when navigating the ups and downs of life!
So, what does all of this have to do with IRONMAN? The journey to the IRONMAN parallels our life’s journey. It is grueling, painful and in some respects lonely. Yet going through the training, we learn skills to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, face our own insecurities, overcome failures, test our resilience, push our limits and test our physical and mental state. And when the race is complete, we emerge triumphant, stronger, more confident and limitless. The key is caring for our spirit, mind and body. The Y is there to support your journey.