Healthy Living Y Stories YMCA Health and Fitness

Danielle battled depression; today, she helps others conquer their demons

Danielle became a YMCA Health & Fitness member at a dark time in her life, looking for the support she needed to grow strong not just physically, but also mentally. Today, she’s a YMCA personal trainer who’s made it her mission to empower other people to pull themselves out of what she describes as the “hole” of depression and self doubt. Danielle’s commitment to making everyone around her feel safe, valued, and included makes us proud to have her as one of our Sweat For Good Ambassadors: a YMCA community member who literally breaks a sweat as she works to make a brighter future for every individual in our community, and for our city as a whole.

After dropping out of university, I was in a bad place, battling depression and an eating disorder. I decided that I needed to work on myself, and not just how I looked: I wanted to get strong — not skinny — and I wanted to improve my mental health so I could pull myself out of the hole I was stuck in.

So, I started taking CycleFit classes at the Y. I quickly made friends who introduced me to weight lifting and helped me broaden my workout routine. The Y taught me how to take care of myself — both physically and mentally — and that literally saved my life.

I knew I wanted to share what I’d learned with other people who feel like they’re in the same hole that I was in. Then, one day in class, the instructor singled me out and congratulated me for working so hard. She said I’d make a good instructor some day, and that’s what got the ball rolling.

When the Cooper Koo YMCA was about to open, I knew I had to be part of it. At this point, I’d returned to school and finished my degree in anatomy and physiology, and had been training as an athlete for a while. The Cooper Koo YMCA had openings for people to work in the Individual Conditioning area, and I took the opportunity to become a Personal Trainer. The whole team was so supportive as I worked to get my certification.

I love being on the frontlines of fitness because I want to help as many people as possible learn that weight and health are not synonymous. Healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes; you don’t need to be a size two to be strong physically and mentally. I know first hand that it can be tough to remember that, especially when you spend a lot of time in certain gyms where most people are super fit and athletic — and where those who don’t look a certain way are made to feel bad about themselves.

But that’s what I love about the Y: it’s the epitome of diversity. When you work out here, you meet people from all walks of life, and these new friends help you understand new perspectives and grow as a person. So the Y isn’t just a warehouse of treadmills, weights, and a scale; it’s about the people who become your second family, always accepting you unconditionally.

The Y helped me get through the toughest time in my life, so now I want to help make that possible for other people too. I’ve learned that working out is just as much about mental conditioning as it is physical. So, when I feel that voice of self doubt creeping back into my mind, I always remind myself that my demons have nothing on me. “Did you see what you did in the gym today?!” I ask myself. “You’ve got this, Dani.” It’s my mission to help empower other people to feel that way too.

Check out our exciting new Sweat For Good video to see Danielle in action!