The Uplifting Weight Lifter

Russell Heinrich feels right at home in a fitness facility.

As a teenager – which was “a while back” he admits with a laugh – Heinrich made it all the way to Arizona for the national teen powerlifting competition.

As a member of the YMCA, a poster advertising a wellness room attendant position caught Heinrich’s eye. He decided to apply, and YMCA fitness director Wendy Shutty is so glad that he did. Not only has he been the model employee, Heinrich recently completed his certification to become a Rock Steady Boxing coach.

“Russell was a natural choice for me to make when thinking of additional coaches for Rock Steady,” Shutty said. “He has all the qualities that we are looking for in a coach—dedication, professionalism, empathy, and the ability to make people feel comfortable, not to mention a good solid background in fitness.  Our boxers enjoy his presence in class, his singing and his dancing.  We love to work, but we love to have fun and Russell fits right in.”

Heinrich enjoys his work at the Y, and Rock Steady holds a special place in his heart.

“You get to see people who are driven because of their situation, to not just get better but improve their quality of life,” said Heinrich, who also serves in ministry and is a softball umpire. “It’s also a wonderful community that they’ve developed because of their commonalities, not just their disease but the fact that their families are involved. It makes a really big difference.”

Heinrich was certified online. He went through “15 rounds” of online training and including a final exam that he had to pass. One of his favorite parts of working with “Parkies” – the loving term in which class members self-identify – is seeing the improvement during the assessments.

“We do them every six months,” Heinrich said. “You can actually see where individuals have improved in flexibility, mobility, strength and balance.”

Shutty believes that the fitness staff improved by adding Heinrich.

“As a member of staff, you could not ask for someone as dedicated to our mission and to the fitness of our members,” the YMCA fitness director said. “Russell has a knack for getting to know people through conversations and observations and is respected by everyone for his knowledge and his way of making you feel welcomed.  He is truly someone who goes above and beyond when help is needed whether it is to help out with an extra shift or commit to a program that helps others.”


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