“I estimate I’ve added over two dozen options to my workout regime.

            Reid Wilkins

reid wilkins | don wheaton family ymca


I went into the YMCA Community Health Challenge with no expectations. My goal was to be open-minded, commit to every exercise, and learn new ways to workout.
I didn’t set any specific weight loss goals. From past years, I know my eating habits aren’t great during the hockey season and I tend to lose weight in the summer. Indeed, my start and end weights were the same for the Health Challenge. The positive was that I gained two pounds of muscle and lost two pounds of fat.

Working with Damien, at the Don Wheaton YMCA, was a pleasure and I’ll definitely stay in touch with him. My goal of learning new exercises was totally achieved. I estimate I’ve added over two dozen options to my workout regime.

Damien and I often joked that really the whole point of our sessions was to achieve one crowning moment at the end. 
Here it is: https://youtu.be/VojBDjOfUsg

Overall, the YMCA Community Health Challenge was an awesome experience. Thanks to Damien and everyone at the Don Wheaton for making me feel welcome!



I received a text Monday night from Damien, who is my personal trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA.  “Hey, Reid,” it read. “Unfortunately, I have to cancel this week. I’m pretty sick and have lost my voice.”

I was scheduled to workout with Damien Tuesday and Thursday. So now, I had two choices: Yippee! Week off from working out! Or can I do this on my own?

Seeing that this was the eleventh week of a twelve week commitment, it was pretty easy to choose #2.

I’ve said numerous times that I was happy with all the new exercises I was learning from Damien, so here was a chance to see if I could remember enough of them to get through two workouts on my own.

On Tuesday, I did the weight-training circuit he’d taught me, which included the leg press, chest press, and assisted pull-ups. I wish I knew all the names for the exercises, but I also did the “one where I squat while holding a weight between my legs” and the “one where I pull and feel a pinch in my upper back.” All told, went pretty well!

On Thursday, I did a circuit. Two-footed jumping the length of the room and back (exhausting). Throwing a 15-pound ball off a trampoline (harder than it looks). The plank (made it to 45 seconds this time!).  The one-arm shoulder roll out (tires out the arms in a hurry). The “sit against a wall and roll-up a weight on a handlebar” (excruciating).

Also, I did squat with the added movement of tossing and catching an eight-pound ball (https://youtu.be/KiaMHv5S0GM). It’s another one of those that doesn’t look too difficult but tires me out in a hurry.

Overall, I didn’t work quite as hard as I would have with Damien, but I definitely felt tired after both workouts. So Damien, thank you!  Your student has indeed learned!



I’m going to fall flat on my face.

That was going through my mind as I tried a new exercise this week as part of the YMCA Community Health Challenge.

Damien, my personal trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA, decided we’d go more with strength training on Thursday. We’ve being doing a lot of cardio and fat-burning exercises recently, while those have helped my endurance, they’ve often left me a sweaty panting mess!

So Damien switched it up. I did a plank, some pull-ups, and the good ole “Dead Bug.” Then he introduced me to the single-arm shoulder roll out.


Now, fortunately, I didn’t fall flat on my face! But there’s a moment when I was leaning forward and I felt like my arm wouldn’t be able to support my weight. This is a great exercise to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

After ten weeks of working with Damien, it’s cool to still be learning new exercises. I’m estimating I’ve learned over TWO DOZEN new exercises since I started the Challenge!



Nine weeks into the YMCA Community Health Challenge, and I still hear the same four words from my personal trainer regularly: “Keep that chest out!”

Turns out, I have horrible posture. I’m always rolling my shoulders forward, a problem which gets worse as I get tired throughout a workout.

“Poor posture is a huge problem,” said Damien Clarke, my trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA. “When our body is holding weight abnormally, it causes issues. Simple movements can become difficult to perform when the body is maligned. We can have discomfort/pain when things awkwardly rub together, and it can look terrible as well.”

It’s OK to lean forward, but it should be from the waist rather than curling your upper back and shoulders.  This doesn’t just apply to working with weights and to upper body exercises. As you can see in the video, I need to be conscious of it even when hopping from side-to-side.   https://youtu.be/z0yILvGcBs4

Damien often reminds me that I should “feel that pinch.” He means I should have my shoulders back so I can feel a bit of a pinch between my shoulder blades. Of course, this is something many of us aren’t used to if we’re sitting in front of a computer all day.

“Many people with inactive jobs can see a lot of issues with posture,” said Damien. “Repetitive motions can also lead to poor posture. We get better at that motion, rather than better at normal movements.”

Consider how you’re sitting as you read this. Shoulders back or rolled? Chest out or sunken? Maybe it’s time to “feel that pinch!”



Jacob’s Ladder is a treadmill climber that helps provide a cardio workout. Jell-O is a gelatin dessert. What’s the connection?  Well, using Jacob’s ladder, at the Don Wheaton YMCA, made my legs feel like Jell-O!

My trainer, Damien, started off Tuesday’s workout by having me climbs Jacob’s ladder for 5 minutes. It’s an inclined device with wooden steps, as you climb the steps move downward. It doesn’t have electronic speed settings - the steps move as fast as you do.

I found a comfortable pace and was feeling good! One minute down, no problem. After two minutes, getting tired. After three minutes, legs hurting! Still two minutes to go!

Finally, I hit the five-minute mark. I stepped off the Jacob’s ladder. Jell-O legs!  I walked around gingerly, shaking my legs to try to get the Jell-O out!

Damien was smiling. He’d seen this before from people using Jacob’s ladder for the first time! After initially doubting I’d be able to comfortably stand for the rest of the workout, I had a really good session. Damien showed me new exercises to strengthen my grip and my core.

I’d struggled with my energy level in some of previous workouts, but I felt fairly strong throughout most of this one. As for the Jacob’s ladder, I’ll be trying it again, and this time I’ll know what to expect!



It’s time to meet the guy who’s been by my side through the YMCA Community Health Challenge.  Damien Clarke is a personal trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA. Like me, he grew up in small town. He enjoys video games and attending concerts. He loves his job, usually working at least six days a week.

“I originally wanted to be a trainer so I could turn my passion (exercise into a job,” said Damien. “When I went to school, I became fascinated with anatomy and biomechanics. I really feel motivated to stay as a trainer seeing the difference in the people I work with. It’s great to change “I can’t” into ‘I never thought I could until know!’” I’ve definitely had some “I can’t” moments in my sessions, but Damien has recognized my limitations and adapted exercises to make me stronger.

“Your biggest improvement has been your stability. The legs and core were quite weak to begin with. Now I feel comfortable having tougher movements incorporated,” Damien told me. “Your biggest struggle has been your energy. It is constantly improving, but it really knocks you down.”

I mentioned last week I’d be getting another body scan to see my progress at the halfway point of the challenge. There were minor improvements in terms of weight and muscle mass. My body fat dropped slightly from 29.9% to 29.1%. For someone my height, it really shouldn’t be above 20%. 



Have you ever walked through a rec centre, seen someone doing an exercise, and thought to yourself, “Hey, I could do that!”

I’ve certainly had that thought several times in the six weeks I’ve been visiting the Don Wheaton YMCA as part of the YMCA Community Health Challenge.

This week, I tried several of them! My trainer, Damien, put me through a circuit on Friday. This involved a variety of exercises that tested my strength, balance, and cardio.

One exercise sounds pretty fun and simple. Take a medicine ball and throw it against a trampoline, then catch it and repeat for 30 seconds.  https://youtu.be/8nD_22Jb37g

That’s one activity I’d seen people doing. Now that I’ve done it, it’s not so simple. First of all, the medicine ball weighs 15 pounds and it comes back at you fast off the trampoline! You’d better be accurate on the throw or it could be flying back right at your face.

After the 30 seconds, my whole body was tired, arms from throwing and catching, legs from balancing and throwing, and my core from turning.

It was a great workout that involved nine other exercises. I’ve enjoyed learning different ways to build strength and endurance.



When I signed up for the YMCA Community Health Challenge, I knew I would be in for some exercises I hadn’t done before.

I’ve never really done strength training, so I was expecting to be lifting weights. That has been a big part of it, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the other exercises.

One of them involves balance and flexibility as well as strength. It sounds simple. Stand on one leg. Bend down. Reach across your body and touch your foot with your hand. So if I’m standing on my right leg, I’m trying to touch my right foot with my left hand.

This is MUCH harder than it sounds, especially if you’re a bit fatigued to begin with. When I first tried it, I couldn’t do more than one or two without teetering and needing to put my other foot down. As you can see from the video, I’m not flexible enough to get my hand all the way down to my foot. But I’m reaching a lot further down than when I started a month ago!

The video is a bit rare because I was able to do ten in a row without putting my other foot on the ground or grabbing the rail for balance!  I was able to do three sets of ten on each foot.

Sound easy?  Try it at home and let me know!  Or check out my video online! https://youtu.be/NmfDZHMjWI0



Without a doubt, this was my toughest week yet!

I was fighting a cold all week. If I weren’t doing the YMCA Fitness Challenge, I likely would have skipped any sort of exercise for a few days. So from one point of view, I was glad the Challenge got me active even though I wasn’t feeling my best.

But Thursday’s workout nearly knocked me out.

I was feeling good for the first half hour. Damien, my trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA, had me doing some circuit training and I was enjoying it because I was trying new exercises.

However, after about 30 minutes of circuit training, the fatigue really struck. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest.

Thankfully, Damien recognized I wasn’t feeling great and slowed things down. I was able to finish the workout, though Damien modified a couple of exercises to reduce the intensity.

The important thing is I made it through the circuit training even battling a cold and next week I’ll be feeling stronger!



“Do you want to try 300 pounds?”

It took me a second to register what Damien, my trainer at the Don Wheaton YMCA, was saying.

300 pounds? Isn’t that more of a weight for, you know, strong people?

“I think you can do it” Damien said.

It was the weight he wanted me to try in the leg press. Considering I started with 120 pounds three weeks ago, I didn’t think I’d be progressing this quickly.

But I tried it, and I did it. Ten reps. It definitely required more effort than what I’d been doing, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s very encouraging to feel stronger so quickly. Damien also increased the weight in several other lifting exercises, and he adds at least one new exercise every session.

One new exercise involves tapping a four-pound ball on the ground, moving it back-and-forth across my body - man that’s tough! I’m supposed to keep my feet and knees together the whole time, but as you can see from the picture, I’m not quite strong enough…YET!



“The Dead Bug” leaves me feeling squashed. Click here to see what I mean >>

 Damien introduced me to the “Dead Bug” exercise on Tuesday with the hope I could do two sets of ten reps. Well, I did the 20 total reps, but had to rest frequently along the way! No way I could do ten in a row.

The exercise is supposed to strengthen my lower back, so clearly that needs a lot of work. My limbs are quivering when I’m done with the Dead Bug!

Other than that, the workouts are going well. I feel challenged but not overwhelmed.

I was encouraged that Damien, my personal trainer, bumped up the weight I was lifting in a couple of exercises! Sure, I didn’t add a lot of weight, but it’s cool that I feel stronger after just two weeks!



It all looks so difficult, doesn’t it?

Lifting that weight over your head. Straining with the leg press. Balancing on one leg while reaching to touch your calf.

Difficult, yes. Impossible, definitely not.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for the YMCA Fitness Challenge. I’ve been fairly active as a distance runner since 2010 but don’t do much else for activity. Would I be able to withstand a new regimen under the watchful of a personal trainer?

Well, one week in it’s so far so good. Thankfully, I have an awesome trainer named Damien at the Don Wheaton YMCA. On Monday, Damien started me off slow while still making me feel challenged. Thursday’s workout left me more fatigued but also confident with what I’d already learned.

Am I lifting a lot of weight? No. Am I sore for about 36 hours after the workout? You bet.

Am I looking forward to seeing Damien again on Monday? Absolutely!



Hi, my name is Reid Wilkins and I am the host of Inside Sports and Oilers Hockey on 630 CHED.  I am a persistent yet terrible golfer, Fan of Def Leppard, and proud to live in YEG.

I’m excited, and a bit nervous, to take the YMCA Health Challenge!

I’m 43 and am in better shape than I was ten years ago, largely because I took up running in 2010.  I’ve completed two marathons and eight half marathons and run regularly year-round.  However, I don’t do much else for exercise, so I look forward to the YMCA Health Challenge expanding my horizons!

I face two fitness challenges during the hockey season:

1) Finding the time to exercise

2) Too much late night eating! 

I hope the YMCA Health Challenge can help me work around both!

Reid is not only the host of Edmonton Oilers broadcasts and Inside Sports, he is a proud Edmontonian who can often be found sampling the city’s culture and food scenes.  Reid has also participated in several Fringe Festivals as a writer, actor, and volunteer.