“I’ve developed more confidence in myself and my athletic abilities, I’m getting stronger, and I’ve found a place where I take care of myself.”

            Terra Biollo

terra biollo | Castle downs family ymca


Over the past 12 weeks I’ve learned a lot about myself and the self-talk that was preventing me from leading a healthy lifestyle.

So much depends on approaching healthy living with the right mindset and having a good support system in place. I’ve developed more confidence in myself and my athletic abilities, I’m getting stronger, and I’ve found a place where I take care of myself.

Before this challenge, I thought that spending a significant portion of my time at the gym would be viewed as selfish. After all, I should be spending that time with my family, right? My family saw a change and decided to join me on my journey. Now we spend quality time together at the YMCA and we are building a stronger relationship.

I can’t thank the YMCA enough for this opportunity and everyone who supported me on my journey.

Looking forward to the next chapter.



It’s nearing the end of the challenge and I’ve been doing a lot of reflection about this amazing experience over the past 3 months. This week I read a fitness column in the Edmonton Journal that really resonated with me and my experience during the YMCA Health Challenge. At the beginning of this challenge I was really motivated to make a change and find ways to incorporate exercise into my routine, I just didn’t know how. I’m so thankful that this challenge gave me the support I needed to get started, and more importantly feel comfortable enough at a gym to feel like I belong there. In his column, Paul Robinson states that:

“People need to feel comfortable and cared for. They need to feel empathy. Soothing paint colours, comfortable chairs and plants won’t cut it. Inexperienced exercisers must be taken by the hand and escorted to a place of empowerment. Yes, this requires more than a one-hour orientation.”

This is exactly what this challenge has done for me. 3 months ago I was an inexperienced customer with a lot of fear. I had no idea what I was doing and the staff at the YMCA put me at ease and empowered me to get to a place where I do feel like I belong. I am no longer an outsider and I feel at home at Castle Downs YMCA. The staff recognizes me and I feel welcome every time I enter the building. I’ve even commented to several people that it feels like home. This has been one of the key contributors to my success.

My trainer, Jill, has also empowered me to be successful as I continue my journey. Jill has been so supportive, not only training me but teaching me how to be successful and confident on my own. I never could have imagined hanging out in the free weight area, but now I feel like I know enough to hold my own. I have just as much right to be there as anyone else and this realization has been key. 



I just completed week 7 of Couch 2 - 5K. Only one more week to go and I’ll be ready to run 5K! I was hoping to finish week 8 this week as well, but my knee started to bother me a bit so I decided to take a break from running for a few days. 

I’m really enjoying my routine of cardio one day followed by strength training the next day. Some days are more intense than others, but it feels good to have some consistency in my routine. It’s the middle of March and so far, I have met my goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. It is very motivating to see the activity achievements on my watch.
I also really enjoy group classes. I think that pushing myself to try the group classes will be key to achieving long term success, even after the challenge is over. In particular I enjoy the Group Power class on Tuesday evenings. I never thought that I would enjoy lifting weights, but it is so much fun! Next week I want to try my first cycle fit class. I’m a little intimidated by the class but Jill and Danielle both think I’ll like it so I’ll give it a try.
The time change threw me off a bit this week and I felt more tired and run down than I have in a while. As a result, I made some poor food choices and feel like I need to get back on track for the final push to the end of the challenge.



I guess it’s true what they say; there really are only so many hours in a day. As I’ve increased the amount of time I’m spending exercising, I’m starting to notice that I’m a little more forgetful than I used to be. It isn’t like me to miss a deadline, yet I’ve missed my deadline to submit my weekly updates for the second week in a row. But I don’t want to blame it on being busy. I’m making choices on how I want to spend my time and for the first time in my life I’m putting exercise before many other things and it feels like what I need to do right now. I’ve made a lot of changes in the last 9 weeks and change is hard. I always try to remind myself that no matter what anyone says, we make choices how we spend our time and I’m choosing to invest time in my own wellness.

I’ve lost 5 pounds since starting this challenge, which brings my total weight loss to 42 pounds since this time last year. It feels like the weight is much harder to lose now than it was in the beginning, but I’m trying not to let it deter me. Even though I’m not seeing a lot of movement on the scale, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and likely the fittest I’ve ever been as well. I’ve come a long way from the girl who sat on the bench during gym class because I didn’t think I was athletic enough to participate. 

It was the first week of the spring session at the YMCA and my son finally started the cooking classes he’s been looking forward to for weeks. This gave me some extra time, after my group training session, so I decided to try Zumba.  I still find the choreography really challenging but the ladies in the class are so fun and enthusiastic that it’s hard not to have a good time. 

I’m really starting to like the classes, something I had never done before the challenge. It’s been great motivation to push myself.



At the beginning of this challenge, I couldn’t do a single sit up, but this week I did 3-sets of 10 with weights and I couldn’t believe it! I guess all of the hard work really is starting to make a difference. I also started week 6 of the Couch 2 5k program and ran for 20 minutes straight. Only a few more weeks and I’ll be able to run a complete 5k.

A photographer from Post Media took photos during our group session on Thursday night and it made me a little nervous. Even though I’m still not comfortable with pictures of myself, I am more comfortable than in the past.

Danielle and I held each other accountable and attended the Group Power class together on Tuesday night. When the class started I was sure that it was a mistake, but we both finished the class and it was great. We’re going to go again next week and push ourselves a little bit harder - it sure helps to have someone else expecting me to show up!  A little peer pressure never hurts!

It’s the last month of the challenge and I’m going to push myself hard and make the most of the final month. I’ve given myself an additional challenge of reaching all of the goals I’m tracking on my Apple Watch; 30 minutes of exercise a day has been the most challenging goal. I’ve been averaging about 4 days a week since the start of the challenge, so it won’t be easy bumping that up to 7, but I’m sure it can be done.



I gained weight this week - only one pound - but it messed with my head a bit and I let it get me down.

Let me be clear – the YMCA Healthy Community Challenge was never about the weight for me. However, I think weight is easier to measure than my other goals.   Over the past couple weeks I started to focus more on the weight and less on my original goals. I’m glad that I did a little self-reflection because I really needed to step back and remind myself of my original goals, rather than obsessing about the number on the scale. Now I feel much better about starting week 8.

Training with Jill continues to be a highlight of my week!  We also enjoyed public swimming on the weekend, but being active together continues to be a great bonding experience for my son and I, we even went skiing on Family Day!

The happy endorphins were definitely flowing after my running & training Thursday night. When I arrived at the gym I was tired and miserable, but after my workout I felt SO GOOD. As I was driving home I noticed that I was listening to the same music that I usually listen to after having a couple glasses of wine. Interesting how my new healthy habit is replacing one of my unhealthy habits and without feeling like I’ve lost something. Did I mention that I’ve significantly cut down on the amount of alcohol I consume? I’ve gone from a drink (or two) a day to maybe one a week. That’s a big check mark on my list of goals.



I got back on track this week after recovering from the flu.

My weekend sessions at Castle Downs YMCA were great! On Saturday afternoon I attempted my first training session by myself. I’m comfortable with cardio, so I started with my Couch 2 5K workout, and then followed up with exercises from my previous training session. One of my goals is to keep training after the challenge is over and I’m trying to learn as much as I can so that I will be successful. I felt like the half way point was a good point to check what I have learned and if I could apply on my own. I did much better than I thought and only struggled with one of the exercises.

The Yoga class on Sunday morning was fantastic and still stands out as my favourite workout of the week. It was just what I needed to stretch my tired muscles and Maria is such a wonderful instructor.

Castle Downs YMCA is quickly becoming my happy place and most days I look forward to the time I spend there taking care of me! I can also see that I’m becoming a good role model. My son continues to be curious about what I am doing and is eager to try new things. He always wants to join me and can’t wait to turn 8 so that he can use more of the facility. It was a lot of fun doing deadbugs together in between his program and playcare this week.

I did have a hard time avoiding the treats this week, thanks to Valentine’s Day, and I’ve also fallen a little behind in the Couch to 5K program, so I’m hoping to catch up next week and attend at least one new class.



This week was tough. While fighting the flu bug I took a couple of days off and didn't accomplish everything I planned.  Although I still had some great sessions with my trainer Jill and am starting to feel a lot more comfortable with her training program.

Flu bug aside, I’m much more motivated to continue this journey than ever before and I’m constantly grateful for this opportunity from the YMCA. As part of the Challenge I made a small change to my daily commute. I spend a couple hours in the car each day, so now I use the time constructively and listen to podcasts to keep me motivated. There are so many great podcasts out there and I’m using them as constant motivation and encouragement to keep going. My current favourite is “The School of Greatness” with Lewis Howe’s. It’s a constant reminder that I’m on the right track and the perfect motivation to continue to work harder and improve every week.

One of the greatest things about this challenge is that I’m not doing this alone. There’s a whole team of people genuinely hoping that I succeed including workout partner Danielle. I decided to go to the gym early on Saturday morning to complete week 4 day 1 of my “Couch to 5K” program before my personal training session with Jill started. Danielle saw me on the track during her training session and said one of her new goals would be to have as much energy as me!  I chuckled when Jill told me this because one of my goals is to take time to enjoy life a little more, like Danielle! Perhaps by reading a book in the steam room at the YMCA.

I’m so glad that our challenge team at Castledowns YMCA gets along so well.  It keeps us all on track.



It’s week 4 and I’m starting to get the hang of this exercise thing, finding time is starting to feel normal instead of like something I need to rearrange my schedule to fit in. If I miss a day or two, I actually start to miss it.

What is happening to me? My family is noticing a difference too. They encourage me to go to the gym because I’m a much happier person after I’ve completed my workout. We also had some quality family time in the gym this week when my husband joined us to play basketball. It was so much fun and we learned some things about each other that we never knew – like we’re both not very good! He told me that it really helped his mood as well. It’s so interesting to see how the changes I am making are also having a positive impact on those around me. Actions definitely speak louder than words!

Working with my trainer Jill has given me some more strength, but more importantly, it has given me more confidence. I tore 3 ligaments in my knee during a skiing accident in March 2016 and when my friend asked me to go skiing, I felt like I couldn’t say no. I was pretty nervous and a little scared at first but in the end it was such a great day. Now I feel like I’m ready to go skiing with my son again and he’s very excited.

It is still a challenge balancing family responsibilities with my exercise goals. Even though my husband was home this week, my son was sick and I felt like I needed to be there for him, so I didn’t go to the classes that I wanted to and I think I could really use some yoga!



I’m three weeks in to the Health Challenge and this is usually the time in a new exercise routine that I stop!

I’ve been receiving a lot of encouragement from people who read the challenge articles in The Edmonton Journal and it is great motivation to have their support – I hope a few of them will join in soon! I also love the group at Castledowns YMCA. Jill is a great trainer and I’m glad she doesn’t make our sessions so hard that I don’t want to go. It’s also nice to see Danielle regularly at the gym and know that we are on this journey together.

This week my greatest success was discovering the interactive courses feature on the LifeFitness cardio equipment. It was so much fun to ride my bike through the south of France! I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym the next day to see more of the course. I’ve added cycling through all of the courses to my list of goals. In addition to the personal training and group sessions this week, I also completed week 2 of Couch to 5K on the track.

On the other hand, my greatest challenge has been finding a balance between parenting responsibilities and my exercise goals - it’s been a rough week! I’ve made some significant changes to my schedule and these changes also impact my family. While my son was initially excited about spending more time with dad and exploring the kids programs at the YMCA, he started acting out a bit more than usual this week, so it is clear that I have to make sure that I find the right balance.

We’re still trying to manage childcare arrangements but so far my son really likes the free child minding service!



I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far. I met with my personal trainer to see where I am at and set some goals. It’s clear that strength training isn’t my forte, so I’m excited to see some improvements. I’ve decided to run a 5K at the end of the challenge, so I’ve started running on the track with the “Couch to 5K” app tracking my progress.

The YMCA has a lot to offer. This week I went to Yoga a couple times and tried my first Zumba class. I felt a little out of my element at Zumba - it is harder than it looks! The ladies in the class are supportive and encouraging though, so I’ll definitely go again. There’s a great community at Castle Downs YMCA and it is motivating to be surrounded by so many friendly and helpful people.

I consider playing basketball with my son my greatest success of the week. I normally would have felt very intimidated to go into a busy gymnasium to start shooting some hoops, but this week I did it and it was so much fun! I haven’t played basketball in at least 25 years and forgot how much fun it can be!

My greatest challenge on the other hand is the soreness that has followed all of my hard work. My muscles are definitely feeling it and the morning after playing basketball I could barely lift my arms and stairs were a bit of a challenge. The Sunday morning yoga class was a welcome relief to stretch out all of those sore muscles. I’m also finding that I’m hungrier than normal and need to make sure that I don’t overeat to compensate for my increased activity.



I've used the past week to get comfortable with the Castle Downs YMCA and check out the programs that are available. My son and I took advantage of the Member Swim on Saturday evening. I can already tell that spending time together at the YMCA is going to be a good bonding experience for us.

On Monday night, while my son was in swimming lessons, I spent 30 min on the treadmill, instead of just sitting in the parent's area scrolling through my phone. The treadmills overlook the pool so I could still see what he was doing while I worked out. On Wednesday, I attended my first yoga class. This was a big deal because I've wanted to do this for at least 3 years but have always talked myself out of it. I didn't enjoy the first half of the class, because I find it hard to relax, but the teacher was great and after I got used to it I really enjoyed it. I felt amazing at the end and now I can't wait to go again.

On Thursday night I was really tired after work and tried to convince myself that I didn't need to go to the YMCA again because I had volunteer commitments. My husband reminded me to give it my all in the challenge and make it my priority, so I ended up on the elliptical for 30 min followed by a little bit of strength training. I felt much better afterwards and was able to complete my volunteer commitment as well. I'm looking forward to my first session with my personal trainer on Saturday and my first group session next week.



My name is Terra.  I am a wife and busy working mother of a 7-year-old boy.  I work as a communications specialist in IT support at a local construction company.  Whether at work or at home, I spend my days helping and taking care of others, but I’m not very good at taking care of myself.  My husband works out of town, so I am a solo-parent for half of the month.  Between work, commuting and my son’s activities, I always manage to convince myself that I can’t fit fitness into my routine.  I’m excited to see how the YMCA Community Health Challenge can help me change.  I know that I need someone to keep me accountable, and this challenge will be just the motivation that I need to establish some new habits that will keep me going throughout the entire year.

In 2017, I took the first steps to improving my health by changing my diet but I can see now that diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. While changing my diet helped me to lose weight, my main motivation was to see other benefits such as increased energy and improved focus.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get there through diet alone and I’m sure that physical fitness is the answer to being a better me.

I am determined to make some significant changes this year by investing in myself so that I can be a good role model for my son and do a better job taking care of the people I love.  I know the difference that the YMCA makes in the community and I’m really excited about participating in the YMCA Community Health Challenge to work with people on similar journeys.