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Focus on Teen Health and Wellness


About Madison Area YMCA

Madison Area YMCA History

The Madison Area YMCA is part of a worldwide values-driven association, inclusive of all people, that provides quality programs that develop a healthy spirit, mind and body, and promotes the core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Madison Area YMCA staff and volunteers work in an ongoing partnership to build a healthier, stronger community for children and adults of all ages.

The Challenge

Designing a program for teenagers

Thanks to social media, teen interest in strength training has skyrocketed post-pandemic, as has health and wellness misinformation. Madison Area YMCA staff wanted to design a program to educate teens of all abilities while debunking fitness myths.


The Process

Meeting teens where they are

Because the uptick in interest was in strength-training, that became the focus of an 8-week program for teens. “We try to meet people where they are,” says Kyle Giffen, Director of Fitness & Healthy Living of Madison Area YMCA. “It’s better to teach them what they’re interested in.” Each session focuses on a different kind of lift. Training is adapted to fit abilities; for example: kettlebells for younger teens and barbells for older kids. The first five minutes of each class is dedicated to educating teenagers about an industry topic, such as the truth about supplements, before moving on to hands-on education.


The Solution

Create a successful youth training program

According to Madison Area YMCA’s Kyle Giffen, there are three main steps to creating a successful youth training program.

1. Meet teens where they are. Program around their interests. “Teens may not feel like they fit or belong at a typical gym,” Giffen says. “It’s important to us to show that we mean it when we say this is for everyone.”

2. Educate them. “We show kids the proper technique, the reason for the lift, how they should be doing it and helpful [tips]. If we want to build a strong foundation with teens that they can build upon, this is a good start.”

3. Make it fun. “We try not to talk too much,” Giffen says. “We want them to tell their friends about it.” In addition to hands-on training, the program features charismatic instructors who can create enduring relationships.

The Result


The Madison Area YMCA’s facility features Life Fitness and Hammer Strength equipment that accommodates exercisers of all ages and provides a high-quality, intuitive experience. Life Fitness machines help teens keep track of reps as well as rest periods. Young lifters find Hammer Strength equipment easy to use; advanced lifters delight in the detailed hard gains they see from the racks. Madison Area YMCA’s dedication to programming around exerciser interests cultivates a feeling of belonging that cuts across generational lines. The result: an all-ages facility that truly feels inclusive.