Up Close: Lauranel Banks

Fitness Fanatic

Lauranel Banks has always made time in her life for fitness. Even when she had an office job as a graphic designer, she would still make sure to hit the gym floor to teach others how to be healthy. She decided to make her passion into a full-time career. Now, as Wellness Director of the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, the fitness fanatic from Exeter gets to bring exciting, new events to the Y on Northampton Street. From Aqua Zumba, to the soon-to-come ballroom dancing, she has a lot of exciting ideas in store. She brought her design skills from her past job to give the YMCA a fresh look (those new, colorful schedules — that was her creation). And she’s responsible for bringing the trendy Les Mills exercise programs to Wilkes-Barre. It’s all about putting the fun in fitness. And all the classes are open to the public for just $5. If you’re working on keeping up that goal of good health for 2014, she just might be the person to talk to. Meet Lauranel Banks …

Can you tell me about your job and what you do on a daily basis?
It’s never the same. As wellness director, I have three main responsibilities. The first one is, I’m in charge of all the group fitness exercises. So we have 80 classes a week, more than 30 instructors and I manage all of them, making sure we’re providing not only great classes, but at the right times that are convenient for people. The second piece is I maintain the wellness center as a whole. And then the last piece is creating events to make our community healthier.

How long have you been working at the Y?
I’ve been working here almost two years. I started as an instructor. I just became the wellness director in August. I’ve always worked as a graphic designer. Graphic design and advertising was actually what I went to school for, so I have two degrees in (graphic design and advertising), and health and wellness. Being an instructor was always my part-time job. I got to the point where it  wasn’t me and I couldn’t sit at a desk anymore. I decided to make the switch to full-time in the health and fitness world. Of course my skills travel with me, so I do a lot of the design and marketing here.

What is it you always liked about working in health and fitness?
Motivating people. I love being up in the front and watching people push a little bit more than they do on their own. There’s nothing better than when someone who was in my class send me a text or they find me on Facebook later in the day, and say, “I just feel so good, I’m making progress.” Over the past couple of years, watching some of my students progress and now I’m even inspiring them — some of them are becoming instructors. It’s just so rewarding.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I can’t tell you what my favorite part of this job is because I love all of it. It’s all so exciting. Group fitness was where I really got my start, so I would say that’s where my passion is.

What classes do you teach?
I teach Les Mills. They offer ten different body classes, like BodyPump. It’s a choreographed weight lifting class that’s low weight, high rep. And then I also teach CXWorx, a half-hour core class, which is from your shoulders to your hips, front and back, tighten your tummy. It’s very intense. I’m also in the process of being certified for BodyCombat, it’s a martial arts class.

Sounds like a lot of fun.
It is. I think that’s the best part. Fitness is fun. When you can make it fun, everyone wants to do it.

Are you involved in adding new classes every month?
I was involved in adding a whole bunch. When I first came here as an instructor, I brought BodyPump with me. That was the first Les Mills that the Wilkes-Barre YMCA had which was a success. And then we added CXWorx. And after I became director, I decided we should have more. What’s great about the Les Mills classes is that they’re choreographed and the instructors have to go through a pretty intense training, so you’re guaranteed that the instructor is going to be awesome, the music’s going to be awesome and you’re going to get a really good workout no matter where you go. So we added a couple more, we’re up to five Les Mills classes now.

How do you incorporate the newest trends in fitness?
I think you just have to stay well-read and understand what’s going on in the market. For the group fitness, things like Les Mills, Zumba, Piloxing, R.I.P.P.E.D. — that’s what’s mainstream.

What do you like about the YMCA’s mission to help the community?
It’s very challenging, but the sky is the limit. People think of fitness as “I wanna lose weight,” and “I wanna have more muscle tone,” but there’s so much more than that. I want to offer more community programs, so we’re working on bringing in things like a diabetes prevention program to educate people. We have a nurse here on staff who runs two different programs: “In the Cardiac Direction” for people with heart problems and “Breathe Easy” for people with breathing problems like pulmonary issues.

Are there any exciting things in store for the YMCA?
We just made a couple changes that are going to take place next month. Our wellness staff that runs the floor will now be personal trainers as well. So, should anyone have questions about a machine or needs a little bit of help with their form or spotting, there will be a certified personal trainer on the floor at all times to help them. Our personal trainers are allowed to train while they’re on the floor. So if it’s convenient for you, just come in, grab a session and go. I’m really excited about that.
We’re also bringing on ballroom dancing. It’s something we’ve never had before. I’m so excited about it because it doesn’t matter who you bring, you’re going to get a ballroom dance lesson as a couple. You’ll learn salsa, swing, fox trot, waltz, tango and the cha cha. At least once, all couples are going to get gift certificates to use at local restaurants, so when the class is over, they can go out to dinner. On top of that, we’re providing child watch for them. It’s going to start in February and the teacher we’re bringing in is absolutely phenomenal. She’s has just amazing, amazing energy.

Do you have any advice for people working on resolutions to get healthy?
First you have to figure out your personality type and what works for you. I think everyone needs motivation from someone outside, so my suggestion is to look into personal training. If you want to be with a friend, we have duo personal training so you could split the cost. We have small group, so if you have three or four friends you can split the cost even more. And group fitness, so it’s finding what works for you. I think you just need one person to be accountable to and then you’re set.
— kirstin cook