WORTHINGTON — “Beautiful, guys, beautiful,” said Trista Jacobs encouragingly after gracefully modeling a yoga pose in a recent fitness class at the Worthington Area YMCA.
Whether in Tabata, Fusion, Strength Train Together, Live to be Healthy, Senior Cycling or Silver Sneakers Yoga classes, attendees of Jacobs’ sessions can attest to their instructor’s relentlessly positive style and reliably non-judgmental attitude.
“I want people to be comfortable,” said Jacobs by way of explaining her reassuring demeanor.
“You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it, but I want participants to have fun, too — or they’re not going to come back.
“Positivity: That’s my approach.”
Over the past two years, Jacobs has been leading an increasing number of YMCA fitness classes. She’s also a certified personal trainer, primarily working with clients one-on-one in the early mornings prior to the several daily hours she puts in teaching regular group sessions.
“I love it all,” said Jacobs, “and I have a really full schedule so I’m working out a lot — but that’s OK because then I can eat a lot,” she joked.
Jacobs moved to Worthington eight years ago with her husband, Shad, who is an operations manager in feed production with New Vision Co-op. They have two sons attending Worthington Middle School — Cutter, 13, and Cash, 12.
Both Jacobs and her spouse hail from the tiny southwest Kansas town of Plains.
“Our high school [combined with students from another area town] was out in the middle of nowhere on a highway,” recalled Jacobs, who excelled in track and cross country as a teen.
“My graduating class had about 50 kids in it.”
As a young adult, Jacobs aspired to become a physical education teacher and coach. She earned a scholarship for her running, and in her first year at Butler Community College of El Dorado, Kan., her team won the national cross country championship in its division.
Jacobs continued studying health and human performance at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., and it was during that period she began dating her future husband.
After he completed his degree in feed science at Kansas State University, the couple relocated to Algona, Iowa, and eventually to Worthington.
While their two sons were young, Jacobs focused on their care but never let go of her quest for a healthy lifestyle.
“When we were in Algona, my mom bought me a double jogging stroller,” she recalled.
“I put so many miles on that thing — but when Shad took his job here, we moved out in the country so I used a treadmill.”
The family joined the Worthington Area YMCA because Cutter and Cash were getting involved with swimming lessons, basketball and other youth activities.
But before Jacobs could fully throw herself into realizing her potential as a fitness leader, she had a personal demon to conquer.
“I found out I had severe social anxiety, and I hadn’t previously wanted to be at facilities like the Y,” she admitted.
“But the Y has helped me open up and not be so introverted, and now I love going there and feel really comfortable.”
That experience contributes to Jacobs’ willingness to meet her clients and class attendees on their levels, and to be empathetic and supportive of their efforts.
“After working for two years at the Y, something I get excited about is seeing the same people coming back — because that means they’re sticking with it,” said Jacobs.
“But I also love seeing new people come in, because that means they’re starting something and will need my help to get where they want to be.
“They’re new, but they may become eventual ‘regulars,’ too.”
Jacobs, who is certified not only as a personal trainer but also as a Silver Sneakers Classic and yoga teacher, studied topics including biology, human anatomy, family development and substance abuse during her undergraduate years — all terrific background for her current profession.
Yet Jacobs would never claim to be perfect or know it all. She believes in a moderate approach to life, and she balances her fitness endeavors with occasional indulgences.
“I love coffee,” she offered as one example. “And I like pizza and tacos, but I try to make those more of a ‘reward meal’ after eating well all week.
“I eat lots of green vegetables and fruit — bananas are so easy to eat when you’re on the go — and my husband is a big griller,” she continued.
“I love brisket, and he makes an amazing one. But in general, I’m just trying to live, not to follow a specific dietary plan.”
Camping is a favorite Jacobs family activity, and Jacobs volunteers the information that her husband was a bull rider on the rodeo team when he first attended Dodge City Community College.
“He loves playing basketball, too,” she said.
The dedicated do-it-yourselfers have refurbished two campers, and Jacobs enjoys craft projects when she isn’t busy at the Y or keeping up with her adolescent sons.
She urges anyone who thinks they aren’t fit enough to even show up at the Y or a similar facility to set aside those fears.
“At first, I was worried about being fit enough to go there, so I want to let people know they can come and be comfortable as they are,” said Jacobs.
“You have to start somewhere, so it doesn’t matter where you’re at; if you’re there, then you’re helping yourself.
“I’m like a little stepping stone in helping people reach their health and fitness goals,” she added.
“What’s gratifying about this job is that I always know I’m helping.”