Marissa Herbers’ Story

Marissa Herbers and Gene DeNota at the Darien YMCA

My name is Marissa Herbers and I am a CA native who now lives in Darien with my husband and 2 beautiful children. To give you some background, 10 years ago I was pregnant with my daughter Reagan and in excellent health. I was someone who was involved in sports my whole life, was in good shape, and enjoyed my 7am fitness classes. Classes my husband also pretended to like until he was sure we were in it for the long haul.

Well, 2 kids and 6 moves later, yes- 6. (Ever need packing advice, I’m your girl). The wheels completely fell off the bus. When we moved to town 5 years ago, I had visions of grandeur, that, as with any fresh start in life, I could join a gym and easily get back into the shape I was in before kids. Unfortunately, it turns out those next 5 years were eerily similar to the 5 years before that.  

So, in July 2021 I woke up 35lbs heavier, exhausted from the stress of the pandemic, 3000 miles from my family, and on the brink of what felt like a mental health crisis. It was time for a change. I had initially refused to join a gym here in Darien because I was certain they were the kind of places where I would need a matching gym outfit, makeup and hair done and the vibe would be very cliquey.

But, from the moment we took the tour of the Y, I knew I had been completely wrong. We were met with smiling faces from the staff, the facility was incredibly clean and people of all shapes and sizes and walks of life were working their butts off throughout the facility. Lee gave us a great tour and my husband, and I became members and took the recommendation to sign up for training sessions with Gene DeNota. It was that introduction that changed my life.

It would be easy to say that Gene was just doing his job, but he went above and beyond to help me reach my health goals and get my life back on track. He helped me get my confidence back. He helped me set goals and crush them. He laughed with me in my uncoordinated moments and always helped me to have a growth mindset. It was never that I couldn’t do as many reps as I wanted, It 

Marissa and Gene Muscle Shot

was just I couldn’t do them YET. With Gene I learned that life is full of hard choices, and I had the power to “Choose my Hard”. When Covid knocked me down this January, he helped keep my focus on being kind to myself and offering myself grace when I felt like I had a major setback. He kept saying, “You will get there. Give it time”. Well, patience has never been a strong suite of mine.  So, Gene suggested Yoga. You should have seen the look on my face. Yoga for this no patience, can’t hold still, ADD mom? Well, surprise, surprise, Gene was right again.

While Gene certainly deserves a lot of credit for helping me achieve my health goals, I know that the Y has attracted top notch talent across all areas, including the staff, trainers and in the programs offered to kids. The classes I have attended have been phenomenal. Especially Bea’s class on Sunday Mornings that I both dread and look forward to each week.  

The Y has not only helped me, but it has helped my family as a whole. My husband trained with Gene as well, is now a regular in the gym, and is in some of the best shape of his life. My daughter has played Volleyball here and is very involved in the Y’s Gymnastics program The Y has offered a real sense of community for us. I know my kids are safe here. My daughter is at an age where she is craving independence. The Y has given her, her own membership card and she is able to check into the Y by herself and walk to Gymnastics on her own.  There is such a sense of community here that I know everyone is looking out for everyone else. While she is old enough to know not to take off into the Parking lot. I take comfort in knowing that Maria isn’t going to let her go until she sees me there to pick her up.

I also think it’s incredibly important to recognize that the YMCA is unmatched in this town in terms of its focus on Diversity, Equity and inclusion. The Darien Y is truly one of a kind and we are blessed to have access to such a wonderful facility in this community.


Marissa Herbers
Proud YMCA Members