ST. PAUL, Minn. - The new St. Paul Midway YMCA opened last month with a step in a new direction. The location is testing a new format of group fitness classes, with the intention to roll them out to all 22 Twin Cities branches by the end of the year.

The new program, called Mossa, offers nine new formats of fitness classes, but now, more than 1,000 YMCA members are petitioning that change, asking the YMCA to save the current fitness program, Les Mills, which is popular with members.

“It didn’t feel very effective, barely worked up a sweat and didn’t feel the synergy of the group,” said Mike Selner, of Lino Lakes, who said he tried several new classes at the Midway YMCA.

Jennifer Menk, Twin Cities YMCA Senior Director of Fitness, said the decision to move to a new group fitness format came after two years of research and surveys from members and instructors seeking a new challenge.
She noted changes were made after a decline in attendance in two of the 70 classes offered, Les Mills Body Step and Les Mills Body Flow. Menk added the Mossa program is the preferred fitness vendor of the YMCA of the USA as well.

“There has been deep research done, this decision has not been taken lightly,” said Menk. “We are shifting and creating a bigger platform based on the feedback we were receiving. So now we are able to offer many more classes under a different umbrella.”

At the Lino Lakes YMCA, a group of members devoted to Les Mills classes said they tried several of the new classes offered at the Midway YMCA. Many feel the new Mossa program doesn’t offer the same physical challenge, while others express concern the YMCA didn’t adequately communicate the change with members.

“I fail to understand why we would replace something that’s better with something that’s inferior,” said Mike Multer, another member from Andover. “The replacement classes aren’t offering the same level of workout we are used to and we are going to have to make a decision with our dollars where we go.”

Multer is one of the members leading a Facebook page and website called “Save Les Mills” launched in response, with more than 1,000 members joining the page and expressing dissatisfaction over the changes.

“I think a lot of people are upset the way this was handled. It doesn’t feel it’s being honest what they are doing, we pay a lot of money to attend the Y,” said Correne Johnson, a member from Lino Lakes. “They are almost breaking up a family, people are going to leave, and we are going to lose the community we built.”

The group not only delivered a petition to the YMCA management, many members have made “Friends don’t let Friends do Mossa” shirts, wristbands and wear red shoelaces to classes to show their disapproval.

“So we can let the Y management know, hey, we are consumers, we pay our dues and we are not happy with this decision, we think you are maybe making a mistake and perhaps you could step back a little bit,” said Multer.

The Twin Cities YMCA management said it has met with many concerned members and has communicated the changes, and will continued to offer information, class demonstrations and listen to feedback. Many members said they heard the Twin Cities YMCA would also end the popular strength training Les Mills Body Pump classes, but Menk maintains Body Pump will stay on the roster and was never on the chopping block.

“Group exercise is passionate, we love that about the area. People come and it keeps them healthy, they develop great communities, and we believe these other formats can provide the same opportunity and even better results,” said Menk. “We keep the door open to help them understand.”

Still, some members are considering extreme action, noting classes are a matter close to the heart. Multer estimates of the 1,000 people on the Save Les Mills Facebook page, several hundred will end their membership.

“I pretty much made the decision I will have to go elsewhere,” said Multer.

Read more about the Mossa Fitness program here.

Read more about the Les Mills partnership with the YMCA here.