EAST ORANGE, NJ - The teenaged Washima Redding hardly considered herself an athlete. She played just enough sports to meet the requirements at the elite Science High School in Newark, and constantly struggled with her weight.
Then, as a pre-med major at Rutgers University, Redding took a class in exercise science. “I fell in love with exercise physiology,” said Redding, who switched majors and reinvented herself.
“I made a complete life change with my workout habits and started eating healthy,” she said. Running just a few minutes on a treadmill at first, she worked up to competing in half marathons, dropping 50 pounds in the process.
The East Orange resident has built a career inspiring others to become their best selves. “It became my mission to help others fulfill their health and wellness goals,” said Redding, recently named the Associate Executive Director of the Greater Bergen County YMCA.
“Washima is committed to the YMCA’s mission of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, and will use her drive and passion to improve all the ways we help our communities,” Greater Bergen County YMCA Executive Director Glenn MacAfee said.
In charge of the YMCA’s day-to-day operations, Redding plans to introduce programs to address chronic diseases, increase the school age child care offerings, and provide city-wide initiatives to keep families healthy. She will lead efforts to upgrade the facility and camp sites to help extend the Greater Bergen YMCA’s reach and impact in the community.
As the senior health and wellness director at the YMCA of Montclair for nearly eight years, Redding introduced five chronic disease programs addressing cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and high blood pressure. The programs, which she secured grants and other funding for, have improved the lives of hundreds of people.
Redding also launched Lose to Win, a 10-week team weight loss initiative. Even after the competition ended, “groups continued to work out together, encourage each other and hold each other accountable,” Redding said. “It created these micro communities — what I call ‘fit families’ — who have such an outpouring of support for one another. It’s so rewarding to witness.”
She does boxing, yoga and weight training in addition to running. Redding taught every fitness class offered at the Montclair YMCA except Zumba (choreographed dancing is not her forte, she said).
Redding’s first experience with a YMCA was as a high schooler; without its own gymnasium, her school held gym classes at the Newark YMCA, where she learned the life-saving skill of swimming.
Before becoming a YMCA professional, Redding worked for a medical facility helping people recover from chronic illnesses, and then at an assisted living facility developing wellness programs for seniors.
Redding and her husband, Jaret, have a 3 ½-year-old daughter, Charli, who often goes along in her stroller when Redding runs in local races. She enjoys zip-lining, rollercoasters, and sea travel. She is embarking on her 11th cruise this year.