Some members of the The Four Seasons Walking Club have been in step with one another for more than 20 years. The group, which meets twice a week, grew out of an exercise program at St. Clare’s, but when the hospital program ended nine years ago, the walkers didn’t want to quit.
It was then several walkers decided to keep it up on their own.
Self-motivated, loosely organized and free for participants, the group has grown to approximately 30 seniors — mostly women with a handful of men. “We gain members and lose members. And, we welcome new members. All are welcome,” Shirley Christianson said, adding that you don’t need to be a senior to join.
The walkers meet near the Music Pavilion in Schenectady’s Central Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. They warm up with 15 minutes of calisthenics and then walk two circuits around the park, for a total of 2 miles. To cool down, Anita L. Pierce leads the group in tai chi — a Chinese martial art characterized by slow, stretching movements that help with balance.
Jim Burgess, 76, has been walking with the group since he retired from General Electric in 1993.
“I’ve decided that if someone is 10 years older than me, they are old. If someone is 10 years younger than I am, then they are young. That way, I get to be middle-aged forever,” he joked. Those around him laughed and one said, “That’s why I come. I always laugh here.”
Burgess joined the walkers to accompany his wife, Mae. Now, the couple walk together and Burgess said they both enjoy the companionship of the group.
friendship and fun
Members have formed lasting friendships. “It’s just fun. It’s exercise, but the people make it fun,” said one of the walkers. Dorothy Pelczar, a retired state employee, said she comes “to get out and get some exercise. If I stayed home, I wouldn’t walk. Afterwards we go for breakfast. That’s the best part,” she said.
The camaraderie is key for many. “We watch out for each other,” Christianson said. She explained that the group makes sure everyone is accounted for before they leave the park and that members keep track of one another. Over the years, she said collections were made when someone was ill and if a members dies, arrangements are made for a memorial stone to be placed in the rose garden.
From May to November the group meets in Central Park. During the winter, they meet at the Rotterdam Square Mall. Having a group of people expecting you to be there has been a motivator for some of the walkers. “It gets you out the door even when you don’t feel like it. Afterward, I’m always happy I did,” Pelczar said.
For more information on the group, call Christianson at 356-3557.