‘Mermaids’ Find Supportive Home in Gothenburg YMCA Pool

For more than 35 years, the “Mermaids” have welcomed participants wanting to support each other and exercise in the water together.

Today, the group has found a home at the YMCA of Gothenburg Health, where they meet at least three times a week (sometimes more) for fitness and friendship.

Judy Wixson, a longtime member of the Mermaids, said the group originally started at least 35 years ago in Lexington with Eileen Biehl leading assisted by Marge Allison.

“The group has kept the name honoring Eileen as we moved from place to place to find somewhere to exercise,” Judy said.

Before they started meeting at the Y in Gothenburg, the Mermaids exercised at the Crossing Campground pool in Lexington and at Camp Comeca. Although the group has changed faces and locations throughout the years, the goal has remained the same: to offer low-impact water exercise in an encouraging atmosphere. At times, a waiting list was needed as the group was limited to 15-20 people due to lack of space.

Now, the group has plenty of room at the YMCA of Gothenburg Health, where about nine Mermaids exercise regularly.

Judy, who joined the group 18 years ago after she retired from teaching, said most of the Mermaids are retired and are 65 and older, but she said people of any age are welcome to join.

“With the size of the pool, we could have more coming to join us,” Judy said. “We are not exclusive by any means and welcome anyone who wants to work out with us!”

The Mermaids typically exercise Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8-9:45 a.m. Some even come on Tuesdays and Thursdays if they have missed a day.

“It is very flexible to each person as some carpool,” Judy said.

Memaids start arriving at 8 a.m. and warm up on their own before the main class starts at 8:30 a.m. when a recorded exercise routine is played for all to follow. After about 45 minutes, the Mermaids swim laps, jog in the pool or work with noodles as they move and enjoy conversations.

Judy said that having friends waiting to exercise with her makes it easier to stay active.

“Even if you are not in the mood to exercise, you know you will gain so much from the workouts and feel better after the sessions,” she said.

Most of the Mermaids live in the Lexington or Johnson Lake areas, but they don’t mind the short drive to Gothenburg.

“First of all, there is a pool,” Judy said. “Plus, all the staff are so friendly and welcome us by name. The design is great as to how it was added to the hospital with good parking. And, maintenance of the building is super! Even if it is a few miles to drive, we think it is worth our membership to be able to use the facilities.”

Judy said the group also enjoys the options of having coffee, flavored water or a soft drink together after they exercise.

“And, the cafeteria snacks that are for sale are healthy and very tempting if one is weak from exercising!” she said.