Retired Teachers Find More Than Spandex at YMCA

It was the fear of spandex that initially kept two retired Holdrege school teachers away from the YMCA.

But, a tour of the Y changed their perception, and now Mrs. Erickson and Mrs. Stu are regulars at the YMCA. They have expanded their social network and have realized that the Y is for people of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Debbie Erickson and Pat Studnicka had never stepped foot inside the Don Sjogren Community YMCA until September. Debbie had taught for 43 years and retired at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Pat taught for 44 years and retired four years ago. When they were teaching, they said they didn’t have much time for exercise after their busy days. And, they figured the Y was just for people who were shaped like “Barbie” and wore spandex.

But after their cardiac maintenance exercise program at Phelps Memorial Health Center ended in September, they decided it was time to give the Y a try.

Debbie had started exercising with the PMHC cardiac rehab program after a recent heart valve replacement. Pat joined her, and they formed an accountability group with some other friends and faithfully exercised each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

They wanted to continue their exercise routine and the friendships they made with others in the cardiac maintenance program, so Pat made an appointment for them to tour the Y.

Although the YMCA opened 12 years ago, neither Pat nor Deb had stepped foot in the building. Pat was even a charter member of the YMCA.

“We had envisioned all these beautiful Barbie bodies all right next to each other that would just go and go,” Debbie said.

But, when they stepped inside, their apprehensions were alleviated.

“The tour went well and kind of removed a few qualms,” Pat said. “They’ve made us feel welcome.”

Debbie also felt comfortable with the YMCA after their initial tour.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” Debbie said. “Everyone has been so friendly.”

So, they decided to continue their routine of meeting for exercise each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The YMCA has the same equipment as the cardiac maintenance program, including the NU-Step and treadmill. Pat has also added the recumbent bike and some light weight lifting to her routine.

The YMCA offered former cardiac maintenance participants the chance to join without paying a joining fee. And, several of the participants took advantage of the Y’s new member challenge where they could earn a free month if they exercised 20 times in the first 60 days.

Now, Mrs. Erickson and Mrs. Stu can often be found at the top of the stairs exercising together on the NU-Steps. They jokingly call themselves the greeting crew as they happily say hello to each member who walks up the stairs.

In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, the former teachers said they enjoy socializing at the YMCA. They have found inspiration from the other YMCA members, including 86-year old Evelyn Polhemus, who exercises “like the Energizer bunny” on the treadmill and lifts weights.

And, although they haven’t explored group classes or other options at the Y, they know there is a menu available that includes yoga or water exercise if they decide to try other new options someday.

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