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Saturday walk offers health benefits and friendship

Saturday walk offers health benefits and friendship
From left, Kathy Little, of North Laurel, Pam Beck, wellness trainer, Lorene Brown, of North Laurel, Anne Latimer, of Silver Spring, and Camille Winder, of North Laurel, do a resistance training workout using bungee ropes during Walk for Wellness on Saturday mornings. (Nate Pesce / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

As far as Pam Beck can recall, she has only missed one session of Walk For Wellness since its beginnings four years ago.

“I would hate to miss,”, said Beck, a fitness trainer who leads an hour session of walking and exercise every Saturday morning from April through October at North Laurel Community Center.

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“I get to know everybody and it’s the only time I get to do this outside,” she said, on a sunny Saturday morning after leading a group of 12 individuals on a two-mile walk.

Anyone is welcome to the free walking program organized by Howard County General Hospital. The idea of the program, according to Elizabeth Edsall Kromm, vice president of population health and advancement for the hospital, was to get people, particularly those in North Laurel, up and moving.

“As a health organization, we see where discrepancies are. In North Laurel, we see more overweight and obese people…than other parts of the county,” Edsall Kromm said,. “We want to encourage people to get out and get their heart rate up.”

Each session includes walking and little work-outs that take place on everything from bike racks to bridge frames, with Beck providing the exercise belts and instructions.

The groups walks a trail from the North Laurel Community Center during the hour-long workout.We Walk For Wellness in North Laurel is a free community walking program that takes place every Saturday from 9-10am starting at the North Laurel Community Center.
The groups walks a trail from the North Laurel Community Center during the hour-long workout.We Walk For Wellness in North Laurel is a free community walking program that takes place every Saturday from 9-10am starting at the North Laurel Community Center. (Nate Pesce / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“I’m always surveying everything,” Beck said. “We utilize everything to make it interesting so people come back and feel they accomplished everything.”

Everyone works at their own pace, Beck said, and she coaches them about posture, strengthening their core and other fitness tips.

“Our instructer has a job with the CIA. She really tortures terrorists,” said Peter Walsh, of Laurel, chuckling, as he worked his shoulders using the band.

Walsh has attended regularly since his retirement, he said.

“During the week, I walk around Lake Elkhorn,” he said. “This is a little different. You don’t wan to get bored with your routine when you retire or you lose your mind.”

Karen Deychak, of Laurel, is a “charter member” she said, having attended since the program’s beginnings.

“I had a real bad fall and many issues,” said Deychak, 62, who also started doing yoga, drinking smootihes and exercising in an effort to avoid surgery.

“I love it because I love nature and we’re here from April through October,” she said. “I have grandchildren and I want to keep up with them.”

Besides physical fitness, the walk provides social opportunities, too, Beck said.

“It’s all about community,” Beck said. “These are people who have never met before. It is a very diverse group.”

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About 150 people total participated in the wellness walk the first year, according to Edsall Kromm. It has continually grown over the years, with the numbers closer to 200 now.

“We average about 15 or so people a week,” Edsall Kromm said. “We get a mix of families and individuals.”

At 75 years of age, Ginny Geiling, of Laurel, was one of the older members walking on Saturday, she said. She and two friends started doing the walk this spring, after seeing a flier for it at the community center.

“I do what I can,” she said. “Last week, I had some muscle spasms and stopped, but I can do a lot of it. I did all the things with the band.”

Geiling, like others in the walk, had not been familiar with the trails around the community center until she started walking with the group.

“I was so surprised this was here,” Geiling said. “I had no idea.”

After a few stretches and warm-ups in the parking lot, Beck led the group to trails that ran through trees and through playing fields around an elementary school.

“I have been living in Laurel about 12 years and never realized the community center was here,” said Loren Brown. “I was surprised when I first came…it’s beautiful.”

The walks occur in all weather, and this spring was a little wetter, cooler and foggier than most, the group said. Beck rarely cancels for weather, holding sessions in a pavilion during a light rain to moving into the community center for storms. Sessions are not typically held on holiday weekends, either, Beck said.

“I go to the gym, but this is special,” said Yvette Jones-Bell, of Burtonsville. It’s good exercise. There is something for every level.”

“We are happy to be there and see that it is being well received by the community,” Edsall Kromm said. “We want to get everyone on a path to wellness.”

After leading the group back to the parking lot, people said their goodbyes and headed to their cars. Beck packed up the exercise belts in her car, took down a sign and got ready to go.

“This keeps me happy. It is in my DNA,” she said. “Everybody benefits.”

We Walk for Wellness takes place every Saturday at 9 a.m. through Oct. 27 at the North Laurel Community Center parking lot, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road. Everyone is welcome. Free. For more information, call 410-740-7601.

Kathy Little, of North Laurel, stretches with the group before the walk.
Kathy Little, of North Laurel, stretches with the group before the walk. (Nate Pesce / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

At 75 years of age, Ginny Geiling, of Laurel, was one of the older members walking on Saturday, she said. She and two friends started doing the walk this spring, after seeing a flier for it at the community center.

“I do what I can,” she said. “Last week, I had some muscle spasms and stopped, but I can do a lot of it. I did all the things with the band.”

Geiling, like others in the walk, had not been familiar with the trails around the community center until she started walking with the group.

“I was so surprised this was here,” Geiling said. “I had no idea.”

After a few stretches and warm-ups in the parking lot, Beck led the group to trails that ran through trees and through playing fields around an elementary school.

“I have been living in Laurel about 12 years and never realized the community center was here,” said Loren Brown. “I was surprised when I first came…it’s beautiful.”

The walks occur in all weather, and this spring was a little wetter, cooler and foggier than most, the group said. Beck rarely cancels for weather, holding sessions in a pavilion during a light rain to moving into the community center for storms. Sessions are not typically held on holiday weekends, either, Beck said.

“I go to the gym, but this is special,” said Yvette Jones-Bell, of Burtonsville. It’s good exercise. There is something for every level.”

“We are happy to be there and see that it is being well received by the community,” Edsall Kromm said. “We want to get everyone on a path to wellness.”

After leading the group back to the parking lot, people said their goodbyes and headed to their cars. Beck packed up the exercise belts in her car, took down a sign and got ready to go.

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“This keeps me happy. It is in my DNA,” she said. “Everybody benefits.”

We Walk for Wellness takes place every Saturday at 9 a.m. through Oct. 27 at the North Laurel Community Center parking lot, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road. Everyone is welcome. Free. For more information, call 410-740-7601.

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