The Beach Boys singing “Two girls for every boy” segue into Glenn Cambell’s voice blasting over the speakers with “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife”. The venue is The Clark Sports Center, and the event is ... the seniors walking program. Three times a week, the Clark Center gives over its elevated track to a walking program for members and non-members alike. They meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 to 11a.m.
They are cheered on, literally, by Debbie Bennett, assistant. to the business manager at The Clark Sports Center. Bennett, along with Barry Gray, athletic director for 23 years, organize and oversee the walk. The program has been in place for 15 years. Gray is quick to point out the center wants to do something for the senior members of Cooperstown. He is pleased to note the walking as well as the parties thrown to celebrate the participants’ achievements throughout the year promote socialization as well as fitness.
“We do it for the community. Fitness as we get older is so important. And this is something the Clark Center can give to the town. The people walking have a lot of fun. We have parties and give prizes. People really connect with one another,” said Gray.
They start in November and finish when the weather eases up allowing for outside walking. The enthusiasm for getting fit is shared by organizers and walkers alike. Bennett clearly is in her element, motivating the walkers with shouts of encouragement, as well as adjusting air, stereo, and reversing the walk. Her enjoyment adds to the festive environment. On close terms with the walkers, she greets everyone individually and keeps track of their milage.
“Everyone sets distance goals. They walk the laps, and then I tally up the results and chart their progress,”said Bennet.
One participant set his goal as the equivilent of walking to Buffalo. Ironically, he reached it last week, to theoretically, walk into snow drift madness.
“I really enjoy this hour three times a week. I just love it. It’s great to see such wonderful social interaction, and see people progress. Some of our participants could only do 2 or 3 laps, when they start, and by the end of the program, they’re walking a few miles,” continued Bennett.
Bennett makes sure the hits keep coming, playing music 55 year olds and older can appreciate. She also interupts the walkers every 15 minutes to have them reverse the track course.
“Some people are dealing with bad hips or knees, so every 15 minutes I have them change course,” said Bennett.
Some days there are about 25 people walking, mostly regular walkers. Individuals and couples participate, ultimately all socializing in addition to walking.
“Kay always tried to get me to walk on the road, but I find that so boring. Here we can come walk with people, listening to good music,” said Barry Brick, resident of Mount Vision, speaking of his wife’s desire for him to get active.
Byron Crawson is another senior who has been with the program since it’s start.
“I”ve lost a few pounds, I feel better, and I sleep better on the days I walk,” said Crawson.
Bennett has a long standing deal with Crawson that when he hits a certain goal she will walk with him. There’s a camraderie among the troops here. Friends are made, calories are burned and people walk with a lighter step.
The program is free. Only requirements are 55 years lived, walking shoes, and a desire to move it, rather than lose it. Bennett could just be the cheerleader everyone needs.