KEARNEY — You’re never too old to stay fit.
Five years ago, at the urging of a friend, Rose Stevens of Kearney started going to the Peterson Senior Activity Center’s chair exercise class. She’s now a regular at the center at Yanney Park at 2020 W. 11th St.
“I’m out here almost five days a week. It keeps me from being this wide,” she laughed. “I know it’s good for me. Exercising keeps you healthier. I never got COVID or the flu, or even a cold,” she said.
A retiree from West Pharmaceutical Services, Stevens works out on machines, lifts weights and enjoys an exercise-fitness program for women called Dedicated Dames. It’s held twice a week right after a class called Motivated Men.
Both classes were launched by Jerry Schwarz, who retired 12 years ago as pastor at Calloway United Methodist Church and moved to Kearney.
First came Motivated Men. “A few guys got together and said it was more fun to exercise with somebody instead of just yourself,” Schwarz said. Four men were in the class when it began, but attendance quickly grew due to word of mouth.
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“When Jerry started Motivated Men, we women said we wanted to do that, too,” Stevens said. That’s how Dedicated Dames was launched. Asked how the names originated, nobody was quite sure.
The 45-minute classes, held downstairs in the spacious exercise areas at Peterson, are fast-moving routines of a warm-up, 40 minutes of steady exercise and a cool-down period. Schwarz selects the 15 exercises the classes do each session. He has compiled two fat notebooks of exercises and routines. Each has 150 laminated pages.
”It’s very popular. Many men and women have taken that class. One regular lady was 93 years old,” he said.
“When the program first started, we just had a clock on the wall. Then we got a timer. Workouts start with 40 seconds of exercising for men and 35 seconds for women, then a 20-second period of rest. It’s balancing and stretching. It’s good for us,” he said.
It was so popular, in fact, that initially two classes were offered for men, and one for women. Now there is just one class for men, but the program remains so popular that 15 or 20 people come to each session, “mainly by word of mouth,” Stevens said. Men come at 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; women start at 9:15 a.m.
The center used to offer a F.R.O.G. program, which stands for Fitness Reaching Older Generations. It was launched several years ago by Rylan Little, the center’s senior services programmer. “We did that for two years, and it was well-attended, so we may eventually resume it. It was a lot of stretching,” Little said.
The senior center’s downstairs space includes treadmills, stationery bikes and a CrossFit machine. It is all free to anyone age 50 and older during center hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. No membership is required.
Every Monday, at 9 a.m., Peterson offers a class called cardio-drumming. Participants of both sexes turn their chairs upside down, put a fat exercise ball between the chair’s legs and, guided by a YouTube program, beat the exercise ball with drumsticks. “It’s quite a workout. We march in place,” Juanita Eppenbach of Kearney, a regular participant, said.
Stevens enjoys that, too. “Once I tried it, I’ve come every time,” she said.
The center also offers gentle yoga and chair yoga for people who have difficulty exercising while standing.
Social benefits too
The center offers more than just physical exercise. Friendships develop, too.
Schwarz and his wife Phyllis moved to Kearney from Calloway 12 years ago and started coming to the Peterson center to meet people. They play pitch and pinochle and eat lunch, too. “We just wanted to have fun,” he said.
Added Stevens, “They have so many activities. I go to movies here. I don’t pay money to go to the movies, but I can come here and see them free,” she said. The center shows a recent movie once a month on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“There’s always something to do here. I visit with the people I’ve met here, too,” she added.
Eppenbach, who is retired from Cabela’s, is a regular at Dedicated Dames and comes to the center two more days a week as well. “It’s fun to socialize here, too. I don’t just do a machine and not talk to anyone; we introduce ourselves, meet people and enjoy a good workout,” she said.
Loren Booton drives to Peterson every day from near Minden to work out on the treadmill and lift weights, with impressive results. A retired carpenter and builder, he’s as trim as he was 50 years ago. He has been working out here for seven years. “I just like getting out and exercising,” he said.
Booton and Eppenbach, both widowed, have become close friends since meeting here. It turns out both went to Red Cloud High School, “but we were a year apart and didn’t know each other,” Eppenbach said. Now, happily, they do.