BELFAST — When Hester Kohl of Belfast was hired as the 5-2-0 coordinator and took over Waldo County General Hospital’s Journey to Health program, one of her goals was to increase the opportunities to introduce participants to exercises they might enjoy. As far as Gail and John Kraft of Jackson are concerned, she couldn’t have succeeded any better.
Gail Kraft had been involved in the Waldo County YMCA’s weight loss challenge, which was winding down, and she was looking for a way to stay active during the winter. But with double knee replacements, cardiac issues and high blood pressure, not just anything would do. She had been walking along the road during the summer, but she wasn’t comfortable doing that during the winter with the high snow banks and high traffic volume along her road. She was wondering how she was going to stay motivated to exercise when someone told her about a program at the hospital called Journey to Health. She signed up and tried one of the free Zumba Gold classes and loved it. But she wasn’t really anxious to travel to Belfast on dark, snowy nights, so she continued to look around.
Then, in one of the Journey to Health newsletters, Gail read about the opportunity to try snowshoeing at Belfast City Park during the day. She had given her husband a pair of snowshoes several years before. He had tried them once on snow that wasn’t really good for snowshoeing and ended up putting them away. She thought it might be fun and was willing to give it a try.
The couple dug out John’s pair of snowshoes and notified Hester that they’d like to use one of the pairs she had on hand for attendees to try a new activity. “We both loved it,” Gail said. “I’m going on 60, and I had never been snowshoeing before. I’m not terribly athletic, and we both had double knee replacements, so we had concerns about falling and not being able to get back up, but Hester showed us how.”
Gail was so excited after her first experience that she purchased a $69 pair of aluminum snowshoes. “People think it’s complicated, like skiing, but it’s easy. You don’t need any special boots,” she said.
Then, the couple went behind their house to try snowshoeing on their own. What they discovered was a snowmobile track behind their house that they had no idea was there before. “It’s perfectly groomed, and we could walk through the woods. We enjoyed the scenery and beauty of the forest, and it’s something we could do together every day. It gave us such peace.”
Gail’s husband has nerve damage in his back and has some difficulty walking on the road. But he can snowshoe without as much back pain, since it is slower than regular walking, so he was more willing to do that type of exercise. “I feel so much better after I do it,” John said, adding that the snowshoeing has helped him with him with his back pain and arthritis and with keeping his weight down this winter.
John said Hester was a delight when they snowshoed with her in Belfast City Park on a couple of occasions, and now he wants her to teach him to polka.
“We have been so thrilled with being able to exercise with our snowshoes during these winter months. It’s added so much to our life in terms of being able to exercise daily during the winter and has added so much joy to our lives. We walk through the woods looking for tracks, animals and birds and feel so great when we get back,” Gail said.
The snowshoeing not only has helped her keep losing weight — 49 pounds since September — but has helped improve her health and her mood. “You didn’t hear me complaining about the snow this winter. I loved this winter … We are hooked.”
For more information about Journey to Health and new exercise options that will be coming up this spring and fall, go to http://www.wcgh.org, click the newsletter button and then sign up. Journey to Health is free. You will receive a weekly newsletter by e-mail with tips on healthy eating, exercising more and reducing stress, along with upcoming exercise opportunities.