By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–If you happen to visit the Southern Utah University Aquatics building, you’re likely to find a pool full of swim pals and a repertoire of happy songs.
Some participants do laps, others will exercise, and many like to sing.
“I would say there are about 20 or so people in my morning class,” said longtime Cedar City resident Linda Lohrengel. “Our group likes to sing as they move about and workout – it’s just a lot more fun and joyful for us.”
She has been part of the Arthritic Exercise class since the SUU pool opened in 2001.
Here, the senior swimmers and floaters have become good friends who get together for holidays, birthdays, and neighborly potlucks.
“Most of us are women, and some just swim laps to keep fit,” said Lohrengel of the aquatics class that she said helps to relieve a range of ailments, from arthritis to joint rehabilitation. “This class has helped me and others with conditions like Multiple Sclerosis (MS). But there are other benefits too.”
Lohrengel points to the (safety) ramp used to get into the water, the rope to hold onto and the water temp set at a balmy 73 degrees. “I’m so thankful that we have a facility and pool that makes such a difference in the lives of senior citizens and others here.”
What makes the 8 a.m. class different is their penchant for sharing a favorite song or two in a class designed to get people into the water and moving through simple exercise.
“There are 52 different joints in the body, so in the 40-minutes classes we cover all of those physical points three mornings each week.” That’s where the music and songs come in. “There are lifelong friendships formed here,” said Blair Bentley, aquatics manager since 2008, “With a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, so the class has become a pretty important community asset.”
“It’s like ‘a fountain of youth’ for some of us,” said Lohrengel, who moved to Cedar City in 1988 and joined the pool group 17 years ago. “You have to make time to do this: to swim laps or just to float is okay. I have to say it is has helped many people who experience back issues, knee operations and anything in between.”
Lohrengel, a former educator was trained to work with the School of the Blind based in Ogden, Utah. “I remember coming West as a child (from Michigan), and discovering the beautiful scenery here, mountains, low humidity and ‘no’ mosquitos,” said Lohrengel. So, when she moved to Salt Lake City, and met her husband to be, Utah became a ‘happy ever after’ place to live.
As an outreach teacher for children with blindness, Lohrengel traveled up to 500 miles a week to work with a child in their home or school. “Some children were mentally disabled, or sight-impaired, but it was a job of love, getting these kids to a happy place – I read them stories and of course, I would sing songs and they would always respond to those.”
Lohrengel who spent 10 years visiting the blind across four counties – left her job when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). “It was a dear friend (Anne Hansen) who invited me to the pool in Cedar City,” said Lohrengel, “Which has turned into so much more than joining a swim class.”
Since 1988, Lohrengel continued what she calls a long journey full of unexpected experiences and good memories with her swim pals. “I got around with a stick for years. I was the organizer, and eventually I served as chairperson of the MS Society and became very active civically,” she said.
In her swim group, she has become the organizer, and a party-potluck planner, but she said, it’s about the friendship and the comradely her pool partners share each week through fitness and song.
If you visit Blair Bentley’s 8 a.m. class you’ll hear teasing and laughing, and then of course, all of their happy songs.” Lohrengel admits that it takes some courage to put on that bathing suit and get into the morning. “All you have to do is to move those legs, those arms, those joints and the water holds you up. Like the song says, ‘If you’re happy and you know it,’ you get in.”
Classes run mornings; cost is $ 40 per semester; or $ 100 per three semesters. For further information, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Blair Bentley, 435.586.5431
Caption: Lohrengel is one of many local senior-citizens with a range of physical conditions who take part in Southern Utah University ‘arthritis classes’ and aquatic programs. (Photo by J. Aerts)