A love of food many times sends people to the gym, not just to lose weight, but to stay healthy so they can splurge and enjoy good down-home comfort foods.
For the participants of classes at the Hugh Chatham Rehabilitation, Aquatic and Wellness Center in Elkin, talk during classes many times ends up about foods they love and sharing recipes with one another. So why not put those recipes together in a cookbook, said Josh Vogler, manager of the center and an exercise physiologist.
“I only teach two classes a week, but I substitute a lot, and a lot of the conversations have been about recipes and what we’re eating,” he said of his idea for “A Taste of the Yadkin Valley” cookbook, which the center recently published.
Vogler asked members of the center to submit their recipes, and the 205 or so recipes were compiled for the book, with healthy alternatives and other healthy recipes added in by the center’s dietitians.
“It is a nice cookbook,” said contributor Debi Westbrook.
Out of the roughly 200 pool participants at the aquatic center, Vogler said, “Eighty-five percent are grandmas, so they are good stick-to-your-bones recipes.”
“Comfort food,” Westbrook called them.
Vogler said about 100 of the recipes were desserts, adding there are several healthy recipes in the cookbook as well.
“Mine would be healthy if you didn’t swallow,” said Westbrook as she laughed.
Vogler, mentioning an earlier interview where he suggested tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, said, “You can pull out the cookbook and reward yourself.”
Allison Leeds, who began taking aquatic classes after breaking her ankle last year, said of being able to splurge when eating, “We can do this because we are here exercising.”
“At my age, eating is one of my vices,” said Max Phillips, who was struggling with back pain prior to taking aquatic classes at the center. “I have learned to cut back, but I’m going to have some bad food once or twice a week.”
Leeds said they all feel better and look younger since they began taking the aquatic classes at the center, which are open to the public at minimal cost. “We don’t gain, we have stronger muscles and all of us look better than we did months ago,” she said.
“Every class is different with their own personality,” said Linda MacDonald, who instructs several aquatics classes at the center.
The funds raised from the $12 per copy cookbooks will be used to purchase pool supplies and equipment, said Vogler. Already foam water dumbbells have been ordered, which feature fatter grips which are easier to use for people who are arthritic.
The advantages to water therapy are many, explained MacDonald and her aquatic students. “Water therapy takes the weight off, it eases the impact on the joints and eases a person’s transition from working out in the water to being able to exercise on land,” said MacDonald.
“Yesterday I walked a mile and a half on the treadmill,” said Phillips, who said he was laid out on his back from July through September of last year. “There is no impact. I could never do a jumping jack on land, but I can in the water. Water therapy is the best thing.”
“I learned that breaking an ankle is one of the longest recoveries of any break, but I’ve been able to heal textbook because I was able to come here three days a week. I couldn’t walk easily from the locker room to the pool when I started,” said Leeds, who says the 88-degree water in the pool helps as well as the jets in one corner of the pool area.
Westbrook learned about the center three years ago when her husband fell while vacationing to the Cayman Islands and messed both knees up. To heal from his injuries, he was sent to the center.
“I had been walking three to five miles a day,” said Westbrook, who then began having challenges with her own knees. “I didn’t want to get in a bathing suit in front of people,” she added.
MacDonald said that fear of being in a swimsuit in front of other people is one of the things people worry about when they first started coming to the center.
But Westbrook said no one there is in perfect shape, and it’s more like a family because they all care for each other and don’t care what they look like in a swimsuit.
“We have a lot of fun, share recipes and care about each other,” said Westbrook. “My knees are doing better, and you use more muscle mass in the pool than walking.”
Phillips agreed about the better workout in the water, noting that many times at the end of his hour class he’ll be sweating.
“You burn 800 to 900 calories in a one-hour class in the pool,” said Vogler, with one of the participants saying a workout on the treadmill only burns 100 calories.
“On land you have to do two different exercises to get the same workout as in the pool, because in the water you get resistance from both sides,” MacDonald said, who called the center Elkin’s “best kept secret.”
“I had no idea until Allison told me about this,” Phillips said of the center’s existence and its availability to the public. “It is really a valuable asset to this area.”
“And it is affordable,” said Leeds.
“Even now we have people who say, ‘I don’t have a doctor’s note,’ but you don’t have to have a doctor’s note,” said Vogler. “The general public can come here and workout for exceptional prices.”
“The staff has a unique way of making everyone feel comfortable,” added Westbrook. “It makes us look so much younger, because we are so much healthier.”
Copies of “A Taste of the Yadkin Valley” can be purchased at Diana’s Bookstore on Main Street, at the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital gift shop, and at the rehabilitation, aquatic and wellness center.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.