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Winter walking-land: Many turn to West Acres for their daily exercise

As the weather outside becomes frightful in Fargo-Moorhead, many people turn to the climate-controlled inside of West Acres Shopping Center for their daily exercise.

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As the weather outside becomes frightful in Fargo-Moorhead, many people turn to the climate-controlled inside of West Acres Shopping Center for their daily exercise.

Mall walkers are easy to recognize. They don't carry purses or shopping bags. They hardly ever look in a store, but walk with purpose down the corridors. Some stroll with an easy gait. Others move furiously.

And the tennis shoes are a dead giveaway.

West Acres opens its doors at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday for walkers, and at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Bertha Laidlaw of Fargo starts walking at 7 a.m., five days a week, with a group of 10 friends. They have breakfast together afterwards.

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Laidlaw says the walk is the best way to start the morning. She and her friends have been doing it for 15 years.

"We know it's good for us," Laidlaw says. "The social part, I think, is just as good for us."

Tracy Leverson, marketing director for West Acres, says one trip around the mall, including each side hallway, is approximately four-fifths of a mile.

Laidlaw's crew walks around the mall twice.

"We used to go three times, but we're getting old," she says.

When it's nice outside, they walk outside the mall. They stay outside as long as possible, but move the morning exercise inside in October or November.

"As soon as it's dry with no ice, then we go out in the spring," Laidlaw says.

Leverson says the mall sees walkers throughout the year, but there are more in the winter, about 50 at any given time.

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Gene Doyle of Fargo is one person who comes inside the mall when winter hits.

"When it's cold I don't want to walk outside because I have a heart condition, so I walk where it's warm," he says.

Doyle walks at the mall for 45 minutes to an hour, seven days a week. He's been at it for the last three years.

"I don't enjoy my treadmill, which I've had for a year," he says. "So my wife walks on that. I come out here because I like to see people."

Sandy Pulczinski of West Fargo makes her way around the mall pushing her 4-year-old daughter, Brie, in a stroller.

"This is probably the last year I'll be able to convince her to stay in the stroller," Pulczinski says.

Every winter morning, Pulczinski takes her son to school and then heads to the mall.

"This time of year, I'm limited when I have a little one like her and it's very convenient to come here."

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She says after her daily, 40-minute workout, they stop at the Prehistoric Playground or go into a store if Pulczinski saw something in one of the windows.

Lucy and John Page of Fargo walk around the mall together. This is their second winter walking indoors at West Acres.

"It's just someplace to get exercise," Lucy says. "It's in out of the cold; you don't have to worry about icy sidewalks."

"It's a regular crowd," John says. "It's a nice, clean environment and every once in a while something changes so you have something new to look at."

Laidlaw says she sees the same faces around the mall each day.

"If someone's missing, everyone wants to know why," she says. "It's a good feeling to be missed."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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