WORTHINGTON - When it comes to staying fit, two’s company for Carol and DuWayne Oberloh of rural Brewster - but sometimes, a crowd is OK, too.
“Going to work out with Carol makes it more enjoyable,” said DuWayne, 80.
“For one thing, you always know somebody - and I enjoy the [fitness] classes because they make me work harder.”
The Oberlohs have faced life’s pleasures and challenges together for 58 years; they were married on March 24, 1961, a day Carol recalls as being warm and sunny.
“It was probably close to 60 degrees,” said Carol, 78. “That was a nice early spring.”
The couple raised four children - Dean, Anita, Dana and Holly - and they have since been blessed with 13 grandchildren.
Throughout all their busy child rearing and employment years, and continuing to today, staying physically active has always been a family priority.
“We joined the Y when we moved to Worthington in 1967,” said Carol. “All of our kids took swimming lessons - and so did I, from Ethel Wigersma.
“Ethel was a wonderful teacher, and I even swam when I was pregnant with our youngest; it wasn’t easy to find a maternity swimsuit back then.”
Carol (born Carol Nelson) grew up in Brewster and graduated from Brewster High School in 1958. DuWayne lived in the Fulda area until his family moved to Brewster when he was in the ninth grade; he is a 1956 Brewster High School alumnus.
Although they were acquainted in those years, the pair never dated as teenagers.
“I knew who he was because his sister was one of my best friends,” shrugged Carol. “He was just, you know, an older brother.”
DuWayne enlisted in the Navy three months after his high school commencement, and he ended up spending 27 months on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
Upon return, DuWayne worked at Campbell Soup for a year before enrolling in patrol school. He was a member of the Minnesota State Patrol from Oct. 4, 1961, until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1995.
“I retired the same day he did,” said Carol, by way of explaining her ready recitation of the specific dates.
Following her high school experience, Carol attended a Twin Cities business school before returning to work at the Brewster bank.
“I went with my girlfriends to the dances at the Brewster American Legion, and he was there,” she said, nodding towards DuWayne.
“He asked me to go out, and so I did.”
DuWayne’s employment with the state patrol first took them to Hibbing from 1961-66, then he spent a year working in Luverne. The couple lived in Worthington from 1967 until 1999, when they decided to relocate to rural Brewster.
The family’s YMCA membership has remained a constant amidst the changes their lives have undergone over the years, as has their desire to keep moving as long as possible.
“Up until I retired, we walked outside a lot,” recalled DuWayne. “We had a dog, and we’d go out and walk around the lake when I got off work at 11 p.m.
“I’m firmly convinced that if you have stress in a job - and no matter what job you’ve got, there’s stress involved at times - exercise is one of the best stress relievers,” he continued.
“I sure had stress at work, and by the time we’d walked around the lake, it was gone and I just wanted to go to sleep.”
Shortly after DuWayne retired, a chance encounter with former part-time YMCA fitness instructor Wendy Grymaloski prompted the Oberlohs to try something new.
“I was walking on the treadmill at the Y, maybe for about an hour, and Wendy came up to me and told me she was starting a class and asked if I’d like to join,” recounted DuWayne.
“Of course I said no,” he chuckled. “But the next day she was back again, talked to me for about a half hour and told me that the movements in her class would help delay Alzheimer’s and be good for me in other ways too.”
It was a step aerobics class, and although DuWayne “had never done one before in my life,” Grymaloski’s encouragement persuaded him to try it.
Around that same time, DuWayne kept an appointment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, seeking help for his asthma and developing arthritis.
“And what do you think they told me but the same things Wendy had said - that exercise is really important for arthritis sufferers because you need to keep the joints working, and that a good aerobics class is beneficial for that and asthma because you use all your lung capacity,” said DuWayne.
“That really hooked it all together, and I’ve been going to these classes ever since.”
Together, the couple attend the Y’s Fusion (a combination of yoga and strength training) classes, plus Silver Sneakers, circuit training and chair yoga sessions.
“We do our weight circuit on Tuesday and Thursday and then we have coffee,” said Carol. “There’s always room for more people; some are younger, some are older, and there are quite a few in their 90s.
“Sometimes people have health issues, but they come back when they feel better - or people move away, or die, but it’s all part of the cycle of life.”
So which came first, the Oberlohs’ positive outlook or their belief in the power of exercise?
It’s hard to say, but either way, their formula for healthy living is working for them.
“I want to be active until I can’t be anymore,” said Carol. “If you don’t move, then pretty soon you can’t move, so I figure I’d better keep moving as long as I can.
“If you shut yourself up in a corner and don’t associate with other people, pretty soon you have a bad attitude. I mean, everyone has their problems and their crosses to bear, so don’t let that hold you back.”
Carol asserts that trying to eat healthfully is also part of their plan; DuWayne jokes, though, “My wife watches the diet better than I do.
“I have my downfalls, and I like to have a beer now and then, but there’s a lot of calories in alcohol, so I have to off-set that with exercise.”
Carol habitually eats yogurt in the morning, tries to avoid too much fried food or “breaded stuff,” and frequently reaches for vegetables.
“Right now, we’re waiting for the asparagus to come up,” she said eagerly.
And the Oberlohs’ positive perspective extends to an attitude of gratitude - specifically toward those who have given generously of their resources to build and sustain the Worthington Area YMCA.
“We owe a big thanks to everyone who has supported the Y, and who continues to support it,” said DuWayne.
“We have such a nice facility to go to, and not every town has that. The kind of workouts we attend there benefit both men and women,” he added.
“It would be so much easier to sit home on the couch all day than to work out, but we enjoy going to the Y - and if you’re in decent shape, you can do more things with your kids.
“That’s very important in my book.”