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Fairgrounds Park trail keeps walkers healthy

March 05, 2002|BY KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

In the early 1980s Jack Ausherman was the picture of poor health.

Ausherman weighed 220 pounds, didn't exercise much, smoked heavily and had suffered a heart attack.

Today, Ausherman, 62, said he probably wouldn't recognize the man he used to be.

Ausherman no longer smokes and walks every morning with friends at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown. He is about 15 pounds lighter and tries to eat healthful food, he said.

"It was a whole lifestyle change," said Ausherman, who lives just outside Hagerstown.

It wasn't easy and he resisted making changes for about four years before realizing there was no other way to improve his quality of life, he said.

Walking is the perfect exercise for many people because it's affordable and low impact, according to Tammy Thornton, coordinator of nutrition for the Washington County Health Department.

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Walking is also a simple way for people who are overweight or inactive to take the early steps toward a healthy lifestyle, Thornton said.

People just starting out shouldn't rush to get in shape, she said.

"If they slowly build up their strength it usually becomes a long-term lifestyle," she said.

Ausherman said he chose walking because it was easy, and he could build up to longer walks.

"It gets better the more you do it," he said.

Ausherman can now walk three miles in 45 minutes and has logged 375 miles at Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park walking trail as a member of the park's Walking Club.

The Fairgrounds Park Walking Club has 110 members and is looking for more, Thornton said.

Sponsored by the City of Hagerstown and the Washington County Health Department, the free program encourages people to get healthy by walking, she said.

The program, which is organized by Health Department Exercise Specialist Angela Kershner, offers support through a quarterly newsletter filled with exercise and nutrition tips and prizes for mileage milestones.

The park is open from dawn to dusk. The walking trail covers the perimeter of the park so walkers can watch other athletics going on at the park, said Thornton.

The trail is mostly flat with some mild inclines, she said.

A gravel track or walking trail absorbs impact better than pavement does, so it is more forgiving to the joints, she said.

"A lot of people who run for years experience problems with their knees as they get older, especially when the surface is hard," she said.

The track is more level than some sidewalks in the city, which makes it easier for walkers with foot problems, said Ginger Hartman of Hagerstown.

"It's smoother," said Hartman.

Hartman and her husband, Ron, have been walking for years to stay fit and recently joined the Fairgrounds Park Walking Club.

The couple said they like walking regularly in the park because it is scenic and safe from traffic.

Walking together "is soothing" and gives the retired couple uninterrupted time to talk, said Ginger Hartman, 62.

"I do most of the talking," said Ginger Hartman.

"I do the listening," Ron Hartman said.

People interested in joining the Walking Club can find register forms along the trail or call the Health Department at 301-791-3039.

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