Oakbrook fluid running club

Making Waves and Building Bonds: The “Blue Zone” Fluid Running Community in Oak Brook, Illinois

We’ve heard a lot lately about “Blue Zones” in parts of the world where people live longer, healthier, and happier lives.  Some reasons for their abundance of good health are obvious: they take good care of themselves, eat well, and exercise.  What might not be so obvious is in these little sectors of the world, these people also take care of each other and are very community-focused.

Welcome to the Fluid Running Family

Welcome to Oak Brook, Illinois, where a remarkable group of women have embraced more than just a workout routine; they’ve found a family within the confines of a pool.  “Fluid Running has helped me to achieve consistency in working out because I enjoy the workouts, but also because of the camaraderie in classes and friendships I’ve developed,” says Jill Harley. 

Diving into Fluid Running

Fluid Running, a high-energy, no-impact, deep-water running class offered at the Oak Brook Park District since 2011, started primarily for runners. However, word of mouth quickly spread about the benefits of this class for people of all ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds. 

The Bonding Waters: Conversations and Connections

With time to chat during warm-up, a break in the middle, and cool-down, conversations started to flow, and friendships began to blossom.  A tight bond began to form between 12 of these particular women. 

What started as idle chit-chat morphed into deep friendships with them on text strings, celebrating and supporting each other in prayer groups, on the golf course, and even on vacations together. Ana Sisson started Fluid Running over 10 years ago because she had bad knees and arthritis in her hands. She said the pool workouts made her aches go away.  She refers to Fluid Running as a “big family where we exercise, enjoy fellowship, and eachother.”

Overcoming Challenges Through Fluid Running

Many of the women were quite active when they were younger, but now in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, they often find themselves in pain doing traditional exercise. 

Christine Malcolm started Fluid Running eight years ago when she tore her meniscus and was unable to walk without a limp.  “My PT encouraged me to keep doing it, and my husband Mark joined me during the pandemic. Mark was diagnosed with cancer in 2021, and Fluid Running sustained his sense of optimism, health and vitality.  Usually people never feel the same after undergoing chemo.  He feels fabulous. I love how we can stay connected with Fluid Running all year long.  We use the app-based system when we are in Scottsdale in the winter, and often run in the pool there with our Oak Brook friend Judy Vietzke!”

Diane Meyer was recovering from hip surgery when she decided to take the plunge. “If it weren’t for Fluid Running, I would never have been able to return to tennis; I lost my post-surgery weight and regained the strength I needed to be active again.” 

Fluid Running: More Than a Workout

Mary Rose Veselik was an avid runner until a torn labrum made running painful. She started Fluid Running and said, “I feel stronger now at age 60 than I did at 50. My endurance for long bike rides and caring for my grandchildren has improved. I even won several age group awards in local 5Ks”. But she says the camaraderie and support of the Fluid Runners have had the most positive impact. “When my father died recently, the Fluid Running family supported me by sending lots of texts, cards, and a big beautiful flower arrangement to his service. My mother and seven siblings were amazed that I had friends that were so sweet and caring!”

Only some were as active in their younger years.  “I was never an athletic person. I didn’t know how to swim, and at 68 years of age, I had never had a regular workout program. That all changed with Fluid Running. I finally understood “the runner’s high” my husband always talked about,” says Carla Peer. Beyond the runner’s high is a “friendship high.”  We celebrate the victories of our members, marathons, and sporting accomplishments, and we help support each other when there are challenges…prayers, cards, and thoughts for the well-being of those facing surgery and illnesses. I have started golfing with several of my Fluid Running friends. We call it our Fluid Running golf group. There is talk of starting a biking group as well.”

Pain-Free Weight Loss with Fluid Running

Struggling with pain often makes it very difficult to lose weight. That’s where Fluid Running has been a gift to so many. “Last year, I lost 55 pounds, and I’ve kept it off for over ten months. Fluid Running has been my main exercise for this weight loss. I still can’t do a lot of land classes due to foot issues, but Fluid Running is perfect for me,” says Judy Vietzke. As for the community aspect, “I think we all love and are devoted to Fluid Running so much that we naturally formed a bond that has gotten stronger over the last few years. Many of us have found we have other common interests and have branched out to enjoy other activities together, such as golfing, cycling, walking, MahJong, and even going to lunch/dinner and theater together. Since many of us are female, we’ve included our spouses in our group, too.”

A Lifeline for All Ages

Mary Green, who has experienced hip pain, says Fluid Running is “perfecto” for her. She adds, “I still work and can’t always get to the classes, and when I come back, I always hear…’Where have you been?’ It’s so nice to be missed! Marathon runners and people in their 80s are in the class, and we all feel strong and inspired to keep moving. We cheer each other on for birthdays and life events. We share photos while traveling and keep up with weddings, babies, and family members’ engagements! We have coffee at our houses and get to know each other on a deeper level. This group is so supportive and strong!”

Doctor-Approved Fitness: Fluid Running Makes Sense

Doctors agree that Fluid Running makes sense. Gloria Tatar was diagnosed with necrosis of the left knee and was unable to attend class for a while. “However, I am back in class, doing very well, and the orthopedic surgeon said that there is no need for surgery at the present moment. He said that Fluid Running is good for my knee.”

Maybe this really is a blue zone. Gloria says, “Fluid running gives me a ‘blue mind’! I am focused on my form, the music, the cues from the instructor, and the movement of my body in the water. I don’t think about anything else. It is great, and I come out of the pool feeling very positive.”

Fluid Running: A Confidence Booster

Sometimes just looking great in your mother-of-the- bride dress is motivation enough! Lois H. said Fluid Running gave her a waist to show off at her daughter’s wedding (which was celebrated by all her Fluid Running friends). She loves the community aspect and says she has played golf, gone on walks together, and enjoyed “coffee klatsching” with the people she’s met at Fluid Running. “And we look out for each other, often checking in on each other when we notice someone hasn’t been at class lately.”

Weathering Chicago Winters Together

We all have good and bad days, and Chicago winters can be especially tough. Harriet VerGowe says, “I love Fluid Running. It has helped me stay more physically active, and the other runners’ companionship has boosted my morale.” For swimmers like Carol Bobo, Fluid Running offered another way to exercise in the pool. “I do have arthritis in both knees….too many years standing on a pool deck as a coach and tiled floors while being a teacher. ”Fluid Running is helping me maintain movement, reduce my pain and help me with flexibility.” When asked about her fellow Fluid Runners, Carol says, “They are my exercise friends. We make time for coffee or a quick text and check in to see how a family member is doing. We go out to breakfast and pray for each other in good and difficult times.”

Instructors: The Heart of Fluid Running Community

The talented and motivating Fluid Running instructors are a huge part of this community bonding. “They set the tone for the atmosphere and when they share part of their life story, it opens the door for the participants to do the same,” says Carla Peer. Harriet adds, “Having such delightful instructors who are funny and so good at what they do, also helps reduce the stress level and make it fun.” Carol says that “they are part of our transparency that makes us more open to one another.”

Beyond a Workout: Fluid Running as a Lifestyle

In the heart of Oak Brook, Illinois, the Fluid Running community stands as a testament to the power of shared experiences, mutual encouragement, and the enduring bonds that can be forged through a common pursuit of health and wellness. They remind us that true wealth lies in physical well-being and the richness of the relationships we cultivate along the way. As they continue to make waves in the pool, they also ripple with the strength of their friendships, inspiring us all to seek connection and community in our fitness journeys.

For these women, Fluid Running isn’t just a workout; it’s a way of life. The class has become integral to their daily routine, providing physical and emotional strength. Even when they are not in town, being able to do the Fluid Running app-based workouts helps them feel connected. As Diane Meyer aptly says, “The group isn’t just about Fluid Running anymore. We are truly friends.”

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