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Free McKeesport fitness program keeps walkers in shape and 'wise'

| Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 4:11 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Janice Zahorchak of White Oak and her mother Regina Zahorchak, 86, of McKeesport stay fit together as Walk Wise participants.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Chester Spiegel of McKeesport says he does laps around the Renziehausen Park Blue Top Pavilion as part of the Wise Walk program because it 'gets your heart pumping.'
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Kathleen Sherman of Elizabeth Township walks with Kelley Moten, assistant director of Carnegie Library of McKeesport and Wise Walk coordinator.

McKeesport's Chester Spiegel regularly walks laps around the Blue Top Pavilion in Renziehausen Park.

“It's a healthy thing. It makes me feel good,” Spiegel, 81, said. “It gets me in shape to get down to the Y. It's good exercise. Gets your heart pumping.”

Spiegel is one of many enrolled in Carnegie Library of McKeesport's free Wise Walk program. Participants of all ages gather on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. at the McKeesport Heritage Center at 1832 Arboretum Dr. Then they head to the park to walk about a mile, and sometimes more, along the trail, returning to the center around 4:30 p.m. to record their steps.

Walkers receive T-shirts and pedometers. Water and snacks are provided at the end of each walk.

The program is sponsored by UPMC for Life, AARP and the Allegheny County Library Association.

“It always goes well,” assistant library director and Wise Walk coordinator Kelley Morten said. “People enjoy it. We accommodate everyone.”

Spiegel prefers the Blue Top area because it usually is cool.

“It's shady under there. The sun's not hitting it as much,” he said.

The track takes walkers past the Blue Top and Jacob Woll pavilions through a wooded area where small animals are often seen, over a few small hills, then past a playground and a parking lot.

Janice Zahorchak, 60, of White Oak walks with her mother Regina Zahorchak, 86, of McKeesport. They said they read about the program in The Daily News and wanted to check it out.

“This keeps her going, strengthens her legs,” Janice Zahorchak said. “She couldn't walk after having heart problems. Now she even goes with me to Zumba up at Angora Gardens.”

“It's really relaxing. Regina Zahorchak said. “We come every week, even when it's raining. I dislocated my shoulder and I still came.”

The program provides an opportunity to make new friends and enjoy an activity with others.

“You're here for the same reason,” Morten said. “I think doing any activity leads to camaraderie. It's a nice combination of personalities. The program is designed for people over 50, but we don't restrict it to people over 50. Anybody can sign up for it.”

Jimmy Bruce, 83, of Port Vue participated last year, and brought 10 new walkers to the program this year.

“I try to average seven to 10 miles a day for seven days,” Bruce said. “That's 70 miles a week. Chester knows I'm not making this up. That's what I do. I come back for health.”

Bruce said he likes to compete against himself.

“If you walk with somebody, either they're going fast and run out of gas or they're slow,” he said. “I walk at my own pace. That's how I get my miles.”

Twenty to 40 walkers show up on a given Tuesday afternoon. Wise Walk continues through Nov. 12.

The program also is offered May through July. No registration is required. Call 412-672-0625 for more information.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or