The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Pat Gatzlaff

Keeps the Fun Alive in Her Life at the Y

Pat Gatzlaff likes to discover ways to integrate fun into her life, and she's discovered one way is to attend chair yoga, three days a week at the YMCA-North Branch in Onalaska. "Everyone in the class is really friendly, and we have a good time. We laugh a lot," she says. "The instructors are very encouraging, are open to ideas, and they offer adaptations to the exercise to make it easier for those who need it."


The benefits are two-fold in chair yoga for Pat: She's having fun and she's taking care of her health. She seems to push any physical limitations aside and finds a way to work out, striving to preserve her strength and balance. One fellow Y member says of Pat, "She's very friendly with many class participants. She has such a positive attitude about herself and does what she can to keep going."


A lot of the exercises in chair yoga appear simple, but the effort pays off. "You may not think you're working that hard, but you can really feel it in your muscles later," Pat says. "The staff is really nice. If you ever have any ideas, they listen to you." And she adds another plus about the Y, "It's really clean there."


When she isn't at the Y, Pat exercises at home. On a daily basis, she accomplishes a minimum of a half hour on her elliptical machine, as well as works-out with hand weights, an exercise ball and exercise bands. "I vary my routine to keep it different," she says. "My belief is to use it, or lose it. I don't know how much exercise is helping me, but I'm not going to quit and find out." Maintaining her light-hearted but determined attitude, she doesn't want to emphasize the genetic disorder she lives with. She didn't develop any symptoms, which affect some of her physical movements, until she was in her 40s. Today at 65 years old, she remains active and creates happiness. She stays on the positive side and looks outside of her own challenges. "There are a lot of people who are much worse off than me," she says with a steady gaze.


It's easy to picture her enjoying teaching preschoolers and kindergarteners when she and her family lived in Rochester, Minn., for 20 years before moving to Holmen a few years ago. Along with her education career, from which she's now retired, Pat worked as a nanny for 13 years. As for her own family, she and her husband, Ron, married for 42 years, raised a son and two daughters. Ron still works as a business owner. They have six grandchildren, ages 3 to 16, and Pat delights in being active with them. One of their favorite ways to have a blast is going to the YMCA-North. Two of her grandsons, ages 7 and 9, love to swim and go down the big slide in the pool. These boys also eagerly participate in the Y soccer and basketball program. Pat gladly attends their games and cheers them on. She spends a lot of time with these two particular grandchildren, as she and Ron share a home with their daughter and son-in-law.


More specifically, the families chose to reside in an intergenerational living arrangement, with Pat and Ron living on the lower level and other half of their family on the upper half. Each family maintains their own entry and as much privacy as they want. Yet they can seamlessly swap childcare and household duties and share meals and movies. It's no surprise that Pat, who loves to keep the fun in her life, beams when she shares, "We're having a good time!"


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2014