What began as doctor?s orders has become a relationship-building exercise for Gaylord and Peggy Goertzen. The Hillsboro couple have consistently shared a morning walk at least five days a week for the past 11 years.
After experiencing heart problems in 2002, Gaylord resolved to integrate a regular walking habit into his schedule.
?The doctor said you need to walk two miles a day,? he said. ?Peggy had also been walking on her own, so we decided to walk together.?
The couple began faithfully venturing outdoors in the early mornings, covering two miles in 30 to 35 minutes, Gaylord said.
Peggy, who had been a walker since the couple moved to Hillsboro in 1988, was happy for the company.
?When the doctor said (Gaylord) had to walk, that was just fabulous because I wanted very much to walk with my husband,? Peggy said. ?It?s our time to be alone and to talk and plan out the rest of the day.?
These days, the Goertzens have increased their time and distance to an hour?s worth of walking if possible, per doctor?s request.
?We try to walk a minimum of 45 minutes, and, when we can, an hour,? Gaylord said.
The couple prefers to walk in the morning, aiming to leave before 7 a.m., giving them time to get to their respective workplaces: Gaylord is the lead pastor of the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church?he plans to retire Sept. 30?while Peggy directs the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies located on the Tabor College campus.
The couple?s walking route usually takes them downtown and diverges from there.
Along the way, they enjoy greeting the people they meet.
?We see a lot of people we know (and) wave to them,? Gaylord said. ?It?s just great to be out.?
As they walk, the couple takes the opportunity to help keep the streets of Hillsboro clean.
?(Peggy) will carry a plastic grocery sack, so if we see trash or bottles or cans we?ll just stop and pick them up so it doesn?t look messy,? Gaylord said, adding that they recycle what they can and throw the rest away.
?It?s a good way to keep things clean,? he said. ?Sometimes we?ll take a little different route because our route stays pretty clean. We?re proud of our community; we want it to look nice.?
Peggy echoed the sentiment.
?I think recycling is just terribly important, and I want our town to look nice,? she said. ?
When the weather is bad, the couple walks in a hallway at the Salem Home apartments, Gaylord said.
They even make time for regular walks while on vacation.
?If it?s during the winter and the weather?s bad, we?ll just walk up and down the hall of the hotel,? Gaylord said. ?And if the weather?s good, we?ll walk outside and explore.?
Laying the foundation
Prior to his health concerns, Gaylord enjoyed running.
?Back in the ?80s, when we lived in Oklahoma, I started running,? he said. ?My goal was to do a 6-k run, not to compete but just to run it. So I would run in the mornings.?
Peggy, meanwhile, enjoyed walking, taking the couple?s four children with her.
?I?d put the youngest one in the stroller and put the other ones ahead of me,? she said.
The couple first began walking together in 1985.
?Peggy?s cousin gave us a trip to Israel, and it was actually a graduate class for pastors and Christian workers and teachers,? Gaylord said. ?They said be prepared to walk three miles a day because we?d be going places, so that really started our walking together.
?We?d take the kids (walking) with us, and they had a good time.?
Following the Israel trip, however, walking became less of a priority.
In May 1988, the Goertzens moved to Hillsboro after Gaylord accepted the pastorate at Ebenfeld.
?We walked intermittently during the ?90s,? Gaylord said. ?With Peggy working and everything, things changed, and we just kind of got away from (walking), and we missed it.?
In 2002, Gaylord?s health caused walking to become a priority.
?The doctor said, ?You have to walk,?? Gaylord said. ?So that was a good motivation.?
They haven?t stopped walking since.
?It has been just about five days a week for sure,? he said. ?So I?ve gone through a lot of pairs of tennis shoes.?
Regarding footwear, Gaylord said he prefers anything lightweight.
More than exercise
In addition to satisfying doctor?s orders, Gaylord and Peggy?who will celebrate 44 years of marriage in August?see their morning strolls as a time to connect.
?Walking together is really good,? Gaylord said. ?We call it ?our time.? It?s our time always to be together.?
It?s a time set aside before the busyness of the day sets in.
?It?s our time,? Peggy said. ?That?s important. Everything else wants to interfere after that.?
Gaylord and Peggy?s affection is evidenced by the fact that they join hands as they walk.
?We?ve always held hands, but that?s just a way of connecting, and it?s a way of just showing our affection,? Gaylord said. ?I think it?s real important.
?I mean, when we were dating, we held hands. Why not keep it up? I worked hard to win her, and so I still want to hold her hand.?
Having a walking companion makes all the difference for Gaylord.
?Walking alone is just not the same,? he said. ?Then it?s just exercise. Walking together is fun. It is just enjoyable, and so we need that time together.?
The couple relish their walking time.
?It?s the relationship, that?s the most fun of it all,? Gaylord said. ?We could go on a treadmill, but that wouldn?t be any fun. It?s just fun being together.
?Although we?re getting the exercise the doctor said, the best part is we?re together just enjoying each other?s company,? Gaylord said. ?That makes it special.?