January-March 2016 Seasons of Life Cover Story

Hope Floats for One Determined Woman

When Pam Kowalski began classes at St. Ann Center’s Aquatic Center, she never dreamed her fellow swimmers would be even warmer than the water.

In June of 2013, Pam was preparing for bariatric surgery, which required her to exercise for an hour a day and lose 20 pounds. “The problem was, I could barely walk,” Pam says, recalling how arthritis, a deteriorating spine and her weight hindered her mobility. “At 420 pounds, I had isolated and cocooned myself in my home. That’s when my son went online and found St. Ann Center’s Warm Water Movement class.”

This gentle form of water exercise, targeting muscles and joints, is slower than traditional aerobics and increases the flexibility of people with arthritis. That makes it an ideal therapy for those recovering from joint and back injuries, surgery or illness.

Self-conscious in a bathing suit, Pam quickly felt waves of acceptance coming from the other women in the class. “I hadn’t planned on telling them my story, but they were so supportive…I decided to risk it,” she says. By the end of the month, Pam was not only ready for surgery, she had 20 cheerleaders rooting for her success.

“Socializing is so important…the workout becomes a side benefit!” – Pam

Now down 200 pounds and approaching her goal weight, the upbeat grandmother of four is committed to continuing her three-days-a-week routine. “Our group has become like family,” Pam says, adding several women raided their closets and gave her clothes as she dropped several sizes. “Being part of this group has been so heartwarming. They really brought me out of my shell.”

Indeed, these close-knit swimmers are so in sync, they’ve expanded their friendship beyond the pool. They meet monthly for lunch and conversation, making sure the restaurant menu has plenty of healthy choices.“Socializing plays such an important part in exercise,” Pam says. “It’s motivating when you know you’re going to spend time with your friends. The workout becomes a side benefit.”

In a one-size-fits-all world, it’s rare to find a place like St. Ann Center that embraces diversity, Pam adds. “From my very first day, clients and staff alike have stopped to chat, ask how I’m doing and offer encouragement.
“Over the years, I’ve tried everything from Weight Watchers to Richard Simmons, and nothing has worked like Warm Water Movement,” Pam concludes. “And the fantastic ladies exercising alongside me have made all the difference.”

Find all the aquatic services for the community online: stanncenter.org/pool.


Pam’s story is just one example of how your connection to St. Ann Center helps enhance the lives of so many special people. In the January-March issue of Seasons of Life, you will find more stories of the difference you and people like you are making for the people of all ages and abilities at St. Ann Center every day, plus check out the full-year calendar featuring St. Ann Center classes, support groups and special events.


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