The Great Indoors

With the skies still posing potential health risks, inside activities get a boost
Lyle Cobb, left, and his grandson, Levi Kuhlman, get their exercise inside at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA on Friday. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

Just because it hurts to breathe outside does not mean Rogue Valley residents are taking the summer off from exercising.

Those wanting to stay physically fit are taking their games indoors in growing numbers, according to Brad Russell, executive director of the Rogue Valley Family YMCA.

"We are definitely seeing more people come to the YMCA to get out of the smoke," Russell said. "It's good that people are aware of the smoke levels and are staying healthy."

Russell said the YMCA has had to juggle its summer schedule to stay one step ahead of the smoky air, caused by five wildfires burning in southwestern Oregon since July 26.

When air quality plummeted to hazardous levels earlier this month, the YMCA was forced to cancel some outdoor activities and move others indoors.

"We host events at the high schools, which are less than a mile away, and we had parents who didn't want their children walking short distances," Russell said. "So we do our best to keep the kids healthy."

The Department of Environmental Quality reported that Medford's air quality on Friday hovered in the "moderate" zone, meaning exercising outdoors probably wouldn't leave healthy people doubled over trying to suck in enough air.

This did not stop Cindy and Lyle Cobb from spending the afternoon at the YMCA's indoor pool playing water basketball with their two grandchildren.

Cindy Cobb said the family originally planned a camping adventure at Lost Creek Lake, but the grungy air put the kibosh on that.

"I have asthma, so I can't be out in this smoke," she said.

She sat at thw pool's edge as her husband and the grandkids horsed around in the water.

The goal is to not keep the kids cooped up indoors all summer, she said.

"There's things to do," she said. "You just can't stay inside all summer."


Meanwhile, Lava Lanes has seen a spike in amateur bowlers taking their pent-up energy out on the pins.

"We've definitely seen more people come in to bowl to get out of the smoke," said Shasta Ramirez, a bowling alley employee.

Among them was Amanda Murray, who slipped on a pair of pink and green bowling shoes in lieu of her normal running footwear.

"I'm an active person and I love running and bicycling, but you really can't do that these past few weeks," she said. "Bowling is a workout, at least. And it's indoors."

With fire officials predicting that the Big Windy blaze chewing through more than 15,000 acres of brush and trees near the lower Rogue River won't be 100 percent contained until at least the beginning of September, the bowling alley expects to continue seeing busy nights at the lanes.

"You can work up a sweat bowling," Ramirez said.

Just because you're indoors doesn't necessary mean the smoke won't be a factor during your exercise routine, Russell said.

"We have scaled back our Zumba classes even though they are held inside," he said. "We are asking the instructors to take it easier on the classes. The smoke can be bad indoors as well."

For her part, Cindy Cobb is looking forward to a trip to Portland this week to attend her grandson's soccer tournament.

"It'll be nice to sit and watch the game and not have a mask on my face," she said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.



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