Helen Yodlosky figures she has walked more than 1,100 miles through the Glendale Galleria in the past year. And no, she is not a floorwalker for Nordstrom department store or a Buffums security guard looking for shoplifters. She's not even a habitual shopper or one of those people who, in true Southern California fashion, hang out in shopping malls as a substitute for a real downtown.
So what possessed her to walk 1,100 miles--the equivalent of walking from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore.--inside a mall, past boutiques, cookie counters and T-shirt stands?
She is a Go-Getter, the champion Go-Getter, if you please.
Looking for Exercise
Organized by Glendale Adventist Medical Center and the Galleria, the Go-Getters are a group of people, many of them senior citizens recovering from heart or lung ailments, who want or need the exercise of long-distance walking but also want to do it in an air-conditioned environment with no hills.
The Galleria, the third largest mall in Southern California, meets those needs. One round trip along its main, L-shaped passageway, from Buffums to The Broadway, then over an enclosed bridge to Mervyns and back, is three-quarters of a mile.
The atmosphere is never unpleasant, except for peak shopping periods, walkers said. And, if the Go-Getters happen to see something along the way that they might want to buy--well, so much the better for the merchants.
Temptation to Reward
"It's clean, its's comfortable and it's a good place to get out of the heat and the smog," Glendale resident Yodlosky said. The only drawback of hiking in the mall, she said, is the temptation to reward herself with a snack after the walk.
"I haven't lost that much weight because there are so many places to eat in the Galleria," said Yodlosky, a middle-aged woman who has been an avid walker for many years. She does not have heart problems.
Yodlosky and 47 other Go-Getters who logged at least 50 miles since the program began in June, 1984, were honored at an awards breakfast last week.
Twelve of them had walked at least 200 miles, and four of those topped 500 miles. Yodlosky's only close competitor for the top spot was Paul Helbling of Glendale, who has about 1,000 miles under his belt.
'Trying to Stay Alive'
"I'm trying to stay alive," said Helbling, a minister who had to retire early because of a heart ailment. He underwent triple bypass surgery less than three years ago. Helbling, 60, said he tries to walk at least 20 miles a week in the Galleria. Is he feeling better? "I'm maintaining my health," he said.
The idea for the Go-Getters originated with staff members of the hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Department who had heard of a similar program at West Covina Fashion Plaza. A similar program is starting next week at the Courtyard Mall in the Palos Verdes area.
Adventist Medical Center took the concept to the Galleria management, who decided to allow the hiking and to help pay some of the costs of publicizing the group.
"I think it has worked out quite well for some of my patients," said Dr. Anthony Peters of Burbank, who helped launch Go-Getters and recommends it for people who need to develop cardiovascular fitness.
The Galleria's layout is conducive to long, uninterrupted walks with the goal of reaching a pulse rate of 80% of maximum, he said.
Peters said he has received no complaints about promoting hiking in such a highly commercial environment, about the possible mixing of medicine and mercantilism. "It's like everything in life, you give a little and you take a little. I think it's a good swap," he said.
Small Gifts, Coupons
Stacy Batrich-Smith, the Galleria's director of marketing, concedes that the program may increase sales. But she said that was not the main reason the mall is a co-sponsor. "Many of the Go-Getters are senior citizens and seniors are not the group that spends the most money," she said.
The Go-Getters receive some small gifts, discount coupons and gift certificates from Galleria merchants when they reach certain mileage points. And, Batrich-Smith said, it appears those coupons and certificates are being used.
At last week's ceremony the top three walkers each received, among other things, a $25 gift certificate from Buffums and a wall clock from Galleria Jewelers.
"Those are rewards for taking better care of themselves," Batrich-Smith said.
Most Go-Getters said they find themselves buying more items than if they were not walking in the mall. But they said they don't mind and, in fact, enjoy knowing what is on sale and which store has something especially attractive in the window.
L.B. Fisher, 67, of Mount Washington said he has been walking about 1 1/2 miles three times a week because he has heart problems and hopes to avoid bypass surgery. A retired programmer with the Los Angeles municipal Department of Water and Power, he said walking has built up his stamina and given him a chance to practice one of his favorite hobbies: people-watching.
His wife usually accompanies him to the mall and shops while he walks. "I sometimes joke that, with all the shopping my wife does here, it would be cheaper for me to go for cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital," he said with a smile. "But that's a joke."
Mileage Minder Cards
The hospital and mall have printed Go-Getter buttons, brochures explaining the program and Mileage Minder cards to help the walkers keep track of their distances. Each card has room for 200 holes to be punched, each hole representing a quarter-mile walk.
The walkers begin their hikes at the information desk, in front of the J.C. Penney store, where ABC-TV gives out tickets for tapings. They sign a log book there and return at the end to record their mileage and to have their cards punched.
But, seemingly more importantly, they usually chat with Peter Sanders, the ABC guest relations representative who has become a confidante and cheerleader for the Go-Getters. They said that the program would not function as well without him and praised him for being so supportive and such a good listener.
"It's relatively secure in here," Sanders said. "It's safer than walking in the street," which is important for senior citizens and single women who may be afraid to walk by themselves outside, he said.
Most of the Go-Getters walk alone or in pairs. To avoid crowds, most walk in the morning, sometimes before a lot of the stores are open. Most said they skip weekends and the days just before Christmas because of the bustle.
Blend Into Scene
They are an inconspicuous bunch. Most don't even wear their Go-Getter buttons any more. They blend right into the shopping scene--except that observers might think some to be in a bit of a rush.
They are not the kind of people who wear fancy jogging suits and flashy sneakers. Sony Walkmen earphones don't appear in their ears. They usually wear street clothes and sensible walking shoes or sneakers. Yodlosky, the champ, wears flat, open-toe sandals.
They range in age from 11 to their 80s and come from Glendale, Pasadena, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Highland Park, the San Fernando Valley area and parts of central Los Angeles.
"I have friends who jog and they get bored. This way is more fun. You meet people and watch what's going on. You don't get bored," said Sylvia Peters, a 40-year-old secretary who works in Glendale and lives in the mid-Wilshire district.
She said she began walking in the mall in April and has chalked up about 150 miles. She sometimes takes her 11-year-old daughter to walk with her.
"I'm a bit overweight and out of shape and when we started I couldn't walk down a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing," she said. "But now I can outpace my daughter. And I figure that this way I am accomplishing two things: my health and my shopping."