Dancing her way into the heart of the McGaw YMCA


If you’ve spent any time at the McGaw YMCA, chances are you’ve seen 66-year-old Bonnie Larner. She’s the one wearing a headset and a lovely smile, and also happens to be dancing.

A former music teacher and longtime sufferer of osteoporosis, Bonnie spends several hours each day at McGaw YMCA, doing all sorts of exercise. But one of her favorites involves turning up her eclectic mix of music to dance, clap, and sometimes quietly sing her way around the track or on the treadmill.

Since she joined McGaw YMCA almost four years ago, Bonnie has lost weight, lowered her blood pressure and glucose levels, and boosted her energy. But just as important, she’s found a welcoming community that feels like home.

“People aren’t here to see or be seen. Everyone here inspires each other and supports each other.”

From walker to spin bike

Just before joining McGaw YMCA, Bonnie had been using a walker as she recovered from seven broken vertebrae. Over the years, her osteoporosis resulted in numerous bone fractures and she struggled to maintain a healthy weight.  Bonnie loved to swim, but realized she needed to try weight-bearing exercise to strengthen her bones and improve her health.

She began in the Wellness Center. “Eric started me on the treadmill at .5 miles per hour. But I just kept doing it and pretty soon, I didn’t need to use a cane to walk anymore.”

Bonnie tried some exercises classes, including Heather’s Core Values and Manon’s Body Shaping. She was hooked, and also became a regular in spin classes. These days, she spends four hours at McGaw, attending classes, chatting with staff and fellow members, and doing her own unique workout.

Why dancing? Standing or walking tends to hurt Bonnie’s back and hips, but doing low impact dancing feels great. “I love to dance.”

Along with her four hour exercise regime, Bonnie altered her diet by eliminating sugar and increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein. Since joining McGaw YMCA, she has gradually lost almost 100 pounds and she hasn’t suffered from another bone break.

Finding inspiration at the Y

Bonnie now volunteers with the Evanston Swims! program, which helps Evanston second graders improve their swimming skills and water safety awareness. She’s also convinced her husband, Ed Langer, to join. Ed now works out four hours too, and he even comes on Sundays. At 75, he said he hasn’t felt as energetic and strong in years.

“The trainers and staff are very good,” he said. “They’re dedicated people and really knowledgeable.”

Both Bonnie and Ed said they find continual inspiration and motivation from the McGaw YMCA community.

“There are people in my spin class who are in their 80s. Plus, there are all races represented here, all countries, all ages,” said Bonnie. “I just love this Y.”

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