Active living, active life: Locals share simple secrets for a healthy mind, body and soul

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“It’s more about just being outside and enjoying the day”

Rochester Magazine - Mike Pattinson
Mike Pattinson, store manager at Tyrol Ski and Sports, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Mike Pattinson
by Paula LaRochelle

Say the words “downhill skiing” and most people will picture a sprawling resort on a massive mountain somewhere out West. But for Mike Pattinson, the General Manager of Rochester’s Tyrol Ski and Sports, it’s a family pastime—and a local tradition.

Raised in Rochester, Pattinson has been downhill skiing since he was seven. The sport runs in the family: His dad learned as a kid at the Rochester Ski Hill in the 1950s, and Mike and his wife, Adele, have been taking their daughter, Ella, out to the slopes since she was three years old.

For Pattinson, the key to staying active is finding something you enjoy. And if you can find friends or family to join you, all the better.

How often do you downhill ski in the winter months?


I try to get out two or three times a week.

How do you make time to ski so often?

Well, I really like it. And, you know, it’s not that far to drive up to Welch Village, which is just an hour away. You can ski for a couple hours and come home and still have plenty of the day left to do other things. It’s not like out West where you have to pretty much spend the whole day out. That’s what makes it such a great sport to do with a family here, because you can go up and ski with your kids and get them out learning a lifelong sport. You can stay as long you want, but you don’t have to spend the whole day out.

You took your daughter out to ski often when she was little?

When Ella was young, it was more about learning the culture of skiing. We would go out skiing for a bit and then we would come inside for treats and drink. It was a much shorter day. We’d go at 9 a.m. and be home by one in the afternoon. Now that she’s older, she participates with the Rochester High School Slalom Ski Team, and she has friends that she has been skiing with for years. And you know, she likes to go and ski, but she also really likes to see her friends.

How do you stay active in the summer months?

I try to do a little bit outside each day, getting fresh air, be it walking or riding a bike. I inline skate, too, and I kayak and paddle some. I always wish I had time for more.

Are there any particular local areas you like to go?


We live close to the Douglas Trail in northwest Rochester, and I can just walk from our house to the trail. I walk a lot on my own, but my wife really likes to ride her bike, so we try to get out together. I also like inline skating because you can skate hard and get a pretty good workout in a short amount of time. For kayaking, we like to go out to Chester Woods. What’s nice in town is that, as the parks and trails have grown, there are a lot of areas close to all the main neighborhoods: there’s Quarry Hill, there’s the bike path that goes out toward Mayowood, and the area around Slatterly Park. All the different parts of town have something nearby, and I think that makes it easier for people to get out, even if it’s not for a really long time. And it’s great for kids, too, because you can get them out for some fresh air.

What makes a good ski day for you?

Well it doesn’t really matter the weather; you can have a really nice day skiing if it’s cold and wet out or if it’s sunny and warm.

You’re going to have to tell me how you have a nice day when it’s cold and wet!

You have to dress right, for sure. And to be in the proper mindset that you’re going to go out and make the best of the day. Once you start skiing, you stay pretty warm. And if I get cold, I go in. I don’t fight it, or I don’t try to stay out more than I should. If you wait for the perfect day, you’ll never go. And that holds true with a lot of outdoor sports.

What have you learned from being active?
I just try to take it a day at a time and enjoy being out and participating in sports and activities that I like. I wish I could say that it was for working out, but it’s more about just being outside and enjoying the day as it comes.

“If you don’t use it you lose it”

Rochester Magazine - Sara Pierson
Sara Pierson on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Sara Pierson
by Lydia Hansen

Sara Pierson’s grandkids tease her for having “old hair” when she takes her wig off, but the 64-year-old firmly believes “you’re as young as you feel.” And she still feels quite young.


“Granny” is one of Sara’s favorite roles, but she’s also a hospice nurse at Seasons Hospice, a part-time caregiver with PossAbilities, and a minister at Vision Church in Rochester. In her spare time, she runs, lifts weights, and is subjected to the “101 other things” her family good-naturedly volunteers her for—last-minute wedding officiant is high on that list.

Originally from Louisiana, Sara moved to Rochester in 2005. She’s that rarest of people, one who loves what Minnesota is best known for: winter.

What’s this about you liking winter?

Oh my goodness, I love winter. It is my favorite time of the year. If I could skate, it would be perfect. In the winter, we go sledding and I love it. Judd Hill? Oh my god, it’s so much fun. It’s hard going up that hill, I don’t exercise that day. It’s fun coming down the hill, but coming back up! They need to have a ski lift for us older people.

What does your exercise routine look like, if you’re able to climb up and down that hill in the winter?

I love exercise. I really, really do. I used to run, I used to get up every morning at 5 and jog two miles. But now I just do regular cardio now rather than the running. I do squats, pushups. I can’t do lunges because of my knees, they’re not too good. Jumping jacks, situps, and then I walk like five miles on my treadmill. And that’s it.

That’s 100% more than me, so you’re doing great.

I really need to do more because I need to get my blood pressure under control. I’m a diabetic and I have hypertension. My sister had hypertension, and it got so out of hand that between that and her diabetes, she got on dialysis. And that’s one thing I don’t want to do.

Was that an intentional decision on your part to stay busy, or is that just how you are?

It’s sort of a family history. When I was 9 years old, my grandmother was able to walk a ring around me. And she was 85. I watched her and that sort of inspired me. To me, I think activity is a mind thing. The old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” that is so very true. That keeps me active. I want to be able to walk and run with my grandchildren. And soon it will be great-grandchildren and I want to be able to do things with them. I want to keep my mind active and intact so that I don’t lose grip on where I am and things like that. We have to exercise our mind just like we do our body. If we don’t, it’s going to slip away, too. I try to do challenging things to help me with my brain activity.

What kinds of brain challenges do you do?

For example, in 2009, I went back to school. That was a big challenge for me. I gave myself lots and lots of headaches because I was doing some stuff with it that I didn’t normally do. I had to learn how to study. I went to Rochester Community and Technical College and I was going to get my RN degree. The muscles and bones had not changed, but Lord have mercy. Chemistry is the thing that really got me. I asked the instructor, “Did they teach this same thing in high school?” I don’t remember any of this stuff. Periodic table, some of the things on there I remember, but some of this looks really unfamiliar. She said “You’ll do fine.”

Did you end up getting your nursing degree?

My sister got sick so I had to stop so I could take care of her. I still want to go back, but it’s so expensive and I really can’t afford it. Now I’ve started doing Sudoku and that’s really challenging. It’s good brain medicine.

You mentioned running with your grandkids. Do they join you in your exercise routines?

It would be tooth and nail to get them to exercise with me. If it’s weightlifting, that they’ll do. I hated that the Y just closed because we would always go there. They would challenge me. “I bet you can’t deadlift 80 pounds, Granny.” And I’d say, “well let’s see.” And I’d do it. And they’d say “OK, we’re going up to 90!” And I thought, “Man, my arms feel like spaghetti right now.” They never knew I said it, it was just a thought in my mind. But if it’s just regular exercise, they say I get up too early.

You sound like you have a good routine of activity in your life. Do you have any advice for other Rochester adults who aren’t there yet but want to be, exercise-wise?

You don’t have to start where I am. You can start small. If you just sit down in the chair and do some leg lifts, some simple things, you will be amazed. You can start off small. Do 10. If 10 is too much, do five. After you do five for a week, two weeks, when you feel stronger, you go up to 10. And then you keep increasing. Do simple things and don’t go outside expectations. Most people try to go outside their expectations, they want everything to be a quick fix, but it’s not. So you start small and you increase as you go.

The mindset you bring to your life seems like an important part of how you stay active, too.

The elderly people I take care of tell me “I can’t move as fast as I used to.” And I say “Well you know what, neither can I.” Most people think you have to exercise daily but you don’t. Pick two days out of the week. And don’t just choose them and not do it. You’ve got to be diligent with it. It’ll bring you joy.

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