Published July 15, 2012
GALVESTON — It’s not strange for Norma Dolan to befriend complete strangers anywhere on the island.
Frequently helping lost tourists find their way and newcomers to the island find community, her outgoing and personable nature helped her establish the Steel Wheels Club.
One quiet day two years ago, Dolan told her husband, Peter, it was time for her to get outside and get moving. She had childhood memories of struggling around her parents’ carport in the old four-wheeled skates known not so affectionately as “steel wheels.”
Dolan endured her share of knee scabs and shin bruises on those skates, but she always was drawn to the smooth glide of roller-skating.
She tried roller derby for a short while. She loved being part of a club of like-minded enthusiasts but didn’t care much for the sport’s hardcore nature.
So, Dolan and her husband started roller-skating around Beach Town in Galveston. Several weeks after that initial ride, her friends started coming along. A few routine beach-walkers noticed the pack of skaters, and not long later, a formal club was formed.
“We really started it to get people up and exercising and having fun,” said Dolan, who is a former fitness enthusiast, trainer and weightlifter.
But after a few months of the bi-weekly skate sessions, Dolan noticed there was something much more special about the group than burning calories. These members were coming out, getting into it, forming friendships and venturing outside of their usual work-eat-TV-sleep lifestyles.
“We started to feel like we all belonged to a group,” Dolan said. “It became like a support group where you could let your hair down, get out and have fun.”
In the midst of the good times, the Steel Wheels Club quickly became Galveston’s most user-friendly form of fitness boot camp. Dolan said first-timers don’t know the strenuous workout of roller-skating a mile or two in an hour.
The fittest of accomplished marathon runners will skate up to Dolan, gasping for breath after their first few laps.
“It’s just a different kind of movement,” Dolan said. “The leg and cardio workout is obvious, but people don’t realize how good of a core and upper body workout roller-skating can be.”
Dolan praised her supporting cast of dedicated roller-skaters to the club’s growth and success. She set up a Facebook page where members can post when they’re going out for rides. The club tries to hit Beach Town every Saturday evening for “Anything Rolls,” sessions where scooters, skateboards, roller-skates, in-line skates and anything else is welcome.
The club goes to FunCity Sk8 Play in Webster every Tuesday and sometimes Thursdays. Dolan said people wishing to get started with the club are encouraged to begin at FunCity Sk8 Play, where she and several other Steel Wheels Club members are always happy to offer lessons and tips.
“Teaching people how to skate is so much fun for me because it’s a completely different way to move,” Dolan said. “We’re always ready to help new people get into it because that’s what it’s all about — building community and meeting new people.”
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Article source: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/328306