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What better way for the YMCA to set an example for making the country more active than to have two employees hit the road?

That's exactly what Lisa Sterling, 37, and Sue Ball, 51, thought before embarking on a major goal.

A couple of weeks ago, the two walked from Ball's home, behind the Target store on Commercial Way, to the Hernando County Family YMCA on Mariner Boulevard. The walk - 8.6 miles - took the pair about two hours to finish on their way to work for the day.

Sterling, manager of the Hernando Y branch, and Ball, the district vice president, took a page from the America on the Move program that the YMCA has been promoting in recent weeks. As role models, they wanted to raise awareness about the obesity epidemic in the United States.

The idea of waking up in the morning and hitting the pavement opened a lot of eyes at the Y. It's something everyone can learn from, said YMCA membership director Olivia Matles.

"It only takes some little things to make improvements in your lifestyle," said Matles. "One or two little things like counting your steps every day or cutting 100 calories out of your diet can make the difference."

The idea for the walk came from a staff meeting in late July. Ball suggested that everyone consider walking to work.

Most people talked about how far away they lived. Others wanted to bike to work. In the end, some took part and some did not, but it was the two members of the leadership staff who set the trend.

Although both walk on a regular basis and keep fit, neither really knew what to expect on the walk. It was a muggy morning, and when they got to work about 9:30 a.m., the staff was taken aback. Many of the employees were used to seeing them in business suits; now, they walked in with tennis shoes and sweaty walking clothes on.

The walk had its share of obstacles. There was a particular stretch of road that was a bit worrisome.

"The part that we had the most trouble with was a long stretch of road on Deltona (Boulevard) where there is no sidewalk," Ball said. "That was tough. I think more people would walk more places if it was safer in Spring Hill."

Even with those obstacles, Sterling and Ball decided after the first walk that they would do it once more. The following Tuesday, with a business meeting set for 10:30 that morning, the tandem made the trek a second time.

The benefits definitely outnumbered any negatives, according to both women, who have been working together for almost a year. Not only did the experience bring the two closer together personally; it gave them a chance to talk without outside distractions.

"I think there is more of a bond (between us) than what there was before," Sterling said. "We don't get to spend a lot of one-on-one time together, and I think it was good for us."

The walks were such a success that they believe it will become a growing tradition locally. America on the Move Week is in its fifth year nationally, and the local YMCA plans to encourage its employees to walk or bike to work every year, following the example set by Sterling and Ball.

"We did this for the (YMCA), we did this for the members, and we did this for the community," Sterling said. "But we also did this for ourselves and our health. I think that is the most gratifying part of it."