Monday, April 13, 2009

Working Out Relieves Stress During Lean Times

When the going gets tough, the tough get in better shape. At least that appears to be the trend around here as jobs are lost and hours are cut back due to the uncertain economy. Many of the individuals coping with cuts are responding with a powerful response: more exercise. Gary Hearn, for instance, has always been a runner. But now that his job as director of credit and risk management for LandAmerica Financial Groups Inc. is coming to an end, he's running even more. ‘For me, it's a way to relax,’ said Hearn, whose employment with the bankrupt LandAmerica will end this week. ‘I'm probably running more now than I have in a while,’ putting in somewhere between 25 and 40 miles a week. Hearn was able to combine his passion for running with his job-search efforts at the Monument Avenue 10K. He dressed in a sandwich board emblazoned with his résumé, front and back. Awarded second place in the 10K costume contest, Hearn also handed out copies of his résumé along the route. ’I probably handed out 100 résumés,’ he said. Running is a great workout for lean times, Hearn added. ‘It's something you can do on your own. It's low cost. . . . You just need some shoes and clothes.’ For those who rely on a fitness center for their workout motivation, there's the question of whether to keep that membership. Most of the area clubs have come up with special programs and rates to help people whose budgets are tightening. At the Richmond Athletic Club, for example, membership rates have been reduced and the contract term has been dropped to three months. ‘With the economy, that's been very attractive to people coming in,’ said Connie Blouse, RAC owner and manager. She's hearing members talk about their hours being cut back at work. And those same members are working out longer. ‘They have the time and they're using it to relieve stress,’ Blouse said. Eric Steed, vice president at ACAC Fitness and Wellness, said membership is up there as well. ‘At this point in the economy, [members] are having to make choices, and luckily, they are choosing better health and less short-term experiences,’ he said. Jill Lakey, manager of the American Family Fitness center in Short Pump, said the economic crunch seems to be spurring a renewed focus on the family. ‘In hard times like these, people get back to basics. We're seeing more families working out together,’ Lakey said. ‘Not to mention that along with the many benefits of exercise, managing stress and even depression can be added to the list of advantages of getting your sweat on,’ Lakey said. Certainly, the mental benefits of movement are well-documented. Sarah L. Hyatt, sales and marketing director for Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club, said, ‘In this economic pinch and stressful times. . . . it seems to me that one of the most important things that you can do for your mental and physical health is to utilize your health club by taking yoga, tai chi and other stress-relieving classes, along with getting some cardiovascular exercise as well.’ So far, it appears that area residents agree. Whether they're pushing themselves in a club or out on their own, many are using exercise as a coping mechanism for this financial slump. Look at Hearn, who lightheartedly points to one positive in his pending unemployment. ‘I'll get to go on some longer trail runs during the week,’ he said.”

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