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Fitness: Efforts to get Richmonders more active

Get moving. Join Richmond runners and walkers at 9 a.m. today for a 5-mile loop starting at the Grove Avenue Water Stop, in the 4900 block of Grove Avenue. The event, organized by the runner who provides the water stop, is free and open to the public.

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This is the year for all of Richmond to get active.

Richmond Sports Backers, as well as a host of other organizations, are working toward that goal.

Sports Backers has rolled out an initiative called Active RVA that is designed to reach out to residents who have not participated in events such as the Monument Avenue 10K or the Anthem Moonlight Ride.

As part of that effort, the organization is cutting the cost of its training programs for people who can show economic need. The 10K training team fee is normally $55. That's being dropped to $10 for individuals with annual income below $20,000.

"We feel like there needs to be an entry fee so that people feel wed to showing up," but the fee should be low enough to allow participation by everyone who has the desire to run, said Megan Shultz, event director for Sports Backers.

Jan Mizzell, a physical therapist and head coach of the 10K training team at St. Paul's Baptist Church in the Southside Plaza area, is one of Sports Backers' ambassadors for the Active RVA program.

"Access is the largest hurdle for these communities to overcome," she said, referring to Richmond's pockets of lower-income residents.

The training, along with the instruction, makes it possible for individuals to accomplish what they may have thought was unattainable.

"When individuals are empowered in this way, the results are limitless," Mizzell said.

Their newfound, healthier lifestyle is then passed on to children and other family members, creating a "trickle-down effect" that can only benefit the community as a whole, she said.

Mizzell signed up for the 10K training team for the first time in January of 2003. She now has completed 11 marathons and serves as a running coach for Sports Backers in the neighborhood where she grew up.

Working with people such as Mizzell as well as local churches and nonprofits, Sports Backers hopes to make Richmond the most physically active city in the country.

In addition to Sports Backers' efforts, there are a number of for-profit fitness organizations working to expand their offerings to attract people who otherwise might choose to sit on the couch.

For instance, Michael Harlow, owner and head coach at Endorphin Fitness, has added two new programs to his lineup this year.

Team E-Fit is a non-competitive workout option where participants have access to trainers, a nutritionist, the fitness facility and an online workout plan. "It's really perfect for anyone that is looking to get in shape, stay in shape, lose weight — it's not centered around preparing for an event."

Endorphin typically helps individuals train for triathlons. To that end, another new program will encourage individuals to complete a triathlon for the first time.

That training, which starts next month, is designed to be a "low time investment program that is perfect for someone who is intrigued by swimming, cycling and running."

So all in all, Richmond is set to have an active year. Don't you want to be a part of that?

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