Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC's Workout Group More Than Just Physical Exercise

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 11:36 AM
HAC Workout resized 600 HAC's Deanna Bussiere walks the balance beam during a circuit training session with personal trainer Julie Johnson (second from right).

“You didn’t touch it,” Ruth Bechtold of HAC’s Energy Department teased her fellow coworker, Joan Maney, as they ran power drills along a row of orange cones situated in front of the Hyannis West Elementary School. “You have to go back.”

“I came close,” Maney shot back, in reference to the mandatory requirement of touching each cone as she ran past.

Welcome to the afternoon HAC workout group – it is part comedy, part social and all fun, with a good dose of physical exercise thrown in. “You could make a YouTube video of us and it’d get a million hits,” said Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of real estate. “We would go viral.”

The sessions take place twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays and first started in October 2012 as a HAC health and wellness initiative. Under the tutelage of personal trainer Julie Johnson, participants go through an array of activities that test one’s endurance, strength and physical prowess.

On this day a total of four HAC employees – event and resource coordinator Deanna Bussiere was the other participant – took part in the voluntary activity that comes with a minimal cost, a portion of which the company covers.

Exercises ranged from walking across a series of balance beams, planking on a swing and traversing a jungle gym which allowed Bechtold and Bussiere to recapture a part of their childhood by testing out the kids slides.

The best part of the workout may be the bonds formed among those active in the group where teasing, laughter and jokes are rampant, underscored by a genuine affinity they have towards one another.

HAC Workout 2 resized 600Joan Maney (left) and Ruth Bechtold (right) of HAC tone their arms as trainer Julie Johnson looks on.

“I had my hip replaced,” Kelleher says at one point, prompting Bechtold to ask, “What did I have replaced?”

“You’re just old,” Kelleher joked.

And as they did push-ups on wooden tables Joan marveled at the wildlife around her. “Oh, I got an inch worm,” she said. “Two inch worms!”

“There are ten of them over here,” Kelleher said.

Of all the participants Kelleher may get the most out of the group, especially after having hip replacement surgery in December 2013. “I couldn’t even walk or go grocery shopping afterwards,” Kelleher admits. “It is so much better now. I never want to come, ever, but I feel so much better when it is over. I’m so glad that I do it.”

Compared to the rest of the group Kelleher said she is “usually a few steps behind,” though she does not let that stop her.

And Johnson is flexible, modifying her workouts to accommodate any pain or discomfort that those like Kelleher may be feeling.

What makes the sessions unique, said Margaret Benaka, HAC’s resource development coordinator, is that Johnson tailors the workouts to each individual. “You don’t have to be in the best shape,” she said. “It is for everybody.”

Benaka, who writes a newsletter about the exercise group, has been one of the few to participate since its inception. “I have seen a big difference even when I do yard work,” she said. “I don’t hurt anymore whereas when I used to rake the yard or put down mulch I’d feel like I was in traction. You can actually feel your body getting used to working out.”

Bussiere said the activity also serves to exercise other body parts, including the brain. “There’s been ideas that have come out of these workouts,” she said. “You get your hormones pumping and ideas start to pop into your head.”

HAC is the first company where Johnson has been able to apply her expertise to weekly workout sessions, calling this contingent “a fun group… I think there is a real camaraderie to this. They cheer each other on and support each other,” she said. “It has been cool to watch them get stronger and help each other and get healthier. And as we know the healthier your employees are the better work you get from them, right?”

HAC Workout 3 resized 600Though there are plenty of laughs, the workout group also gets a healthy dose of physical exercise that helps to improve their strength and conditioning.

Tags: HAC Workout Group, Exercise, HAC, Deanna Bussiere, Gael Kelleher, Physical Fitness, Julie Johnson, Margaret Benaka