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Passing the Torch

New owners at Chesapeake Health and Fitness 

New owners Vanessa Runion and Kristina Gardiner with Chesapeake Health & ­Fitness founder Linda Strohecker, center.

      Two former gym members are living their best lives by helping others do the same as the new owners of Chesapeake Health and Fitness Club in Deale. 

     Kristina Gardiner and Vanessa Runion purchased the club from Linda Strohecker. 

      The approximate 1,600 members are “an eclectic group of people,” Strohecker says. On the day the club opened in 2010, she spotted “two men on treadmills wearing work boots. We give people the opportunity to work out in their comfort zone.” 

      Dedicated to continuing Strohecker’s vision of a big-town gym in an easygoing small town, the transition, which appears almost seamless, is already benefiting neighbors.

      “We want to use the club as an outlet to give back to the community,” Runion says. “We are running a coat drive and plan on adopting a family for Christmas.”

      Gardiner and Runion follow healthy habits in their own lives, so when they first considered starting their own business, a health-oriented one was a natural. As members of the club for many years, they liked the idea of making it a bigger part of their lives.

      “We worked at the same company together for 16 years. We wanted to get away from long commutes, stressful days and corporate structure,” Runion says. The two friends want to help others achieve fitness, wellness and healthy living. Both consider their daily workouts at the club as vital.

     “After I’ve worked out, I can manage life with a two-year-old much better,” Gardiner says. 

     Since the club was not up for sale, the two friends took Strohecker by surprise when they contacted her. She declined initially but was persuaded to sell after a few months of discussion. “They really pursued it,” Strohecker says. “They are bringing new energy and new ideas. It’s time for the club to go to a new level.”