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Valerie Hoven sets sail on heartfelt workout regimen

From the St. Louis Business Journal…

When it comes to Valerie Hoven’s workout, a gust of wind is all she needs.

Hoven started sailing about four years ago out of pure curiosity. She was starting a new job in public relations at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and was looking for a new way to exercise. Sailing became her way to get active and escape.

“You could be having a bad day at work,” she said, “but when you’re sailing, you forget all of that. It sort of melts away.”

Hoven had no prior experience with sailing. In fact, up until her sophomore year of high school she had never played any sport. That’s because as a youngster, she was diagnosed with a heart defect known as cardiomyopathy. Her blood never filled her heart fast enough.

She waited for a year on the donor’s list before finding a perfect match for a new heart. At age 15, Hoven underwent a heart transplant at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She now visits Barnes-Jewish for periodic checkups.

Hoven has come full circle since the surgery. Prior to the transplant, she would experience exhaustion every time she moved. Now, she moves every muscle to keep her team’s boat afloat. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, Hoven weighs 150 pounds.

One of the goals of sailing is to keep the boat as close to the water as possible to avoid drag. “A flat boat is a happy boat,” Hoven said, “and that involves leaning back, working those abs and trying to flatten the boat.”

Although sailing is fun, it does offer sailors a full body workout beyond the core, getting the arms and legs in motion too.

“You are constantly pulling your legs to keep inside the boat,” she said, “and you are lifting things in or outside the boat.”

Hoven’s goal is to gain muscle and reduce fat. In addition to pursuing an MBA at Washington University, she tries to sail each week at Creve Coeur Lake and Carlyle Lake in Illinois.

Creve Coeur Lake has its own sailing association. To be a member (Hoven is a board member), you have to own your own boat and pay the annual $35 membership fee. Sailors also can purchase an annual family membership for $55, allowing any family member to use the boat.

A new boat costs around $75,000; however, Hoven was able to obtain her boat free of charge as a donation. Still, there are outside costs, such as for new sails, life preservers and epoxy to keep the boat free of cracks.

She also pays property tax on her boat and a $90 fee to the club for uncovered storage during the wintertime (covered storage is $110). The costs can stack up, but Hoven said sailing is a brotherhood — if you need something, ask. This brotherhood philosophy carries onboard the boats during race time. While each member of the crew has a specific role, they rely on each other to maintain a constant speed and direction.

Her team usually sails in the afternoon after work and finishes before nightfall. Most races take place at Creve Coeur Lake twice a month, usually on Sunday afternoons. Sailing has no age limit, Hoven said; anyone could learn, all you need is a little strength.

Filed under St. Louis Business Journal Sailing Workout Missouri Creve Coeur Lake