A group of middle-aged women jog together through the streets around W.T. White High School — it’s a typical scene in our neighborhood, but these are Women with Balls.
“We are keenly aware that life takes courage, persistence and defiance … it takes ‘balls,’ ” says the group’s leader, Patsy Shropshire.
The name is a play on their use of stability balls. The fitness group comprises about 20 neighborhood women who meet several times a week for pre-dawn workouts, emotional support and laughter.
“On some workout days, we laugh more before 9 a.m. than most people do in an entire day,” Shropshire says.
Between “LSD Day” (long, slow distance training) and the annual “Shot Party” (a social event where members receive their flu shots), these women embrace their quirky sense of humor — because amid difficult transitions and life-threatening illnesses, they have to. All of the women have survived serious medical issues such as cancer and heart disease as well as personal struggles like divorce and empty-nest syndrome.
“If you’re not laughing, you’re crying,” jokes Kathy Wesley, a longtime member of the group.
Most of the women knew of each other through various social circles. After joining WWB, acquaintances became close friends. Jodi Kueker is an 11-year breast cancer survivor, and when fellow group member Dianne Doyle received the same diagnosis, Kueker accompanied her on doctor visits to take detailed notes — an often overwhelming task for first-time patients.
“We all take care of each other,” Kueker says.
The supportive nature of WWB extends to the community. Every year the group hosts a fun run and breakfast for a worthy cause. In April, they raised more than $3,000 to help beautify the W.T. White track, improving the facility for students while making it more accessible to the neighborhood.
WWB is no ragtag group of workout buddies. Shropshire has a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and built the specialized program around her members’ needs — women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. The group meets in her garage, which she converted into a gym, complete with free weights, stability balls, yoga gear, a posture chart and human anatomy models. Last year Shropshire won the American Physical Therapy Association’s “Fit After 50” challenge.
“You deal with a lot of things in life,” she says. “It helps to have exercise in your life.”
Kueker says that staying fit and aging well are among the few things in life that offer stability.
“There are things we can’t control. We have control over this.”
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