A group of military wives from different parts of the country but who are all stationed on Guam have found friendship through fitness, encouraging each other to be active and reach new goals, which they say has greatly improved their mental and physical health.
The women used to meet on just on Wednesdays at Urban Fitness, but now they meet Monday through Friday.
“Moving across the ocean to an island where you don't have an immediate community that you're used to, this forms that community,” said April Wilson. “You have a bunch of girls that have similar interests that just uplift you. So when times are hard, and you're having mom moment or whatever it is that you're here struggling with, you always know that you can come here work it out and you have a bunch of positive women that are going to help your entire day just lift your lift your mood.”
For Danielle Potter, she said she'd gained weight over the years, having to move a lot as her husband received permanent change of station orders. She said after she came to Guam, she saw a photo of herself in a bathing suit and she didn’t recognize herself.
She decided to make a change and she started going to Paradise Fitness and lost 20 pounds. Eventually, she tried CrossFit and ended up at Urban Fitness, working out with three other women.
“It has grown tremendously since and it's been so great. It's huge. We've become a family here,” she said.
Brittany Crose, another member of group, said they also entered into the Trench Challenge as a team and she was more than pleased with the way the they worked together.
"It was amazing. There were some of us that were stronger in some obstacles than the others. But, as a team, we literally and physically carried each other through the obstacles that we couldn't make,” Crose said.
Erica Regalado joined the group in late May. She echoed the sentiment of her fellow gym bunnies and praised them for being encouraging and motivating.
Sharon deGraff joined a few months ago after one of the other ladies suggested she connect with them. The gym on base had closed in light of the pandemic and deGraff was looking to get back in a gym.
She said she'd heard the group was a lot of fun.
“So I came, and they were very supportive. They took me in, encouraged me to do things that I have never done before,” the 60-year-old said. With the encouragement of the other ladies, she also agreed to participate in the TRENCH Challenge and they all completed the course together, helping each other overcome each obstacle.
She urged anyone considering joining them at Urban Fitness to try it.
You don’t have to keep up with the women in their 20s or 30s, she said, emphasizing it's important to just start where you are and build from there.
“You don't feel any competition or any of that pettiness. All the women, they’re very uplifting and supportive of each other,” she said.
An impetus for change
Many of the ladies are part of a gym group Sharon Hawley hoped to get off the ground. Sharon Hawley, whose resume of competitions include Spartan Challenges, OCR competitions and marathons, said she wanted to push them to try TRENCH as something on their to-do list.
“I had like 25 ladies do the TRENCH! They started off at the gym saying ‘I’ll never get the monkey bars’ and then there they were crushing it,” Hawley said. “They found irreplaceable bonds, helped each other crush goals and tackle obstacles.”
Hawley said she understood what it felt like to move to the island as a military spouse and struggle to find a gym, make friends and feel supported.
“I had been there… i knew that once they got moving they would enjoy it. So I asked (Urban Fitness owner) James (Sardea) if I watched the kids, if he would hold a class,” she said. “Then I posted in a military spouse chat group if anyone would be interested in free childcare while they worked out. And, that’s how it started.”
The weeks went by and more people came.
“I would bring toys and scooters each week and hang with the kiddos! My heart was full when they came in after with bright red faces … knowing they had a great workout!,” she said. “After a while, James ended up hiring full-time sitters to watch the kids, so I could work out with these ladies!”
Soon, she said, Sardea asked her if the group should target TRENCH.
Her love for OCR racing made it impossible for her to say no.
While the ladies had their own reasons, she was beyond proud of the ladies in the group.
“I hope to say I inspired them to do it since I was training for it and said they should, but they probably all have their reasons. So many faced fears and came together to do it!”
As someone who battled weight gain amid a new environment, she understands where they are coming from.
And, like her, the ladies have come a long way through hard work and commitment. From barely able to support their upper body weight to regularly tackling ninja challenges or pulling off feats of strength that seemed unbelievable only months ago.
“It’s amazing to see how far these ladies have come!!! Makes my heart full to see the posts ... they post how happy they are daily,” she said.