Exercising is more than a physical experience for some Summerville women; it’s a chance to fellowship and build faith.
Since last spring, a group called Females in Action (FIA) has been meeting in town almost daily to motivate each other to get fit, stay fit and be one’s best self.
Summerville resident Lisa Bryngleson helped start FIA’s local chapter. She said nearly 60 women flocked to launch day on April 4.
The free fitness group originated in Charlotte in 2013 and has since branched out to areas across the Carolinas.
Bryngleson had been organizing the details of a local initiative since February and found sisterly aid for the launch from a Lexington-based FIA group. At the time, the idea was new to the Lowcountry, but Charleston, Goose Creek and other surrounding communities have since started chapters.
“I knew that it was perfect for Summerville,” Bryngleson said.
She felt the small town’s close-knit, faith-based environment would make it the perfect place for FIA.
Summerville already had a similar men’s workout group dubbed F3, which Bryngleson’s husband participated in. She knew local women needed something, too.
Bryngleson said the goal for each 45-minute FIA session is to “grow strong, healthy women leaders for our community” through bootcamp-style exercises — think burpees, pushups (“merkins”), squats and leg lifts, among others.
“We do aim our workouts to the toughest level, but we offer modifications for every exercise,” she said. “Those that might not be at their top fitness level are encouraged by those that might be able to do more and see that they can, too, do that one day.”
FIA member Jill Weatherford agreed.
“We encourage every lady…and have a strict policy of ‘no woman left behind,’” she said.
Each session sets the bar high and challenges participants. But each session ends with a mental cool down comprised of prayer time and prayer requests. Women circle up and bow their heads for friends, family, the community and each other.
The group also bonds participants through secondary names they receive their first workout day. Typically one or two words long, the names reflect something unique about that person. Weatherford is named “Sunshine” because being outdoors makes her happy; Bryngleson is SheRa.
Both women also serve as FIA leaders — better known as ‘Qs.’ They are among a number of women who lead 12 different morning and evening sessions. An average of seven to 25 women participate in each workout. And each Q has the freedom to craft her own workouts according to personal preference. There are no set guidelines — except fulfilling the three F’s: faith, fellowship and fitness — so no two workouts are the same.
“In FIA, women are doing things that they never thought they’d be able to do,” Bryngleson said.
Some have gained much-needed confidence or met life-long weight-loss goals. Others have reached smaller personal feats including faster run times and extended reps.
Weatherford felt the FIA experience has “been a great tool to clear my head and relieve stress.”
“My husband is a good judge of that. After a long day if I am not my normal cheery self, he requests I go to FIA,” she said.
In addition to workouts, FIA women meet for coffee at Coastal Coffee Roasters following Saturday morning sessions and tackle local 5K races and marathons together during the year. Earlier this month, they competed in the Sweet Tea Half Marathon in town.
They also contribute to various charity efforts and are in the process of starting a Bible study, Bryngleson said.
FIA recently collected more than 500 items for Lowcountry Orphan Relief along with gift cards, food and clothing for flood victims.
Hunger rucks are additional group bonding initiatives. Derived from the military term “ruck sack,” each event requires participants walk with a weighted backpack and additional “coupons.” Coupons can be anything from bricks and tires to telephone poles, leaders said.
For more information, visit FIA’s website or FIA Summerville’s Facebook page.