The core group numbers five: Mary Lou Johnson, Cris Meyers, Margaret Wallace, Lynn Walters and Jayne Weiss. They are all in their 50s and 60s. Walters and Weiss are snowbirds; the others live full-time on Longboat Key. They all take fitness classes at the Longboat Key Club, and that’s where they met. It is also where they decided to do things differently.
Meet the Out of the Box girlfriends, or OOTB friends. At the beginning of the year, they decided to spice up life and challenge themselves by picking and choosing out-of-the-box experiences on a regular basis.
“I love doing things that make one day different from the next,” Johnson said. “You remember that day very vividly.”
The criteria they established was pretty simple and not limited to fitness activities, though that is the focus here. It was simply doing things they had never done before, or had not done in a long, long time. And the activities had to be physically safe.
Their first excursion in January was a pacesetter. Ami French is the daughter of another Longboat lady, Midge Pescatello. French runs a yoga adventure camp, in nearby Parrish, in conjunction with Mark Lindsay, of Common Ground Adventures. The OOTB and a few additional friends booked a day of activities, including climbing a tree, walking across a horizontal telephone pole, climbing up a telephone pole, standing on top and free falling from it.
In keeping with Common Ground Adventures’ philosophy of “Challenge by Choice,” the women were encouraged to go beyond their comfort zones, but they were always are in control of when to say, “Enough!” They wore the required safety harnesses, which satisfied their safety criteria, but Johnson reports, “It was scary! And it certainly satisfied our requirement that it be something we didn’t usually do. It got a 10 on that one.”
Since then, the OOTB friends have done other things that are different for them, from taking a long horseback ride through the woods to giving blood to making an excursion to the Hard Rock Café. Their plans going forward include zip-lining outside of Orlando and yoga paddleboarding, another program offered by French, this one in conjunction with Bob McFarland, of Sarasota Paddleboard Co.
“My experience with the OOTB girls has been exhilarating, fulfilling and so much fun,” says Weiss. “We are all so much stronger as a group, so together, we are able to conquer our fears and lean on each other so we can grow and explore life. During our adventures, we support each other, listen to each other and understand each other. It’s a hoot, and I love every minute of it.”
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. E-mail her at email@example.com.