On one particularly uneventful day, Elizabeth Pape looked out her window from her sofa to find a group of women sprinting up and down her street.
“They’d run to the stop sign, turn around, run back,” she said. “I was like, ‘What are these girls doing?’”
Leading the pack was the petite Krissy Mueller, a neighbor of Pape’s.
“I kind of knew her husband,” Pape said. “So at one point, I went over and asked, ‘What does your wife do?’”
She discovered that Mueller was a fitness instructor, coaching individuals independently and out of her home.
Intrigued, Pape decided to join in, with friend Heather Elliott in tow. There, the two found a connection with not only Mueller, but with two other members as well — Carrie Lampe, who had begun training with Mueller the prior year, and Krista Ligeralde, who had worked out, on and off, with Mueller.
Although others have woven in and out of the group of trainees, between the core five women, something clicked.
“It was just a lot of little things,” Lampe said. “None of us were really friends prior to that. We all are very different people and come from very different backgrounds. We have an age span of 11 years between us. We just kind of came together to get in shape.”
For the past several years, the group has playfully coined itself, “The Booty Burners,” named for the exercises the women did, aimed at honing in on toning those glutes.
“It never failed,” Mueller said, breaking into a laugh. “Whenever we’d be doing these hip thrust exercises, someone like my husband would walk in on us.”
What began as a bond formed to burn booty evolved into a friendship that included Monday night “Bachelor” watch parties, girls’ nights and food gatherings.
“It became like a support group,” Ligeralde said. “We never missed it. We looked forward to it. We’d work out. But other times, we’d just go to someone’s house, grab a blanket, our usual spot on the couch and have a glass of wine.”
Through marriages, divorces, infertility and illness, the girls said that there’s is a bond that is unbreakable, despite being pulled in different directions.
“There is no judgement here,” Pape said. “These girls know who I am. They understand me and my world.”
Others said the group is akin to family.
“There are things I’ve been though with these girls,” Mueller began, beginning to cry, “I don’t think I would have survived without them.”
People in your corner
The support system is a common one for women who often place stress on themselves through career, marriage, parenting and the
“I think women rely on these kinds of relationships in their lives,” Elliott said. “It becomes like your tribe — a support system and people in your corner that stick together so you don’t have to go through all this stuff on your own.”
According to research conducted by the University of Oxford in England, having such relationships is good for your health, elaborating that the more time you spend with your closest girlfriends, the better off you’ll be emotionally — and physically if that group happens to be one with a focus on fitness. The study went on to say that individuals with larger, integrated networks suffer less illness, recover quicker and experience higher levels of generosity.
Similar studies from UCLA and Stanford University suggested that women have a broad biological coping mechanism for handling stress, known as “tend to befriend” and spurred on by the hormone oxytocin. The response promotes not only nurturing, but seeking out social contact and support from others — particularly other females.
Mueller believes honesty is what makes it all possible.
“We can tell each other anything,” she said. “We can confide in one another. We can be who we really are, at all times. And we’ll always tell each other not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. We take advice from one another.”
They’re also cheerleaders for one another, despite all of the different paths they’ve traveled down independently.
“We’re all so busy,” Pape said, who goes by the name Elizabeth Mary when entertaining tri-state audiences with her country music. “All of us have different careers that are crazy. Some of us have kids. But nothing ever changes between us. We can go three months without being able to get together, and it will feel like it was only yesterday. We all just know that we’ll always be here for each other and that we’ll all keep each other grounded.”
Megan Gloss is the Features Editor for the Telegraph Herald.