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VOL. 124 | NO. 254 | Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sisters-In-Motion Uses Camaraderie for Fitness Results

By Tom Wilemon

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While most Memphians packed on pounds during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the women who belong to Sisters-In-Motion burned away their holiday calories.

They trained for a marathon, took a trip to Jamaica and proudly wore white in December. This group of women may live in what is consistently ranked as one of the fattest cities in the nation, but they don’t believe in hiding their bodies behind dark, bulky clothing in winter.

Linda Sessoms, the founder and president of the group, said membership does not require being a super athlete or participating in a marathon.

“We just try to stress exercise in some form or fashion,” Sessoms said. “Running may not be your thing, but everybody can walk. We do that every day, and walking is just as good as running. If you do a certain speed, you can get the same benefits.

“We just encourage you to stay in motion. A lot of people say you need to get up and do this or get up and do that. We just say, ‘Stay in motion.’”

Girls’ club

Founded in the summer of 2006 with only a handful of members, Sisters-In-Motion now has more than 100 members on its roster.

“There were five of us,” Sessoms said. “Two of us did a full marathon. The other three did a half. We took a break after the marathon. A couple of the ladies invited some friends to come out and run with us. That’s actually how we got started. We just grew from that.”

The club, which has a Facebook profile, has grown mostly by word of mouth. New memberships will be accepted in the spring, said Sessoms. The annual membership fee is $20.

“This is a group of all African-American women who participate in some form of regular exercise in a non-threatening, supportive environment,” Sessoms said.

New members are advised to get checked by their doctors before beginning an exercise routine.

“We’ve had ladies that came out and if they got to a half-mile, they were doing good,” Sessoms said. “Now, they are running five, six, 10 miles or half marathons, or walking them. They never thought they could do that.”

Don’t just think you can

The women who get the best results are the 35- to 40-year-olds who regularly participate in fitness gatherings at locations such as Shelby Farms Park, she said.

Getting started is the biggest hurdle, so Sisters-In-Motion provides encouragement for women who are just beginning to make exercise a part of their daily or weekly routines.

“A lot of times when you walk into gyms if you are not physically fit, if you don’t have a fantastic body, it can be intimidating,” she said. “I think the camaraderie of African-American women being together is what makes it work.”

This year, the group had a weight loss contest from April until the first week of November. The top loser shed 32 pounds. Sisters-In-Motion also recognized members who lost the most body fat and the most inches from their waistlines.

In early December, about 50 members of the group traveled to Negril, Jamaica, to participate in a half marathon there. It was the group’s first international trip. Members have also participated in events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“It’s optional to go out of town, but we do encourage people to go if they can,” Sessoms said.

The members of Sisters-In-Motion range in age from 25 to older than 60.

One of the organization’s goals for 2010 is to launch a Web site.

“It’s just the encouragement, the support and motivation to continue doing something on your own that keeps people coming,” Sessoms said. “It’s just something they didn’t think they could do.”

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