For Echelle Harris, being is shape is a major part of her life. “I have been working out for the past 23 years,” says Harris. And she isn’t alone in her passion for working out. Harris is a part of an amazing group of mom-friends who compete in figure competitions and various other sports activities.
“Birds of a feather flock together,” says Harris, age 44.
They all seem to have met one another at various times in their lives, but all of them met in the same place. “We all met at the gym,” adds Harris.
Harris, along with Edy Jackson, 45, Shelly Moore, 45, and Chinny Nwagbo, 29, have all trained together for their different sports disciplines for years. As they developed in their training, so did their friendships.
Each woman shares a competitive edge, but they participate in different sports. Outside of fitness contests, Harris and Jackson compete in bodybuilding competitions. Moore runs in marathons. Nwagbo plays professional basketball in Spain and has done fitness modeling.
Amazingly, the women in the group (except Nwagbo, who is not a mom) all balance being a mother, their professional lives and competing in fitness-related feats. These ladies are focused on their fitness interests as much as their career and motherhood goals.
“Women in their ‘40s don’t play many games. We know who we are and what we want out of life,” adds Harris. But it is not just intense workouts at the gym that keep them connected. These best buds also meet up outside the gym as well to nurture their relationships.
“We all hang out and go on trips together. We have an annual trip to Aruba. We are all a part of each others’ lives and we have a lot of fun together,” add Harris.
Harris, who is currently training for a competition in August, has another reason why she stays in such great shape — her 6-year-old daughter Aja.
“I am trying to impart a healthy lifestyle to my daughter. She doesn’t eat many sweets, and she sees her mommy go to the gym every day. Mommy eats clean. When she gets older she can decide what she eats, but she won’t grab that sweet or eats those snacks first,” says Harris.
While Nwagbo is the only one in the group who has no children, she has watched how the other ladies are with their kids. It has helped her develop her mothering vibe, which she puts to good use in her extended family.
“I see that the girls are very attentive and very active with their children. It is related to them being in shape and having a lot of energy to get them through the day,” says Nwagbo. She has taken cues from her friends regarding how to enhance the lives of her extended kin.
“I am the oldest of four and I have a younger sister [to whom] I have passed the same sort of knowledge and info that the ladies have to their children when it comes to eating healthy,” says Nwagbo.
Echelle, Edy and Shelly have known each other longer, but Nwagbo — the latest and fourth member of the group — was drawn to how intensely they train by her own athletic history. Because the women had an established workout routine, Nwagbo admits she was a bit intimidated to jump in, but hit it off with the other women from the start.
“I am over in Europe eight months out of the year playing basketball. When I came back to the States [from one trip], I saw that Echelle and Edy were really fit and really had themselves together,” says Nwagbo.
“I wasn’t really familiar with their training methods, but they were very understanding and started showing me what kind of results you get from exercising and the importance of nutrition,” says Nwagbo. It seems that the elder women used their mothering skills to expose Nwagbo to new heights of fitness.
Not to be outdone by her mentors’ training regiment, Nwagbo began helping the older women train for their fitness competitions by drawing from her 17 years of playing basketball, which includes playing college ball at Syracuse University.
“They showed me lifting techniques. I showed them different agility and plyometric exercises,” says Nwagbo. They also shared all the information they had about health and eating right with one another. Nwagbo says that having great friends around has really helped her progress.
They found their knowledge complementary, if diverse. The one thing these fit women can agree on totally is that they all enjoy the benefits of working out. “I love the end results. I hate going through the process, but I love the results,” says Harris.
“Working out alone can be very taxing, and complicated. If you have a workout buddy, you can motivate each other and keep each other honest. [By working out] with friends… you can be comfortable,” states Nwagbo.
“They showed me if you do something [well], you will get results, [and the specific] results you get from exercising and from what types of foods,” remarks Nwagbo.
“And the results are you look great, feel great, and are more attractive, active, and happier. It affects every part of your life for the better,” adds Nwagbo. And for the mothers in the crew, that includes taking care of their children.