Each weekday, rain or shine, a group of up to eight women follows a four-mile walking loop around a Soddy-Daisy neighborhood.
It's been their morning ritual for 14 years. If you do the math, that's 1,040 miles walked annually per woman, or 14,560 miles logged over 14 years.
As they walk, they talk about what's new. They've built a support system that's seen them through the daily exercise as well as life's milestones. Ginny Minninger said they've comforted and cheered each other through graduations and marriages, illnesses and coping with aging parents.
Their pattern of talking as they walked led to dubbing themselves the Walkie Talkies.
"When we all moved into our Soddy-Daisy neighborhood, we didn't know each other," said Minninger. "I'm from Connecticut, another is from Florida, another from Texas. We've got one from South Carolina, one from Chicago and one from Germany."
Minninger said the women frequently saw each other on their individual morning walks and finally came to the conclusion that walking together would be a fun way to get to know each other.
"It's so much better walking together than alone. We noticed when we were together and talking, the four miles passed much faster. The talking energized the walking. It took the drudgery out of it," Minninger said.
Minninger said when she combined Weight Watchers' nutrinutritional plan with her morning walks, she lost 30 pounds. For the last year and a half, she has continued walking to maintain that loss.
Rain or shine, whether temps are in the sweltering or shivering range, the Walkie Talkies make their appointed round with anywhere from two to all eight present.
"If it's pouring rain, we won't go. But if it's just a sprinkle or light rain, we consider that a spa treatment," Minninger said.
Last year, Woman's Day magazine asked its readers to share what motivated them to live a healthier life. Minninger submitted an email describing the friendship of the Walkie Talkies. Six weeks later she learned she was one of 1,000 entrants who had been selected as one of three finalists.
She went on to win the fan-voted contest. Her prize was a trip to New York City, which she made in February, to the Woman's Day Red Dress Awards.
A recent Weight Watchers study showed that people who entered a fitness program with a partner/friend had only an 8 percent dropout rate as compared to 50 percent for those who entered alone. Positive feedback and accountability were credited for the consistency of friends who stuck with it.
Minninger said after each weekday walk the Walkie Talkies congratulate themselves for rising to the challenge once again.
"Our reward is better overall health, trimmer bodies and priceless friendships," she said.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...