W.O.W. Fraus
'Women empowering women' is a phrase that really sums up the Fraus," said U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg W.O.W. Frau member Lisa Johnson. The W.O.W. Fraus are back row, l. to r., Julie Sink, Lisa Johnson, Kristen Kienzle, Sheila Stoffels, Ellen Blahovec, Carol Rosenberg, Wendy Newman and front row are Jane Balisky and honorary W.O.W. Frau Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States.

BAMBERG, Germany -- A group of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg women known as the 'Winning Our Wars' Fraus, continue to achieve great aspirations through solidarity and hard work.

The members, who portray their Army support and appreciation of German culture in their team name, met another goal July 4. Despite the heavy rain and stormy weather, nine of the 11 Fraus completed the Freedom through Fitness 5-kilometer 'fun-run,' crossing the finish line with their arms linked in their trademark pink T-shirts.

"I'm not a fan of lightening," member Lisa Johnson said. "It is so worth it though to accomplish another race with these women."

Creating deep relationships and accessing positive ways of dealing with the stress and turbulence of Army life, the ladies work toward the greater goal of increasing their overall mental and physical health through running.

"It relieved stress, made us better moms, friends and wives," said founder Jane Balisky. "We were taking time for ourselves, and that is really a challenge with all you juggle as a woman today."

This fall will mark the 1-year anniversary of the W.O.W. Fraus.

"Last year Carol [Rosenberg] and I began running together and we had such a blast," Balisky said. "The friendship that built out of that was really strong."

Like many other Army spouses, Balisky's husband was deployed when she and Rosenberg began a joint exercise regimen. A regular gym-goer, she noticed how many women ran individually, and wanted to increase the social aspect of her workouts by forming a group.

"I sent out an email in January to 13 friends who I had either seen running in the gym on their own, or I thought might be interested. I thought, why not run together."

Approximately 11 of the 13 friends who Balisky reached out to responded to her email. Those 11 make up the group today.

Starting out in the middle of a harsh German winter did not slow the women down.

"Because of the weather, we decided to all work individually on running three miles and then when the weather improved in the spring we would start running together," Balisky said.

With that common target set, the group was ready to take off together in the spring. They ran a variety of routes to keep the workouts dynamic and challenging.

"We try to run about three times a week together and then everyone does their own thing on the weekends," Balisky said. "We found that 8:45 in the morning was a good time...But those women who are working and can't make that time have the option of running with a smaller group at night."

The Fraus also bike together one day a week.

On June 3, the women had the chance to present visiting Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden with a W.O.W. Frau T-shirt, granting her an honorary membership.

"We consider her an 'Ultra W.O.W. Frau,'" Balisky said. "She is the Second Lady of the United States and she regularly carves out time in her day to run. She is in great shape."

They were thrilled by her understanding of their cause.

"We discussed and agreed together that running is great for our bodies but even better for our minds," Balisky said. "The positive mental effects of running are really hard to explain, but those that share the love of running get it. She kept saying 'I get it,' with a big smile on her face."

For the Fraus, the 5K fun run was a quick race compared to the Army 10-miler they trained for and competed in at GrafenwAfAPhr on June 27.

The top runners in GrafenwAfAPhr qualification race were nominated to compete in the annual Army 10-miler in Washington, D.C. in October. The Fraus aim was to successfully complete the race as a team.

For 12 weeks, the women trained as a group, encouraging and challenging one another to attain the mental and physical fitness required for a 10-mile run.

"We really made the commitment for training," Rosenberg said.

The group also received assistance from local marathon runner Sabine Pullins.

Pullins met with the group on several occasions to discuss topics such as proper running shoes, injury prevention, nutrition, running form and strength training, Balisky said. She said that Pullins advice and support was great encouragement for the Fraus.

"'Women empowering women' is a phrase that really sums up the Fraus," Johnson said.

As the summer draws to a close, the women continue to run and seek out future competitions.

"The laughter, joy, jokes and friendships combined with miles and miles side-by-side made it possible for us to reach goals we thought we'd never accomplish and have an absolute blast doing it," said Balisky.

She encourages community members to reach out to friends and neighbors in reaching a fitness goal. The results can be a welcome surprise, she said.

The next Freedom through Fitness event will be a 3-on-3 sand volleyball tournament Aug. 12.

Page last updated Wed July 22nd, 2009 at 02:57