Tally Ho - Group gallops into fun, fitness and friendship for 50 years

Tally Ho fitness group in front of Blue Tree

Tally Ho!

The shout conjures images of middle-aged men dressed in red coats galloping across the English countryside, bugle in hand and hounds at their side, in pursuit of a fox.

“Yes we are a bunch of ratbags,” Tally Ho president Peter O’Bree laughed. “A bunch of mad uncles running around is what they called us when I started.”

The Tally Ho Fitness Group is a community fitness group that has called Monash home for more than half a century. The group was formed in 1970 by men who’d finished their competitive sporting endeavours but who still wanted to keep fit.

“A group of six to eight were invited to use the hall at the Tally Ho Boys Home to keep fit,” Peter said. “It was part of the state government’s ‘Life Be In It’ push of the day. So, we started training and helped raise some money for the boys' home.”

When Tally Ho closed, the group moved to the Glen Waverley campus of Wesley College before the COVID pandemic limited its use of the school’s facilities and the group was again on the move to its current home at Southern Reserve in Mulgrave.

“It’s the perfect venue,” Peter said. “(Monash) Council has been fantastic over the journey. We’ve had community grants to assist with our activities and in-kind funding for rent. It’s so good when you’re not being elbowed by other sporting groups.”

The group has thrived for more than half a century, basing its activities on a simple formula of “fun, friendship and fitness”.

Fun: the group’s program is varied and stimulating without any pressure to compete.

Friendship: members support and encourage each other through the fitness activities.

Fitness: is developed through a wide range of activities, without elaborate equipment, including running, body weight exercises, light hand weights, exercise bands, boxercise and fun-based games like indoor soccer, indoor hockey, basketball and volleyball.

Shouts of “Tally Ho!” and bugle blasts aside, the club logo - a smiling tortoise in an athletic pose cheekily boasting “50 years of fun on the run” – suggests an organisation based more on enjoyment and participation than serious athletic competition. There are, however, some seriously capable athletes amongst the group, and many of them have run a lot of marathons in their time.

“There’s no mirrors at Tally Ho,” Peter said. “You leave your egos at the door. The only person you compete against is yourself.”

Taking to the track at 7am every Saturday demands a special breed.

“It’s all about variety,” Peter said. “Our members are always saying ‘give us something new’, ‘give us something different’. Basically, anything goes.

“When I first started, we did a lot of standard fitness routines to music. It was like a Pavlov’s Dogs response, whenever I heard the same songs, I’d start running. Today, we have so much variety.”

And that program obviously works. Since its early days more than half a century ago, the group has made huge strides forward and now boasts an active membership of around 100, aged between 41 and 92.

“Our oldest member is 92 and he’s still going strong,” the president said. “We’ve introduced something we call ‘Tally Ho Lite’ (modified training programs) to try and keep guys of every age and ability involved.

“And we like to say: ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. We check in on past members and see how they are doing. We really want to bend that ‘I can’t’ attitude and get them involved again.

“We’re a bit like Men’s Shed with runners.

“We have a newsletter and email, so there’s a chance to rally around each other. ‘Fred has hurt his hip’, ‘Harry has done an ankle’, ‘send them your best wishes’.”

Much of the membership is drawn from men who’ve lowered the curtain on their footy and cricket days and need the motivation to keep active after stopping the sport they may have done for 40 to 50 years since their childhood.

“Most of our members are by word of mouth,” Peter said. “We want to build our membership from below, the younger demographic. We want to get those guys, who’ve finished their sporting careers, to improve their physical and social fitness.”

And they’re a dedicated bunch. Even in the days of COVID pandemic lockdowns, the group arranged and executed training sessions via Zoom.

“We Never Cancel!” that’s our biggest motto,” Peter said. “Although sometimes we probably should. We’re at South Melbourne beach for commando activities tomorrow and the weather is looking a bit ‘iffy’. But we never cancel.”

And so, it’s Tally Ho!

  • Find out more about the Tally Ho Fitness Group and start getting active again. Website: https://tallyho.org.au   Email: president@tallyho.org.au
  • The Monash Community Grants Program provides funding to support community groups and organisations to deliver projects, activities and events to strengthen, enhance and benefit the Monash community. The 2023/24 round of the Monash Community Grants Program will close Thursday 2 March 2023. To find out more: Community Grants Program | City of Monash

(Photo above) The Tally Ho Fitness Group poses in front of the Monash Blue Tree at Southern Reserve. The tree, painted blue as part of the Blue Tree Project, is a visual conversation-starter, designed to spark discussion about mental health and its impacts. By spreading the paint and spreading the message that "it’s OK to not be OK", we can help break down the stigma that’s still largely attached to mental health. Learn more about the Monash Blue Tree and the Blue Tree Project