The Time the World Stayed Home

Photo from my trip home September 2019.

I never thought I would experience a life in which hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying, we are mandated to stay at home for our good, and our environment transforms into a VR-like world!

This past summer, I went on a guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. It brought up emotions I kept suppressed for years and was heartbreaking in ways that I cannot describe. I left the tour thinking alright, that was the worst. We will continue to rebuild our structures and strengthen our battered souls. Things can only go up. But a mere three months later, after that tour, something even more horrific came along… the coronavirus.

Two terms quickly immersed themselves in our daily vocabulary — SARS-CoV-2, the virus, and COVID-19, the disease. Depending on where you live in the world, CoV-2 is effecting you at different levels. In the U.S., my beloved NYC (New York is my home state) is pummeled, while my equally revered West Virginia is plugging along steady under the radar.

Under physical distancing restrictions, the new normal is gathering via Zoom or similar communication formats. It’s great living during a time when technology can keep us connected audio and visually, and many jobs can continue through telecommuting. I cannot imagine this pandemic scenario without the aid of technology.

The premise of Gal on the Go is to inspire good mental and physical health, so I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the massive surge in creativity and kindness. Also, overdue respect for occupations like healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store and pharmaceutical clerks, cleaners, and more. They are what and who that gives me hope in this grave situation.

At the end of March, I heard that someone in my apartment building had COVID-19. I knew that it spreads at a rapid rate, and having to take my dog Bella out to potty and walk five or more times a day put her and me at high risk every day, even under Stay at Home circumstances. The constant trips up and down the building stairwell or elevator, dousing myself in rubbing alcohol, changing and washing clothes, afraid to cuddle with my dog was stressing me out.

Both our jobs switched to teleworking, so my boyfriend and I got out of Dodge and headed with Bella to a cabin we have visited for years in West Virginia. We made the decision fast and packed up equally quickly. We trust the owners of the property who, over time, became like an uncle and aunt to us. Immediately upon arrival at the cabin, I felt a sense of peace. A handful of people in a country area is a typical sight, but in the suburbs or city, that same view is unsettling. There is no mailing address for the cabin, so any packages we order are sent to “Uncle Dave and Aunt Karen’s” home. Uncle Dave comes by to deliver our supplies, leaves them on the porch, knocks on the door, and proclaims, “Santa is here!” He’s not a jokester, so his delivery method is very endearing.

I miss physical contact with my friends a great deal. Especially as an Italian, because I am a big hugger! It’s funny; I hear many people who are self-proclaimed introverts say this way of living is not much different for them. However, I lean more on the extrovert side, and this living to me is tormenting. A friend posted on FB that when we all get through this, he will never RSVP “no” to anything he is invited. I don’t think I can say never, BUT this pandemic makes you reassess a lot of your decisions, past, and future.

I love being able to check in on friends through social media to see that they are alright. That is a privilege. If I lose any friends, I hope that it’s because you unfriended me. I want to have all of my current friends when we make it through the pandemic and figure out our new normal of living.

I look forward to seeing you again in person and meeting people who have become new friends online during this distancing time. Stay well.

I❤️NY and all of my friends around the world!

Dan Oshier Productions used a drone to capture beautiful footage of my hometown of Buffalo, NY, under lockdown. The people are the heart of the city, and I hope that one day Dan’s company reshoots the area with the people out and about.

Drafting With Style

Jeff Burden

drafting (verb) – A group of cyclists riding in a close line one behind the other, taking turns riding up front pulling the line before peeling off and linking onto the back.

Cyclist: Jeff
Insta: @jeffreyness
Studio: New Trail Cycling

When Jeff Burden leads a cycling class, he brings it!!!! From his signature blond Mohawk to his hearty laugh, passion for music, and shy, yet lively personality. There’s never a dull moment when you take Jeff’s class! We sat down together at a local coffee shop, and he candidly shared when his passion for riding sparked and about his recent health scare.

Q: When did you first take up the sport of cycling?
A: So it’s funny when I was a kid, my grandmother gave us our first 10-speeds. Mine had training wheels on it. I have a twin sister. Both of us had training wheels. She was riding out having fun, and I was still spinning on my training wheels. That should have been a sign that I was going to be an indoor cycling coach. 😉 I was pedaling and going nowhere, but I kept at it, and eventually, I was riding all around town!

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a cycling instructor?
A: I was a sports science guy in college. Teaching fitness classes, personal training, and what have you. When I realized that I couldn’t grapevine, I needed a cardiovascular modality that I could teach because I wanted to teach group fitness. This was back in ’99 in college. I took a spin certification and started teaching spinning classes for UNC (the University of North Carolina). That’s how I got started teaching!

Q: How do you prepare for teaching a cycling class at New Trail?
A: I figure out what kind of profile, what kind of challenge I want for the class. Do I want it to be hills, fast, a mix? Once I figure that out, I find music to put with it to make it fun, to capture the highs and lows of motivation. It’s kind of hard because I like so much music. I’ll usually go to different places and listen to music to find inspiration, and then I slowly piece it together. Before class, I get into performance mode. I was almost a music major. I sang opera and jazz in college. I still have some songs I recorded up on Spotify. I sing in bands and write music. (Unknown factoids about Jeff! They should be used for future New Trail Cycling trivia questions.😉 )

Q: What is your greatest reward in teaching cycling?
A: When you’re in front of a group of people, and you’re challenging them, and you’re encouraging them, and they’re appreciative at the end, all the glows and smiles on faces, that’s reward enough. Especially if you have a magical class where everything falls into place, and everybody’s happy at the end, and they keep coming back. That’s great! Also, when they improve after stringing a few classes together — they see their progress and become more confident, especially if they’re a beginner rider. When they feel empowered, that’s always awesome.

Q: What is your favorite style of cycling class to teach, and why?
A: It depends. I ebb and flow. I teach a lot of different formats. Not just cycling. I’m a kettlebell guy; I do TRX work, yoga, and more! But at New Trail, Sunday morning is a prime time — I get to entertain and motivate. It’s a great group! Afterward, I do a core stretch; it’s a nice restorative wind down that everybody appreciates. I get gratification from every format. Different parts of my personality come out; I like it all!

Q: What is your favorite time of day to teach, and why?
A: That’s a good question. I’m a night owl, but I think Sunday morning is a great time to teach — the excitement and anticipation. It’s not too late; it’s not too early. You’re awake and ready! I guess if I was playing in a pro sport like the NFL, you know everybody’s ready for game time. It’s exciting. That’s how I feel about the House Ride class on Sunday at 9:45 a.m. Sunday football — the jets are flying overhead, the anthem being sung, the crowd roaring. That’s the mindset I get into on Sunday mornings.

Q: What is your favorite style of music for teaching, and why?
A: I’m pretty eclectic with my music. Lately, I’ve been gravitating more toward hip-hop and R&B. Thinking, okay, it’s going to be a party, you know, and I want songs that I can get into, and that everybody else can get into, and then mold the class from there. That’s my phase now. I’ve played everything from rock to Mongolian rock band chanting.

Q: What is your favorite song on your current playlist?
A: I’m into old school Eminem right now for whatever reason. He’s such a smart Alec and so edgy. I’m vibing on the edgy side now. I think edgy goes well with my personality. It’s fun to push the envelope.

Q: How do you engage people of all fitness levels in your class?
A: If they’re brand new, I tell them it’s your ride; don’t make a judgment from your first ride because there’s a learning curve. Give yourself at least five rides before you determine that you like it or not. Also, we have a Motley crew of instructors with different personalities and styles. I might not be your cup of tea, but I’m sure there’s somebody in our group who will resonate with you. I encourage newbies to find their niche where they’re having the most fun and then build a base from there. For those with a few rides under their belts, I try to keep it entertaining. For experienced, seasoned riders, I try to press buttons to drive them further. I hope to challenge everyone overall, but one person’s definition of challenge is different from another. I try to figure out what motivates people. Some people like singing in the back of the class, and having a good time. Others are about metrics, focused on the numbers. I try to acknowledge and encourage people in class; let them know that I truly see them and recognize them for doing the work. Everybody’s personality is different, so things are always changing depending on the group that’s in front of you.

Q: You served as a Marine. Does your military background influence your teaching style in any way?
A: Oh, definitely! I can crack the whip. When I sing call and response, it’s Marine Corps influenced. It may seem like I’m a DJ, but the call and response element of my teaching is to get people involved and engaged, which is a Marine Corps thing. When you’re running, and the drill instructor is singing, and everybody has to sit back, it’s not only a morale booster, but keeps everyone focused, and coaching them to exhale. When you exhale, it keeps you in balance and keeps you from overworking and exhausting yourself. So there’s a spiritual motivation part of it and a scientific method to it. I can see how hard they’re working. I can gauge if they’re exhausted. If I want them to be exhausted, I’ll throw out a call and response. If nobody calls and responds, then I know they’re putting in the effort. Some sneaky tricks that I use to observe the crowd. You can’t make it obvious.

Q: Last year, you suffered from Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), and you had to be on leave for a while. Did that health scare cause you to make changes and/or influence your teaching style?
A: It was a pretty surreal ordeal. As far as taking care of my high blood pressure, it’s always been in the background. I knew it was a ticking time bomb, but it was kind of a pride thing because my mentality was I’m in the wellness fitness realm, I should be able to get these things under control myself. But different variables go along with that. Long story short, it has changed my style. I’ve been teaching riding for over 20 years. In the beginning, I was young and cutting my teeth, then I started getting in my physical prime moved by the music exclusively. A good thing about New Trail with the monitors and the variables is that you can focus on coaching, and play around with the metrics more than just being a dancy, raw, raw guy. That’s in the rearview mirror now. I can still be enthusiastic and charismatic and smart with coaching and give people a great ride, whether I’m a frothy mess or not. Because of my CHF, because of the medications I’m on, I can’t really go for it. Plus, I’m mindful of being aware and being present, and of where I am physically, so I have to play it by ear as far as that goes. Some days I’m an open book, and some days, I don’t want the attention for my CHF. It’s funny because when I came back from the hospital, people around me — landlords, whoever would be like, oh, I’m on blood pressure meds too, but I don’t like to take them: even my sister, my family members. But you don’t want to learn the hard way. If you’re aware that you have high blood pressure being proactive is what you need to do. If not, it’s going to eventually put you in a situation; hopefully, one that you survive. You know, there was no guarantee that I would survive. I could’ve had a stroke or kidney failure. It’s surreal because you don’t know. You could be just hanging out, having a good time, and have a heart attack or something like that. In retrospect, I see the signs, but when I was going through it, I didn’t know the signs. I did a happy hour on a Friday, and then myself and a couple of the other instructors walked over to Kalypso’s (Sports Tavern). We stayed out late, and when I got home, I thought I felt wiped out because I stayed out later than usual. I woke up the next morning, and I was supposed to go to karaoke, but I was like, I had difficulty breathing the whole day. That should have been a sign. I should have got it checked out, but I went the entire day. I even did a little kettlebell workout for the Gram (Instagram). I had my double 20, I had my double 62 pounds, and I was cleaning rack squats. I had just started a recording for Gram, but at the top of my squat, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was like, this is unusual. And so I was like, well, whatever, I’ll suck it up for the Gram. So I did a few sets, and then when I was looking at the recording, I saw that I was, you know, I’m not a slim guy, but my stomach was puffy through my white shirt. I thought I was retaining water, but at 2:00 a.m., when I was gonna go to bed, I still couldn’t breathe. I was like, this is not good! So I drove myself to the emergency room, and they kept me there and said we are going to transfer you to the heart vascular unit. They did it, and they kept me there for a week to try and get my blood pressure under control. Now I have to weigh myself every morning, and if my weight is two or three pounds more, then I have to get checked out. I have to check my blood pressure to make sure it’s down. It was funny, not really, but when I got back from the hospital, I went to the emergency room two or three more separate times because I was freaked out about not being able to breathe well. A lot of it was asthma and different things like that, but not knowing, any little subtle symptom I experienced, I went back to the hospital cause I didn’t want anything to go wrong. Being aware and mindful and being wise about my nutrition and all that good stuff. Yeah, it’s been life-changing. I was chomping at the bit to get back on the bike. My first couple of weeks, though, I didn’t know if I could get back on the bike cause I didn’t have any energy. I jumped right back into teaching, but I was so exhausted I was like, I can’t do this anymore. But once I got adjusted to my meds and everything — got my feet under me, I said okay, I’m ready to get back! But it was hard. I was like, wow, I was staring mortality in the face!

Q: Is there anything you would like to share?
A: I encourage people who have never tried indoor cycling to give New Trail a shot because it’s a pleasant atmosphere. It has something for everybody, and it’s not overwhelming or pretentious. I’ve known Liz, the owner, for about 12 years. She’s good people, and it’s a great place to be!

Beyond the Physical

Uma Alexandra Beepat

My friend Tim from yoga class who follows my blog said, “I know a person who would be great for you to interview! Her name is Uma Alexandra Beepat. She is a Master Healer, owner of the Lotus Wellness Center, and an author. She’s incredible!” Given Tim’s enthusiasm and recommendation, how could I not reach out to Uma? No matter what your beliefs, I hope you keep an open mind and enjoy her interview.

Q: What is a master healer?
A: A master healer is someone who has completed over 10,000 sessions and is certified in several different methods of healing, thereby increasing their experience and knowledge in healing.

Q: Who or what inspired you to become a master healer?
A: The funny thing is I didn’t set out to become a master healer; it happened by way of me working! Over 10 years of working with clients, I am nearing my 10,000 mark, and that standard is accurate. I am more aware of healing issues and what people sometimes need before they even tell me their issues.

Q: What is your greatest reward being a master healer?
A: My greatest reward is knowing how many people I have helped to heal and move forward to live better lives.

Q: What is your greatest challenge being a master healer?
A: My greatest challenge is seeing people suffer unnecessarily when there are healing choices available to them. While healing is not a cure-all or replacement for traditional medicine, it can be a great addition to the treatment of a person using western medicine.

Q: What is the most common shared area that you feel people need life improvement?
A: The most common shared perception is the lack of money or the scarcity of it and therefore, the mindset that ensues. When we live in lack, we can only see the world from a small lens, so everything seems insufficient. There is a lot of talk about what you can’t do or can’t have. I am working to change this perception because once that happens, your world expands and you can go on to live a healthier and happier life full of abundance.

Q: Why did you open Lotus Wellness Center, and what is your long-term goal for the center?  
A: I opened Lotus Wellness Center to provide a safe place for people who need healing and wanted to further their spiritual and emotional growth. After we complete high school/college, there are little resources or community available to people to bond, connect, or continue life learning. Lotus was and is meant to address that concern. My long-term goal is to expand and have a Lotus Wellness Center in every town and state so that everyone has a place to go when they need it.

Q: You have an impressive list of certifications, having earned more than 40! Is there any certification you want to achieve that you have not already?
A: Thank you! I am a student at heart, and most of my certifications were for my benefit, not necessarily to share professionally. Currently, I am working on becoming a certified medium as my shift in my work has turned to spirituality and spiritual communication. I am in a program that is a lengthy testing process and consists of 30 lessons. It has been an interesting road; the healing that comes from this type of work is indescribable.

Q: What is your favorite area of certification? 
A: My favorite area of certification is Access Consciousness. I currently offer two techniques under this modality. They are very effective in changing people’s mindsets and lives.

Q: What is your most valued tool in your “toolbox”? 
A: Access Bars because it changes your belief systems and limiting thoughts without you having to do anything! It’s automatic, it’s quick, and it’s noticeable! [NOTE: Access Bars are 32 bars of energy that run through and around your head that connect to different aspects of your life. Examples: creativity, control, communication, healing, kindness/gratitude/peace, etc.]

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
A: Yes! I am also the proud co-owner of spiritual retreats with my partner Rob Pritchard. We have a spiritual retreat coming up in October that I hope your readers can join us for called The Awakened Life Retreat. We also have an annual New Year, New You workshop in January! I love retreat work because it brings a deeper dive into healing and reflection that regular appointments cannot.

Uma’s Background: owner of Lotus Wellness Center, spiritual teacher, psychic and spiritual medium, master energy healer, consciousness speaker, and author of The Awakened Life (available through Amazon). Uma’s designation of master healer comes from her experience training for over 10 years consistently in metaphysics education and earning 40 certifications (and counting)! Also, she has personally worked on over 10,000 clients.