Getting Technical: From Hobby to Non-Traditional Job

Sam on a solo road trip adventure during winter break 2019 of her senior year. She brought her mountain bike along and rode all over Arizona (as seen in the photo), Colorado, Utah, and more!
Sam on a solo road trip adventure during winter break 2019 of her senior year. She brought her mountain bike along and rode all over Arizona (as seen in the photo), Colorado, Utah, and more!

National Bike to Work Week starts today! Coincidentally, I spotted Samantha, a bike tech from Spokes Etc., when I brought my bike in for service. I thought cool, a female bike tech in a dominantly male trade! I reached out to her by phone to request an interview, and she said yes.

I encourage all of you Gals on the Go to follow your passions like Sam!

Q: How long have you been a bicycle service tech?
A: About four years; I mostly do it in the summer when they need part-time workers. I started working as a bike tech part-time when I was in college.

Q: At what point did you repair a bike, and decide I enjoy this, I want to learn more and become a bike tech?
A:
I was a mountain bike camp counselor and loved being able to solve maintenance issues then and there to get people back on their bikes to complete the trail. Also, I grew up building and fixing things with my dad, so I was familiar with tools and thought it would be cool to learn even more about fixing bikes. I found it less intimidating to start working on a bike rather than a car or motorcycle.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being a bike tech?
A:
Problem-solving and help others. Plus, discounts on awesome bikes and gear!

Q: As a female tech, do you feel like you have had to work harder to prove yourself?
A:
Not so much. At times I have felt that I want to prove I can do anything a guy can do, but there comes a point when I accept I may not have the same experience, and some bolts aren’t worth fighting with if you have someone else who can do it with more ease (if you don’t have someone else, just find a longer lever). Many times it comes down to technique, not strength. When I feel defeated about a repair, I usually learn a new way to do it for next time so that I will be able to do it on my own. Personally, as long as it doesn’t happen often and I feel like I gave it my best shot, I find it’s OK and typically ideal to ask for help.

Q: What is the most challenging repair you have had to do? How long did it take you to complete?
A:
I mostly build new bikes, fix small maintenance issues, or install new gear on bikes. The most challenging bike repair I have done (which wasn’t so challenging) was replacing a grip shifter on an old Fuji Sundance that I bought used online. It took me about two hours to complete. The most challenging repair I have done in general was on my car. I replaced the brake pads on my front wheels, which was challenging in many ways and took me close to about eight hours to do.

Q: What is your favorite tool to use? Why?
A:
There is a tool called the fourth hand. It allows you to grab and pull cables without using your hands. It’s useful because your hands get greasy and slippery, and it becomes hard to get a tight pull on the cable to get it to the right tension. Not only is it hard to pull the cable tight with greasy hands, but I have had the cable slice my fingers before from trying to pull it tight (Talk about a cringy paper cut!).

Blogger’s Note: A fourth hand is the name of a specialized bicycle tool for manipulating brake and derailleur cables. The fourth hand allows a mechanic to keep the cable in place while they adjust the tension.

Q: Do you have a favorite or least favorite type or brand of bike to work on?
A:
Not particularly. If it’s a bike, I enjoy working on it. No brand is my least favorite. But, my least favorite type of bike to work on is an inexpensive bike because chances are that everything breaks and it was not correctly assembled from the start. You end up going down rabbit holes never fully satisfied with the end product. My bike is always my favorite! But there are parts of it that can be a pain to work on, like internal cable routing because the cables can get stuck in the frame, and all you can do is hope that eventually it pops out if you wiggle it the right way.

Q: What bicycle do you currently ride?
A:
Trek Remedy 9.7 (2018)

Q: What is your dream bike to own and ride? Why?
A:
Hmm, that a toughy. My dream is to have a bike for every situation. My wish list includes a downhill bike, full-suspension mountain bike, hardtail trail bike, road bike, gravel bike, fat tire bike, e-road bike, an e-mountain bike.

Haha, but for a single dream bike right now, it would be either a Specialized/YETI/Santa Cruz/Trek, Bass boat blue and teal paint with disc breaks, a dropper seat post, 160mm in the back, and 170mm travel in the front with suspension lock out and dampening, carbon rims. I want a bike that I can take anywhere, and it never limits me. The rider should always be the limiting factor, not the bike. Something like my Remedy! But with a different paint job and a few upgraded components.

Q: What advice would you share with girls/women interested in learning how to fix bicycles on where to start?
A:
Start small and work your way up; when in doubt, jump right in! Try adjusting comfort items like the seat height and rotation of the levelers on the handlebars first, then work your way to more advanced repairs like replacing tubes/tires and so on. Also, buy an older bike. Things will need fixing/maintenance, and you can learn to fix them as you go.

Gut Check: Benefits of Using Yoga Tools in Your Practice

Photo by Unsplash

I “met” Jennifer McGregor, a pre-med student, when she reached out to me via email in July and asked if she could be a guest writer for Gal on the Go! As part of her pitch, she explained that she and a friend co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org as a way to share reputable material on health topics and bring them to the forefront, making the information easier and quicker to find. I said YES, your project aligns with Gal on the Go’s mission! Her article below focuses on gut health and references a variety of resources. Enjoy!

Exploring New Options Can Maximize the Benefits of Yoga

All it takes is a single yoga practice to start experiencing the benefits, but we all want to get the best possible results from our efforts like anything in life. Trying new tools and ideas for deepening your practice can help you get even more out of yoga and benefit your health.

The Link Between Yoga and IBD

Yoga is one of the best exercises for someone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) because it addresses many of your body’s needs. Yoga focuses on breathing and meditation, which lowers stress and anxiety. Researchers found a link between stress and IBD symptoms. Practicing yoga consistently gives you an ongoing mental health benefit that may also help manage IBD symptoms. The physical effects of yoga are pretty powerful, too. Yoga is a gentle way to increase your strength and energy, plus the movements can ease your symptoms by helping release trapped gas and bloating.

Give Your Practice a Tech Upgrade

One of the best ways to maximize these positive effects is to use yoga apps on your phone. Yoga apps are especially beneficial for your home practice because they can guide and help you focus on your specific needs. For example, the iGeeksBlog highlights the app Universal Breathing that’s all about breathing techniques, and the app Yogatailor offers the ultimate in customization.

Expand Your Use of Props

Some people mistakenly view using props as a shortcut, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Using props is really about support, which can allow you to work into more advanced poses gradually. 

Yoga Block

Your yoga block supports you, helping make any asana you’re practicing work for your body. Examples include using a block in a pose like pigeon to get a deeper stretch or using it in seated poses to ease your joints’ pressure. 

Yoga Strap

Using a yoga strap is a way of lengthening your body to work into more challenging poses and get a deeper stretch from the poses you’ve been practicing. In addition to helping you achieve more advanced poses, using a strap can also help you achieve correct alignment. This is especially important when you’re practicing at home and don’t have a mirror or instructor to rely on for guidance.

Yoga Bolster

Some of the most popular uses of a yoga bolster are getting into a really good restorative stretch. Along with these common uses, your bolster can also be a highly effective way to expand your practice in other ways. For example, the Yoga Journal guides us through multiple ways to use a bolster to access a gentle backbend.

Beyond the Basics

Besides props, you know the basics that every yogi needs, like a good mat and comfortable clothes. But another way to reach the next level in your practice is to give your basics an upgrade. An example of one we love is yoga pants that have a built-in pocket for your phone. Or if you travel frequently, a travel yoga mat simplifies keeping your practice mobile.

Set Up a Home Practice

You can still make yoga a part of your everyday routine with at-home practice. Find a quiet space in your home away from high-traffic areas. Create a positive vibe by removing clutter, letting in natural light, and lighting some sage. 

When you think of these tools in terms of support, you can see how taking advantage of that support can transform your practice. And really, doesn’t that get to the heart of yoga, and the spirit of namaste? Your practice is personal, but you’ll get more out of it with other people’s support and the right tools!

NOTE: If you would like to be a guest writer for Gal on the Go, submit your story pitch to galotgo@gmail.com.

Cultivating Their Dream

  • PJ and Nikki, owners
  • Nicky's Garden Center, train
  • Nicky's Garden Center, atrium
  • Nicky's Garden Center
  • Nicky's Garden Center, door
  • Nicky's Garden Center, house
  • Nicky's Garden Center, coffee shop
  • Hillwood Farms Coffee
  • Hillwood Farms Coffee
  • Hillwood Farms Coffee
  • Hillwood Farms Coffee, David, manager
  • Hillwood Farms Coffee, homemade goodies

I trekked to Nicky’s Garden Center on my bike during a visit to Wheeling, WV, to check out the coffee shop based on an Instagram referral. The bright and exotic outdoor patio lured me in. I relaxed and took a seat, sipping on a full-bodied oatmeal latte made by David, their creative concoctions barista, and eating a deeeeelicious homemade lemon biscotti. Two gracious people came over to say hi! I quickly learned they were PJ and Nikki Lenz, the owners. We got to talking, and the next thing I knew, I had a blog story!

To avoid any possible confusion before you read on, Nicky’s Garden Center, a mom-and-pop business, was originally located in Martins Ferry, Ohio. The fact that one of the owner’s names is Nikki is a wild coincidence. That’s why you’ll notice different spellings of the name Nicky and Nikki from here on.

Q: Which came first, the coffee shop, or the garden center?
PJ:
The garden center. We have owned Nicky’s Garden Center for 25 years. Many people stopped by when we opened Nicky’s Garden Center in Wheeling and said, we used to drive by here all of the time! This place just drew me in! They couldn’t wait to come here after we purchased it because it had never been open to the public. People love the property; it’s a peaceful place.

Visitors of Oglebay also have our garden center on their list of things to do. People from Cleveland and Cincinnati come to Nicky’s during Thanksgiving, and on their drive back home, they’ll stop here to buy a Christmas tree. It’s a cool tradition! 

Q: What appealed to you most about the property?
PJ: The house. It sat vacant for about 20 years, but the previous owners took great care of it.

Nikki: A lot of people wanted to buy the property. We wrote a letter of intent to Mr. Lash, the owner. When he received our letter, he died the next day, as if he knew he could go in peace, and the property would be in good hands. Other buyers wanted to tear the house down and put up condos or other things. Mr. Lash didn’t want that. He searched us out based on the personal letter we sent him.

Q: The interior of the historic home is very charming. What are some of the unique interior features?
PJ: The exposed brick, the curved glass windows, the original hardwood floors. A fireplace in every room. All of the interior walls on the first and second floors are brick. 

Q: What made you both quit your traditional jobs to start a new business venture?
PJ: I was 30, and Nikki was 26. We both had good corporate jobs, but we had to drive over an hour each way in opposite directions. Growing up, I guess you could have called me a city farmer. My dad purchased vacant lots throughout the city. My dad and I put up fences, tilled ground, and planted vegetable gardens. My duties were to get up in the mornings, ride my bike to each of our gardens, weed, and water them before I was allowed to play. I started doing this when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My dad usually worked five days a week, 10-12 hours every day. He would visit the gardens on the weekends to harvest. I started working for the original Nicky’s in 8th grade selling Christmas trees, then in the spring, I sold flowers and sheared Christmas trees on their tree farm in Indiana, Pa.

When I was a kid, I always thought it would be neat to own a garden center. I almost bought the business when I was 18, but things just didn’t work out. Twelve years later, Nikki and I were landscaping at our new home when I went to Nicky’s to purchase plants. As I was leaving, the owner asked me if I was still interested in buying the garden center? I said, no. I told Nikki that night, and much to my surprise, she said I think we should look at it, and here we are 25 years later! 

As business owners, if we make a mistake, we own it, we have to. We learned it from our dads. My dad was a shipping dock foreman and Nikki’s dad was a coal miner. Working hard is in our DNA. The only time the work gets to us is if we have to miss something of our kids’.   

Q: What is your favorite part about owning a coffee shop and garden center?
PJ: My wife and I both love coffee and flowers, but most of all, we like to provide people with a beautiful place to come — the kind of place Nikki and I ourselves want to visit. 

Q: What is your biggest challenge as owners?
PJ: I would have to say competing with the big box stores. 

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
PJ: At first, we were very worried and short-staffed. Easter was a complete loss, but when April hit, wow, business busted loose! There are more than 19 million new gardeners this year, and it was one of our best springs ever! 

COVID helped us. We usually hire three or more people for the spring season, but we couldn’t bring them back this year. Nikki and I had to do a lot of things ourselves, so we have seen more than we did before. We were like ah, no wonder why this or that was happening! Why didn’t they tell us this takes so long? Or whatever else. It helped to open our eyes. We’ve had the best season ever with fewer hours. Other stores in the area were closing earlier too, so it didn’t hurt us to change our hours.

Nikki: We’re open Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. because those are the hours we can handle ourselves. We used to be open until 7 p.m. This is a physical job. I wish I knew how many miles we log a day, back and forth, — loading, caring for plants, watering. We will have days off when the season gets slower, but since March, we have worked every day.  

Q: You have a son and a daughter; do you hope that one or both of them will take over your business one day? 
Nikki: This was our dream, not our kids’. Each of them has aspirations of their own for the future. They need jobs and enjoy working here as much as a 15 and an 18-year-old enjoy working. If we retire someday, we’ll need to find a nice young couple to take over the business.

Q: What plans do you have for your business?
PJ: We want to focus on hosting more events and, as always, bring more unique plants into our inventory. We do pre-orders for customers in January/February that they love. They come in, bring us their pots, and say do whatever I’ll be back to pick them up. We’ll work on their pots when we do ours, and when the customers return in May, their pots are full, beautiful, and ready!   

Nikki: I like having control over what we grow because I design a lot of the pots. I choose in June what we’re going to grow next spring. By having control, I know what inventory we have, and when I work on the designs I can easily go and pull things. Also, I know the quality of the inventory because we grew the greenery ourselves.

Q: Do you hold any special events?
PJ: Yes, we host school field trips in the fall that have grown in popularity. We do a whole program with apple pressing, hayrides, and a pumpkin patch. We have an old cider press and a corn shucker from the 1800s. We try to make it educational and fun for kids in preschool through third grade. But it doesn’t generate a lot of revenue. We do it more for the community than for profit. 

Nikki: We also do events like “Plant and Sips.” I’ll create a floral design, people sign up for the event, and we host it after hours. I’ll lead them in the design; they can bring wine. We provide appetizers, and they can buy anything they want from the coffee shop. We usually do one workshop a month. For example, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I’ll lead a fresh centerpiece arrangement class. We try to offer things that are useful, fun, and yield pretty results. We’ve found that people feel good about themselves when they leave our workshops, which is great!

PJ: Workshops are becoming more and more popular at garden centers. We try to educate our consumers, so when they come back, they know more about what they like, Etc. I communicate regularly with other independent garden centers about business. If retail sales are down, I’ll ask them questions like, “Hey guys, I’m thinking about wholesaling this year. What do you think?  We’ve got all of these greenhouses.” They respond, “you’re still doing the same amount of work, and you’re selling your plants for less money. Figure out how to get rid of those plants in a worthwhile way.” If we have a particular variety of plants that didn’t sell well or an abundance of pots, we’ll come up with a workshop to incorporate them. So we’re using up our existing resources. 

Q: Who makes up your customer base?
PJ: Most of my avid gardeners are dying off, and there’s a big disconnect in generations. I asked my nephew in his late 20s; how do we get people your age interested in what we do? He said, “you need to provide for the community, offer community service, and that will catch on. People will be more responsive.” We always try to stay current — that’s how the idea for the field trips came about.

This is our 5th/6th year hosting field trips. Last year, we were booked every single day from mid-September to mid-October. We only do one a day because each tour takes about three hours and we don’t have a big staff. We came up with a drink for the kids called the Cupcake; it’s non-caffeine, and we make it in any flavor they want with a swirl of whip cream and sprinkles on top. The kids love it and ask their parents to bring them back here to get the drink. 

Over the years, people have come here with their kids and said, “Hi, Jenny said we had to come here and buy her mom flowers for Mother’s Day” (based on her field trip experience). High schoolers who remember us from their field trip as kids also return to buy things for their parents. The garden center business is personal. We are here every day of our lives, and connecting with our customers is important to us. 

Nothing about this business is instant gratification like some other businesses. We plant seeds; they sprout, grow. It takes time to cultivate them. We do it with our plants and our customers. 

Nikki: We nurture relationships. People return season after season. When I see them, I’ll ask, hey; I remember you got lavender. How did that work out for you? 

Q: Did you come into the business with a patience mentality, or has the business taught you patience?
Nikki: The business taught us patience. There’s a magnet that says, “Grow, damn it!” Sometimes, when I’m watering my stuff like the Gerber Daisies, for instance, and I can see buds, I’ll say, “Grow, damn it! I want to get you up and out to retail. I want to get you a new home. 

Q: How has the gardening business changed over the years?
PJ: When I started working at the original Nicky’s over 40 years ago, you had Beckett’s, Iannettis, all of these small independent garden centers. There were a few large garden centers, but they were only open in the summer. Now, you have big box stores and grocery stores. Easter used to be dominant for us. We would have quality Lilies, Azaleas, Etc. Quality was essential; it still is to us. Nowadays, you have places like grocery stores throwing inventory that is so-so quality in the front. People go there to buy their Easter dinner, and instead of coming to us for flowers, they’re buying from where they already are. 

Also, it’s hard to find people in this area that have a background in plants. People see the finished product and say they’d love to work here, but they don’t realize all of the hard work that goes into it. Everywhere you look, there’s work to be done. Even inside the gift shop and coffee shop. It’s a small business, so you have to be a jack of all trades. 

When we first got into this business, Nikki didn’t know what an annual or a perennial was. Her background is in customer service — she’s the queen of customer service. Now, Nikki is a gardening expert. We’ve participated in training and classes throughout the years. We poured ourselves into the job. Nikki read a lot of garden center books by Dr. Michael Dirr, a professor of horticulture. His books are like bibles to gardeners. We’ve met him and gone to his classes. When we started, you couldn’t Google for information like you can today. Out of all of the local garden centers, we’re one of the last ones standing. We’re surviving season-to-season by the grace of God.

Q: What are some challenges you face?
PJ: Garden centers are perceived as more expensive when that’s not necessarily true. Some things we sell are higher priced because of the brand, size, etc. It’s like comparing a Mercedes to a Chevette. We’ll have people come here or call us and ask about a tree they bought from somewhere else because they couldn’t get help from that place, so they turn to real garden experts like us. 

Also, there’s a generational gap in gardening. Many of our customers from back in the day who are now in their 70s and older are passing away or no longer gardening, and they knew flowers well. Then you have people like us in our 40s and 50s who know some, and younger people who don’t know anything about gardening because they weren’t exposed to it. That became more apparent during COVID this year. 

Right now, things are great; we just went through one of our best seasons ever. I’m about loyalty, and I think that mentality is starting to come back now with “shop local,” but there’s a challenge with instant gratification. If we don’t have something people are looking for many times, people don’t want to wait. 

PJ & Nikki: The biggest challenge is balancing our kids’ activities with our work schedule. We take turns to try and not miss their games and other life events. When we started, we didn’t have kids, and we put every dollar we made into the business. We were working 7-days a week, 12 hours per day. That hasn’t changed much. We would stay at work all night, eat dinner, and keep working. Then we had kids, and that’s a whole other circumstance. We tried to cut back to a 40-hour workweek. I’m sure some things slipped through the cracks. 

Q: What’s the most popular item in your garden center, and why?
PJ: Tree-wise, it’s weeping cherries, dogwoods, redbuds; those are always good staples. Magnolias are also popular. People like ones that bloom in the spring and provide pops of color. Often, people don’t know what they want. They see a color, a texture, something from a magazine, or online. 

Nikki: My motto is to give them what they need, not what they ask for, because they want what they want, but it may not be what they need. If someone has a shady yard and they ask for a specific plant, I’ll say I have that plant, but it’s not the best choice for where you want to put it, and this is why. I offer suggestions for things that are better suited for their intended area. We want our customers to be successful. Gardening is fun if you’re successful at it. To be successful, you need to know what you’re planting and what works in different types of spaces. I ask customers questions like — What are you trying to accomplish? What area do you want to fill? Then, I’ll offer suggestions. Everyone is open-minded with the expert input we offer them. 

Q: Why did you choose a door for your business logo?
Nikki: The front door because it represents the historic home, which has drawn people’s attention for years. We get asked by people all the time, can we bring our kid(s) here, take a senior class photo, etc. at the front door? They offer to pay. I say come and enjoy it; you don’t have to pay. I decorate the door for different seasons. I also plant different flowers throughout the year in our signature black urn. When the hydrangeas in the front of the house bloom, it’s beautiful, and that’s when people usually start calling with photo requests. I’m honored, and it’s a blessing to offer this space to our community.  

Q: What made you include a coffee shop as part of your business?
PJ: The majority of our garden business is April through June, but we’re open all-year-round. We used to close in January/February, but since we brought the coffee shop on, we’ve stayed open all year. David, manager and barista, has done an excellent job promoting our coffee shop on social media. We’re not in a busy area, so I think staying open and promoting the business helps keep us on people’s minds. The big coffee chains nearby kill us because of their convenient locations, but I think people would rather come here. We offer quality, organic, locally roasted beans, and every option of milk available — coconut, oat, soy, almond, which is hard to do for a small coffee shop because we don’t go through large quantities of all these kinds of milk like the chains. We have nice seating areas. We try to provide people with quality coffee in a pleasant environment — a place that we would want to hang out at ourselves when we are off work. 

We hope the coffee shop will flourish even more. In the fall, we use fresh pumpkin puree instead of syrup in our lattes and chai, and people love it. They start asking for the drink in August! We do the same in winter using actual eggnog in our drinks. We also make fresh homemade baked goods daily. Kids love our chocolate chip cookies, and our lemon biscotti always sell out fast!

Q: What is your outlook on the future of your business?
PJ: As much as I am upset that we lost our big Easter business this year because of COVID, people were going through much worse, which puts it all in perspective. Our bills may be high — we’re weather dependent, economy dependent — but we’re outside, and Nikki and I love what we do. I enjoy the people and talking with them. I get asked, “what are you going to do after you retire? Are you going to sell your business?” It’s almost impossible to sell a garden center unless you have someone who is REALLY interested in gardening. You have to be passionate about gardening and willing to do a lot of hard work. Hopefully, by the time we have to retire, we don’t want to retire, we’ll be in our 90s. 

Nikki: We’ll be in a nursing home together. We’ll probably be on the maintenance team at the nursing home!

Keep on Moving

Stewart Beazell; Photo credit: Jennifer Heffner PhotographyCyclist: Stewart
Insta: @ridewithstew
Studio: New Trail Cycling

When Dr. Stewart Beazell isn’t practicing psychology, you will find her at New Trail Cycling Studio in Reston, Va., taking classes or coaching on Saturday mornings. I’m excited that Stewart took the time to sit down with me for an interview because cycling has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. I hope this interview inspires other young girls to take up the sport of cycling, especially considering that many reports show that the percentage of kids learning to ride bikes in the U.S. has dramatically dropped in recent years! (see stats below)

Q: When did you first take up the sport of cycling, and why?
A: Both of my parents cycled together for years. They did bike races and things like that when I was growing up. We learned how to ride bikes early on and went on bike tours as a family to places like the Grand Canyon and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was a family event, and always fun! With indoor cycling, my mom took classes at our local gym from a friend decked out in full outdoor gear. The classes were long, like an hour and a half, because the teacher was an outdoor cyclist. I would go to the classes with my mom and I liked them. Then when I was in college, I took a group fitness class that was indoor cycling, and that’s when I fell in love with it! I liked the incorporation of current music, and you could get your friends to come to classes with you. I continued indoor cycling ever since. It’s an activity easy to find everywhere — there has always been a gym or a boutique studio that offers cycling classes near where I live. It’s a stress reliever for me. I love indoor and outdoor cycling equally, but for different reasons.

Q: Why did you become a cycling instructor?
A: I realized that as much as I loved taking other people’s classes, there were benefits to teaching, like not having to pay for classes. Being a grad student at the time, I thought, free membership, great, let’s do it! Why don’t I teach and see how it goes? I wasn’t excited about being in front of the room. I’m not a performer in that way — in front of a group of people, and I was kind of intimidated. At the same time, what pushed me to do it was encouragement from instructors who I was a regular in their classes. They would say to me; you should do it, you’d be great, you’re in here all the time. I said OK, I’ll try! You have to be certified to coach, and I was investing in the certifications, not sure where it was all going to lead me. I taught at local gyms for about a year before I started teaching at New Trail. I thought OK, this is what I want, to be at a place that focuses just on indoor cycling, and there’s a sense of genuine community. In the big box gyms, people don’t really know each other. But at New Trail, it feels more like home. I found out about Liz Kamp, the founder of New Trail Cycling, the summer before she opened the studio. I emailed her out of the blue and said, I like what your studio sounds like it’s going to be — creating a community rather than focusings on the instructors. I would like to teach there and be part of it! We’re Schwinn certified instructors at New Trail, and our style follows more of an authentic outdoor style of riding a bike.

I’m always riding even when I’m not teaching because I enjoy it so much. I love taking classes from other instructors because that’s how I learn. I look up to Liz. She’s a great instructor and a great example of a woman entrepreneur — how to start your own business, how to promote it, and how to be a great boss. She’s also a great owner; so cool and open to client feedback. She wants the studio to be a place where everyone feels welcome.

Q: What role does New Trail play in clients’ lives?|
A: For many people who come to New Trail, a positive aspect they can gain beyond a sense of community is learning how to work with their numbers. We have consoles, and we can help our clients look at their stats from when they first started and how their stats have changed over time. Whether it’s looking at average power (watts) for each class or how many miles someone averages per class. Those are ways clients can use the numbers to see their progress. Within that, we can look at those numbers and apply them to individuals in their upcoming classes. For instance, this is where your number is now, and if you increase the resistance and maintain your speed (RPM), this is how your power number will change. And, we tell them to pay attention to how they feel when change happens. Does it feel harder? If yes, where? In your legs? Breathing? Providing them with more of a mind-body connection. There are days when maybe your body doesn’t feel so great, and you know you won’t get the numbers you want. But, you can have the mentality of you know what, I’m going to take this class as it comes and do my best. I may not get my top numbers today, but I’m here, and I’m working at the capacity I can manage at this time. This helps clients have more bodily awareness. We purposely don’t put individual’s names or bike numbers up on a monitor for everyone in the class to see. That way, no matter what reason someone is coming to class, they can get out of it what they want and not feel like they are competing with others. New riders won’t be at the same level as those who have been coming to classes for a while. Our goal isn’t to get everyone to be at the same level; it’s to help people to reach their individual goals. People come to class for different reasons — some to relax and make time for themselves, some for their health, and some for race training. Pinning them against each other on a display board can be demotivating.

Q: What are the top three benefits of indoor cycling, and why?
A: It depends on the individual. General benefits are decreased fatigue and increased stamina over time. I would say the top three benefits are:

  1. You have a dedicated amount of time that you are on a bike, and you can work toward better health.
  2. You can track your fitness levels and see what changes occur and how your body feels different over time.
  3. It can help you manage mood, stress, and anxiety by allowing yourself time and space to focus on your mental health, get out of your head, tune into the music, and have some fun.

Q: Are there any areas in which people should be cautious?
A: Yes. Clients need to know the importance of rest and recovery. I didn’t learn that until about five years ago in grad school. It’s not sustainable to cycle daily long-term. It’s good to cross-train in whatever ways that means to you. If you cycle and lift weights, cycle and practice yoga — maybe all three if you choose, but not back-to-back. Give yourself time to recover in between. If you constantly go, your body will suffer, your progress will suffer, and if you get injured, that will ultimately prevent you from doing those things you enjoy. Finding balance and paying attention to how your body feels are very important.

Q: What is your greatest reward as a cycling coach?
A: The stories I hear from clients about how their lives changed for the better in terms of feeling stronger, more confident and being part of clients’ experience of feeling a sense of belonging and growth.

Q: Where do you see indoor cycling as part of your future?
A: I have casually thought about how I can marry my professional life and my life as a fitness instructor. I’ve wondered, is there a way I can do both in one space? A studio in which you can engage in therapy as a mindful aspect, space where you can take indoor cycling as a physical aspect, and maybe other classes like yoga. A wellness hub where you can go and instead of buying packages for each one of those things, figuring out a way where you can do each of them a few times a week in the same space. I think it would be cool to incorporate all of them — make them more integrated because they are each important and beneficial. I’m copywriting my idea now! 😉

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with my blog readers?
A: We need to figure out ways for girls and women alike to engage in fitness and be more supportive of one another. There’s a lot of competition in fitness created by our culture. We should focus on connecting and lifting each other up in all areas of life. Support is so important — like a mentorship with a woman entrepreneur like Liz. There are many resources that you can find and make connections with other women. Women who have been in their careers for 20 plus years love to share their wisdom and have you pick their brains. Don’t be afraid to ask other women for their advice!

INTERESTING FACTOIDS:

  • On average, boys cycle nearly 6 times as much as girls (138 miles/year versus 24 miles/year). National Children’s Bureau, November 2009
  • People who are confident biking as adults are more likely to have biked frequently when they were younger than those people who didn’t. Dill, J., and McNeil, N., Testing a Typology to Better Understand Bicycling Behavior and Potential, 2012
  • The number of women cycling decreased by 13% between 2000 and 2010. The American Bicyclist Study, https://www.bicycle-guider.com/
  • In the U.S., 24% of all bicycle trips are made by women and 76% are made by men. National Household Travel Survey, 2009
  • 87% of U.S. competitive cyclists are male, and 12% are female. USA Cycling, Active Member Demographics, 2009

A Sure Sign: Creative Branding

at GALOTGO

hashtag GALOTGO

Four and a half years ago, I was brainstorming creative ways to market my Gal on the Go brand when I had an actual aha moment. It was right in front of my face!!!! I thought, why not take my personalized license plate, GALOTGO, and place a hashtag in front of it?! A unique way of marketing to a captive audience of fellow drivers. During my initial search for the symbol, I couldn’t find a hashtag sticker anywhere, so I bought four number 1 stickers from a Home Depot store and made a hashtag. About a year later, I sold my Prius and had to remove my homemade hashtag. I researched the symbol again online, and this time found a 4″ vinyl version on Amazon. Score! The reaction to the sticker has been a lot of fun over the years… people tell me frequently how creative it is, they take photos of the back of my car, and ask me if I mind if they copy my idea. If you follow my blog, you know that I recently did an overhaul on the look of my brand, which got me thinking… how can I update the use of my hashtag? I know, replace the # with an @ sign!!!! All of my marketing materials — business cards, flyers, etc. use @gal0tgo and @rocknflowyoga, so it made sense. I’m happy to share that the at sign has received a lot of positive feedback. If you see my car on the road, give me a honk or a shout!

#yearofyou

#yearofyou

Before the official start of 2019, I created the hashtag yearofyou and challenged you to invest in yourself this year through healthy activities and events. Trying to lead by example, I’ll share my life experience and the progress on my goals along the way.

Life Experience Share: A friend recently asked me, how do you stay committed to exercise and motivated? My response, set time aside for yourself every day whether it’s 5 minutes, 60 minutes, or whatever and schedule it on your calendar like an appointment. You are more likely to commit to a workout if you treat it like an appointment that you cannot cancel without penalty. If you have a doctor appointment, you take it seriously and don’t skip it. Same goes for self-care time. If you need a mental health recharge, take some quiet time and meditate or listen to music that fills your soul. If you need a physical release, take a yoga class, go for a run, whatever activity challenges you while you are doing it, but then afterward makes you feel fulfilled. My friend shared that she does well for a few days or weeks, goes out and eats/drinks too much, and then feels like all her efforts were for nothing, so she throws in the towel altogether. My advice to her, DON’T GIVE UP! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! This is one of the most common reactions people have when they go off track. If this happens, you need to switch your mindset from self-sabotage that all your workouts were for nothing to it’s alright, I had some indulgences that everyone is entitled to, and I will get back on track! If you do or think in extremes you set yourself up for failure. Nothing is unrecoverable. Will you have to work backward a little to return to the point you were? Yes, BUT your efforts are never a total loss.  

A relevant quote I posted on Facebook that a friend told me … Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if something doesn’t turn out, take another shot (try again)!


I strive to present everything I do in life in a meaningful and inspiring way. The yellow color of the hashtag is on purpose. I selected it to empower the words yearofyou because yellow is the color of the Solar Plexus Chakra, the Third Chakra of the body known as the Manipura. It is the center point in which all energy from the power of life and vitality flow throughout your entire body. It governs self-esteem, warrior energy/anger, and transformation and it controls digestion and metabolism.

Mental Core Exercise: Get some fresh air and meditate outside on a sunny day focusing on your breathing.

Physical Core Exercises: Anything that works your core or involves twisting — crunches, plank, twisted lunges, Boat Pose or Child’s Pose.

Together We Rise

My fearless yoga sculpt teachers Madeline and Kim led an empowering theme class in honor of International Women’s Day! Forty-three women and men joined together at CorePower Yoga Fairfax to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, political, and (health and fitness) achievement of women. The music and sequence were motivating and the whole class had a blast! During the midpoint of class, Kim yelled “I see you,” words of encouragement she uses to acknowledge that she knows we are working hard and giving it all we have to push through to the end! Two mother-daughter duos in attendance I thought were particularly inspiring, Madeline and her mom Julie, and devoted sculptor Jen who brought her daughter Morgan.

Today, I offer all of my #galOTgo followers this intention … “Don’t run away from what looks like a challenge. It may be an important part of your path. You have to be persistent and follow what you believe.”
– Tao Porchon-Lynch, 99-Years-Young Yoga Master

Right to Vote From an Alternate Perspective

electionofficertraining

Given the circus that has been this year’s election process, I thought it would be interesting to learn the flip side of the voting process, so I signed up for Election Officer training. Note, I am not typically into politics and this post is not about the candidates.

I initially signed up to be an Election Officer for two reasons – curiosity, and because the payment fee will help cover my Personal Property Tax, which is $$$ in Fairfax County. The training lasted three hours and included one 10-minute break. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first; I assumed it was going to be tedious. Much to my surprise, it was a very interesting experience!

Highlights of what I learned during my training:

  • Upon arriving for work on Election Day (SUPER EARLY before the polls officially open), I must take an election oath.
  • Election Officer shifts are approximately 16 hours. (One of the trainers told us to think of it as “a one-day camping trip with no amenities.” Once we enter the voting precinct and take the oath, we cannot leave until our shift is over. He strongly suggested that we bring enough food and drink with us to last.)
  • Election Officers will not necessarily have time to vote on Election Day; they recommended that we exercise our voting right in advance via absentee ballot.
  • Election Officers have important roles as the “face of the election; the first ones voters see when they enter the precinct.”
  • The County expects large voter turnouts in Fairfax; 85% at each precinct.
  • There were 714,113 registered voters in Fairfax County as of the day of my Election Officer training, and there are 1,313 polling locations in Fairfax County to serve the voters.
  • Poll Pads aka iPads (see pic) are being used for the first time to check in voters. They sync within 30 feet of each other throughout the day. (The modernization of incorporating technology in the process excites me.)
  • A typical ballot box used for voting is the DS200. No equipment ever gets plugged directly into a wall; everything must be plugged into a power strip. There are also voting machines available for people with accessibility needs. (We learned the ins and outs of how all the ballot machines work and dealing with various ballot submission scenarios, like someone marking more than one candidate in a category on their ballot and the machine rejecting it.)
  • Election Officers cannot look at voter’s ballots or provide advice (please be mindful and keep your ballot choices to yourself). If someone shows us their ballot, we must offer to be their Assistant and if they say yes, we must sign an Assistance Form.
  • Voters can submit blank ballots; this is usually NOT done by mistake, but rather purposely as a form of silent protest.
  • Every single discarded item is accounted for; we are not allowed to throw anything in the garbage, from a voided or spoiled ballot to a used zip tie.

The presidential election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be the 58th US presidential election. The election will determine the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States. I am hopeful that my country will survive whatever the outcome!

Cast of Characters

I was riding along carefree on my bicycle, when suddenly an expansion joint caused by a tree root appeared. Next thing I knew, I was catapulted in the air and came crashing down on gravel. I couldn’t move. Eric and Justin, two college kids who witnessed the incident, came to my rescue. They scooped me up, and put me and my mangled bike into a woman’s van. Gigi, the woman, drove me to an urgent care facility nearby and signed me in. The nurse tended to the bloody road rash that covered the right side of my body from shoulder to knee. She gave me a shot for pain, cleaned me up, put my right arm in a brace, gave me a list of orthopedic doctors to contact, and turned me over to my friend and emergency contact Jenny.

Eric and Justin sent a joint text. “Good luck, Kimberly! Eric and Justin are here for you. We’ll be thinking of you and hope you get well soon!”

Gigi sent a text also. “Stay strong and cycle on (once you can!).” When I told her that I had broken a bone, she said she wasn’t surprised because she saw that my arm was maimed, but she didn’t want to freak me out and tell me since I was in shock at the time.

I was very fortunate to come across amazing strangers with big hearts. I will never forget their acts of kindness. Gigi even texted me the following day and offered to drive me to my doctor appointments. Truly remarkable people!

The next afternoon I went to an orthopedist at Reston Hospital, had X-rays taken and after the July 4 holiday had a CAT scan. All the results conclusively confirmed that I broke off the corner of my right wrist! The nurse wrapped my wrist and lower arm in a waterproof cast (I chose Wonder Woman red of course).

My friend Melissa asked if she could sign my cast in an effort to cheer me up. At that point, the cast graffiti tour began! Members of my community all got in on it — from my friends, to the local Starbucks crew, employees at my favorite bank branch, running group buddies and more.

Here are some of the fun messages that people wrote:

  • Oops. – Melissa (*this one will always be extra special to me because it’s the first signature on my first, and hopefully last, cast)
  • Chewy on the inside. – Brett
  • Love the fashion statement. – Arthur
  • Feel better – Starbucks family (the morning crew at my neighborhood Starbucks)
  • APC (the initials of my 83-years-young Starbucks bud Art)
  • Get better soon! + latte cup drawing – Cheryl
  • Feel better – Mehreen (my fav lead teller at CapitalOne)
  • 💛 – Jhanira (branch manager at my CapitalOne)
  • You’re hard core! – Erika (from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • #foreveryrun (guy from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • Heal fast! – Loretta (from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • Get well Spartan. – KB aka Katrena
  • 🙂 – Marcia
  • Love ya – Jane
  • More burpees – Leia
  • Get well soon! – Michael
  • Love ya – Jenny (one of my BFFs)
  • Stay strong! – Colin (my trainer)

I am having surgery tomorrow to get six screws and a metal plate attached to my right wrist to properly repair it. Whenever I start to feel nervous about the procedure, I look at the messages and drawings on the cast. They bring me comfort that everything is going to be alright.

In the Zone

Writing about sports isn’t new to me. I report on Spartan Races across the country and I worked as an Olympic News Service reporter for hockey in Sochi. They are in my comfort zone. Recently, I was granted a rare one-hour interview with Bob Fitzsimmons, a successful lawyer for deceased football great “Iron Mike” Webster. I was completely intimidated by Bob and the sport of football. I did a lot of research and worked intently on crafting and recrafting questions that I felt were worthy of Bob’s time and would provide appealing information to readers. Bob put me at ease from the start and it turned out to be one of my favorite interviews! Last Word on Sports (LWOS) published the article today. I hope you will give it a read and find it interesting, whether you are a sports fan or not.

NOTE: Photos were provided to me for use by Bob Fitzsimmons.