Yogi योगी Insight (part 7 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 7 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Nat, a kind spirit, in the tea room of YYOGA after a Flow class while on travel in Vancouver, BC. We started chatting and I learned that Nat is from West Sussex, England. Also, she’s a huge dog lover, so I knew she was cool. Nat shared her personal story with me of why she got into yoga, and I asked her if I could interview and feature her in Yogi Insight. I am excited that she said yes!

Nat

Yogi: Nat Joos
Studio: In-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I read articles about runners getting fewer injuries through stretching out in a yoga class. I was a big runner 15 years ago, doing 10Ks about five times a day. Yoga was important in assisting my body in the amount of running I was doing. Then, yoga became my constant companion after I lost my husband to skin cancer five years ago. I turned to yoga drenched in grief and yoga transcended me to a place where I felt nourished with a sense of acceptance and peace. It presented itself in a positive way, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I have been practicing for about 15 years.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love the way yoga makes me feel. I can unplug from the past and future and just be present on my mat. It feels wonderful!

Q: What aspect of yoga do you like the least and why?
A: This is hard to answer … I guess it’s certain postures I find the hardest. I have relatively tight hamstrings, so forward bends are not textbook for me. I believe that it’s not about how far you go into a posture, it’s about how you feel when you arrive!

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: My favorite posture is side plank, just like the one in my photo. It makes me feel calm and very strong!

Q: How long have you owned a private yoga practice?
A: I’ve owned my own practice for just over a year and love it! My Yoganat classes are in the comfort of my own home shala, which creates a more personable practice experience. It’s important to me to keep the authenticity of yoga by sealing every class with an Om to deepen the practice.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching yoga and why?
A: I like to offer a practice that’s for everyone and I open my doors with a big friendly welcome! If you’re lucky, you get to meet my furry kid “Minnie the choccy lab!” Unfortunately, she’s unable to attend the sessions because she’s a distraction.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Give it time and be patient. Also, be yourself.

To read more about Nat, check out her website YOGANAT!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 6 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 6 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Elena two years ago when I walked into her HPF class. I instantly felt at peace by her soothing voice and her nurturing spirit! I never experienced an immediate calming reaction to a person like that before. I returned and took Elena’s class whenever possible. She is both a life coach and a yoga teacher, two roles that could not fit a person more perfectly!   

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Yogi: Elena Sonnino
Studios: Beloved Yoga, Wheelhouse Yoga, and in-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I never really liked yoga, other than when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had a difficult time being still in Savasana. Then one day, I started to feel and appreciate the benefits of it for the first time during a hiking and weight-loss retreat in British Columbia. I returned home with a DVD from the instructor. For a year or so I only used that DVD and sought out classes when I was on travel – until I found a local studio to regularly practice. The big shift for me came when I stopped focusing on yoga as a workout and embraced it as a daily practice.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I am a baby yogini. I practiced the physical asanas when I was pregnant in 2004 and then started to cultivate a practice in 2014. It wasn’t until 2016 that it became part of my everyday life. My first introduction to yoga was hatha style, then power vinyasa, and eventually I found my way to yin yoga and even Kundalini yoga.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about and why?
A: Yoga offers me a mirror whether I am studying, focusing on pranayama, or moving my body with asana – to unearth and attune to what is within me. Pema Chodron wrote, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

The idea that our body and our deepest self, come to us as benevolent messengers, inviting us to recognize and learn what we need to know is the essence of yoga for me, whether it is vinyasa, yin, or even kundalini. It is a practice that invites us to explore and reveal that which is hidden. It is an opportunity to notice that what is practiced is also reflected. It is a practice that focuses on and highlights self-compassion instead of self-improvement.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My mat is one of my best teachers for acceptance. My mat reminds me that each day is a new day, and what happened the day before or what may happen the next day doesn’t really matter. Each practice allows me to notice the shifts in my balance — the subtle ways my body reacts, and the deeper qualities of my breath from one day to another.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you find most challenging and why?
A: Challenge looks different on different days. In the early days of my vinyasa practice, approaching inversions and arm balances felt like my biggest challenge. I was insecure about my own strength and it was hard to detach from the outcomes when it felt like everyone around me made it look so easy. Aparigraha, non-attachment, in general, is an aspect of yoga that is both my favorite and perhaps most challenging. Even when I believe that I’ve approached a moment with curiosity and willingness, one of my daily practices is to notice and observe sensations, emotions, and thoughts so that I can catch myself when subtle attachments to expectations creep up.

Another aspect that has been challenging, is creating an at home practice for myself as a daily tool. Even though I know that yoga is more than the physical shapes we take on a mat, it took me a long time to allow myself to explore diverse styles and practices at home and tune in to what I needed rather than following the herd.

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your yoga practice?
A: Connection to my inner source is what is most fulfilling for me in my practice. Sometimes that comes through breath work, sometimes it finds me in a shape on the mat, and sometimes it finds me in meditation. It is during those moments that I feel connected to something deeper and I can feel the energy in my body that makes my heart smile. I smiled a lot the first time I flew in crow pose or went upside down, supported by a wall.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga? Who or what influenced you to become a teacher?
A: I completed my teacher training and started guiding practices in 2016. The thing that drew me to want to teach was my life coaching practice. In my own self-work, I’d integrated so much of what I knew as a life coach with my personal yoga practice and I wanted a way to bring the two together. I had been an elementary school teacher for 12 years, and there is something about being a guide and facilitator that energizes me, so the symbiotic relationship felt like a perfect way for me to blend my strengths and passions.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: Creating and holding space for practitioners to have their own experience with their body, their breath, and their mat. I consider myself a guide more than a teacher and like to invite individuals in my yin and vinyasa classes to attune to the inner strength and wisdom that is always within them.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: When I first started teaching, my own practice changed. At first, it was hard for me to find time for my own practices, and then even when I did make it to my mat it felt like a part of me was always considering how the practice could inform my role as a teacher. It took a while, and to some degree, a change in the style of physical asana to help me ground into a practice that felt sustainable and nourishing just for me.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Find the time and commit to your own practice. Be willing to explore and to study, to ask questions and look for answers within the sacred texts and in yourself.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a life coach?
A: I’d always been a guide, asking questions and holding space for others. It was insights over time ranging from my experience surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my work as a classroom teacher, divorce, marathon running, learning to surf, and eventually, a chance encounter and experience with a massage therapist in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a paragliding experience that same weekend that brought everything together. Soaring through the air with the birds, attached to my co-pilot, I noticed how it only took subtle movements to change direction – and knew! It wasn’t about a destination as we flew. It was about noticing. It was about letting the wind move us and fully experiencing each shift with gratitude and wonder. By the time I reached the landing zone, I had decided to embrace the nudges and set off to find a training program to study with, and claim my role as a life coach!

Q: How long have you been a life coach? What is your favorite aspect of being a life coach?
A: I trained with the Martha Beck Institute in 2016 and I have worked with clients one-on-one and groups since that same year. I have spoken with a variety of groups and led workshops and retreats, which always energizes me. My favorite aspect is when a client tunes in to an inner realization based on a question that I asked or an invitation that I offered. Being a witness to my clients as they show up for themselves with vulnerability and willingness is like a gift.

Q: How does being a life coach tie into your yoga practice and being a yoga teacher?
A: The two are very symbiotic to me. I try to create experiences whether they are yoga or coaching related that invite individuals to connect with themselves. The ideas or themes that I find myself exploring with my clients are the same ones that I offer as intentions in my classes and for myself in my own practice.

BONUS ROUND 😃:  Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
A: I am launching a new podcast called Sunrise in Your Pocket on October 8. Everyone needs a nudge now and then to help them get back on track to feeling joyful, vibrant, and alive in the now. Sunrise in Your Pocket is your weekly podcast for playful, easy to implement guidance for reconnecting to the inner strength and wisdom within you. You can sign up here to the be the first to know when it goes live!

EVENT: Join Elena for an in-person workshop at Beloved Yoga on Saturday, November 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to stop fixing and start living! Click here for more info. 

Yogi योगी Insight (part 5 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 5 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Danielle about a year ago in a C2 class at CorePower Yoga. She was deep in her relax zone before class, but we spoke afterward and we have been buds ever since. She is an amazing woman who used her private practice experience on her mat to launch and pave a path of inspiration off her mat. Danielle’s credentials include TEDx speaker, author, host of The Danielle Daily Show, just to name a few! I am grateful that she made time to participate in this series.

Danielle Watson

Yogi: Danielle Watson, E-RYT 200
Studio: Private Practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Massive anxiety. I took up yoga in graduate school as an attempt to save myself from spontaneously combusting from the stress of it. I remember lying on my bed crying at night because it felt like I could not find the off button for my brain. Even in my sleep I was thinking and worrying, which led me to feel tired and anxious all the time. I was already physically flexible but heard that yoga was good for calming the mind, so I decided to give it a try to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I started in 2002, so 16 years now!

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about?
A: Svadhyaya (self-study) and tapas (discipline). For me, these are the two keys to developing into the person we want to become. Asana practice is something I do most days of the week, but practicing these two niyamas is something that I am committed to working on every moment of the day.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My asana practice is like a great big cosmic dumpster where I go to dispose of my mental garbage. Often times, when I walk into the studio I feel spectacularly human … vulnerable, anxious, or just plain not in a good mood. My mat is a space where I can safely unload the emotional burden of my humanity whether it happens to be sadness, loneliness, grief, anxiety, or shame. I walk out of the studio feeling lighter, freer and ready to keep marching toward becoming the woman I was meant to be! I like to practice daily when possible because, for me, yoga is the mental health equivalent of brushing my teeth. I love the clean feeling!

Q: What is most challenging for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Letting go of judgment. I often find myself critiquing how others teach, especially when it comes to what is safe and unsafe for new students. I have to remind myself that it’s none of my business anymore!

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Seeing my practice grow and change. My practice is a lot like bamboo … so much happens beneath the surface before you can see what has been developing, and then suddenly new abilities come bursting out!

Q: Who or what influenced you to start a private yoga teaching business?
A: I started out teaching classes at a studio, but quickly realized that the pay was not very good. I knew that I could work fewer hours and make more money if I started offering private sessions. Also, I  really liked having a close relationship with my students and offering an in-home practice often led to me becoming a part of a family.

Q: Why did you decide to stop your private yoga business?
A: I decided to stop teaching yoga when I realized I was meant to do something more with my gifts and talents than what I was currently doing. It was a difficult decision for me because my clients loved me and I felt guilty about giving up something that helped so many people so much. I finally decided to stop and give away all of my yoga books and gear when I answered an important question for myself. That question was, “If I can do this much good with something I know I am no longer meant to be doing, how much good could I do with something I am meant to be doing?” I knew the good that I was meant to do was a lot more and that sealed the decision for me.

Q: How long did you teach yoga?
A: About eight or nine years.

Q: What insight do you have for someone thinking about starting a private yoga business?
A: All you really need to get started is an extra mat, a strap, and some blocks. It’s tempting to buy a bunch of nifty yoga props, but work with your clients first and then buy more equipment later as you determine the specific need(s) of your clients. Often, students have/want their own equipment so they can use it at home so you may not need to buy fancy props because they will buy on their own what you recommend.

Q: What piece of advice do you have for a new yoga teacher?
A: I don’t think new teachers often realize how much anxiety new students have about being in a yoga class. People are worried that they won’t fit in because they are not flexible, don’t know the poses, etc. I think it’s important to give a voice to that fear at the beginning of an intro class by saying something like, “If you’re here for the first time today, congratulate yourself for being brave! You’re not going to know how to do all the postures today, but you’re not expected to. After you’ve been here a few times you’ll get the hang of it and see yourself starting to improve. I’m proud of you for giving this a try!”

Yogi योगी Insight (part 2 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 2 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Gina in college up north when I was working at an alternative rock radio station. I looked up to her and thought she was very cool, which still holds true today! Fast-forward a few years (alright, more than a few years  :/ ) I learned that Gina became a yoga instructor with a faithful following.

Gina Galli

Photo by Gina Galli

Yogi: Gina Galli
Studios: Antigravity Yoga Lab in Emmaus, PA | Steel Fitness in Bethlehem, PA | The Center for Better Bones

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: 
Yoga has been in and out of my life for several years. My first so-called “yoga experience” came when I was in college and I was taking a Modern Dance class and the instructor said today we are going to do yoga. I thought it was kind of weird, but I sort of like how I felt afterward. I don’t think I did yoga again until I was in my mid-20s when I went to Sedona, Arizona, with my brother and we took a yoga class. I remember having a strong spiritual and euphoric feeling. In my 30s I took a regular yoga class when I started competing in long-distance road cycling events. The trainer and another friend recommended hot power yoga classes as part of my training. I started to incorporate a Baptiste Style practice and I fell in love with the physical aspects of yoga.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I would say regularly for about 14 years.

Q: You shared through social media that you have a new beautiful dedicated yoga space in your home. Who or what influenced you to create it?
A: I was teaching a couple of private yoga students. My boyfriend decided we were going to finish our basement and that he wanted to build a small yoga space for me so that I could teach private sessions and small classes.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: I have been teaching yoga since 2012 and AntiGravity (Ariel yoga) for a year and a half.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga to teach?
A: I love teaching very physical, sweaty hot yoga classes. I’m trained in Hatha yoga and I love when I have the opportunity to connect a physical practice with the more spiritual side of yoga. However, AntiGravity is a totally different experience altogether. It’s my “playtime” where I get to feel freedom in my body in no other way I can feel it in any other place in my life. ex. aerial yoga/silks

Q: What is your mission as a yoga teacher?
A: My mission as a teacher is for my students to move in ways physically and mentally in which they feel stronger — empowered to move through fears and/or anything that may be holding them back. I love when one of my students says “I got what I didn’t even know I needed” out of your classes. I am blessed to be able to pursue my passion for yoga and help people in my professional job. I work for Dr. Susan Brown, a nutritionist, and we treat clients who have low bone density and bone health conditions like Osteoporosis. Yoga is a form of exercise they can do to help stretch, strengthen and build stronger bones. They are fearful and my mission is to help them overcome their fear. In addition, I want to connect, create and be part of an amazing community of like-minded people through yoga.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga are you most passionate about?
A: The healing benefits of yoga — when students come to a class and they are physically struggling through illness or an injury and they find relieve and release through the teachings.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about?
A: I love how yoga can be ever changing. I personally embrace the spiritual journey of yoga and incorporate components of it into my daily life. I read the Yamas and Niyamas often and try to stay true to Patanjali’s eightfold path.

Q: What is most challenging for you as a teacher?
A: I am devoted to teaching yoga and I look forward to every opportunity I have to lead a class. It is a privilege and an honor. When the room is filled I shine, but those moments where nobody shows up to class or you have one person and then you never seem them again are rough. I try not to let it get me down or take it personally. Even if I only have one person in my class, I make sure that one person gets the best class!

Q: What is most fulfilling for you as a teacher?
A: Seeing a yoga room filled with students and then at the end when they come and talk with me and share how they feel is great. It is very rewarding to know that you were able to provide your students with a release, relive and relaxation. I love teaching yoga — the helping and healing aspects fill my cup!

Q: How do you come up with your themes, intentions, sequences?
A: I consider myself a continuous student in developing my own self. I’m always reading, journaling and studying. I often bring my studies into class for themes. I have a life coach and we talk about many areas of development and she often inspires my teachings.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years in the discipline of yoga?
A: I hope to still be teaching. I’m 50 years old and I have some limitations and injuries that do not allow me to move in ways I did in my 40s. My personal goal is to stay active into my 90s! I started teaching at retreats with Dr. Susan Brown and focusing on the many benefits of yoga for the aging body. In the fall we will roll out the Better Bones Exercise Evolution channel where you can subscribe to our videos on Better Bones Exercise Evolution. I’m looking to expand and travel to help women age gracefully and comfortably, and inspire them to keep moving!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 1 in a series)

Last year, I decided to deepen my yoga practice and sign up for a Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training. I completed the five-week course and earned my certification. Then an opportunity came along to take it a step further and work toward my 200-hour teacher training certification, which ends in two weeks. I have had the honor of meeting many amazing yogis, each with different levels of experience and intriguing backgrounds. Eternally curious, I thought it would be fun to interview the yogis to learn from them, apply their wisdom to my teaching and share the love, light and knowledge I gain from them along the way! I hope that you enjoy this special series. Namaste!

I met Lauren a few years ago as a fellow student in an afternoon sculpt class. We instantly hit it off!

Lauren Lipton

Photo by Lauren Lipton https://www.ellethreephotography.com/

Yogi: Lauren Lipton
Studio: Down Dog Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I began practicing yoga in 2011 and it became embedded in my lifestyle ever since. It was a good counter to the Crossfit I was doing as well.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I was working at Lululemon in Clarendon and as part of the job, we were influenced to practice yoga. I stumbled across Down Dog Yoga in Georgetown and was hooked ever since!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: I have been teaching yoga since 2015; initially at my old Crossfit gym and now at Down Dog Yoga in Herndon.

Q: What is your mission as a yoga teacher?
A: To help people transform their lives and to see the possibilities that open up when we step on our mat. Our mats are a reflection of the world and how we interact and respond. I love seeing people grow on their mat and taking risks to become stronger.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga are you most passionate about?
A: I love the breath work involved in Baptiste yoga. The deep breathing gives way to a deep-rooted moving meditation that really shakes up the core and transfers energy. I always feel at ease and calmer after I practice.

Q: What is most challenging for you as a teacher?
A: I would say the most challenging aspect of teaching is holding the energy in the room. There is no music in the class to carry on poses and for people to drift away. I am a guide who continually leads people to their breath to stay in their body and away from the chatter in the mind.

Q: What is most fulfilling for you as a teacher?
A: I love when people keep showing up to do the work!

Q: How do you come up with your sequences?
A: I follow a sequence derived from Baron Baptiste, called “Journey Into Power.”

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years in your yoga practice?
A: I will continue to practice this type of yoga — the heat is such a heart opener and power vinyasa helps heal injuries I have and keeps me strong.

Lauren is also a talented freelance photographer. Check out her website: 
https://www.ellethreephotography.com/

Bonded by Mud

Tough Mudder Full, Whistler Olympic Park
12+ Miles
19 Obstacles
12,300 Participants From Around the World
Bib #374707

I eagerly entered the corral at the starting line. The MC gave the crowd a pep talk about how the mentality of Tough Mudder isn’t how fast you can cross the finish line, but rather about pushing yourself and accomplishing something extraordinary. “It’s not about medals,” he said, “it’s about camaraderie.” That’s why IF you complete a Tough Mudder challenge, you receive a coveted finisher headband and T-shirt, not a medal.

I was at the Tough Mudder solo, but I hoped to come across a kind comrade or two for help at obstacles I physically couldn’t do by myself. I never expected it to happen at the second obstacle! The Hero Carry requires a teammate to carry you for a set distance; switch and then have you carry them. A guy with a wild mohawk said he didn’t have a partner. He instantly scooped me up in his arms and carried me, then at the switching point, we linked arms to the end of the obstacle. As we ran to the next obstacle, he introduced himself as Randy. It turned out that he was doing the Tough Mudder as part of a trio with his best friends Trevor and Kelsey. Our teamwork continued and by the third obstacle, Kelsey turned to me and said, “welcome to our team!” That’s how I ended up being adopted as the fourth member of their group.

I was sweating from the physical exertion, but oddly, I also had goosebumps and my teeth were chattering. I’m not sure why I was surprised that a challenge I was doing on Whistler Mountain in Canada was cold!?! It was a mental trip seeing snow on the ground at various points of the course. As Kelsey and I rounded one of the corners Randy pelted us with a snowball!

When we approached the first water obstacle Kelsey advised me to take off my shirt so I would have something fairly dry to put back on. I thought it’s a short sleeve shirt, it can’t possibly make a difference, but I took her advice. She said “hand your shirt to him” and pointed to a man on the side. I was like OOOK, here’s my shirt stranger. We successfully completed the obstacle, got our shirts, and put them back on (it did in fact help and make a difference). Kelsey said, “Oh, by the way, that’s my dad.” I said, “well, this is the most interesting way I have ever met someone’s parent!” Her parents were along the course at certain points as spectators to support her.

The temperature became cooler as time passed and the frigid water obstacles proved to be the most challenging I had ever faced. Unfortunately, I failed three of the water obstacles, which bummed me out. They didn’t count against me in the challenge, but I was very disappointed in myself. I never trudged through so much mud in my life. During one of the stretches of running, I came across a sneaker casualty. Apparently, someone had lost their sneaker in the mud and kept going! There’s definitely a reason why the word mud is part of the name. I ripped my leggings and collected several brush burns and bruises. Randy positively referred to them as our “accomplishment tattoos”.

In Spartan races, it’s a tradition to jump over a fire pit of flames as the last obstacle. Equally scary, Tough Mudder tradition ends with maneuvering through live electrical wires over water pits. It’s called Electroshock Therapy. I proudly made it to the end and earned a coveted orange finisher headband and shirt. Kelsey’s parents were there to congratulate us. Her mom came to my rescue and handed Kelsey a foil-like wrap to put around me. I never thought a thin silver sheet could feel so warm. I looked like a giant baked potato, but I didn’t care.

Just like the MC said, the challenge was indeed about camaraderie. I am grateful that I made three new friends who literally lent me a hand several times along the way, and cheered me on as one of their own. Thank you, Kelsey, Randy and Trevor!   

The Tough Mudder Full was my second big healthy comeback goal for 2017 and my first Tough Mudder event ever. My aim was to finish the challenge in under four hours. I am proud to share that my trio and I completed it in a little over 3 hours and I am now an official Tough Mudder Legionnaire!

The third big healthy comeback goal I set for the year is six weeks away. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures as I attempt my first triathlon, the VA Momentum SUPTri in Bridgewater, VA, on July 29! 

Since the age of eight, I have continuously been presented with challenges in which I needed to be fearless to overcome. That’s how I came up with the theme of living a fearless life for my adventure blog. Each time I felt like I couldn’t make it through yet another life test, I learned that I am stronger than I thought, especially with the loyal support of others.

THANK YOU to my family, friends, community and business sponsors OrthoVirginia, Westfields Dental and Flyte Fitness for continuing to believe in me!

OrthoVirginiaWestfields Dental

Back in the Saddle Again

40th Anniversary TD Five Boro Bike Tour, New York City
40 Miles
5 Boros [Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island]
4 Bridges [The Madison Avenue Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, Pulaski Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge]
1 Day
0 Cars
32,000 Cyclists From 43 Countries
Bib #10492

For the past 40 years on the first Sunday in May, riders from every state in the nation and around the world descend upon NYC for a bicycling experience unlike any other, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. I found out about the event through my friend Marisa’s Facebook post. Intrigued, I looked it up online and immediately registered for the event after reading the description!

I completed some Spartan challenges, 5K, and 10K races, but never a bike race. This event went beyond the first-time aspect for me. Last summer, on June 29, I flipped off my bicycle and was pinned under it when I hit a camouflaged raised gravel section on a path. I got major road rash down the entire right side of my body and broke my right wrist. A kind-hearted stranger named Gigi picked me up and took me to an Urgent Care. In July, I was put back together by Dr. Daniel Laino, who permanently screwed a titanium plate to my wrist. I then attended regular Occupational Therapy sessions with Karen Popovich, an amazing certified hand specialist at Ortho Virginia.

In February of that same year, I had half of my body cut open for another surgery. I was determined to make a comeback from these two surgeries instead of allowing them to bring me down. I set three major fitness goals for 2017. It seemed fitting that the first event involved cycling. My family and friends were not thrilled by this news, but they supported me none the less because THEY ARE AWESOME. I trained the best I could leading up to the race, fitting short and long bike rides in whenever possible. I also kept up on all the Bike New York Facebook posts and email updates.

I was very nervous going into the event. I had just passed the one-year mark for the first surgery and it had only been 10 months since my wrist surgery. Was I in over my head? Would it be painful? Would I be able to successfully complete all 40 miles?

No. A little. Yes!

I was placed in the first wave of cyclists, which was ideal. I could feel my body shaking as I approached the starting location. I asked a stranger in front of me named Alyssa to take a photo of me for posterity because I’m horrible at selfies. We started sharing brief background stories and the conversation helped to put me at ease. It was Alyssa’s second time doing the bike event. She turned out to be one the coolest people I have ever met! We stuck with each other throughout the race and she would give me heads-ups about what was coming. Aware of my health journey, the fact that it was my first bike race, and my first visit to NYC outside of the Times Square area, Alyssa insisted that I stop at a few key points to take photos for my Instagram collection.

The TD Five Boro Bike Tour was my first big healthy comeback goal for 2017 and my first bike event ever. My aim was just to complete the event, although, in my mind, I hoped to finish it in four to five hours. I am proud to share that I completed it in 3 hours and 40 minutes!

Event Fun Facts:

  • You are required by law to use a bike bell when riding in NYC.
  • Whenever we crossed into a borough people from that area would shout with pride,”What up Brooklyn!”, etc.  Alyssa is from Queens, so when we approached her borough I joined her in an enthusiastic shout-out.
  • People would yell and point “water bottle”, “bike chain” “pothole” in an effort to save someone from getting into an accident. Surprisingly, there were a lot of random water bottles scattered along the route. A seasoned racer told me that it’s common for people to knock their water bottles out of the holders.

The second big healthy comeback goal I set for the year is fast approaching. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures as I attempt my first Tough Mudder Full taking place at one of the top toughest venues, Whistler, BC, on June 17!

No one is truly an island unto themselves on the path to success. These names may not resonate with you, but I could not achieve my goals without the emotional and financial support of Alicia, Jenny, Rita, Gigi, Aunt Linda, Gina, Chad, Beverly, Lito, Angela, Marisa, Tonya, Linda, Robert, John, Melissa, Kim and my first-ever business sponsors OrthoVirginia, Westfields Dental and Flyte Fitness. THANK YOU for believing in me!

OrthoVirginia

Westfields Dental

Tote-Worthy

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Get your very own limited edition #galOTgo reusable tote bag for only $10 (+shipping for out-of-state)! It’s the hottest accessory this spring/summer!  😉  I am selling the bags to raise funds for big races I am participating in as part of my healthy comeback, and to promote women to live fearless lives through my galOTgo brand!

I was training for a Spartan Trifecta weekend, then, in 2016, things took a turn and I underwent two major surgeries that caused me limited mobility. I felt helpless and depressed. My best friend Jenny encouraged me to turn my mindset around by setting new physical goals. I picked three major races to focus on and have worked very hard to rebuild my strength and mobility through occupational therapy and yoga classes. I found mental strength along the way through my community who are pillars of support and keep me motivated.

The classic black tote has the hashtag on one side and makes for a fun conversation piece as people try to decode it like a personalized license plate. The bag is 12×12.75×8 with an 18″ carry strap and removable plastic bottom insert. The bag is great for:

  • workout clothes
  • beach gear
  • diaper bag items
  • shoes
  • groceries
  • and more!

I keep reusable bags in the trunk of my car and on my coat rack at home for use on the go!

NOTE: If you are local I will deliver bags to you directly; if you live outside of the Northern Virginia area I will ship bags to you. To place an order, please email me at galOTgo@gmail.com

Thank you!

‘Burst’ing With Talent

My friend Jaxon made a bold move to follow his passion and change careers from working in a cube to working behind a camera. I participated in the fitness section of his portfolio. It was a blast! Photos by Kelohimography

“Don’t let a win go to your head, or a loss go to your heart. Keep the faith and trust in the process, put the work in and your time will come.” – Brooks Laich (my fav athlete because of his talent as a hockey player and his life values)

Determination and Gratitude

2016, to say the least, was a year filled with medical drama for me. I underwent major surgery in February and was looking forward to recovery so that I could stay on track with my goal to participate in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August. Six months later I was nearing recovery and got into a bicycle accident. I broke my wrist, along with major road rash and bruises. My years of training for and participating in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August were officially dashed.

Through my bicycle accident, I was connected with Dr. Laino, an accomplished hand surgeon at OrthoVirginia. He implanted a permanent titanium plate and five screws in my wrist. Then, like the passing of an Olympic baton, Karen Popovich, an amazing physical therapist, took over my care in thrice-weekly PT sessions. She provided me with consistent mental and physical support that resulted in me thriving at a positive rate.

Recovering from two significant surgeries within months of each other can take an emotional toll on a person. I went through a brief period of self-pity until my friend Jenny gave me some tough love reminding me that my situation wasn’t permanent, and for that reason, I should feel lucky. I quickly adjusted my defeatism mentality and set new goals for 2017. I became fueled with a desire to reasonably beat the recovery periods for the surgeries and come out on the other end equally strong, if not, stronger. I read an email that Spartan was holding a once-in-a-lifetime race event in Cuba on March 18, 2017, open to only 1,000 participants. The opportunity intrigued me for many reasons. The March date seemed like a reasonable amount of time for me to prepare and aim to get back in challenge race mode. I submitted my application for the sprint and I am happy to share that I made the cut as one of the 1,000 racers! I shared my good news with Dr. Laino and Karen and asked for their medical approval, which they provided.

Next, I have to secure benefactors to cover the more than $3,500 in race expenses (race registration, airfare, hotel, etc.). I started a GoFundMe account and my friends have been very supportive (special shout-outs to Rita, Jenny and Alicia). I also need the help of business-level sponsors. I thought about how OrthoVirginia had a key role in building me back up after my accident and what a great sponsor they would make, so I reached out to them for support. Their director of marketing just notified me that they will be making a contribution! I am very grateful to OrthoVirginia and I look forward to them being part of my race experience in Cuba.

I have reached about $1,000 of my fundraising goal so far. If you or a business you know of are willing to join OrthoVirginia in sponsoring me, please contact me at galOTgo or you can make a direct donation through my GoFundMe account https://www.gofundme.com/galotgo.

I hope to make my friends and sponsors proud in March. More importantly, I am determined to show that when life presents you with challenge after challenge, you may need to keep readjusting your goals, BUT never give up on them!

SPONSORS: Contact me to have your company’s name and logo added!

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