Category Archives: GFNY

The Participation Continuum

The Participation Continuum

The participation continuum moves from general to specific, with most of us satisfied to simply participate which, after all, is usually a very big improvement over where we started!

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To move from outside the triangle to the lowest level (4) requires the most effort.  Forgetting the money for a second, that decision to change your life is the most difficult and should be the one you are most proud of.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is to simply begin moving when one weighs 125 kilos/270 pounds (yes I weighed that much, it took a lot of eating and drinking but somehow I managed); it requires the biggest investment of emotion and a massive change in lifestyle (no pun intended).  I speak in the context of weight + lifestyle changes because that is one of my experiences but any large step in a positive direction that takes you outside your comfort zone is something you should be proud of.

Now that you have taken the BIG STEP and are in the continuum, where would you like to be as it relates to your cycling practice?

Level 4 – has the largest percentage of cyclists; we are simply happy to be riding our bikes.  In my own case I was teaching an indoor cycling program called RPM.  I was helping my students get good results but wanted to be a better teacher so thought I ought to learn how to ride a road bike.  I was a strong indoor teacher and had trained  some of my students to be teachers as well but when I got on a road bike I had no clue – didn’t know where the gears were and when my little Polar speedometer hit 10 mph (I didn’t know about km back then either) my knees shook.  I may not have known where the gears were but man the brakes were my best friend!  My rides were solo and on my first ride to State Line when I got to the sign I looked ahead, it seemed to me that the cyclists were launching themselves off a cliff; I turned around and went home thinking “those people are crazy!”.

Level 3 – enter the group rides and the number of participants is smaller.  We find a group that we like to ride with and just get out there.  If we are lucky we learn the right habits although it is often hit or miss and unfortunately the teaching, although well-intended, is along the lines of “this is what I do”.  Of course if you find yourself in the wrong group…well, you know how it goes.  Still, you could remain at this level forever and have a great cycling experience – this level does not require a significant change in the resources you need to devote (unless you get caught up in the n+1 silliness, waste your money on the next ceramic nonsense, etc.).

(I write this in bold print because I believe it to be true, and I realize that it is self-serving:  invest your time and money in cycling education that will be specific to you and it will serve you for a lifetime.  Invest your money in “stuff” and you will continue to have more “stuff”.  Do what is best for you based on your own goals rather than impulse).    

I was lucky in that I had a built in group of indoor cyclists who I could (bother/coerce/convince/bribe/name it) to get a road bike and start riding.  We went of massive rides – some as far as Piermont from Ridgefield (NJ not CT)!  Madness!  Who knew we could ride from one State to another on the same day!

Level 2 – level up!  Again, the number of people in the triangle decreases as this requires a thoughtful allocation of resources (time, money, emotion) which many people cannot or will not make.  They are happy to remain at the group ride level.  In order to improve from the group rides phase to the next level of cycling one needs a teacher whose attention is on how to help the student improve.  Talking generalities to other cyclists and seeing what worked for those cyclists like the Stephen Covey analogy where Dr. Covey in his book “7 habits of Highly Effective People” asks if you would continue to visit an eye doctor who, when you sit in the chair to prepare for the exam hands you her eyeglasses and says “here, try these” and when they don’t work for you says “I don’t understand, those eyeglasses work for me!”.

Level 2 is where you invest in yourself to move from the general to the specific!  In addition to the group rides you will participate in events and camps, and you will be riding with a sense of purpose.  You don’t have to expect to finish first, but with coaching and a goal you will be riding with intent.  As in our everyday lives, living with intent gives us purpose and direction.

My experience was slightly different because I really enjoy teaching and I was able to further my cycling education by taking courses and seminars (I certified with Saris about 10 years ago) and was able to get my coaching license through USA Cycling.  I was leveling up to not only improve my own cycling through additional knowledge but mostly to be a better teacher and coach.

Most cyclists who want to improve from simple participation in group rides to a higher level of knowledge hire a coach so that they can continue building their own lives but at the same time participate, improve and benefit from their cycling practice (I had been teaching indoors, riding, developing new teachers and building my own knowledge and experience for 10 years prior to taking on coaching students for road cycling).  The idea of working with a teacher is to be able to move from general to specific – you invest some resources but don’t waste time with trial and error.  You learn and you grow and you live a better life with the guidance of your teacher.

Level 2 is a big step, almost as big as the one we make to become part of the continuum rather than remain outside the triangle.

Level 1.  This could be combined with Level 2, I could have simply used three level rather than 4, but I thought this needed an additional category.  Sign up for events with your friends and on your own to make new friends.  The people you meet at these events share your passion for cycling and before you know it you are learning about the world outside of the one in which you live.

Being part of GFNY has provided me the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people from every part of the world all while developing better relationships with our local cycling community – for that I cannot express enough gratitude.  Where else can you be laying on your couch at home in the 12th week of chemo, take a look at Facebook and see Uli doing a LIVE video letting everyone know that they imprinted 5,000 armbands with GFNY4VITO so that all the participants in 2016 could wear them to create a healing energy and spirit.

Positive change requires us to do something extraordinary.  Not all of us have an opportunity to play for the NY Giants and score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl but each of us have the opportunity to level up within the context of our own lives!

Thank you for reading.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst
Head Coach, GAVIA Cycling

For more information on how we can help you improve your cycling practice please visit us at GAVIA Cycling

 

The Leaf is Mightier than the Bike

Early morning training has always been mind clearing and one of the best possible ways to begin the day for me, so why not begin on November 1 (my nickname when I was younger was “Spock” – logic and orderly always worked for me).  We had finished closing the studio and taken care of most of the administrative obligations that go along with something like that a couple of weeks prior; it was time to begin our outdoor Gavia Cycling training!

I arranged to meet David at his home at 5:15 AM and when I got there we decided to do some easy hill repeats on Churchill – big ring of course.  It was a bit cool (but I was wearing my new GFNY jacket with an under layer – that was more than enough).  The first two rounds were uneventful, just took it easy on the way down and then up to the top; we decided on one more.  As I got near the bottom where the road winds to the left then right I saw a car making its way up and thought I would move over a bit more to my right in order to give him or her a wide berth, saw the pile of leaves I had already passed twice, knew that I would need to ride over the edge of the pile but clearly misjudged the depth at the edge and watched my front wheel move in a way that flashed “trouble!”.

“Vito – do you know where you are?”  “Yes, I am in an ambulance.”

“Do you know who you are with?”  “Yes, my friend David; we were doing hill repeats on Churchill.”

“OK great – we are taking you to the hospital now.”

..and so it went.  I don’t really remember the ride too well; I do remember that my wife was waiting for me at the hospital and that the staff brought me in to take some x-rays and CT scans then wheeled me into a room where I waited for the results.  I was a little bit more coherent. was able to speak normally, felt a little bit beat up but otherwise not too bad.

Results – broken clavicle, fractured rib and a concussion – an excellent start to the training season!  The ER doctor told me the clavicle would heal on its own and offered me a prescription for some painkillers which I kindly refused (twice!).  David, being my medical guardian angel referred me to an excellent orthopedic surgeon – Dr. Keller – (for the clavicle) as well as an internist (to check the rib fracture and anything else that might need looking at).  Dr. Keller performed the surgery early morning on the 9th, adding a titanium plate and 4 screws to fix the 4 breaks.  I had a follow up visit on the 17th, Dr. Keller removed the ends of the stitches (the rest of them dissolve on their own), let me know that I am a strong healer, cleared me to ride my trainer at home and also to get out on my bike as soon as I feel comfortable enough to handle my bike.

Consider how lucky I am.  I was riding with David who was able to call the ER at the hospital and also refer me to doctors who are at the top of their profession.  (David was not so lucky – he had to watch me crash in front of him,  had to get me out of the middle of the street, try to figure out how I was, ask me for my wife’s cell phone number and call her to let her know what happened, call an ambulance and then, adding insult to injury, had to walk home (UP Churchill) with both bikes!

I was wearing my GFNY Limar helmet; it took the brunt of the blow when I fell, clearly saving me from what could have been a lifelong disaster.  As I tell everyone – ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HELMET!  THE HIGH SPEED DESCENT ISN’T THE CONCERN, ITS THE LOCAL RIDE WHEN YOU ARE MOVING AT 20 KPH AND YOU HAVE A SILLY FALL THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER.  Guess what – this was that fall.

Modern medicine and having a friend like David.  I had a surgeon who is at the top of her profession.  I am sure there are others, but I was lucky to have Dr. Keller and all the support staff at Hackensack Hospital.

Last, and definitely not least, my wife Melanie without whom I would not be around today.  The last two years of medical issues have been a tremendous burden on her and yet, she smiles every day, takes care of me without complaint, manages to keep us moving forward in a sane way irrespective of the business issues I have created and simply believes in me and us.  Of all the unearned blessings and good fortune I have had in my life my wife is the biggest gift of all.

Ah yes, the title of the post.  A leaf, or a small grouping of leaves, changed my life for at least this month and perhaps a little bit longer.  I look at this as a warning – perhaps my ego was getting the best of me, perhaps I was not focusing on the human aspect of life as much as a should have been, perhaps I was not paying attention to the details as much as I should have been, perhaps I have not been as present as i should have been – I am not sure.  I am sure there is a lesson in here someplace – part of the lesson is taking the time to consider what happened and the lesson we can draw from it.

I am grateful for the kindness and generosity of spirit you all share with me – thank you.

Vito

(I expect to write more often, not sure that it will share well on social media; if you would like to read more inspiring cycling related stories please follow this blog).

 

Taking life for granted

We wake up every day with a certain set of expectations, that everything is firmly in place for our benefit; most of us don’t give it a second thought.  We are very spoiled in many ways – we have way more of anything and everything than we will ever need, and yet for many it isn’t enough.  Can it be?

What are your first 5 thoughts in the morning?  Do they include being grateful for being alive, grateful to be able to breathe clean air, eat fresh food, drink clean water and to have an abundance of family and friends?  This is part of living in the present moment; it is really the only moment available to us.  The past is gone, its only significance provided by our interpretation and the meaning we give it.  The future is a fiction.  And yet, how many of us are using our phone while we are in face to face with someone else OR how many of us are talking on the phone and working on the computer OR – my favorite – watching someone on the computer while on the phone AND talking to someone in front of them.

Is this progress?  Does this somehow make us significant?  Is this human connection?  Is there an opportunity for us to put down the phone and speak together; something good may come from it.

DeRosa factory photo

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Dedication to a goal

This Sunday, November 4, 2018, my wife Melanie is participating in the NYC Marathon – I am incredibly proud of her dedication and preparation and also to have been an supportive observer throughout her preparation.

Her commitment to begin ready to complete the NYC Marathon and her training for the event actually began in 2017.  In order to gain entry in the Marathon one can qualify by time (Melanie is a novice so that could not be for her first time), by lottery (we didn’t want to leave it up to chance), by paying a large sum of money (we would be happy to but cannot) OR via the 9 + 1 program, where one agrees to participate in 9 qualifying races and volunteer for the previous year’s event (that worked for us!).

EXCEPT – the ability to commit to participating came mid-year 2017, the choice of qualifying races was smaller, so we ended up participating in the Midnight Run (New Years’ Eve) in Central Park.  We were lucky, it was above zero, but just barely (it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit! – I don;t know how we did it but we got Aleksandra to run the 4 miles with us).

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And so it began.

The first half of the year was dedicated to running, participating in shorter events, cross training and some cycling; about 20 weeks ago Melanie began following a more specific plan, working with the running coaches available through NYRR.  She followed her plan, made changes on the way as required, ran early mornings in the neighborhood when necessary, ran in the park when possible, ran in Englewood Cliffs for shorter closed loops and went to Rockland Lake for the longer runs to avoid car traffic, kept building her mileage and then, 3 weeks ago, BAM – the 20 mile run!

She simply crushed it!

This is a link to a photo album with some older photos but most beginning 2017 into 2018 – it is an inspirational story – how the story started and where Melanie is today – ready to go!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/SQNkZMfgw6Y5aYh7A

If you would like to follow her race and send her some good vibes throughout the day, her bib number is 48826, she has a 10:40AM start.  My wife, although being one of the most alive people I have ever known, is somewhat private and will likely murdelize me for having written this paragraph however I believe when people do extraordinary things they are helped by an extraordinary community of people (we know that first hand – or I would not be writing this) – so I take the writing risk realizing that I may have placed myself in a state of impending doom – but, as the young people say, whatever!

More stories about our Gavia Warrior Tribe to follow!

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Vito

The Cycle of Collective Consciousness

First please allow me to say thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes I received last week; I turned 60 on August 29th (I share the same birthday as Michael Jackson, a person with an incredible amount of talent whose life was too short).  I made my best effort to write an individual thank you to each email and FB post (the number of people who took the time to wish me Happy Birthday was humbling to say the least) – if I missed you please accept my apology, it was not for lack of will or effort on my part, just bad eyesight!).  The collective effort each of you made on my behalf made me very happy – which brings me to the thought of collective consciousness.

In cycling and in life, individually we are strong and have tremendous potential, together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to and, just as significantly, help others as well.  I know this from my own experience with cancer in 2017.  Most of you know I was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer on Jan 11, 2017, had surgery to remove an almost 600 gram tumor on January 13, 2017 and began a 3 drug, 4 cycle chemo treatment on February 20, 2017.  The doctor described it as follows: “look at it like a really hard 12 round boxing match, with each round making you feel progressively worse to the point where you will struggle to get up for the 12th round.  Get up, keep going, and at the end of it hopefully you won’t be knocked out or dead”.

The collective support I received from people near and far was simply incredible and unearned.  My wife, my family, my in laws, our Gavia and GFNY Cycling communities, cyclists from all over the world – everyone wrote, called, texted, visited, sent small gifts with large meaning (consider that GFNY produced 5,000 arm bands that said “GFNY4Vito” for participants to wear during the race in May, that Gavia members took care of the studio, that my wife and in-laws made sure I got to the hospital for treatment when I could barely walk and that the good wishes from people I didn’t know all that well simply continued.  That accumulation of good wishes, that collective and conscious effort, is clearly what made the difference between living and dying.  When people say “you beat cancer” I correct them.  I did not beat anything, there was nothing for me to do except to simply accept the treatment I was given.  Its the collective good energy and spirit that supported me during my treatment that made the difference.

Each of us have the power to change our own world and the world around us through the use of positive collective consciousness; every thought, every effort, every gesture large or small matters.  We are one – like the ocean, we cannot tell where one wave ends and the other wave begins.  Even the waves that break onto the shoreline roll back and become part of the ocean again.

Each of us have the power to create positive change in the world; what will you do today?  What thoughts will you put out into the world?

Thanks again for all your kindness!

Vito

Cycling Mimics Life – Improvement Requires Faith, Preparation and Effort

“Hope is not a strategy” – Jerry Gallagher

It is important to remain present while knowing that, irrespective of current circumstances, the future will be phenomenal if you know that it will be and you put in the work.  Now.  If you believe that the miracle that is you has already been created without you having done anything at all then having faith in tomorrow is also possible for you.  Now that you are here you need to do your part, you need to begin, you need to show up, you need to create some positive energy and forward motion and have faith that if you do that to the best of your ability then you will create the life you want.  As Dr. Wayne Dyer said “you have to believe it before you see it”.  Life will always support you in a way that makes you right.  Fill your mind with all the reasons why you cannot accomplish something or dedicate your mind an energy toward accomplishing your goal; in the end one of those will come true for you.

We run into difficulty when we are not present, when we spend all our time and energy thinking and worrying about all the things we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we actually do have.  Yesterday is no longer here, it is old news.  We have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring.  We will create tomorrow by what we do and think and feel and believe today.

Having a plan and someone to talk to when the plan goes awry is fundamental to success.  Thankfully all plans go awry at some point, usually leading to some unimaginably phenomenal developments – if we could have imagined them they would have been part of the plan, we just didn’t know enough until the brick wall fell on us!  More often than not we give up or we start convincing ourselves that what we are striving for will not happen – the race won’t go well, the promotion won’t happen, the relationship is a mess, the business won’t work.  What if you directed your energy toward making sure, to the best of your ability, that the outcome you want is actually within your reach – that some faith, “preparation and effort” will provide you with a successful outcome, perhaps better than you thought?

Each of us and all of us have an unbreakable spirit which gets tested from time to time, perhaps more often than we would like.  We will never see that spirit or benefit from it if we do not know – not believe, know – it is there.  When students thank me for helping them improve or achieve one of their goals my response is always this “everything you need is inside you, if I helped you find it then I am happy but always remember, you did the work, you believed in yourself, you believed in your training and continued moving forward.”

The quality of our lives is directly related to how we view and interpret information and events.  This interpretation is typically filtered by prior experiences; we need to turn off that filter and start looking forward with some fresh eyes and an open heart or we will forever be stuck with yesterdays problems and issues.

Let me give you the example of a wide receiver for a football team and compare that to what you might describe as your successes and failures (these stats are public information):

Number of seasons  13
Number of total games  190
Number of offensive plays in a typical football game  60
Number of potential plays that could have involved this player  11,400
Number of times he was targeted for a pass/play  1,239
Number of receptions  668

The typical conversation many of us would have goes something like this:  “I only got picked 11% of the time (1,239 out of 11,400 possible times) and I didn’t catch it half the times (669 out of 1,239) the quarterback targeted me.”  This particular player knows that the two things in his control are his “preparation and effort” (that is a direct quote, you can read the article HERE ) and that by doing those two things he cannot guarantee, but he can absolutely influence, his outcome.   In order to prepare properly and make the best possible effort you must first believe, then know, that your outcome is available to you.  The Giants did not win the Super Bowl in January, 2001, they did not allow that “failure” to stop them from achieving their goal in 2008.

Reading this, this former pro is probably scratching his head saying ……(you will hear it for yourself if you tune in to our inaugural podcast next week with Amani Toomer).  Yes, these are the actual stats for Amani Toomer, All Pro wide receiver for the NY Giants, recognized as one of the greatest receivers of all time HERE, on the Super Bowl winning team in 2008 (after coming back from knee surgery).

Look for what is good, in people and in life; know that your success is there for you if you believe in yourself (Your Self) and are willing to move forward knowing that your opportunity is there for the taking – you will be pleasantly surprised at how your life changes for the positive.

 

Thoughts on Cycling

Cycling is a practice.  Like true martial arts, traditional yoga cycling, when accepted properly, becomes a process we can use when seeking to live our lives in the best possible way.  Study, train, and a participate with gratitude for having found something so special that it positively impacts every other aspect of our lives.

Start where you start and move forward from there.  This principle is never-ending, we do this on a daily basis.  Accept your staring point each day and simply do your best.  Keep  in mind that you can always do a little bit more than you think you can; don’t believe everything you think.

Craving more doesn’t help anyone.  Bigger, better, faster; the cycle of never-ending unhappiness with our current status – in our capabilities, our possessions, our abilities – leads to frustration on a daily basis.  The better way is to simply put in the work – the practice is what matters, results come from the practice and participation and remember this: there are absolutely no shortcuts.  None.  To anything or anywhere.  Shortcuts cause us to miss the process, and one way streets lead to dead ends.

Natural ability and predisposition to something that you live to do is one of the greatest gifts; it is so sad to see people waster their gifts and talents because they get caught up in the story and forget that they have to practice.  Such a waste.  The conversation about how fast the last group ride was, which new trinket to buy today, not knowing which bike to ride today – and for what?  The never ending search for happiness when in fact we already have everything we need to be happy.  Seek knowledge rather than things; the intangible is always more valuable than the tangible because the intangible cannot be easily replicated.  A bike is a bike, a saddle is a saddle and a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes; what differentiates one from another is the heart and soul of the creator.

Quiet your mind, sit with your thoughts and feelings, accept your challenges as growth experiences; if you are reading this then no matter how difficult you might think things are for you, you are more than likely better off than 90% of the world’s population – take a minute and consider how good we all have it.

Then start your day with an attitude of gratitude and see what kind of day you have.

Practice patience with yourself and others, don’t be so quick to judge yourself or others.  Trust yourself, don’t let fear and ego dictate the quality and direction of your life – or your cycling practice.

 

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