Rachel Tavel: Following the Ola

I've always loved a good sweat-fest, but my deeper connection to the health and wellness world began when I joined the crew team in college. I spent most of college waking up at 5am to row under the Maine sunrise. I competed as a lightweight rower until I injured my back during my senior spring while carrying a heavy boat down a frosty dock. It was then that I discovered physical therapy. 

I instantly realized a desire to learn more about becoming a PT, but found out I had none of the 12 pre-requisite courses needed to apply to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs. I also had a passion for food, travel and writing, and landed a dream job working at Food&Wine and Travel+Leisure magazines. So, I temporarily put aside the interest in healthcare to pursue travel writing. My travels eventually brought me around the world, and eventually to Ecuador, where I worked and lived for 7 months. 

While I was there, my interest in healthcare only grew. After some incredible adventures, I quit my job working for a travel guidebook in Quito, moved back to NYC, took the GREs, applied to post-baccalaureate pre-med programs, and spent the next 5.5 yrs working non-stop towards my degree. I earned my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from NYU and am now working at an integrative, holistic health, wellness and movement studio in Downtown Brooklyn. 

While in grad school, I rediscovered running. I hadn't been able to run for 3 years because of a knee injury, but I "treated myself" and began running more than ever. It became my escape and my therapy during the most stressful experience of my life. Running has helped me challenge myself as a person and as a practitioner. Through it, I've met amazing, inspiring people and discovered new things about NYC and about myself. 

I've also learned about the power of group fitness. When I joined The Rise NYC during grad school, I realized how much joy could come from getting people together to sweat. I recently decided to launch my own website, combining my passions for travel and exploration with my newfound expertise in health and fitness. It's called "Ola" (http://followtheola.com). My goal is to create a sort of travel guide to health and wellness options in NYC. In doing so, I would love to bring attention to all the amazing workouts, products, and events run by like-minded people that are constantly happening in and around NYC. Ola is also about finding joy in the little things every day.

As much as I have always loved running, it has recently taken on a new role. Sadly, my dad passed away just before Thanksgiving of this year. I feel closest to him when I run, which has led me to want to run more than ever. I'm excited to take on my first marathon in 2018 and challenge my mind and body in new ways. 

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Because writing was my first love, I also freelance as a health/fitness/wellness writer, frequently contributing to the Huffington Post and Bustle. My goal is and always will be to LIVE THE DREAM, no matter what that dream is. Sometimes the dream changes, so you adapt. If I've learned anything about life, it's that there are always twists and turns. So, I'm just following the ola (Spanish for "wave") and riding it into the new and exciting unknown. I hope you will all join me!

Rachel Tavel is a National Fitness Day Ambassador. For more inspiration, NYC fitness recommendations, and "weekly happy" digests, follow her blog at followtheola.com!

Kim Bielak