July 1st, 2020 officially marks 13 years since Pongo Power first opened its doors. Plus! July 25th, 2020 is the day that I married my best friend, Richard Burst-Lazarus. I am so very grateful to everyone who helped make Pongo Power strong over the years. Richard Burst-Lazarus is one of those people. I met Richard two weeks before signing the lease for Pongo Power 5th Street. He's been on board, helping me to build it from day one.
This morning, as I watched the news about Texas, I remembered how we were doing in NYC just a few months ago. The refrigerator trucks, the hospitals being built in conference centers, the field hospital in Central Park; the lives lost and changed forever, have me humbled. This tragic course of events brings tears to my eyes. I am even more aware of how lucky one is, simply to receive the support necessary to survive this thing we call life.
Every day, I am grateful for the Pongo Power community. We are so blessed to be working together safely, through all of this. We are not only connecting to talk with one another about healing; we are exercising and moving around together on Zoom. We even make sure to exercise together during our Team Meeting once a month. This commitment to the preservation of life means everything to me. Thank you.
When I first established Pongo Power, I would not have guessed we'd be facing Covid-19 as we simultaneously honor 13 years of business. I definitely would not have imagined the possibility that we’d be training our clients from our homes, via video-conferencing.
A couple of months before the stay-at-home, I had reconnected with my best friend from 4th Grade, Cecilia Madison. Cecilia posted on Facebook that she could no longer support Equinox, because they were helping to fundraise for Trump. I reached out to see what she was looking for in a fitness company. Now, Cecilia trains with Marina Tishaninova, who is one of our amazing Medical Exercise Specialists. Cecilia provides leadership coaching to our management team, as barter for services. The two of us couldn't be happier with our results! Our friendship, the laughter we share, plus our barter for services is a perfect example of a relationship that I am so grateful for. This, coupled with Marina's excellent knowledge and ability to provide program design to Cecilia, is a gift born of a commitment to one another: to people.
Waking up in the face of death, 719,000+ lives lost, I am quite aware of my own commitment to wellness. I have found myself reassessing my own physical and mental health so I can only imagine that we are all doing so. We may think of ourselves as quick to adapt, and survivors; and yet being faced with a tragedy day after day has people considering what truly matters.
Myself, the personal trainers, and you; we have all had to re-envision what it means to be "together" during a pandemic. I am so grateful to and impressed by our team and clients as they have adapted to the changing times. While we love being together in our studios, we want every single person in our community to remain safe and well.
In order to keep me honest, I now workout with my dear friend, Néda Meier on Zoom, twice a week. I simply must hold myself accountable. I cannot skip my workout and expect that I'll squeeze some cardio and weights in at the studio after work. So every Wednesday and Friday morning, we workout! Néda was a client of ours for years, so she knows my favorite forms of exercise. We challenge and motivate one another, we do not give up on one another. If I'm late, or I forget Néda reminds me. She keeps me going. A workout saint, I am not.
When I look back at 2007 and the person who I was 13 years ago, what is most clear is that I was terrified. I was also prone to feeling disconnected as a small business owner. I worked so very hard on Pongo Power, and unless my best friend Richard was there, or my first client, Carol Oliver, I felt lonely. I found it challenging to even hiring the first two employees. For a full year there were only three of us, and what seemed like impossible rent to pay. Richard and Carol allowed me to be myself. They understood how hard it was. They built things with me and cleaned things with me.
When I think about my mindset at that time, as compared to my mindset entering COVID-19, the most vivid aspect is that although Coronavirus brought about the need to adapt, no matter what, we are navigating this as a team.
Today, we are 18 Pongo Power teammates strong, and it is meetings with my colleagues that have me feeling inspired, and actually happy, to adapt to the digital era. Reaching out to clients on the phone, and the conversations that we have, make me laugh and bring me joy. It is all of the people in our community that make Pongo Power tick, and I no longer feel so alone.
I have seen the level of commitment to wellbeing by all of you to be manifesting as so very strong. It's a strength that supports vulnerability. I am in awe of you all. It has pushed us to "think outside the box" and create a whole new experience for our trainers and clients alike.
I am looking forward to continuing to grow our online presence, because now, with Zoom personal training, we can help people with compromised immune systems who need exercise, but shouldn’t leave their homes. With Zoom, Pongo Power can now train clients globally and it is freeing to know that we no longer need to feel bound by time and space.
To continue on for the next 13 years, we have set the goal of joining the BLM movement and bringing the Pongo Power community to an even broader audience. SAVE THE DATE for Pongo Power's 13th Anniversary Party and Benefit on September 18th. The event will benefit the Okra Project, a Brooklyn-based organization that works to end food-scarcity in our Black Trans community. We know how important fueling the mind and body are, and we want to help make a difference in the lives of people who can benefit from greater support.
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Pongo, CEO & Founder
Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist, by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Barefoot Training Specialist by the Evidence Based Fitness Academy
Pre/Postnatal Certified by PRONatal
Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College with a major in psychology and a minor in education. Having studied psychology and education, in addition to kinetics and physiology, Elizabeth places a strong emphasis on lifestyle coordination when training clients and teaching proper form and technique.
Elizabeth was her 78-year-old father’s primary caretaker at the age of 29, after he suffered a stroke. As her dad recovered, she encouraged him to return to coaching Fencing, with the Long Island Swordsman. It was quite apparent how this improved his mood and his coordination. Simultaneously, Pongo signed up for her first New York City Marathon. This experience helped Elizabeth discover how important it is for everyone in life to be physical. She resigned from her corporate job in order to become a Certified Personal Trainer upon realizing that proper exercise prescription, truly saves & improves lives.
“I’ve always felt great joy when being physical. From learning how to ride a bike; or go downhill skiing with my Dad; to training for the NYC Marathon and the NYC Triathlon: I’ve elevated my spirits and improved my health through solid program design and exercise science. I take great pride in teaching other people how to cultivate that lifestyle, truly.”
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