Donna Ognibene is a gymnast, marathon runner, middle school teacher, and actress. She has been professionally active in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years. Donna has been described as a world-class master trainer, passionate teacher, trusted advisor, empowering coach, curious learner, creative innovator, industry leader, and community advocate. While she is all that, her natural talent is in bringing out the best in people. Aside from her professional roles, Donna enjoys time with family, friends, good food, community events, the Boston arts/sports/entertainment scene, acting, writing, and international travel.
Donna knows too well the pain of being down in every aspect, which has led her into believing in the power of rising again. She shares her story of being exposed to risks so early in life and learning to deal with fear and challenges that came with it.
Listen in to this self-help podcast to learn how to look for the next big thing after your plans have been knocked down by unprecedented circumstances.
How has physical strength impacted her work and who she is?
She grew up in a family that encouraged both academics and athletics. Learning to use her body as well as her mind has shaped who she is and influenced her every choice. It compels her to keep at it whether its to get to a healthier place, to do something challenging, or to embrace fear.
Did she have a lot of exposure?
She was involved in gymnastics to senior year in college. She was injured when training and turned to bars even though it was something she did not like before. The lesson was no matter what sets you down, you have to look for the next best thing. She could have been a supporter of her fellow teammates or continue doing something else along the same lines.
Does she think being exposed to so much risk through gymnastics helped in her life?
She had a coach who was also a mentor that she wanted to perform for. The type of coach that doesn’t give up on you for a second and is always challenging you. She began interfacing with the world through gymnastics which is all about provoking potential and is probably why she respects how much it influences her work and how her work influences other people.
What is her story?
She moved to a different route after the injury and started in physical therapy school but wasn’t fulfilled due to her prior accident. She later decided to go into education which she combines to do all the things that she finds beautiful. She started running heavily and connecting with her body but got into an accident that has limited her from running as much as she used to.
What advice does she have for Anna who’s going to climb an equivalent of Mt. Everest?
The rule of threes says: always work with the foot, the hips, and the thoracic spine meaning you want to get mobilization around your ankle joints because that’s where all motions start when you move. Always find an extra resource you can draw from. Donna describes an exercise that gets you back into natural principles and how she’s using it with the swimmers she works with.
When did yoga come into her life?
She says she was the jack of all trades teaching so many different classes and started doing yoga instead of the Pilates because she couldn’t enjoy them. She felt comfortable with yoga and became a fan and is a huge believer in adding motion to it.
How life has forced her to see things differently even through injuries?
She has recently been telling her story which has made her realize that you can’t fight the flow. She has always had an option to keep moving and turn it into something. It is natural for people to want to retreat towards familiar. She is trying to talk more about the importance of keeping what we already have, keeping that foundation and continuing to learn, not necessarily looking for new answers but better fits instead. Just play around with the workout and find out what might be a better warm-up for you.
What’s the best advice she’s ever been given?
Never give up! It takes on a whole different meaning when you’re almost done and there’s almost no resource left inside of you.