Gina Florio has a simple philosophy when it comes to getting the body and mind in shape. Move.
“There’s no wrong way to move the body,” Florio, a, weight loss coach in San Francisco, told Hayabusa. “There are so many different ways to move and get a sweat on. There’s so many options and everyone has different preferences, everyone likes something different. I would say find something you enjoy doing and just be consistent.”
It’s that philosophy that helped pull Florio from a dark place back in 2016.
To understand how Florio was delivered from depression, it’s important to explore how she formulated her philosophy in 2011 when she dedicated herself to yoga. It was almost religious. Over time, she became certified to teach yoga and began hosting workshops around the world, training both teachers and students. She was also heavy into CrossFit.
In November 2016, while living in Byron Bay, a picturesque, coastal community in southeast Australia, she stepped outside of her rental at the time to cook on the grill. In a flash, her life was hurled into a place she’d never imagined. The tank used to fuel the grill exploded.
It was so hard for me. It was my rock bottom.
“It knocked me out and completely burned the whole front side of my body,” she said. “My face, my neck, my arms. I was luckily wearing a pair of overalls so my legs and my chest were covered, but I had first and second-degree burns all over. A lot of my hair was gone, my eyebrows, my eyelashes were gone.”
As one would imagine, her path to recovery was arduous. Florio spent just a day in the hospital and was sent home with powerful painkillers and gauze. The pills kept the pain at bay, while the gauze was used to redress her wounds every few hours. She was away from family, but thankfully had built a close circle of friends who took care of her. Those injuries kept Florio bedridden for nearly a full week.
It was up to those friends to help her shower, dress and eat as she recovered.
“To feel what it's like to be totally incapacitated and to know what it's like to not be able to move your body and not be able to use the body we’ve been given, there are no words,” Florio said. “It was so hard for me. It was my rock bottom.
“I fell into a really dark hole and I even suffered from PTSD because the fire was such a traumatic experience that every time somebody would turn on the stove or if I heard a click, click, click sound, it would just take me back and I would freeze up. There were even some times I would find myself in a ball, fetal position, on the floor.”
During that time, she rarely left the house. Florio admits she felt there was no reason to live. Her body, which was accustomed to moving and exercising often, took on an additional 60 pounds, she said.
Her sense of self was lost.
In an attempt to get back to normalcy and create the healing light in her life, Florio returned to training. She went to the gym again. She started back running and began going to the beach to practice yoga.
“I did everything I could to just move the body,” she said. “The more that I moved and the more that I tried new things, the more I felt myself come alive again. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have the support system I did to get back on my feet and get back into training because I really think that training saved my life. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I wasn't able to get back into it.”
She began to come into her own again and a move to San Francisco in 2017 helped. There, her eating became healthier and she began to explore new forms of exercise. She discovered Ido Portal’s Movement Culture and animal flow. Movement is a way to use the body’s weight to help strengthen joints, increase mobility, prevent injuries, increase flexibility, and make the body more fluid while moving, among numerous other benefits.
“It’s a really interesting way to look at the body and what we’re capable of,” she said. “It’s everything from strength and flexibility and mobility to coordination and agility and even eyesight. Training our peripheral eyesight and things like that. It’s been a game changer for me. It’s really changed the way I think about fitness.”
That new way of thinking led Florio to incorporate boxing and Jiu Jitsu into her overall fitness plan. Each activity has become an incubator of sorts for a new level of inner strength.
“There was something really empowering to me about being able to throw a punch,” Florio said, chuckling moments later. “Especially as someone who deals with a lot of stress. There was definitely something there about being able to unleash aggression, any pent up stress and anger. As someone whose got a lot of work on their plate and a pretty full personal and social life, things can get pretty overwhelming and there was something really liberating about taking it all out on the bag. That’s what hooked me.”
Management of and the release of stress aren’t the sole benefits of combat fitness for Florio. Her level of awareness has elevated, which in turn has given different approach to life.
I just feel so much more confident and it lets me hold my head up high.
“It forces you to use your brain in a more complex way,” she said. “So now I'm able to see things differently and I approach things in more of a problem solving way. And I can look at a situation and see all the different ways out of it. All the different layers.
“That’s what we do in movement and that’s what we do in boxing, too. What are the ways that you can get out of a situation? What are the ways that you can attack? It just puts you in a completely different mindset and it really, really has given me a better sense of the hyper-aware connection between the mind and the body. What we do physically should never, ever be disconnected from the way that we think and process things. It’s all one.”
When it was time to select a pair of gloves for her boxing journey, Florio admitted there were several things about Hayabusa that appealed to her. In the past she used gloves that were too heavy and she needed something lighter. Hayabusa’s T3 Boxing Gloves provided that.
Then there was the company’s dedication to innovation and protection.
“I wanted a brand that it wasn’t about the show,” she said. “It wasn’t about the glitz and the glamour of getting a pair of boxing gloves. I wanted to find a pair of gloves that was coming from a legitimate brand that really understood combat sports. … [B]ut for me it was just finding a brand that was reliable and that when I get on the website it’s like, OK, these people are obviously dedicated to creating equipment for the sport and is trustworthy.”
She wants more people to start taking better care of their health and noticing for themselves the connection between mind and body. Go for a walk or find something active you enjoy, allowing the endorphins to override the stress brought on by the hormone cortisol.
Another key component in becoming healthier is to not allow what you see on social media to deter you from pursuing your own goals.
“Never be intimidated by the people that you see who may have been doing this longer because they started where you are too and you have everything that it takes to get to where they are,” she said.
Florio is adamant women should begin their journey into combat fitness. Whether it's boxing, kickboxing, Jiu Jitsu, anything. Her confidence has been amplified from the knowledge she has attained. It also helps she can easily defend herself if she needs to.
Just as the scars on her body have healed, so have the ones weighing on her emotionally.
“I just feel so much more confident,” she said, “and it lets me hold my head up high.”