Born in Cape Breton Nova Scotia, I grew up surrounded by beauty and quickly grew to love the outdoors. I graduated from Acadia University with a Kinesiology Degree, followed by my Education Degree and finally my Master’s in Educational Leadership. For the past 15 years, I have been in the education system holding various roles which include high school math teacher, Department Head, Elementary Principal, Summer School Principal, WQSB Math Consultant and motivational speaker.
I have two beautiful children, ages 8 and 9, as well as a wonderful, supportive husband. Like many other families, we work hard at managing our busy schedules while at the same time finding that much needed balance with family time. Keeping active is a priority in our household. My husband, Ray Gingras, is an avid mountain biker and has instilled this passion in our family. Often, we visit various campsites looking for new trails to explore on our bikes and by foot. Some of our favourite places to travel are Colorado and Utah, where there are some awesome mountain bike trails!
During my high school and university years, I suffered from an eating disorder and resulting depression that lasted over 5 years. With therapy and the support of loved ones, I was able to recover and regain control of my life. As a result of this experience, I know first hand how important positive mental health is to our overall well being. I firmly believe that healthy lifestyles and the celebration of our bodies’ natural shapes and sizes need to be addressed and promoted within the schools as part of an overall awareness of mental health issues. It is for these reasons that I developed my own motivational presentation around Positive Mental Health, presenting at various schools in the Ottawa and Toronto areas.
The presentation uses my experience with depression and an eating disorder as a platform for a discussion around how using negative coping mechanisms (i.e. disordered eating, bullying, overplaying strengths, alcoholism and avoidance) to handle stress can lead to mental health issues. Topics surrounding eating disorders, self esteem, negative coping mechanisms, bullying and positive self talk are explored as I share intimate details and expose myself emotionally by being forthright about my thoughts, feelings and attitudes – something that is still difficult for me to openly share.
Obviously, I firmly believe that positive mental health is at the core of a happy life. For this reason, in September 2015, I organized a Virginia Vs Bruce adventure which raised money for Positive Mental Health in youth ($18,000). I ran the Bruce Trail End to End (900km) in just 13 days, 6 hours and 28 minutes, securing the fasted known women’s time. To learn more about this adventure (pics, videos and blogs) click here or the Virginia Vs Bruce tab on this website.
Positive mental health is something we all need. Learning how to identify our negative coping mechanisms and substitute them for positive coping mechanisms is key. Personally, trail running is one of those positive coping mechanisms. Trail running gives me peace. I love the feeling of “floating” and feel free in the wilderness. I am just “me” on the trails – not a mom, teacher, wife or number in a line. I find it very therapeutic. As I explore different trails and challenge myself for new feats, I always feel energized and alive. What makes you feel alive?
As a fitness instructor and outdoor enthusiast, I love all aspects of health and fitness. Competing in various road, trail and mountain bike events over the past 15 years have challenged me both mentally as well as physically. In 2013, I ran the Boston Marathon and like many other people, was greatly impacted by the tragic events that took place that day at the finish line. My husband and I walked away from the marathon physically unharmed, but emotionally impacted for life. Our goals for our family life were reinvented. Our dreams became plans and eventually actions we made a priority to put in place. I gave up road running and changed my focus to trail running and began “ultra marathons” (anything 50 km or over for distance). It ignited a spark inside me and my next fitness challenge began to mold: running the Bruce Trail end-to-end in support of Positive Mental Health (click on the Virginia Vs Bruce tab above to learn more). Well this dream became a reality – I did it! I now hold the fastest known time for a female to complete the entire Bruce Trail – 900 km in 13 days, 6 hours and 28 minutes in September 2015 and raised over $18000 for Positive Mental Health for Youth in the process (NOTE – this record was recently broken by Chantal Warriner In July 2017. Well done Chantal!)
The picture below shows me finishing. I will never forget this day as long as I live. In this moment I felt so many emotions. My face shows what I was thinking. I am loved. I am supported. I am very capable. I am good enough just the way I am. That is what the 900 km (21.5 marathons) in over 13 days did for me. What’s your next challenge going to do for you?
Below is information regarding some events (not all) I took part in. I hope to continue to add to this list as my family and I navigate our lives, always focusing on thriving – not just surviving!