Zwift Academy is a community of fun-loving, competitive women from all corners of the globe. They are moms, daughters, doctors, lawyers, caretakers, entrepreneurs, bosses, and more, who remarkably balance training with all of life's responsibilities.
Each week, we'll tell one rider's story to uncover a little bit more of the motivations and personalities behind this inspiring group of women.
For Emilia Jeskova, cycling alias Ivanna Hawtrod, Zwift Academy is more than a map to fitness, it's a road to recovery. Originally from Slovakia and now living in Vancouver, BC, Emilia is an ER nurse who ended up in her own emergency medical situation. She credits Zwift Academy for getting her life back on track. Here's her story...
Why did you join Zwift Academy?
I joined ZA completely randomly. I just started to do a graded exercise program through spinning and Zwift for few months. Then I saw Zwift Academy and signed up, hoping to make it my structured recovery program.
How has your training impacted your life so far?
Zwift gave me my life back and made me believe I can do anything. Last year, one week before the Whistler Fondo, a 122km ride that I trained so hard for, I was involved in a serious accident. Biking home from work on a beautiful summer evening, I was hit from behind by an SUV and run over 2 times. The bright lights I remember were the car's headlights and thankfully not "the other side." It resulted in many critical injuries, 2 months of almost complete immobility and a very long road to recovery that continues today. To this day, I have no idea how I managed to survive this.
As I spent many days staring into the ceiling in excruciating pain, I could not imagine a life without being physically active. I figured I had to give it ALL I HAVE and try to get my fitness back. I was on a stationary bike for easy spins before I could even walk. Then my boyfriend showed me Zwift! The timing of Zwift Academy was perfect for me.
What do you do when you’re not riding your bike?
I have always enjoyed running 1/2 marathons and I've done an occasional sprint distance triathlon (always skipped the biking part back then). I've also done long overnight hikes, camping with heavy backpacks, ballroom dancing, snowboarding, downhill skiing, backcountry skiing and even snow camping. I’m an emergency nurse and I worked in 2 very busy hospitals. It's a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. I try to get outdoors as much as possible after those long, gruelling 12 hour shifts.
I’m building up my strength with Zwift Academy and trying to return to my baseline fitness. I also have the goal of getting back to baseline weight, as I’m still sporting 10 pounds extra. I want to return to work full time. I also want to complete the Whistler Fondo again. I really want to get strong enough to run, hike, and ski again.
I believe the Zwift Academy conditioning has jumpstarted the possibility of returning to these activities. It's given me the mental and physical strength I need to help me achieve my goals.
I would like to thank Zwift for opening the Zwift Academy to everyone who wanted to join. It has played a tremendous role on my road to recovery and I will be forever grateful that I could participate.
Cyclists have to replace a lot of calories. What’s your favorite post ride treat?
Protein milkshake, meat and potatoes or rice, fruit, salads. Homemade bean/rice balls and dried fruit during the long rides. Beer was my pain control. Now, I'm trying to make it a rule that I can only have one good beer and only after 100 km. At least until I ditch those 10 lb.
What’s one of your most memorable moments on a bike?
One day I was climbing on my MTB and I realized the climbing part was what I enjoyed the most. I got a road bike and started to climb anything and everything. I loved it. I did Ride to Conquer cancer, Cycle Oregon weekend and week ride, Triple crown (3 local mountains in Vancouver in one day), Mt. Constitution on Orca’s island, and Mt. Baker (I climbed this lump all the way to the top on foot, roped up and slept at high altitude). I do lots of local rides and events and I have joined the most of the local ride clubs. I also started to coach My First Fondo clinic to spread the joy of cycling. My partner and I had a goal to climb every mountain close by to expand our horizons further and further. I don’t wanna set my bar that high just yet as my situation has changed a bit, but I'll get there.
Where has your bike taken you, physically and mentally?
I have mostly trained myself. I set a goal and follow it, whether it's swimming, running or biking. Biking has taken me to new levels of exhaustion and exhilaration through long rides and climbing to the top of yet another mountain. It's made me believe I can do anything.
The Zwift Academy structured workouts did the thinking for me, so I just followed them the best I could. Before the accident, I loved climbing and it came easy to me. It's a work in progress right now.
I did notice that Zwift Academy workouts have brought out the sprint monster in me! I have no idea where this power is coming from! I’m curious to see where Zwift Academy will take me.
I would like to continue the workouts after the Zwift Academy is over and perhaps try the Hunter's Challenge.
Describe Zwift in 5 words
Interactive, Competitive, Structured, Engaging, Therapeutic