Burnaby Fire Department Captain Rudy Pospisil Cycles to Raise Funds for Cancer Research
Our community team recently met Burnaby Fire Department Captain and YYoga member Rudy Pospisil, who reached out to us with his story after reading our blog post about the benefits of yoga for cyclists. We sat down for a chat with Rudy as he prepares for a World Record cycling attempt in New Zealand later this month…!
YYoga: Rudy, tell us about your initiative and why you’re cycling around the world.
Rudy: It all started fifteen years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. Not so unusual for a firefighter (recent studies show that 69% of firefighters contract cancer). After my surgery, I wanted to raise funds for cancer research and promote presumptive cancer legislation for firefighters around the world.
I began by taking all my long service leaves to cycle 3,000km from Canada to Mexico, along the Pacific Coast. I was humbled to be joined by fellow firefighters and police cycling into Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Fundraisers were held in each city along the way. It was such a success that people persuaded me to keep on going. So I did.
YYoga: Any goals in mind for your journey?
Rudy: Since 2007, I have been cycling around the world to raise money for cancer research. This month I am crossing New Zealand from Bluff Lighthouse in Invercargill to Cape Reinga. As I work towards a Guinness record for cycling around the earth, I must use the same bike, travel in the same direction, cross the equator twice, complete 24,000 km and cross two antipodal places – one of which is New Zealand, my next stop! Additionally, I am trying to beat the world record for climbing the steepest street in the world, also in NZ.
YYoga: What keeps you going?
Rudy: Cancer has taken many of my friends. It took my mother and my father. My brother has beaten it twice. Just recently, cancer even took the life of my dog, who waited so patiently for me each time I was away. I am so proud to be a firefighter and meet all the great brothers and sisters around the world that support my journey. It is so humbling and inspiring to me. That’s why we all joined. To help others, whether on or off the job.
YYoga: Where else have your travels taken you?
Rudy: I cycled 5,000 km from Mexico across the USA to Florida. It was a tough journey. I was robbed, run off the road, encountered deadly snakes and scorpions, caught the edge of Hurricane Sandy and was even shot at! Once I reached the Atlantic Ocean I flew to the city of Porto in Portugal to start my journey across Europe.
From Portugal, I followed the 800 km pilgrimage trail, Camino de Santiago, across Spain. Then on to France, Germany, through Austria and all the way to Budapest, Hungary. I also covered the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Switzerland. As I neared Iran, the Canadian government warned me if I went into Iran I was on my own. Erring on the side of caution I flew to Thailand where I discovered yoga.
YYoga: How did you discover yoga?
Rudy: I got my first introduction to yoga when I cycled across Thailand last year and met other cyclists and yoga practitioners. Then I read a sports article that had athletes doing yoga to enhance their performance. It really interested me not only to possibly increase my performance but help with the stress in my occupation as a firefighter.
YYoga: How long have you been practicing?
Rudy: I’ve been practicing about 3 months. I started with videos because I wanted to be ready for classes and felt slightly intimidated by being the only guy sometimes. Then I went to community centres and found that some instructors were hard to understand and did not get into much detail about positioning. I could already see the benefits in my performance so I decided to try a very reputable yoga class and joined YYoga. The difference was amazing and I am hooked.
YYoga: What are the biggest benefits you see in your life from yoga?
I tried to explain it to the guys at the fire station in the simplest terms. I said I was like a car running strong with a good engine, but I felt like it needed better stability, so doing yoga was like the right amount of air in all the tires, and now I’m running as smooth as a Swiss watch. It lowers my stress, blood pressure and heart rate and improves my balance, flexibility and range of motion. The hill I am training on for my world record attempt is the steepest in the lower mainland, it's a 28% grade and without a doubt due to yoga my strength stability and recovery has dramatically improved.
YYoga: What is your favourite yoga style?
Rudy: I really enjoy the flow yoga and the hot yoga I have been going to in the Kitsilano location. In many countries I ride across very hot deserts and this is excellent training. I find the heat soothing. I love the child's pose best and hope to use this before a big climb or throughout my long days on the road.
YYoga: Do you think yoga can change the world?
Rudy: That's a very deep but interesting question. When I crossed Thailand I found the people to be among the poorest but happiest, most peaceful people I have met. I could not figure out why until I stayed with some Buddhist Monks. I learned about Buddhism, their mediation, and their thoughts about how to find true happiness and it being the key to a fulfilling life. The Monks practice yoga because it enhances their breathing for meditation. Yoga, essentially, I feel is a type of meditation in motion. So the answer is yes, as it's already been proven to me in Thailand it can make the world a much less violent, happier place for us all to live in.
If my cancer ever returns and takes my life, I know I did the best I could to move research ahead and hopefully one day find a cure for this terrible disease. Please keep an eye out for me as I travel your beautiful country. Feel free to drop me a line and I’ll never say no to someone offering a meal or a beer.
YYoga: How can our blog readers support your cause or contact you directly?
Rudy: Feel free to share my story with friends, and follow my journey on my website where you can personally donate to the charities I am supporting. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and my riding schedule is below!
November 28 – Balclutha
December 4 – Christchurch - Rolleston station
December 8 – Wellington NHQ
December 13 – Hunterville
December 19 – Auckland Airport
December 21 – Kawakawa