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Hernando neighbors | Sonja Scali, 66

Spring Hill personal trainer focuses on wellness inside and out

Sonja Scali has a pilot’s license, is a personal trainer and gives lectures in her role as a holistic lifestyle coach. In addition, she started an organic food co-op and tends her own garden.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Sonja Scali has a pilot’s license, is a personal trainer and gives lectures in her role as a holistic lifestyle coach. In addition, she started an organic food co-op and tends her own garden.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

We moved to Spring Hill last September. We moved from New York to Pasco County in 2000.

Who are the members of your family?

My husband, Michael, and we have two children.

Our daughter, Michalann "Mikee" Thompson, 45, is a resource officer at Oviedo High school in Winter Springs. She has two children and two stepchildren: Lisa Thompson, Nicholas BonGiorno (who is in the Air Force), David Thompson (who is in the Navy) and Matthew BonGiorno. She and her family moved here from New York about three years ago. She has been a police officer for 15 years.

My son, Darrin Scali, 43, is an NYPD police officer, and he has two children: Sabrina and Devin. He'll be retiring in 2010 with 20 years on the force.

Tell us about your career.

When I was young, I danced classical ballet, which eventually helped me in my current career. I married Michael at age 19, after I had stopped dancing. After the children arrived, I began to explore new activities to help keep them busy.

The children began horseback riding, which I began to find myself very interesting, so I began riding. I specialized in dressage and entered equestrian shows. Dressage is when horse and rider perform specific movements (such as sideway trots) and you're judged on the horse's obedience.

After raising my children and helping my husband with his business, I found myself waking up one morning fat and 40. I joined a women's workout club and started doing cardio workouts. The classes were taught by young girls, and I realized, with all my dance background and experience, that I could do that and more. The club was looking for instructors, so I applied and was hired.

After a time, I moved on to a different club; it was coed and I taught aerobics to both men and women. But after watching the men in the weight room, I thought, I'd like to personally hire a trainer to help me get in better shape. Working a full-time job, I told the trainer I would only have one hour a week to train. Three-and-a-half months later, I was delighted with the transformation. After a year, I decided I wanted to become a trainer. I could see the benefit in it for women especially. I now have six national certifications.

Then, in my 50s, while working at a local restaurant, I remember telling one of my customers that my cousin, who was a pilot, had been taking me up flying and that I loved it. He asked me if I knew how to land. I said no and asked why. He said, "What if something happens to your cousin during a flight?" I hadn't thought of that. But soon after, I began taking flying lessons. Two years later, in 1996, I earned my pilot's license.

In 2000, we moved to Florida. After testing out a few other jobs that I didn't like, I started at Shapes Total Fitness for Women in Port Richey. I started as the operations manager, and now I'm training and assisting the managers. I've been there now for six years.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

Outside of the club, I and three other trainers became holistic lifestyle coaches with the Chek Institute in San Diego. We will be going in December to continue our studies.

What we do is help get people well from the inside out. Growing organic food (in my own garden) became one of my passions, and it helped me get the family healthy. I'm not an expert, but I learn something new every day. The four of us also do lectures and personal lifestyle coaching outside of the club.

I also started my own organic food co-op for folks interested in eating healthy. It's local, seasonal food. I also purchase beef, grass-fed cows, from a local farm in Brooksville. A half a cow can last my family for months. I think of it this way: If God didn't make it, you don't eat it. If you can't read it, you don't buy it.

Do you have any special hobbies?

With my gardening and working full time, there is no time for hobbies.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

My husband and I love to ride bicycles at Anderson Snow Park, and we also love to do the fitness stations at Veterans Memorial Park. Both parks are close to the house. I love the water park at Weeki Wachee Springs, and we love spending time with our pets. My husband has a motorcycle, and we both enjoy riding, too.

We love the landscaping of Hernando County. Houses are spread out, which allows us to have a nice big garden. It reminds me a lot of Long Island. I also think there is plenty of great shopping here.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

My husband and I are perfectly happy with the way Hernando County is right now.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

When I was 18 years old and dancing ballet, the government of Brazil held auditions for some new global dance-off contest they were holding. They began looking for contestants with the big dance companies. But at the time, the big companies were in full swing and had begun their summer programs and performances. The companies couldn't spare any dancers.

So they went to the dance schools and auditioned. I was selected and represented the United States. The trip lasted three weeks, and they paid for everything. Out of 25 countries, I came in seventh. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I'll never forget it.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Spring Hill personal trainer focuses on wellness inside and out 05/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 12:24pm]

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