95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Powerful Women Let's Talk - 050: Gina Otterbein

Gina Otterbein
Gina Otterbein

Gina Otterbein's career path has provided great experience and leadership opportunities. She has been a Physical Therapist and leader throughout her career, creating space and support especially for female leaders.  She has finishing medals from 3 Ironmans and 2 Boston marathons. Gina shares her journey with us today on Powerful Women: Let's Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:

Intro:  Produced by women about women. Powerful women. Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.
Shelly Irwin: Gina Otterbein’s Career path has provided great experience and leadership opportunities. She's been a physical therapist and leader throughout her career, creating space and support, especially for female leaders. On her mantle, You'll also find finishing metals from 3 iron mans and 2 Boston Marathons. So, we welcome you, Gina, to this edition of powerful women. Let's talk hi Gina.
Gina Otterbein: Hello Thank you.
Shelly Irwin: So, will you do Boston a 3rd time.
Gina Otterbein: I will. I was qualified to do it in 19. But then it got deferred to this year. My daughter is getting married next year. So, I decided now take a year off, but I will do it again.
Shelly Irwin: Why Is that a big deal? Why should I even ask that?
Gina Otterbein: it is just such an amazing race there that the community comes out and it's just the feeling that you get is just amazing. It's just that experience of its all about the runners for just that one day and all shapes and sizes. And it's just such a community.
Shelly Irwin: is the journey to qualify for Boston?
Gina Otterbein: There is a journey to it, and I like the journey, the best like I think that's what I love about training in the training is the fun part. I mean, I love the races as well. But I love doing that training journey whichever it is, whether it's for Sprint or for a longer race.
Shelly Irwin: You have certainly an incentive because you know how the body works with training physiologically. Anatomically, how did you come to study physical therapy for a career.
Gina Otterbein: So physical therapy wasn't my first choice. My sister is a physical therapist. So, I thought, well, I can't do that. My sister's a physical therapist. But then I thought that's really what I want to do, and I love working with people. And it was like that great combination. So, Julie ended up really being like a mentor for me. Like, you know, she's not only my big sister but someone that I look up to. Even, you know, today
Shelly Irwin: have either of you been each other's bosses.
Gina Otterbein: She works with me. Yeah. She's one of the directors at us at our offices at ivy
Shelly Irwin: wonderful. Tell us a little bit about ivy and in the journey that you've taken to get there.
Gina Otterbein: Sure. So, Janice and I owned northern physical therapy and we partnered with Ivy rehab in 2017. So, prior to that. We own the business and grow it and saw some great leaders, you know, progress through and then we just were at a spot where if we're going to grow more, we needed a partner and we joined with them. And I think that's a cool thing is seeing more of my teammates be able to go on and do different things.
Shelly Irwin:  Where does management come into play. There are less hands on with your patients Was that OK for you.
Gina Otterbein: So, I think it is OK for me because it's hard for me to do a lot of patient care and be the best version of the leader that I want to be. So, I will treat patients occasionally. But my focus is leadership, leadership development. I moved out of operations into leadership training and development. Just recently
Shelly Irwin: your passion is to create the space and support for leaders, especially female leaders expand upon that.
Gina Otterbein: So, it's just like my inspiration right now is, you know, I met the maybe the latter half of my career in looking at I want to see women thrive and grow in leadership. It's not always easy because it whether you choose to have children in your life changes a little bit, or there's just are obstacles that maybe some other people might not experience. And I just I think people got to be bond together. Women need to be able to talk about the things that are difficult for them because then they can feel. That it's OK and that they can move forward.
Shelly Irwin:  Are you proactive and see leadership talents in someone and invite them to the table or how does it work? How do you get younger or other women involved?
Gina Otterbein: I think looking for high potential people is something that we look at that people that have that something in them that looks like they're going to be able to lead. They might not have all the skill set yet, but they have that vulnerability and that authenticity and that ability to sort of bring people together to move them forward to engage teammates. So, you know, if they have that and they have that energy, then they're going to move forward.
Shelly Irwin: you’ve Used the word teammates a couple times. Gina is that your leadership style?
Gina Otterbein: Yes, yes, and actually it's funny. I started using the acronym. You know, you have your family, you have your “framily”, your friends, family. So, I started calling it my “teamily” your teammate family and It stuck. I didn't even know everybody was joking about it. So, it's important because I think we are collaboratively all working together.
Shelly Irwin:  And you are in a business that is service-oriented. How does leadership work knowing that you have staffers who truly care about people in wanting to help others get better?
Gina Otterbein: I think we're very lucky in the profession that we're in because we get to help people even when we inflict pain on them, you know so and so it's just this team. You know, we need to have empathy for patients but also for teammates because just this year has been a great experience. It's been hard to work all the way through the last 15 months and there's been some really rough points. But we just pull together, and I think that's our a realness has, you know, help to stay strong leaders and help our teammates.
Shelly Irwin: Any pet peeves. You have of patients that don't want to do Their exercises maybe?
Gina Otterbein: I think I have been a patient myself and I've been just as noncompliant as some of my patients. So, I try to put myself in where they're at. In that space and do the best that I can.
So, and sometimes I have to push them along a little bit.
Shelly Irwin: Yes. So, when did the athlete Otterbein  progression to an iron man begin?

Gina Otterbein:. So, I was trying to think back to the exact years. But I think probably 12 or 13 years ago I had a dog, and I couldn't run with that dog. And so, I started walking and then started running slowly. And I remember I was with one of my coworkers and she was walking a 5 K. And I said I may as well be running. You're walking so fast. And so, my part, my running partner for years. We've gradually just did more 5 K and 10 K half and then 25 K and then got into a triathlon.
Shelly Irwin: So really only 12 years ago.
Gina Otterbein: Yeah.
Shelly Irwin: Is when this journey starts.
Gina Otterbein: Yeah. And triathlon. I started in 2014. And actually, you were there on the shore. And I was nervous, and I was a newbie.
Shelly Irwin: It's not about me. But anything that we can do because I think I was jumping in as well. Back to this journey, then how do you make a decision to do an iron man. What does that even mean.
Gina Otterbein: So, the iron man distance is definitely a longer distance. So, it's knowing that you're going to be out there for, you know, 11-12, hours.
Shelly Irwin: Give me the distance for someone who needs to know that.
Gina Otterbein: So, it's 2 plus mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and then 26 mile run or walk depending on where you're feeling.
Shelly Irwin: So, what was it like to cross the finish line of the first iron man.
Gina Otterbein: It was awesome. I love the journey of it of the training loved the event. There are painful spots. No doubt when it's really dark. But finishing is like amazing to think that you did that. And what's more inspiring to me was coming back to the finish line and watching people. You know that had you know, we're out there to midnight and we all had the same effort finish the same distance and that was inspiring to see the winners come back out to.
Shelly Irwin: You know, the strength and resiliency or the challenges we place upon our bodies ..is it good for our body to push ourselves this way?
Gina Otterbein: I think you need to be smart as a physical therapist. I'm probably less aggressive than somebody else and the training. I think the biggest thing is resting. You know, we have we tend to want to keep going and we don't Rest. So, part of that whole process is that resting in recovery.
So, you know, it's that balancing act of the training and the rest.
Shelly Irwin: Where does the mental part come in?

Gina Otterbein:. That's huge too I think it's a mental game. I think that that's what triathletes taught me, and I've learned so much like you need to stay laser focus and when it's bad, it's going to be bad. But you going to get through it. And there's something joyful on the other side. So, I think that's the biggest part is being confident that you're going to do your best and you just going to try it. You might not make it, but you're going to go on.
Shelly Irwin: Does it carry over into your other lives, your work life, your family life. When life throws you lemons. Are you able to? Focus then.
Gina Otterbein: I believe so. I I'm a messy person and have not focused always. So, I think that learning that I focus in triathlon that way, then I say, well, I can do this, but and being present. So being president in triathlon is the biggest thing and same thing in life. You know, best version of myself as when I'm actually present.
Shelly Irwin: Powerful woman as messy… hard to hear you say that. But we all know ourselves. I'll have a little fun with you. In addition to probably coming back and talking more about physical, mental challenges. What about this RV trip you took?
Gina Otterbein: So, our “framily”, our best friends. We took an RV trip to Yellowstone, maybe 10 years ago and we were in the sheep horn mountains and just having a good time and going downhill at like an 8% grade. And our brakes went out. And so, we got stopped. But we're in the sheep horn mountains. We have 3 different cell phone coverage plans. None of the phones work. So, we finally have a someone come and pick us up. We all get down. It was interesting.
Shelly Irwin: I've got to fill in the blank. Your brakes. Failed. But what happened in between?
Gina Otterbein: It was just like, well, there might have been some words that we can't repeat, and we just got stopped in and it was amazing. And then we just got help. And there's a lot more to it. But we have what we had to rent a suburban. That was the only car we called scrappy it didn't have air conditioning there like it was just interesting. So, everything that could go wrong went wrong. But that's what made it so memorable. That was so fun.
Shelly Irwin: What does this mean that you are directionally sense impaired.
Gina Otterbein: I get lost all the time. I remember when GPS first came out and my co-workers gave me one because they were sick of me calling and saying I'm not sure where I'm at, so I don't know if I just lose my focus and then I am not sure where I am at But yeah, I get lost.
Shelly Irwin: You get lost, but we find your way.
Gina Otterbein: I find my way around.
Shelly Irwin: Where is your happy place and should we all have one. Gina.
Gina Otterbein: So, for me, my happy place is a as a physical place for some people. It might not be a physical place, but it's silver Lake. I grew up there with my family's spending summers at Silver Lake in upper silver Lake. So, there's the sunset over the sand dunes. That's just beautiful. And I think it is important because over the years, if I've been a super stress, sometimes that visualization of being there helps me, you know, sort of recenter and focus.
Shelly Irwin: Back to your day job, maybe even more treating patients. How do you motivate your patients to cross their own finish lines, when sometimes there doesn't seem to be a silver lining in in rehab.
Gina Otterbein: I think it's just trying to find out what's important to them like what's there. Why and trying to understand where they're at so that we can find the goal that will work for them…these huge finish lines. They are these small winds that pivot of when they make that AHA moment where you might not be pain-free. It might not be a 100%, but they make that change where they're going to be able to do that next step. And I just try to be a coach, quite a bit of the time.
Shelly Irwin: You in the Healthcare field deemed heroes in this year of covid. How did the team work with the job still needed to be done.
Gina Otterbein: It was intense. It was difficult because we're in a kind of in between space. We're not hospital base, but we're outpatient. So, making that decision to stay open for the patients that what needed the care and we had people that were like thank you for being open. At the same time. It was really hard for teammates because, you know, we didn't know what was going on. So, our team was amazing. And we had just a strong group leader. We ended up meeting like daily, you know, to prepare progress on what's going on. You know what I mean. And it was amazing. I hope we're through it.
Shelly Irwin: In a world Gina where many are obese. Many continue with unhealthy habits. How do we best stay healthy?
Gina Otterbein:  It's that balance that combination of staying with movement like moving. It doesn't have to be a specific sport or exercise but movement I think is important in the less we moved then it's easier to not move. I think there's always a nutritional component to it. But I think it's that mindset to of trying to be the best version of yourself and what you can do to impact that.
Shelly Irwin: What is the state of physical therapy today. We will always need your help, won't we.
Gina Otterbein: I hope everyone will need my help I certainly think that it makes a big difference. I wouldn't be able to do what I do. Athletically without having that access.
Shelly Irwin: What are you reading now?

Gina Otterbein:  I kept several books. But I think I'm spending a lot of time in coaching for performance. It's a coaching in a performance high-performance culture type thing. We're spending a lot of time on that training. Some of our teammates. And then quite honestly, I'm  listening to a podcast called the Bible in a year. And that's been really interesting to take it step by step by step. So along with other books.
Shelly Irwin: Where are you now? Which chapter.

Gina Otterbein: Well, it's kind of set up differently where we're still some of the Old Testament. And then there's pieces in the New Testament. But it's been really interesting to look at it in a different way than when say when I was a kid looking reading through It.
Shelly Irwin: is faith part of your world.
Gina Otterbein: It is. It is like my favorite mantra is faith over fear and there's so many ways to look at that. But it's really become something that is really important to me, and I think is helping me stay grounded.
Shelly Irwin:  So just before you enter that water. It's faith over fear, faith over fear next time I see you a bit at this and saying, you know, what do you say to one who was inspired by you that wants to take up some of your habits.
Gina Otterbein: What I say to them, I say go for it and have fun with that. it's something that you find that gives you joy or fun and go for it. And if you need help talk to people because it's a community like I would have that day with you there in 2014. I remember that moment. And so, then I try to at that same race this year. I talked to a couple people. I always try to talk to a couple new patients. New people and say, hey, you know, it is spreading that around.
Shelly Irwin: It's called paying it forward. Gina Otterbein Thank you very much. Will there be another iron man in your life?
Gina Otterbein: There will be not this year. But I will definitely start training again. I don't know where yet.
Shelly Irwin: love your confidence. And again, the journey. Thank you very much. Gina Otterbein Your career path has provided great experience and leadership opportunities touching a lot of lives through therapy practice and more on. what you are all about.  Belong,  serve others through your company with Ivy rehab
Gina Otterbein: Yeah. Our values just we resonate with them and talk about daily. That's just really important for us.
Shelly Irwin: All right. Stay safe, be healthy. Gina Otterbein thank you for this conversation.
Gina Otterbein: Thank you.
Shelly Irwin: And thank you for listening to this edition of powerful women. Let's talk I am Shelly Irwin.
>> Produced by women about women these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live.
Want to hear more powerful women.
Let's talk get additional interviews at WGVU dot org. or
wherever you get your podcast.
Yes, please rate and subscribe powerful women.
Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU its underwriters for Grand Valley State University.


Related Content