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Paseo Club Hero Greg Santilli: Athlete and social justice advocate

February 9th, 2024 | 5 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

Usually, the Paseo Club publishes informative and educational articles based on recent research and the latest trends. Today we will depart from that model to share a personal story about Paseo Club member and social justice advocate Greg Santilli.

Greg’s story is about how one person decided to get fit as an adult for the first time — and the incredible journey it took him on. We also learn how Greg’s mission in life to help others comes from his experience with hardship. 

Greg’s story is both educational and encouraging. We hope you enjoy reading this article about him.

Greg and Ann Santilli With Cezanne at Paseo Club Post WorkoutGetting off the couch and into a fitness class

Greg never felt like the sporty type. He was uncoordinated as a youth and rarely was involved in athletic activities. But after years of living an inactive life, he decided to do something about it. 

My fitness journey began in October 2015 when my wife encouraged me to join The Great Results program at the Paseo Club. I was overweight and leading a completely sedentary lifestyle. The Greatest Results program changed my life forever.”

Greg was 51 years old when he joined The Greatest Results. He went on to complete the program — not once, not twice, but thirteen times in a row between 2015 and 2018. 

Paseo Club mentors

Making changes in your lifestyle can be scary. It means trying new things, creating goals, and sometimes failing and having to get back on the proverbial horse.

As we age, this process is less and less enticing. But with the help of good friends and mentors, these changes can be a little less painful.

Greg found the instructors at the Paseo Club to be instrumental in learning how to change his habits. 

“(Fitness Director) Cezanne Youmazzo taught me how to cycle, and most importantly, that the key to finishing very challenging fitness events is ultimately all in your head. She also taught me how to properly recover from grueling fitness events by utilizing cryotherapy and getting stretched professionally. 

Other instructors taught me about endurance, how to have good form in lifting, and a great stretching technique to help with my lower back pain.”

Greg also sought advice about his diet. He tightened up areas that needed improvement and learned that one poor meal choice can completely negate a good workout.

Greg Santilli - Santa Monica Half Marathon January 2020Member community at the Paseo Club

Greg worked long days, but that did not deter him from making time to train. He joined a group known as the 5 am Warriors. 

Working out with other members — many whom were much more fit than Greg — did not discourage him. In fact, it had the opposite effect. He was inspired. 

“I saw so many other Paseo Club members who were in phenomenal physical shape. They seemed to be able to get through the grueling morning circuit workouts with ease. I remember looking at them and thinking, ‘I want to be just like them.’"

Greg’s first quadrathlon

One evening Greg met with his good friend (also Greg) for dinner. Over the meal, Greg (the friend) relayed his positive experiences in participating in quadrathlons. He was so enthusiastic that it got Greg thinking. By the end of the meal he decided he would do the next Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon with him.

After successfully completing the Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon in February 2018, Greg’s friend Greg suggested that they do their first triathlon — the beginner Hermosa Beach Triathlon in June 2018. 

And that is when Greg realized he needed to learn how to swim. 

Did he see that as an obstacle? Nope!

Greg was introduced to Jimmy of Paseo Aquatics and began swimming with Master’s Swim on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 4:45 am. Jimmy never gave up on the uncoordinated Greg, and Greg went on to participate in several more quad and triathlons.

He also lost 30 pounds, which he has been able to maintain for the last five years by eating clean, swimming, cycling, running, weight lifting and being disciplined.

Greg Santilli - Alcatraz Swim - July 2019The Fitness bug bit him — hard!

After completing the quadrathlon, Greg didn’t go back to a modest workout routine. Instead, he decided to up the ante. 

Here is his current training routine:

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: swim at the Paseo Club 3,200 to 3,500 yards (128 to 140 laps).  
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Live Cycle at Paseo or Peloton cycle at home, and/or a shorter run workout (e.g. five miles).  
  • Saturdays: long cycle workout on the Santa Clarita bike paths outside (40 to 70 miles), or Cezanne's amazing Saturday morning cycle workout at 8:30 am, or both.  
  • Sundays: 8-10 mile run on the Santa Clarita paseos or in Pacific Palisades — one of his favorite run venues. 

Greg’s competitions

Greg went on to participate in dozens of events over the years. Here is a compilation of his successes.

Marathons

  • Los Angeles - November 2021
  • Death Valley - February 2022
  • Los Angeles - March 2022
  • Cambridge, Maryland (as part of Ironman 140.6) - September 2022
  • Santa Monica - January 2023
  • Death Valley - February 2023
  • Death Valley - February 2024

Half Marathons

  • Various self-ran 1/2 marathons (2019 - 2023)
  • Santa Monica - A Better World Running - September 2019
  • Santa Monica - A Better World Running - January 2020
  • Rose Bowl Half Marathon - January 2023
  • Santa Monica - A Better World Running - December 2023

Greg Santilli - Post Broken Elbow in 2020 (1)Ironman Events

  • Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 - July 2019
  • Ironman Salem Oregon 70.3 - July 2021
  • Ironman La Quinta 70.3 - December 2021
  • Ironman Maryland 140.6 - September 2022 (Greg’s dream fitness event - a full Ironman)
  • Ironman Morro Bay 70.3 - May 2023
  • Ironman La Quinta 70.3 - December 2023

Quadrathlons 

  • Grants, New Mexico - February 2018
  • Grants, New Mexico - February 2019

Other

  • Paseo Club Best Fitness Transformation - Fall 2018
  • Alcatraz swim - July 2019

Not just a beast in the gym

When Greg lost his brother in 2005 to suicide, it was a pivotal moment in his life. He decided to dedicate his free time to volunteering for non-profit organizations that provide mental health resources to those in need. 

Since then, he has volunteered at Innovative Housing Opportunities, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Advisory Committee, and Saint Kateri Tekawitha Catholic Parish — to name a few.

His role as the Chief Financial Officer of Hillsides is also a huge part of his life because it is where he gets to engage in his greater purpose, “to forever (be) an advocate for social justice and the downtrodden.”

“Hillsides is an amazing non-profit organization based in Pasadena that is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families, and transforming communities through quality mental health and other comprehensive services and advocacy.”

Greg also uses his Facebook page to share about his fitness journey. He has found that by letting others know about his progress, he can benefit them.

“I use my Facebook page for positive communications only, most of which are focused on my fitness journey. I do this with the intent to inspire others to either start or continue to improve their fitness level. Several of my friends have commented that one of the reasons they have either started a fitness journey or have continued their fitness activities is partially due to my inspiring social media posts.”

Greg Santilli - Death Valley Marathon February 2022Becoming a part of the Paseo Club community

Fitness is essential for heart health, bone health, resistance to diabetes, and several other diseases. It also improves our feelings about how we look.

But working out isn’t just about getting into your favorite jeans or getting a new PR with your deadlift. Exercise is where we see our capacity for growth, resilience, and commitment — characteristics relevant to all aspects of our lives. 

Greg, and the hundreds of members like him, are what make the Paseo Club an amazing place. Greg is not just another awesome athlete. He is also a person dedicated to supporting others — making him an awesome human.

If you would like to meet and train with great Santa Clarita residents, come to the Paseo Club. Enjoy the camaraderie of other members, the guidance of instructors, and the support from our staff.

With over 60 fitness classes to choose from each week, plus tennis, pickleball, and swim facilities, you will find many things to enjoy.

View Athletic Calendar

The Paseo Club also provides a curated selection of amenities, including childcare, a cafe, executive locker rooms, and a full-service spa.

Come to the Paseo Club. It's your home away from home. Schedule a tour today.

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Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!