How I Got This Body: After a Miscarriage, Her Personal Trainer Became Her Rock. Now, She’s Training Others to “Push Like Hell.”

Who: Fatima Rodriguez, 33, medical administrator and personal trainer at Sport&Health Northwest.
Lives: Woodbridge
Height: 5’5″
Start weight: 174 pounds
Current weight: 159 pounds
How long it took: Eight months and counting.

Turning point: I will never forget my state of mind when I walked into Onelife Fitness Woodbridge to ask for membership details. My husband had been working out on his own daily for at least six months and was feeling great. I needed to do something because I would wake up every single morning with knee pain, feeling like an 80-year-old woman. I couldn’t pick up my two-year-old.

Exercise: Deadlifts, squats, bench press, and pull ups. On three days, I do either HIIT (high-intensity interval training) programs or HIIT dance fitness.

Diet: I don’t limit myself much (life is all about being happy … some things make me happy so I don’t give them up). I changed most of my simple carbs for slow-digestible ones and switched some “light” products to full-fat. Alcohol has been almost 100 percent eradicated from my life. I cut down my soda intake to almost none (so maybe birthdays) and drink a lot more water. I increased my veggies. And, I always keep in mind why I started this whole process: my family.

Fave splurge: Steak and cheesecake.

How she’s stuck with her goals: My trainer, Benjamin Teves. Knowing he would know if I went to the gym or not was the hardest thing to face. He really cared for making my goals a priority and worked with me through every life crisis, even when I felt I was lost and just couldn’t do life anymore. He was there. He would look at me and would tell me “Fatima, you got this.” 

Newfound respect for her body: This is a tough one. I had a bad ankle injury last year on Labor Day. My orthopedic surgeon told me I wasn’t going to be able to lift or exercise for two to three months, and gave me a list of restrictions that flipped my newly-acquired active lifestyle 180 degrees. Then, one of the Sport&Health trainers reached out to me to just say hi and get well soon. I shared with him my frustration with the limitations and he suggested I focus on balance and stabilization. So I enrolled in a Certified Personal Training (CPT) course so that I could learn about the subject and understand my body, my injury, and how to work with it.

Late November, I was finally able to get back to the gym and train. I was super excited, but two weeks later I had a miscarriage. My world collapsed. I went into a depression, a really dark place and time in my life. I couldn’t find myself. Even though you can feel bad for someone who has lost a baby, unless you have gone through it yourself… It’s a pain that breaks your soul. It destroyed me.

But I had a trainer and stuck to my schedule. Every Tuesday. I’ll never forget one day, after so many sessions of failing my personal records, I failed at a number I was used to squatting, 165 pounds. I lost it. My whole world came down on me with that squat. I told my trainer I needed a minute, and went to walk around, trying to hold back tears and not look like a fool in the gym. When I walked back to him I tried to explain my failure. He said, “Come on. Put your gloves on.” I was also doing Muay Thai with him, and we went to punch the bag. All my energy went there, and then he walked me back to the squat rack. He looked at me and said, “You got this. Calm your mind. Just focus on your breathing, and when you’re ready, face that bar. Face that weight. Pick it up, go down, and get back up quickly. You have to get back up. Trust your body to do what it is supposed to. Push that ground away and get back up.”

At that very moment it all made sense. That line hit me: “Trust your body to do what it is intended to do. Push the ground away. Get back up.” I looked at myself with the bar on my back and it was like I was living my own metaphor. My barbell was life. If I could trust myself just one more time, if I could pick myself up from that deep in the ground and get back up…

I did.

My body is everything: my heart, my physical body, and my soul. I don’t just respect it—I love it.

Rodriguez with her Sport&Health client, Emily.

When my ankle healed, I shared with a really close “friend” of mine that I had stopped trying with the CPT course. Instead of encouraging me, she told me, “Well, you’re not cut out for that. Training is for people who have been lifting and working out for a while. You’re overweight and not fit enough.” Her dismissal lit a fire in me. With the support of my husband and one of my closest friends, I dove in. I walked into the testing center on April 3, finished the test in 45 minutes, got my results, went to my car, and took a deep breath. I looked at the paper. I saw my name and the first line: “Congratulations, Fatima.” I called my friend who had told me to get it done. She cried with me and then said, “Mama, don’t look back!”

My girlfriend encouraged me to post it on Facebook. The next day I went to a Sport&Health club to take my friend’s class. The Group Fitness Director looked at me and said, “I know you from Facebook. You just got certified. I need you!” By the end of the night I had sent my application. The next month, I ran into a general manger for another Sport&Health club who invited me to tour her club. I walked out with a job offer.

Here is when I had my moment of truth: Fitness changed my life. My trainer played an incredible role in this process. “Gym Life” saved me. How many more people are out there needing this? I knew I needed to help others in similar situations get better.

August 1 was my official first day as a part-time trainer. By October 1, I had 13 clients. I have added a few more since then and stand now with a pretty booked schedule. I love the fact that I get to make a difference in people’s lives. I can help.

Workout wisdom: Understand why you want to change. Literally go into a room alone. Stand in front of a mirror and be honest with yourself. Why do you want to change, really? Once you have that answer, take a deep breath and embrace it. It is okay to be where you are now. What do you have to lose? Push like hell.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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Kim Olsen

Kim Olsen ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Alexandria.