This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Sofia Rodriguez.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I think it’s safe to say that I am VERY passionate not only about fitness and health, but also helping other people in general. If you individually asked people close to me to describe me, across the board without knowing each other, they would say ambitious, driven, compassionate and someone who NEVER gives up. Growing up in a military setting and always moving around,
I was able to connect with people from all cultures and walks of life, making me well rounded and open to new experiences. I was always involved in sports my entire life, playing soccer, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, competitive cheerleading and even long distance running at one point.
After graduating college, I dove into bodybuilding and did many competitions in the bikini division. My friends even at a young age would call me the “trainer” of the group, because I constantly wanted to learn and knew a lot about exercise and fitness. It was in college where I formally studied fitness and the actually science of exercise and nutrition. But honestly, since I can remember I have been that “fit” person who had a niche for health and wellness.
Today, you hold a Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Kinesiology & Psychology – how important is ongoing education for you?
It is no secret that I have always been a nerd at heart. Even though I used to deny it, I LOVE to learn. And this isn’t exclusive to fitness and health. I truly believe the will and want to keep learning throughout your life continues to sharpen your mind and fulfill your soul. So ongoing education, whether formal or not, is vital to finding purpose and meaning to your life.
What about those who do not share an educational background and technical training that you’ve gone through over the years – how do you feel they should begin educating themselves around health and fitness.
Start with a role model, advisor or mentor that you look up to and admire. In addition to my formal education and training, I can remember many mentors I turned to when I was unsure or had questions. You would be surprised how much they want to help you, even if they do not know you all that well.
Chances are they have been where you are and want you to avoid their mistakes and save you time. With that, they may guide you to information, people to contact or a certain path that you should follow (classes, events, schools, programs, etc). Otherwise, research credible sources because there is a lot of false information out there that may mislead you. Apply to a program or certification, depending on what interests you the most. Again though, this all leads back to having a good mentor that knows exactly what you need.
Besides your degrees – you also have a lot of practical training as you’ve been working with clients for nearly a decade now – what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned there in contrast to your quote unquote traditional education?
Now I have nearly a decade of formal training under my belt! What I’ve learned is there are some things a book or class or test simply cannot teach you! Working with people has really helped me become more personable, outgoing and flexible as a person. I’ve learned how to deal with difficult, negative and very strange situations in a positive and professional manner. This only takes time and practice, and newbies should realize to be patient in order to sharpen their people skills. I do realize that everyone starts somewhere, trust me!
You’ve also competed in the NPC and practice what you preach – when did you decide to compete and if you had to point out a single area where you feel you’ve grown the most – what would it be?
I no longer compete, however I still practice bodybuilding, as it is a lifelong sport and there are always areas you can improve in. The strength you develop and changes in your physique from lifting is amazing and translates to aiding in life experiences.
You wrote to me that you were very timid and shy growing up, lacked confidence and let people walk over you – tell me a little bit about that time in your life?
Yes, I was very timid and shy at a young age lacking any confidence whatsoever. Let’s just say I was a “yes man,” never saying no or standing up for myself. Most of the time, I would not voice my opinion for avoiding conflict, even if I disagreed with everyone around me. I would internalize all of these feelings and overtime, that really took a toll on me mentally.
That self-doubt and uncertainty got reinforced as you went through an emotionally abusive relationship – how did you break free from that and what advice would you give to those who recognize themselves as being in such a situation?
Because I was mentally WEAK, I did let a person who was poison into my life when I was younger. I think one day it just clicked. I woke up and decided I would no longer tolerate someone like this to share my time, energy or love any longer.
My advice to any woman or man dealing with a similar situation is to realize your worth and don’t be scared to reach out for help. Sometimes we don’t even realize the damage and hurt that an individual is causing us. But sometimes it does take time to wake up and take that bold step to walk away. Have a good support system to help you through the tough times.
Learning to accept and love yourself both inside and out is one of the hardest things you’ve had to battle with – what has been the most difficult aspect of it and how are you dealing with that today?
You know I am getting better each and every day. If you would have asked me 5 or even 3 years ago around the time I originally interviewed with you for Real Talk Real Women, and told me how I would be and feel today, I would have laughed at you.
I think my personality, how I grew up and how I held everything deep inside may have led to this issue in the first place. No matter how you look on the outside or what anyone else tells you, I have learned that it doesn’t matter if you do not appreciate and love yourself first.
You have to be ok with yourself in order for anything else to work in your life in a functioning and healthy manner and in order to be truly happy. I promise you once you can embrace yourself no matter what, everything else falls into place.
You attribute a lot of your personal growth to fitness and I loved how you wrote that you feel you’ve blossomed through it – what can you share around that?
Fitness has really saved me mentally. Without fitness, I have realized depression will set in for me. So in reality, fitness is my medicine. Other than it giving you a better outward physical appearance and muscles, fitness has given me mental strength. Without it, I do not know where I would be today.
I know you’re a big believer in dreaming big and have the phrase “Strength with no limits” as your motto – in closing, what would you say to those who doubt themselves and are afraid to dream big and hesitant to believe in themselves?
I was one of you, always doubted, never believed in myself and stuck in my safe little bubble. I would say stop being scared, do not doubt yourself as everything you could ever imagine is on the other side of that bubble, I promise you that. There is no such thing as failure or mistakes, so the worst thing that can happen to you is a life lesson and another chance to take a leap.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?