Danielle Rodriguez, CrossFit PAX Athlete of the Week, is pictured above (bottom left) with her friends from the Bunker after competing in the Festivus Games last fall. In January 2014, a very tentative Danielle and her mother, Mary Beth, started Fundamentals with the “New Years Resolution” crew. Just over one year later Danielle and Mary Beth are still consistently coming to class, fueling their body with nutritious food, and making steady progress toward their goals. Danielle has been to class over 250 times, participated in the Festivus Games, CrossFit Open, Barbells for Boobs, and done her first 5K run. What makes Danielle’s story so inspirational is that she has overcome so much in that year both in and out of the gym and continues to prioritize her health. She has changed so many habits in one year, but has done so in a healthy and steady way. She still enjoys eating at restaurants and takes rest days 2-3 times a week. She has started a challenging new job in Washington D.C., and yet nothing has stopped her from making progress. She is down nearly one hundred pounds since starting and has seen many health improvements. She is stronger and has much improved endurance, flexibility, and speed. Danielle is a fighter, and has been a friend and encouragement to many at the Bunker. We are very proud of her, not only for the personal records she consistently puts up, but for continuing to get out of her comfort zone.
Why did you start?
I have always been the “bigger girl” among my group of friends, but I was still pretty involved in athletics in school. I played varsity tennis on my high school team, and have enjoyed golf and skiing for years. When I started college, my studies and volunteer work became my priorities and I worked out less and less. Adjusting to college life was a challenge for me, so I began to hate myself, especially the way I looked. By sophomore year, I was in a deep depression and reached my heaviest weight (nearly 400lbs). I was so depressed that I had to see therapists just to continue through college. I tried different weight loss plans with the help of my family, but I would always gain the weight back. I came home from college in December 2013 to complete an internship and my honor thesis, when my brother David mentioned CrossFit for the first time. He and his girlfriend had found more success in 3 months of CrossFit than 4 years at the Naval Academy. My mother and I agreed that we would try CrossFit for 3 months, so we signed up for the January 2014 fundamentals class.
What was it like starting out at CrossFit PAX?
I’ll be honest……I was utterly terrified when I first walked into the Bunker. I remember coming home crying after fundamentals because I didn’t think I could keep up with everyone else. Going from no physical activity to intensive workouts like CrossFit was frightening. However, my mother and I had to remind ourselves that we agreed to the 3 month trial run. Once completing fundamentals, I tried out different classes to see where I felt most comfortable. As I got to know more of the athletes at CrossFit PAX, I was able to open myself up and make some really great friends.
What has changed in your life since starting?
I have learned the importance of making my health a priority in my life. We only have one body, so we have to do the best we can to take care of it. Physically, I have been able to lose some weight. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but I will continue to make myself healthier. My doctor has been impressed with my progress, especially when it comes to my blood pressure. While it’s still on the higher end, it has dropped to the point that my doctor doesn’t want to place me on medication. Mentally, I have been able to better overcome my depression. I’ve become more confident in myself because I have been able to see what I’m capable of. CrossFit has the capability of showing people that there are no limitations. There are times where I have to scale my workouts, but I know that I am continuously making improvements.
How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?
Looking back, it’s hard to believe the things I used to eat. I formed some horrible eating habits while in college, including eating junk food and sweets on a daily basis. In addition, food served as my comfort when my depression hit me hard. It has been a slow process, but I have been able to learn how to make better choices. While at home, I have gotten much better at cooking, so we do not eat out nearly as much as we used to. My current eating habits consist of smaller meals throughout the day to keep myself going. I try to eat paleo often, relying on recipes from other athletes and Danielle Walker’s recipe books. I still enjoy going out to restaurants and trying new foods, but I am much more aware of what I’m putting into my body.
What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?
My entire CrossFit journey, so far, has been filled with so many accomplishments. I competed at the Festivus Games for the first time, along with other athletes from CrossFit Pax, and had a blast seeing everyone set PRs! I also completed my very first 5K with my mother, which is something I never thought I would do! Running is not my strong suit, but we are planning to complete a few more through the year. This year, I signed up to compete in the CrossFit Open for the first time. It’s a completely different experience because Dave Castro and the rest of CrossFit HQ designs these workouts to be both exciting and challenging. I never thought I would be competing with CrossFit, but I have found that this community thrives on supporting one another in competition. I am most proud of gaining back some of my confidence. I don’t feel intimidated when I go into other gyms because I’m only there to improve myself, not to prove anything to others.
What do you enjoy most about CrossFit PAX?
I’ve been very fortunate to meet all kinds of wonderful people at CrossFit PAX. It’s a fantastic feeling to have the support of your fellow athletes and coaches when you complete your workout. Just to give an example, Coach John was encouraging me to keep going as I struggled through my final round of burpees. He held up a sign that said “Smile :D”, and I couldn’t help my laugh a little. These are the kind of things that make CrossFit PAX special. It’s the feeling of acceptance and encouragement from those around you that brings you back again and again.
What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit?
Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by others (I know, easier said than done). You have to remind yourself that it’s YOUR journey, YOUR story. For those who want to lose weight with CrossFit, give it your all each and every workout. There will be challenges along the way, and there will be times where you want to give up. Stick with it and battle through the blood, sweat and tears. There are much bigger rewards that await on the other side.
Danielle, you are an inspiration. One step at a time and you will meet your goals!