Interview: #9: “Choose Your Hard!”

Raquel is one of those people you’re inspired by the moment you meet her.  I have done most of these interviews on the phone but because she’s in Canada we decided to do a Skype interview.  This girl’s energy lit up my computer screen!  She’s motivated, compassionate and without a doubt a leader in the fitness industry!

Raquel is from a town just outside of Toronto, Canada.  She is a personal trainer and co-owner of a fitness studio called Cornell Performance Academy which she started with her boyfriend Mike.  The two of them are dedicated to helping others with their fitness and it’s working!

Fitness has always been the center of Raquel’s life but it wasn’t always sunshine and roses.  From the age of 8 Raquel played competitive sports and won numerous awards for her skills in track and field.  It was part of her culture.  She grew up making sure she ate the proper meals and took really good care of her body because her body was her vehicle.  She seemed to always win!  She was also very active in basketball and was ranked in the top 10.  She was looking at a scholarship to the states to play when she tore her ACL, MCL, meniscus and broke a bone in one leg.  Ouch!  It just so happened that right after this injury she was asked to play at a recruiting camp in the states in 1 year.  Knowing that it would take her a year to heal and recover she took the opportunity to play.  

It was her dream to play in the states and after 6 moths into recovery she made the decision to hop on the plane and play.  She went to the recruiting camp and started playing.  She was doing really well, but in the last game of a tournament she got pinned in between two girls and tore her ACL again for the third time.  That was the end of her athletic career.  Her doctors told her she would never run or play again.  She found herself sinking into depression because she had lost her identity.  Her whole life was wrapped in sports and in a moment that door was shut.  

I remember after breaking my foot the doctors telling me I would never run or lift again.  I remember telling the doctor “well that won’t work, I’m a trainer!”  His response was, “You need to pick a new profession then…”  I was devastated.  I remember going home and drowning my sorrows in Fat Tire beer and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  I had to make the personal decision to let the words of the doctor shape the rest of my life or work even harder to get back to where I was before the accident.  “The medical industry puts a lot of negativity in your mind,” Raquel said as we shared our doctor stories.  It can either completely take over your mindset or you can use it as motivation.  Raquel and I decided to prove them wrong!  And we did.  

After her injury she started getting into training.  She had a lot of hope taken away from her and a lot of “I can’t” floating through her head.  She realized her goals and passion was bigger than her I can’t and so she created a motto that she lives by daily:  “I can’t means I will eventually be able to…”    And she has lived into that mantra ever since.  After 3 years as a trainer her leg has never been stronger.  And she’s back to winning awards but this time for her training and bootcamps!  “It was the best decision I’ve ever made!” She says talking about becoming a trainer!  

She is helping others work through the exact same doubts and fears she had after her injury!  She helps them eliminate their self doubt and is helping them build character by building their bodies.  “It’s never going to be easy, either way it’s going to be hard.  It’s going to be hard if you do and it’s going to be hard if you don’t.  So you have to choose which hard you want to live with!”  She chose to work through the temporary pain in order to come out stronger on the other end.

I asked if she had any self-limiting beliefs as she was crushing the track and court.  “Oh I definitely did!” She said referring to how she was a very late bloomer compared to her friends.  “I was always very thin and skinny and kids can be very cruel.  They find some way to make fun of you,” she said.  It was really hard for her to be that thin, in fact she wore many layers in order to appear “thicker” and her frame got her a lot of questioning looks in sports.  No one ever took her seriously because of the way she looked.  It wasn’t until they saw her play that they gave her the credit she deserved.  So when she was injured and her way of showing the world what she was capable of vanished, those self limiting thoughts crept back in.  

“You know, people always say ‘you’re so lucky’ {referring to her body} but I work hard!  Skinny is not a look, it’s something you’re born with.  Fit, lean and healthy is a body you want to live into.”  I remember looking at my girlfriends at all stages of life and being so envious of their small frames.  It never occurred to me that they might not be thrilled with their bodies either.  She had a lot of friends who dealt with anorexia and she constantly saw women beating themselves up.   That is something she had a challenge with as well so she knew she had to flip the script around and start focusing on not just training but the emotional and mental changes as well.  “What I realized is above more than the physical change it’s the mental change that comes with it.  If you’re not happy with who you are now, you’ll never be happy. You have to be happy with where you are and how far you’ve come!  We have to learn how to accept and love ourselves.”  I feel like I could end this blog post right there!  Drop the mic Raquel :)

We have to learn how to love ourselves at every stage of our physical journey. If we leave out the joy and only focus on the pain, the struggle, and how SLOW the process is…we’ll quit.  When we can’t celebrate the victories on and off the scale then we will continue to live in a caged mentality where we become resigned to our circumstances and down right bitter.  “Fake it til you make it!” Raquel says about breaking your old habits and creating new rituals in your life!  “Rituals are more positive than habits and you keep them for longer” she shares.  “You have to stop the old relationship that you have with yourself and create a new one!”  I challenge you to ask yourself what kind of relationship do you have with yourself?  Is it time for you to create a new one?  If so, what’s stopping you? 

What I loved most about Raquel is she is a trainer with heart and smart!  She’s not there to just make you sweat and send you on your way.  She wants to empower and educate you on WHY she is having you do each move.  Raquel and Mike feel like that educational component is the missing link in client’s success so they tailor their training style to be all about the education.  When there is no education clients can have unrealistic goals.  They want their clients to be successful so they educate them along the way!

I always love hearing other trainer’s tips and advice.  So I asked Raquel to share her go-to trainer tips:

  1. Choose your hard!  It’s going to be hard if you do and if you don’t. Either way, it’s going to be hard.  So choose which hard you want to live with.
  2. Never, never, never give up. No dream is impossible!  It just takes consistent and persistent effort to get there.
  3. Stop saying sorry!  You’re going at your pace don’t feel like you have to be sorry.
  4. Write down your daily goals.  It doesn’t have to be crazy big but write down how you are going to get closer to that each day.
  5. Put positive thoughts into everything you do!  Do everything with a purpose!  

And to close I asked her to share her advice to the person who has decided that today is the day they are going to start!  “It’s never going to be easy.  At every phase you are going to continue to challenge yourself.  Today is the first day of a new journey and all you can do is grow.”

Like Raquel said, your journey will be hard, no matter where you are because you’ll continue to challenge yourself.  So if that’s our reality then we might as well make it fun.  Inspired by Raquel, I came up with a little “recipe” for your success.  

Success Recipe:

In 1 big pot of failures mix 3 cups joy + 7 spoonfuls of consistency + a dash of confidence and handfuls of enthusiasm.  Keep stirring and let it simmer for a LONG time!  

If you bring the joy and confidence consistently over time with enthusiasm you will create one hell of a successful life!

Thank you for taking the time to engage in my 9th interview of inspiring women!  Please feel free to share your comments, feelings and send this to a friend you think would benefit from reading this!  If you want me to interview someone you find incredibly inspiring, I would be truly honored to meet them! This is a journey that has no parameters or rules!  Let’s have fun with it and continue to spread the message of empowerment, love and kindness - to ourselves and others!

You can follow Raquel on Instagram @RaquelRakovac and @rockbodyfit