A full time mom, psychotherapist and athlete, Lucero Rodríguez knows a thing or two about pushing her limits and achieving goals.
In our first personal story for “Nuestros Cuentos,” Rodríguez tells LatinoDr.org about her evolving journey of staying healthy and being a healthy role model for her daughter, Zoe, physically, mentally and spiritually.
When did you decide to start taking charge of your health and why?
I started exercising at age 13 at the local YMCA. I had been involved with sports such as martial arts and basketball. I also had asthma, which limited my physical abilities. When I first began to workout at this age it was for the wrong reasons, I wanted to lose weight to be accepted and not teased–to fit in.
As I grew into my teenage years, I discovered that I loved how I felt after a workout. Whether it was running, lifting, sparring or swimming, the feelings were always the same: confident, strong, accomplished, happy and empowered.
The benefits of taking charge of my health went beyond the physical strength I developed, it was mental and spiritual. Exercise became a strong coping mechanism for me– a refuge. I had proven to myself that if my mind believed I could do something, my body, in return, would follow.
I had been able to control my asthma by the time I was a sophomore in high school. In college I continued to exercise but with the pressures of college, an unhealthy romantic relationship, and family challenged me. I slowly began to develop unhealthy eating habits such as stress eating, and snacking at late hours while doing finals or long papers. I would often skip meals especially breakfast. After dealing with bad eating habits in college I decided to prioritize what I put in my body and actually enjoy what I did put in it.
While I began to take charge of my health at a young age, I believe that my true journey began in college. A person truly takes charge of their health when they are able to prioritize, manage and balance it with all the other many demands of life. We all have family, jobs, careers, friendships, and other activities we nurture, when we are able to do that and foster a healthy lifestyle, that’s when we are in charge.
However, like all things a healthy lifestyle is journey, it will have its ups and downs, its challenges, but like they say we just roll with the punches and do our best.
What is a day like in your life?
Busy! I have one full-time job and another part-time job, my daughter and training. Monday through Friday I usually get up at 4:30 a.m. to go for a run or for boot camp. I am done with my morning workout by 6:30 a.m. the latest.
I will go home get my daughter ready for her day whether it is spent with her father or her great-grandmother. We have breakfast around 8:30 a.m. I usually start work between 9 and 11 a.m. depending on location. I work 8-10 hours a day. I end my regular workday around 8 p.m.
If my daughter is asleep or with her father I will go for a second workout, running or boot camp. If I am fortunate that my daughter is still up when I get out of work, I come home just in time to read her bedtime stories or chit chat about her day before I put her to bed.
Once she is asleep I will do some research, treatment planning, and emailing patients. I am a psychotherapist at a private mental health group practice and a school counselor. I also have a lot of encouragement thanks to friends I have made through my active lifestyle, friends whom I consider family from my running group, Chi City Running Club. They send me tons of jokes and motivational messages through texts and Facebook. I think this is important to mention because at times it is difficult to stay motivated. It’s friends like mine that make it easier and make you happy when you are having a bad day.
When did you start running?
I ran periodically on and off beginning in college. I ran my first race in 2007; the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K. I had never run a race before and was amazed at how many people participated! It was also a culture shock. I had seen girls at school that ran in track and cross country but it was always hard to relate because none looked like me.
At the Shamrock Shuffle I was able to see that runners came in all different sizes, shapes, and cultural backgrounds including my own. I didn’t run a race for a long time, although I kept up running. I never ran more than six miles until last year. Last year was the first year I ran consistently. I ran at least four times a week and ran the Chicago Marathon.
Do you plan on making the Chicago Marathon a yearly thing?
I will be running it this year, too, but I do not want to make it a yearly thing. The marathon is very expensive but I also like to try new things. I was hoping to complete the full Chicago Triathlon next year.
How do you feel that your lifestyle will influence your daughter?
My baby is everything to me. I hope that my lifestyle will positively impact her by modeling that one can attain a profession, family and live healthily. I hope that she can see me break down some of those challenges and know she can do it, too.
Despite all the hours I have to work to pay back loans, provide for my daughter and pay bills, I still have quality time with her. I pride myself in being able to give her time that counts. It’s not quantity of time you spend with a child, it’s the quality. In addition, children absorb each step you take. They are watching, hearing and observing everything you do even when you think they are not. I hope that when she grows up she can view me as a role model.
What kind of balance do you keep between food and exercise? Is that a challenge for you?
Both are important for me. What you eat has a huge impact on your body and mental state so I make sure to consider healthy, clean options at home and at work. However, I do like to have my not so healthy treats once in a while like churros.
I need exercise because I really do enjoy it. It’s not a chore to me, it’s a passion. Exercise helps me de-stress, cope and bond with individuals with similar interests. In return, the benefits from exercise also help me be a better mommy. Eating healthy is a greater challenge for me because who doesn’t like eating their mother’s cooking or having ice cream. I have a sweet tooth.
Is there another reason why you felt the need to make better decisions about what you eat and what you do on a regular basis?
I make better decisions about what I eat for my daughter, my parents, my patients, my students and principally for myself. I realized that no one will care for me like I will. No one will love me like only I am capable of doing, and if I don’t take care of myself no one will. I want my daughter to pick up on that message; only I can love and care for myself, only I can make myself happy and healthy. I hope that she will live through that message. It will be her compass through life.