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Harder To Kill 191 How To Create An Inclusive & Diverse Fitness World w/ Maria Rodriguez

Creating Inclusive, Diverse Fitness Spaces

A woman with a passion for powerlifting, Maria Rodriguez began selling custom t-shirts as a way to raise money to compete at the national level. The more she supplied, the more demand for her clothing grew, and Maria realized the profound mental and emotional impact wearing her designs was having on her clients.

Focused on igniting and reinforcing intersectional feminism in the strength space, Maria is addressing the assumptions made around women in the strength realm and empowering people with her gender and body inclusive clothing one garment at a time.

Maria Rodrigues, a woman with short dark hair wearing a hat and jacket

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How To Create An Inclusive & Diverse Fitness World

Maria is here to provide insight into her journey and how her business came to be, the struggles that go along with creating a business, as well as why she feels so passionately about amping up diverse representation in the fitness space. She opens up about how powerlifting can change the way you show up in the world, why you should be celebrating your strength and your presence and encourages us to change the conversation around what is beautiful, strong and worthy.

If you are tired of seeing the same people in the fitness space be represented and celebrated, are ready to challenge the status quo and get stronger both physically and mentally, this is the episode for you. Maria is here to give you the space to find solutions to make your dreams a reality and shake up the mold society has set in place for you.

How does the clothing you wear when moving our body inspire you to be the best version of yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

On Today’s Episode

  • Viewing femininity and masculinity as energies rather than a bathroom stall label
  • Strategies to show up strong regardless of your race, age, gender or ability
  • The major role your mental health can play in your ability to power lift
  • How to highlight women of color to help put them into positions of power
  • Ways to create a more inclusive and diverse fitness world going forward

Resources Mentioned In This Show


“Don’t let people or things tell you that you shouldn’t do something. If you like to do it, do it.” (11:09)

“For some people, powerlifting is just working out, and for me, it is so much deeper.” (11:43)

“I’m doing really unconventional work, period, because of who I am. And that is so important because it represents opportunity and change.” (16:50)

“The clothing that we are going to sell is so much more than just a t-shirt. I want these people to wear this shirt with pride and I want them to feel capable.” (23:05)

“Let’s move the framework to say this is an inclusive movement, that we celebrate all and we see each other for who we are truly.” (34:46)

“I know that I can trust myself enough to figure it out.” (52:38)

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Maria Rodriguez, a Latinx woman with short dark hair, wearing a hat and jacket

Creating Inclusive, Diverse Fitness Spaces – Full Transcript

Steph Gaudreau

This is Harder to Kill Radio, a weekly podcast where we explore what it takes to build unbreakable humans through fitness, nutrition and mindset. I’m your host, Steph Gaudreau. My mission in life is to help women build stronger bodies and resilient minds so that they begin to embrace and really own their inner power. The vision I have is that one day, girls will grow up into strong women who appreciate their bodies know their worth, take up space, and live bigger, without the pressure of impossible to fulfill bullshit societal standards. That is what it means to be harder to kill.

This podcast is one way to explore these issues. And you may not always agree with the viewpoints presented here, but I can guarantee one thing, it will make you think I’m here to lead a community of women and men we need you to who are ready to define what it is they truly want from their lives on their terms.

If a particular guest or episode resonates with you, let us know. Leave us a review on iTunes Apple podcasts, and hit subscribe on your podcast app. And also be sure to tune in to my weekly companion show Fierce Love Friday, every Friday. On that note, let’s do this.

Hey there, hi. Welcome to Episode 191 of Harder to Kill Radio. I’m Steph Gaudreau, your host. Thanks so much for hanging out with me today on another Tuesday episode with an expert guest who’s here to share all about the amazing things that she is doing in the world. And I’m really pleased to welcome her to the show.

I got to hang out with my guest today in Seattle just a couple of months ago at the Ignited Women’s Summit. And I was completely struck and captivated by her presence, her passion and the importance of her mission and what she is doing with her business. My guest today is Maria Rodriguez of Fear Her Fight Athletics. And she’s going to be sharing with you all about how power lifting was impactful and is impactful in her life. Why she created fear her fight athletics and the mission of that organization. It’s all really important stuff. And it’s important to explore these conversations together.

Before we hop in, would love to have you go and get your preorder copy of The Core Four, is my new book, it’s coming out this summer. And right now the preorder bonuses are available. Going to be real honest, I worked really hard on these. And I think they’re really powerful and will complement the book so well and help you get the most out of your core four experience. So to get all of that stuff, you can go to corefourthebook.com. That’s core the number four the book.com. And there you can see how simple it is to get your preorder bonuses would love to be able to send those your way.

Why We Care About Inclusivity in Fitness

Alright, without further ado, let’s jump into Episode 191 with Maria Rodriguez. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today on Harder to Kill Radio, I always appreciate that you take time out of your busy day to spend it with me and my amazing guests that I have on every single Tuesday. Today is no exception to that.

My guest today is somebody who I first met in a hotel room. So yeah, you know, that’s gonna be an interesting story. But seriously, when I first met my guest today, I was just a ball of energy is the only way I can describe her. And I was just blown away by her presence, her mission and who she is as a person in the first literally five minutes of being in her presence. So I’m excited to introduce all of you listeners to her today. So please welcome to the show Maria Rodriguez of Fear Her Fight Athletics. Hi.

Maria Rodriguez

Thank you. The crowd goes wild.

Steph Gaudreau

I mean, that is really what happened. In Seattle, we were there for the Ignited Women’s Summit in early February of this year. And it was very snowpocalypse.

Maria Rodriguez

Oh my god. Well, yeah, I mean, like I when Allison told me I was sharing a room with the Steph are you joking me? I was super. Like I’ve had a crush on her for years. Yes. So no, that was that was really fun. And I’m happy that I got to room with you and that was very, it was very comfortable.

Steph Gaudreau

Yeah. And I, you know, it’s always amazing to me, being a really, really sort of empathic person is people’s energy, right? I mean, people have energy regardless, they could not say a word, and you get that read on their energy. And immediately, I just had this, oh, I don’t even know, this really warm, relaxed feeling from you.

And it’s just was so wonderful to get to meet you in person. Because when we only know each other from the online space, it’s tough to have that context. And now I have so much more rich context, who were, who you are, and how deeply you believe in what you do. And Oh, give me goosebumps. It’s so great.

Maria Rodriquez

Oh, thank you, Steph. I appreciate that.

Embracing Diversity in Fitness

Steph Gaudreau

Yeah. So I would love to have you. Oh, gosh, all right, that’s probably a big question. So say, tell us about what you do. But, you know, when we were in Seattle, I did have a chance to talk and sort of ask you how you got into what you’re doing. And I know that these stories are never just a nice, linear. You know, one day I woke up and had this idea that you have a really amazing background in powerlifting. And I’m wondering if you could just sort of tell us about how you got into that world?

Maria Rodriguez

Yes, I found powerlifting through CrossFit. And so I was new to the area, I had just moved to Tacoma. And I wanted to find a gym that facilitated everything. And so that wasn’t in the sort of conventional gyms. So I branched out, which was really big and scary for me, but I kind of love scary stuff. And then I found this female trainer, and I kind of saw her from the corner my eye because her group and herself, were on the side because of the rig.

And so the classes took up the most space. So then she was there. And I just went up to them after class one day, and I was like, Hi, I’m Maria, let’s be friends. Y’all look super strong. And, you know, I asked because I’d never heard of powerlifting, I didn’t even know those three combined movements were a sport, and and then she sort of just told me, Hey, you know, you’re more than welcome to come to our class and lift. And it was just so warm and inviting. And especially, I felt very safe having a female trainer.

Because the the biggest thing in my head was that, you know, in order to be athletic, it’s going to make you more masculine and all of this, and I wasn’t scared of that. But then I thought to myself, Wow, how important is this person here to show a variety of narratives that we’re just going to dismantle. And I thought that was big.

So I was coached by her for four weeks, and then I competed. Oh, wow, I swear I looked back. And it literally took, I had an intro or whatever about the class. And then I went for four weeks or so. And then she’s like, Hey, there’s because I asked, I want to compete. This is amazing. I’m in love. And I feel wonderful. And then she’s like, well, there is a competition in Seattle. Would you be interested?

And I was like, Heck, yeah, let me sign up and without any without asking any questions, like, what do other people do? What does like, you know, this, and I competed, and it was the most awesome experience that I probably have ever done in my early 20s. And I kicked butt and you know, it was a smaller competition, there was maybe about like, 30 people in the audience. And it was just so important, because, you know, we won as a team. And there was three other women that competed with me.

Empowerment in Powerlifting

So I so I, so from the roots of it had always found this, you know, this huge empowerment to have this female presence and leadership in the sport. And so I’m very lucky in that way. But yeah, it was it was super rad. And so then after that I competed and competed. And it was just back to back I was just obsessed. I was I was in love. I loved how it made me feel.

It made my sort of move to Washington way more like it was easier to sort of find something to kind of ground myself in. And, you know, I couldn’t complain because I was happy. I was feeling strong. I felt powerful in my body, and it made me show up, way more confident in the world. Because, you know, I’ve never been in the Pacific Northwest. And here I was, you know, all in and did the sport.

And, you know, I thought, Oh, well, this is perfect. Here I am. Alright, let’s go. Yeah, it made it made sense. And I’ve been competing now for three years. And my last competition was last October actually at Nationals. And that was, that was super rad. I’ve been to Yeah, I’ve been two Nationals. But yeah, it was, oh, it’s competing, competing can get addicting.

Steph Gaudreau

And just anybody listening who doesn’t have a context for powerlifting to go to Nationals, you must qualify, you don’t just sign up and just decide to go like a more regional or local competition, you must qualify and you must be fucking strong. You have to be strong in your you know, we all compete. Are you all I shouldn’t say we you all compete in, in weight classes. So for your for your weight class, you have to be like the strongest of the strong people. And I just saw you posted a video of your, your bench pressing on your Instagram. And how much was that benchpress?

Maria Rodriguez

It was 190.

Steph Gaudreau

Yeah, right. 190 pounds is like, that’s a lot.

Maria Rodriguez

That’s my husband.

Steph Gaudreau

Yeah, so not only are you an amazing competitor, but you’re really strong, which I think is so great. And in probably unexpected when people so do when people look at you, what assumptions do you think they have of your, your, your capability, your capacity?

Finding Joy in Power

Maria Rodriguez

Steph, that’s what I’m learning right now. Wow, it is it is I thought I had the general picture of it. You know, like, Well, women in general can’t be strong, like know how they’re evil. Patriarchy, blah. But now, it’s my body, like my body? Is it endomorphic? The very like lean body, science here. There’s like three body types. There’s no

Steph Gaudreau

Mesomorph is like the really muscular.

Maria Rodriguez

Yeah, not that. And then the middle one is like athletic and, and then the one I am is like, like lean leaning. And what I’m, I’ve learned this this year, and this is what I’m processing, because not only is the general sort of sex female, like already has these stereotypes, like glued to us to say, no, don’t take up space. No, don’t get bulky, no, don’t have muscles. No. And it’s all these like no’s. Of course, we’ve heard, we’ve all heard that.

And of course, I am resisting that. And I’ve been resisting that. And I have no problem doing that. And but but to also hear that it’s my body type isn’t fitting the mold, is devastating. Period. And alongside that I have to process the idea that I’m not going to stop doing. I love this, I’m going to continue and, you know, there’s this, there’s every time, you know, people look at me, and they’re like what, you know, it’s now I feel like there’s another wound or like, heal, to say, You know what, I can see why you’re saying that.

But also knowing that it’s my body type that supposedly shouldn’t or can’t, or, you know, you’re never gonna get as strong as someone else. It’s just like, this constant reminder of, you know, feelings and things that women or the general community of whatever I represent, can’t do. It’s awful. And it feels it again, it’s one of those things where, you know, my, my stomach feels sadness, you know, and, you know, and I’m going to be 29 And I want to do this for a while because I think it’s so, so powerful to show up even knowing maybe I’m never going to be you know, top three in the world.

Maybe I’m never going to knowing that because of my body. It’s like wow, it’s I’m still processing it. This is all very new to me. But yeah, it’s in short, it’s for me it’s no don’t let people or things tell you that you shouldn’t do something if you would like to do it, do it and it doesn’t matter. You know, Sally on the corner could say why your barrels or aggregate and I have to just put that aside because she doesn’t understand my life. She doesn’t understand where you know, I am like why I’m attracted to this. And that’s okay.

But to choose joy in this is my power. And, you know, it’s it’s, it can be emotional, like, you know, for some people powerlifting is just Oh yeah, I’m gonna work out. And for me, it’s so much deeper. And, you know, we all, we all see the physical strength as one way, but I think that my mental strength is beyond. Now like what I would I would have never imagined to be this, I guess I’m gonna say wise in the sense where I can relate so much more to so many more women.

The Impact of Powerlifting on Self Perception

Steph Gaudreau

Well, I was going to ask you so earlier when you were talking about when you first saw this coach, this woman who is lifting and strong, and you mentioned something about you know what it would be like to be looking feminine? Or would that change how you look? And I’m just wondering, because there’s a lot of debate about what’s masculine, what’s feminine. And ultimately, a lot of those things. Yes, those things are very societally driven, but they can also be very much in the eye of the beholder, and the person themselves.

So I was wondering how, for you powerlifting has changed just how you show up in the world? And you mentioned the mental strength, but I’m wondering if it’s, you know, how has your own vision of yourself your own identity, your own ways that you take up space? How has that changed?

Maria Rodriguez

Yeah, that’s a great question. I, I think femininity and masculinity are energies, they’re not genders, they are not what bathroom you use, it is not anything except energies. And when I see women, strength training, now, there’s nothing more feminine about that their femininity, again, it’s how you define it. And hopefully, we can move into the realm of dis attaching gender to this.

I think I have masculinity about my life, or but do I consider myself masculine? No, I think I show up in the world way more feminine. Because of the work I’ve had to do for that, you know, it’s, it takes it takes power to choose to continue doing something, and especially that something being so attached to all of these, you know, these ideas and constructs that everyone else thinks it doesn’t matter, it would be so easy.

If I’m like, You know what, everyone else thinks that powerlifting is masculine, and it’s gonna make me bulky. Okay, fine, I won’t watch. But that’s not how I live my life. You know, and I think now women more than ever are realizing that it’s the, it’s a feeling it’s an energy, and why not if this also impacts your mental health, like, and that’s a huge part of strength training.

It’s, no one really has ever talked about it, but there is a big portion of your mental health behind the lifts and the movements that you do. And you know, powerlifting Wow, it, it. It’s therapy, it has made me go through so much that I don’t believe any of my friends or family could have made me discover. And there’s a lot of critical thinking behind that.

Finding an Inclusive Fitness Community

But yeah, to answer your question, it’s, it’s completely, completely changed it for the best life I can live, especially being a queer Latina, here in the Pacific Northwest. I, I am crippled when I hear, you know, women in my position, you know, that may be surrounded by people that don’t support them. And it it’s, it’s a real it’s a real life oppression. And it’s, it’s, it sucks when you’re not supported. It totally does.

And the hardest thing about that is believing that your passion is going to help your life and other people it doesn’t matter if you’re the only one that that’s the thing though, it totally matters. You’re going to leave ripples and you’re going to leave a legacy because you were the one that’s going to be talked about and you’re the one who’s going to impact the greatest change.

So yeah, it’s it’s it’s hard work you know, strength training powerlifting in general has not only like if necessary, it doesn’t necessarily it made me have pecs sure whatever but there’s so much more to my life especially you know showing showing up is a political statement period for me and you know, going to work in a gym you know, and, and coaching like, like a lot of people, that’s that’s a, that’s a different thing. So I’m, I’m doing really, you know, unconventional work, period, because of who I am. And that’s so important because it represents opportunity and change.

Steph Gaudreau

I love that. Thank you for sharing all that with us. I would love that as a great transition to talk about why you start well, how did you start Fear Her Fight athletics? Like how did that all come about? Because you know, what the work that you’re doing with that now, it’s just so impactful.

And I’m always really curious to have people shared their stories, because I think there’s a perception out in the world, that when you show up, and you’re doing things that are huge and impactful that like when you like, you just blasted on the scene with this, like massive, grand plan and idea, and that to a lot of people is a barrier to them.

Taking the next step with whatever it is they’re, they’re passionate about, right? They’re like, I don’t have it all figured out. I can’t start. So I’m wondering if you can share some of the backstory about creating this brand. And as you called it a movement. It’s not just a brand, it’s a movement.

Fundraising to Nationals

Maria Rodriguez

Yeah. So I couldn’t afford to go to Nationals when it was in Florida. And like most people, that’s a huge factor to deciding to go lift nine times on a platform. So I, you know, it was my first nationals. So I thought, all right, Maria, let’s use your left brain. Let’s go. I thought, all right, well, because I don’t, like most people, I don’t ask for money. I don’t ask for help. Right.

And, you know, it was one of those things. At that time. I was like, No, no way. So I thought, how could I also help other people? And so I created this fundraiser shirt. And I thought in the gym, I was working, I was working at two gyms at the time. And all of my clients and you know, people that supported my work. I was talking about it, and they’re like, oh, my god, yeah, that sounds like a great idea. And so they purchased the shirt.

And I thought, okay, cool. This is this is going to help part of, excuse me, my Airbnb, and it’s going to also help me eat there. And then I stuck around and then the kind of I was really, I don’t know how I did it. I’m going to thank you, Maria in 2017. You did? Wow.

So I asked a couple of people, if they knew of any screen printers, if they knew of anyone with you know, graphic design help, like website design help. And because I had that was not my forte. And so there, I was asking for help. And so when I printed the shirts, of course, taking a step back, I thought, Okay, well, what am I going to put on these shirts? You know, is he going to say take my national? No.

Um, we so I sat down with my husband and he supported this 100% and, you know, I asked him I was like, alright, Zach, when you see me lifting what do you what is what are some words like that you see that you feel that resonate with you? And he said Fear. And I love that word. Because you know, he said it in a way because I am so passionate and I get pretty aggressive when I’m lifting.

The Story Behind Fear Her Fight Athletics

I get very in the zone. I get very like I’m not going to call it resting bitchface I’m going to call it a focus it’s you know, I got focused and I was I was determined and so you know that fear of like whoa shit don’t get in her way you know and oh my gosh don’t even look at her you know? So I understand what you meant.

And you know my word was fight and I resonated with so much with that word because you know critical thinking comes in and it’s just like Maria, Why do you do this, you know, why are you going to Nationals, why, why this. And because there are so many fights I’ve put up in my in my young, you know, my young life even that are just constantly, constantly in resistance of or speaking out on.

And there’s always this hey, I have to show up. I have to do this, you know. I fight, I have to speak up for others that may can’t. I have to show up for others that can’t there’s that’s just been a natural thing for me. And so I remember we were gonna go get ice cream and we I just plug these words together. I said fear fight. And I remember looking he’s like, all right.

And so that’s why I printed on the shirts and on the back. It said, you know, Raw Nationals October 2000. Oh gosh, 16 or 17. And I can’t get the dates, right ever. Yeah. And a sold out, I printed I think I printed about like, what is that like 40 or 50? Or something like that? Probably not as many but yeah, they all sold out. And after I went, I thank everyone deeply you know, and a thank you for allowing me to go to Nationals let it up.

And I came back and everyone wanted more shirts. And I said, Well, the thing is, I already went to Nationals. So, you know, but they were like I want one for. So the thing that really hit home was one of the ladies I coached her, you know, she said, Maria, I would love, you know, a shirt for my young daughter, she’s nine, she’s a swimmer. You know, she plays volleyball, and she feels like, she can’t be strong.

The Start of an Inclusive Fitness Company

And I got involved. I was like, Alright, we’re gonna make new shirts. We’re gonna, you know, but then I thought then the bigger question was, what are the shirts? Now? What is this now? You know, I took a step back. And I really thought, you know, what are you? What do you want to do, right? And basically, I started a company and I said, you know, these, the clothing that we are going to sell is so much more than just a t shirt, right?

I want these people to wear the shirt with pride, and I want them to feel capable. And if the if this because of all of the feedback I got, you know, one of my firefighter friends, she, she wears it under her suit. And that makes me cry like that cry with the happy tears, right? And it’s just all of these these stories that came back and I was like, Okay, we got to do is we got it, we got to keep it going.

And I I sat down with a graphic designer and a you know, I said okay, well maybe this is going to be a website because I don’t I don’t have a store to put this merchandise in. And then so I think it was November 2017. Yep. Oh, yeah. November, I kind of coordinated everything. I got some cheap T shirts designed.

And I didn’t again, I wanted to be gender neutral. I want everyone to be able to wear this. I want it to be inclusive to all bodies. And I put a lot of thought into this because I said, you know, I’m not, I’m not doing this for anything, really, except to help someone’s life. No big deal. But, But really, I I really sat with it for a while that winter.

Inclusive Gym Gear

And I launched it January at the beginning of last year. So yeah, January 2018. And we launched and Beth Brown was the first woman to purchase a shirt, I don’t forget those things. And it just, it’s, you know, with the help of social media really is how I got to find my following and find the company. And, you know, it was fantastic to see all of the support.

And I’m not sure, I think it was because they know how hard I’ve fought to be a powerlifter. And they see credibility there. And you know, it’s I’m the only one that runs Fear Her Fight. I you know, I mail out packages, I run the social media, and I run, you know, emails and all of that.

So I have been doing it all myself. And I believe that people believe it so much, because they know it’s a big passion and not just of mine, but other people. So when I say we, it’s the people that have helped and believe this brand, when I say we it’s the people who are our allies who are showing up for others. And so that’s basically how it got started.

Steph Gaudreau

So amazing. It would, would you characterize yourself as a problem solver?

Maria Rodriguez

Oh, yeah. I think when someone gives me a challenge, I don’t see it, accept it and just sort of move on. I say, Well, how can we fix this? What are some tools we can use to, you know, help and facilitate a sort of solution? What, you know, I, I don’t like to panic or, you know, I like to say okay, well, what can we do? So I think I’m a problem? Yeah, I’m a problem solver.

Working Through the Roadblocks

Steph Gaudreau

I just I asked that because I hear so much in your in this story of how you you had a need for yourself, which you then created something so much bigger than yourself out of? Right. And I hear so many points along that story where I’m sure it wasn’t smooth sailing. I mean, I’m sure there were challenges. I’m sure there were things that maybe presented themselves as roadblocks that you couldn’t have anticipated or you had to figure things out.

I know so many people would even look at that and just say, it’s just too much. It’s just too, too many things to figure out, too overwhelming. And it sounds like you’re the type of person who will find a way around it more, or we’ll be resilient when our challenges. I think that’s just so important to share.

Maria Rodriguez

Thank you. Thank you, Steph. Yes. I, I think that has to do with my culture, with with my roots with all of my ancestry with you know, it’s it’s not it, we can’t give up. There’s no, there’s no way. And, you know, our voice is so important, especially right now. And we have been told, been told no, for years. And would I want to continue that trend? Absolutely. Fuck no.

And so the only thing I can do is, prepare myself educate myself, figure out solutions to make our dreams a reality. As cheesy as that says is, if I want to do something like I absolutely will figure out a way and I know that at the summit that you and I were at, one of the questions, you know, I got similar to this one was, well, how did you just do it? I won’t forget that.

Because I didn’t even think about it that way. And I said, Yeah, you know, if I can have if I can, you know, go if I can collect some money and go buy a business license, and then go do this and go to what are the steps? Well, let’s do it. And I just don’t like hearing no, and then give up. So I think that’s why I’m so exhausted in my No, but yeah, in all seriousness, I think, yeah, you’re, you’re right, I, I really try and make things happen. And because this will also help others.

Igniting and Reinforcing Intersectional Feminism in the Strength Space

Steph Gaudreau

And I’m on your social media, you the mission of what you do is described as igniting and reinforcing intersectional feminism in the strength space. And I’m wondering if you can tell us what, I mean, what does that mean to you? And why is it so important? Why is it become this bigger mission for your brand for Fear Her Fight Athletics? You know, like you said, I’m just not selling T shirts, like, what is it? What is this for? What is this about? So, can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Maria Rodriguez

Yes, the fitness industry has a lot of white supremacy. And the strength world also lacks representation. And so when I think will, how am I going to do as an athletic brand out there in the world? It is because it is owned by a queer Latina woman. And it is because I have, for lack of better words, walked the walk, right? I have, I know what it’s like to collect all my coins for this competition, because I want a chance I want a shot.

So when I think about that, in relation to Fear Her Fight, it’s because most people think about when they think about fitness lines, I think it’s there. It’s a it’s been, it’s been the same thing over and over, right? You know, you we have the classic, skinny white cis woman. And that’s not how the world should be, should be seen. And more, there are more women out there that are doing the work and really grinding and really trying to figure out what the best movement is going to be for them.

So when I decided to say igniting intersectionality basically, it’s because there are some people that have no idea or have never given themselves the space to think about how much more of a challenge is it going to be for a black woman to show up at a blog, like fill in the blank sport? You know, how much harder is it going to be for a woman for a Muslim woman to go powerlift and actually get to that national stage and so it’s it’s political.

And when when I decided that absolutely, this brand is political is because I am with a lot a lot of other people. We’re just tired of seeing the same people in the fitness space be represented and celebrated. There’s there’s a lot of other people out there, also PR thing and also winning medals and all, and why isn’t that being represented and highlighted. And again, it goes to then the conversation of crushing the social sort of norms and what is beautiful, what is strong, what is, you know, worse.

Changing the Conversation in Fitness

And so we want to change that framework, we want to change that conversation. So with Fear Her Fight, we have we, I mean, there are a lot of people that are blessed, really, that, that follow us that are women of color, and people of color in general. So I think it’s very important to have this space, and feel safe, to celebrate their strength to celebrate their presence.

And I think that is very important. Because again, there are a lot of accounts that are ran by, you know, white males even or you know, the heteronormative sort of population. And so what is so different about this? So then the conversation is, how much privilege do those people have? And do they recognize it? What are they going to do with that? And if not, maybe we need to be asking better questions.

Maybe we need to be asking ourselves better questions. And, you know, that itself, white privilege is a big, big conversation, and some people still have yet to go through the work of it. But I think that Fear Her Fight, it really shows that, yes, white people can be allies, if they have done the work.

And if they, you know, they have seen black, brown, Latino, you know, Muslim, and the LGBTQ community, have they thought about those people involved in the same sport, they look so highly upon. So that intersectional lens isn’t, or I’m sorry, it is crucial right now.

This is an Inclusive Movement

And, you know, I wish I had like a team of 20 people to help me with it sometimes. Because it’s not just, it’s not going to be my voice necessarily, behind it. Because again, when I say we, it’s because I have so many beautiful, wonderful magical allies to help also, along with the decisions of you know, the brand and whatnot, just because people are so supportive.

So the reigniting is, again, let’s bring it back. Like let’s let’s, let’s come back to why we actually are showing up Is it because of a diet culture thing, like we have not, we don’t want that, we don’t want to have anything to do with that. Let’s move the framework to say, this is an inclusive movement, that we celebrate all, and that we see each other for who we are truly.

Steph Gaudreau

Thanks for sharing that.

Maria Rodriguez

Thank you.

Steph Gaudreau

Really, really important. If you in your mind, I’m sure you have a vision of where things are going and what you, you know, what you want to see. And he described that so well, but I’m wondering if you can sort of describe it in your mind.

If you were to know that you had done the work that you set out to do and you walked into a space where people were lifting, powerlifting, what would you who would you see there? What would it what would that be like? What would you if you would knew if you knew Hey, this is this is working? We’re really making this impact? Who would you see in that space? What would it be like?

A Collective Vision for Fitness

Maria Rodriguez

Wow, I mean, I would see older women. I would see younger kids moving. I would see brown and black and disabled people. I would see this, I would see fat people. I would see people who are new to lifting. And and that’s that’s that’s my that’s literally my like, I would be so happy I would be just a puddle of tears because that is what it is.

And it’s in its I just it’s like I can’t even formulate a sentence of how why not right? Like, why isn’t the fitness world like that? And so it reminds me, so it actually two days out of the week I coached the homeless and so also that it is huge to Fear Her Fight because we realize that this movement, maybe it’s an hour or so, isn’t always accessible.

And so, because it’s pricey, and some people are, can’t, can’t afford this, so having these people in my, you know, my life has shown me a whole different avenue. And it also, I relate to it because of my, my addiction in the past. And you know, a lot of these people that come through, they’ll do maybe 10 minutes, and they they’re like coughing a lot, because you know, they’re smokers.

And I get it and you know, they know that it’s a safe place for you know, you have an hour like you come in and out. You don’t have to do it all you can just sit back and support. And that’s basically what I do at the gym, right? It’s like, okay, if I don’t want to move today, I don’t have to do if I want to do 15 minutes of just stretching, I’m going to do that.

And so there’s that sort of brilliant, you know, example of wow, like, why is why does it look so much more like the all these like little frills and whistles? You know? So yeah, it just it looks, it looks like health, just taking care of your health.

Educating and Advocating – Our Conversations for Inclusive Fitness

Steph Gaudreau

Thanks. I love I could sense that. You said earlier about joy. Like, yeah, I could sense the joy in in you as you were describing that. And your energy. It’s amazing. Yeah, you have an event called the Women’s Strength Summit, happening this year. And I would love to have you talk about that event. What is it? Who is it for? How can people get involved and attend? And look, just tell us all about it?

Maria Rodriguez

Yeah. So last year, it was our first full year of being relevant on social media. And I thought, well wait, I actually want to hang out with these people what’s going on? Like, what can we all like, just come hang out. So I created an event. And it was so last year, it was in July, and about 85 women came. And I had seven speakers.

And so basically what I wanted was a day for community and a day for dialogue and a day for different narratives that show that you can be strong in multiple ways. You don’t have to always have this for full ride scholarship for this college you know, this college, and then you get this and this. It’s not always like that. And so, you know, it’s, it’s survival for some people.

So it was an enormous day, it was one of the best days of my life. And I had seven speakers and they all spoke about, you know, how they found their fitness, and how they found their, their happiness through movement.

And again, there was, you know, my friend, Jean Hawkins, who’s in her 60s, she just found powerlifting and she was always a mountaineer. And my friend, Kimberly Cross who is not near with one hand, so the disabled community was like, yes, like, good, thank you, you know. And my friend, Ivory, she was a cancer survivor. And she found, you know, healing through Zumba and movement. And that was that was huge, because she is also a black woman. And I also had Felicia, who is also a black woman, and she’s a track and field athlete. She’s like, so amazing. And she’s now a coach.

Conversations with Inclusive Fitness Champions

And so there’s all these different ways we can show up strong and it was a it was such a cool day. And so I was like, Okay, well, this year, it’s going to be two because it because there’s so much involved, right? And so this year, it’s June 1st and 2nd. And it will be at the gym I work at where is where I’ve actually found powerlifting which is pretty sweet. And it’s going to be a weekend with seven speakers. And there’s going to be vendors and sponsors there and a food truck and just some like games and there’s going to be like some workshops there.

So Saturday, I have seven, seven women coming in from all over actually. And then that’s the first day and so I really love the idea of getting out of our gym clothes and kind of showing up just very like organically however you want to dress, day one and then day two, we have the options of movement.

So there’s going to be a powerlifting meet which is inclusive to everyone, and because I know that there isn’t there are Federation’s, that are exclusive to a big part of the community. So we are offering that space here. And then there’s also going to be a CrossFit workout in case no one has tried CrossFit, or you know, any sort of Strength Conditioning, they can do that, and that’ll be outside.

And there’s going to be, there’s just going to be far more like fun and like more activities on Sunday. But along with that, yeah, there’s a lot of people contributing, with like, you know, raffle stuff. And, you know, if you have never powerlifting before, and you want to compete, this is very beginner friendly, meaning that you can just experience what it’s like to be on the platform, and to actually do the movement.

And it’s not, you know, it’s not like we’re like, you know, breaking a ton of records or anything, you’re breaking your own record. And so that’s gonna be really fun. And I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m super grateful for social media again, because I found all of my speakers. Well, I’ve been following my speakers for a while.

And I found the you know, this as a perfect opportunity to be like, Hey, are you busy on this day, I would love you to be here, because you have a very important story to tell. So I’m also very jazzed about it, because all of the speakers are black, except Chloe, who is a transgender athlete. And so I think that needs to be also highlighted, you know, because women of color need to be put into more positions of power, and, you know, given the seat at the table as well. And so, yeah,

Inclusive Fitness Communities

Steph Gaudreau

It sounds like it’s going to be fun. I know, what a party.

Maria Rodriguez

It is! One of our local, one of my friends, she’s a, she’s the owner of this amazing, eclectic restaurant and bar. And she’s sponsoring the entire thing. So she’s, you know, there’s going to be a little, you know, a bar there, and she’s going to be taking care of everyone. And it’s just like, super, yeah, I’m, I’m ready. I don’t know what I’m gonna wear. I’m gonna look good.

Steph Gaudreau

How can people get tickets?

Maria Rodriguez

Yes. And so tickets are on our website. So if you go to our website, there’s a little tab that says, WSS, so Women’s Strength Summit, and then it will link you to the ticket. Ticket sales. So there’s options there as well. So I know a couple of moms, that can’t make both days. I know that is it, it is a big commitment. I understand that.

So say, if you want to just come for day one to listen to the speakers, there’s that price there to choose that. And if you just want to come to do activities, to sign up for the powerlifting meet, for example, there’s that choice too. So you don’t have to come to both days because I know that’s sometimes can be hard.

Or if you are you know, if you want your best friend to compete, and you don’t want to compete, but you kind of just want to support her. Just reach out to me and we can take care of you. But mostly, we have I think 30 competitors right now, which is huge. That’s amazing. Yes, Queens, I know. And some of them are, I mean, a lot of them are traveling for this. So I’m like super grateful. And oh my gosh, I can’t wait to Oh, I’m just I’m not gonna have a voice Steph after this.

Shifting Priorities to Build Inclusive Fitness

Steph Gaudreau

I mean, a lot of tea.

Maria Rodriguez

Right? On screen,

Steph Gaudreau

throat soothers. And potentially a megaphone of some sort.

Maria Rodriguez

Tissues on deck, like just tissues up in my bra just at all times. Yeah.

Steph Gaudreau

Absolutely. It sounds like it’s going to be an incredible two days. And so I just want to encourage people that are listening and interested to go find out more on your site. Yeah, I have a couple more questions. The first is, how have your priorities changed over the years?

Maria Rodriguez

Thank you. Thank you, Steph, for asking me this really important question. Ah, wow. So last year, I got burnt out because of go, go, go, go, go, go go. Right. That’s how this world kind of functions and or it’s a condition that I have, because of my parents bless them. I am a first generation artist and coach and wife. And I also don’t know what rest is. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

But it’s something that I feel that is a gift to see and to acknowledge that I am a hard worker. And if again, if I want something, I’m going to figure out how to get it. And if I’m just very driven, I just know that I work with very fast. And so last year, I’d never handled so much in my life. So I had two jobs, I had to leave one because also, it’s really hard.

Permission to Do Nothing

And, you know, I had bought how, we had bought, my husband and I had a bought house, we have three dogs, whereas my social life, like, I had no idea how, like, intense it was, until I, like was just crying on my couch one day feeling like I am not doing a good job, because I have 100 jobs. So my priorities have shifted big time, I have allowed myself permission to do nothing.

And in the midst of doing nothing, I do not consider that depression. I do not consider that loneliness. I do not consider that this sort of unworthiness. I consider that my health and to choose to set boundaries is crucial. And running a business, I hadn’t I didn’t go to school, right. And I feel some kind of weird to say that to people that actually did go to school to make visits. But I didn’t go to school for this.

But also to give myself that space to say you are learning you are learning as you go, you’re going to mess up, you’re going to have to learn. And that’s nothing. That’s nothing I’m scared about. But also it takes some time to process. It’s been like one thing after another after another after another. So I saw that last year. And I said, Maria, you have to start saying no.

And Maria, you have to start turning your phone off, putting it aside. Maria, you are not checking the computer. And again, it’s not be, it’s not I can’t look three hours ahead and say, Well, you could have sent out orders, you know, it’s not that. It’s in order for me to do my jobs, I have to take care of myself completely and not feel shame for that.

And I’m sure a lot of us are learning that finally, how the society makes us feel certain ways when we’re not, you know, doing what we’re expected to do. How about what we want to do and so to to also add I, I went I went to Cabo. And that’s that I need to say that because I would have never said no, no, like, I can’t do that, because I don’t have the time. Oh, a lot. And it was with other girlfriends.

Fill Your Cup by Disconnecting

And so then I made more trips, you know, here and there with my husband and I Wow, that really, really helps to tune out, right. And it’s, I don’t like when people say, Oh, well, how sad is your life that you have to check out or disconnect from your life? You know? And no, no, like, Listen, I’m doing some hard work. And this is laborious work. I need to fill my cup again. I need to rejuvenate my body again, in order for me to show up the next day and not want to cry. Because I’m so frustrated.

So yeah, my priorities now today is one hour at a time. Because I can I can plan out three months ahead. Sure for Fear Her Fight. That’s okay. But Maria is different. And so that’s what I’m learning also. And I’m also finally, you know, Aries start Aries season starts today. So I’m really excited about the doing part.

But I’ve really dusted off a lot over the last month about my emotions. And I’ve like really tried to come to terms with what I’ve kind of been like, Okay, right now is not the best time to feel or talk about that, like, I have been really processing a lot. And so yeah, to give myself time. And again, what does that time look like? Maybe it’s literally going outside and laying on the cement for 20 minutes and without my phone without anything and just doing that because I’m alive.

Like, that’s, that’s period like that’s a big deal. Like, I am privileged to be 28 years old to live where I live to have what I have. And to just be wow, like, I need to do more of that. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing one hour at a time Maria has been doing that and then also slowing down a little bit on Fear Her Fight right now because Fear Her Fight cannot function correctly if Maria is doing 11 jobs for 11 hours a day. So yeah, it’s it takes some work to not feel again those feelings of shame or guilt, but the work is so it’s so beneficial for everyone.

Building Resilience to Care for Yourself

Steph Gaudreau

Thank you I love that. It’s so important. So many women struggle with that as well. You’re not alone. I do as well. It’s, it’s just, it’s hard for me. I think even if you go to business school running a business is hard. And and not having that background. You know, you have to be clever. You have to be inventive, you have to be intuitive. There’s just a lot that goes into it. And you said it well, sometimes you have to learn some hard lessons. But hopefully you get stronger from that and build resilience and know how to better take care of yourself.

Maria Rodriguez

Absolutely. Yeah, I don’t want everyone in my circle or anyone in the world to have to hit rock bottom. Some people need it. But not everyone needs to right. There are tools out there. There are people out there, there are people’s experiences and wisdom to help to avoid this really, really dark place that again, you people like myself, I had to do it myself.

I’ve always had to do this myself, but I know that I can trust myself enough to figure it out. So yeah, it’s it takes it and that’s another thing too, is not a lot of people want you to critically think right? They know they don’t want to sit with themselves and be like, okay, honestly, are you tired? The answer, honestly, so.

Steph Gaudreau

Awesome. Thank you so much. This has been such a pleasure to talk with you to hear more about everything that you’re doing. And to just put that out to the world. And hopefully, some of my listeners will be able to make it up. That’d be really, really cool to hear if that connection is made. Will you tell us again, where people can learn more about you, the site, where they can get the tickets to the summit? And just everything that you’re up to? Where are you on social, all that good stuff?

Fear Her Fight Athletics

Maria Rodriguez

Absolutely. So on Instagram, it’s Fear Her Fight Athletics. On Facebook, it is the same. And our email, if in case no one has social medias, I commend you, is our email is Hello@fearherfight.com And my name is Maria. In case you want to address me as such, my pronouns are she and her.

And the tickets are on our website. So www.fearherfight.com. And there’s a tab at the top and you can click that and it’ll take you to purchase your tickets. And it is here in Tacoma Washington, which is south of Seattle. So if you’re making it out to the Pacific Northwest for the first time, like a lot of us are just know too, if you have the opportunity to extend your stay there is Seattle, which is up north, it’s about 45 minutes away.

But the event will be at the gym that I first found powerlifting and it’s at Tacoma Strength, which is downtown Tacoma, which downtown Tacoma is also very, very cool. Lots of good places to eat. So, have any questions about the location like what to do there, I’d be happy, happy to help others.

Steph Gaudreau

Amazing. This has been so great. I really, really appreciate you being here being willing to share why this is so important to you for your voice and all the work that you’re doing. And I hope that is this just helps things resonate out into the world even more. Maria Rodriguez, Fear Her Fight Athletics. Thank you so much for being part of this show. And for being the amazing human that you are.

Maria Rodriguez

Thank you so much, Steph it’s an honor.

Steph Gaudreau

All right, there we go. That’s a wrap on episode 191 with Maria Rodriguez of Fear Her Fight Athletics. Such a great show. So thankful for Maria coming on the show sharing her perspective.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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