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The Oxygen Challenge

How Oxygen Challenge 8 Coach Carmel Rodriguez Became a “Ninja Mom”

Get to know Oxygen Challenge 8 coach Carmel Rodriguez!

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.

Oxygen sisters, the time is almost here — The Oxygen Challenge 8 kicks off on May 2, and this year’s coaches have some hardcore training plans in store for you.

If you participated in OC7 last year, you already know that you’ll have access to both coaches’ programs with your Outside+ membership. This year, OC8 will launch on our all-new Outside Learn platform, an online education hub available exclusively to Outside+ members.

This year’s coaches, Sohee Lee and Carmel Rodriguez, each have a unique style. But one thing’s for sure: No matter whose plan you follow, you’re in for some great workouts and can expect to build serious strength in the three months they’ll be coaching you.

Learn more about the programs and the OC8 digital cover contest here.

Without further ado, allow us to introduce you to one of your coaches, Carmel Rodriguez! Her program for OC8 will be a serious challenge that gets you to move in ways you haven’t before — but when you’re done, you’ll be prepared for anything.

Carmel Rodriguez

(Photo: Cory Sorensen)

A Strong Start and a Tough Hiatus

Fitness has been a mainstay in Rodriguez’s life for as long as she can remember, and not just for its physical benefits. “I would say fitness has been something that I’ve always used as a relief or as a way to get through something,” she says, “or the way to find my place in this world and what I’m doing in life.”

But everyone faces challenges and setbacks. For Rodriguez, a difficult postpartum journey and chronic hip problems after the birth of her second child in 2007 led to a four-year fitness hiatus that left her feeling lost. What’s more, a recurring nightmare added to the stress of losing her go-to outlet for relief.

“I had this recurring nightmare where my kids were running out into the street while we were playing in the front yard. And they both ran at the same time, and cars were coming from either side, and they were gonna hit my kids,” she recalls. “I was trying to run out to save them, but I could only reach one of them, so I had to choose one to save.”

The thought of not being strong and fast enough to be there for her kids — in a nightmare or otherwise — lit a fire under Rodriguez. She vowed to become as capable as she could, so she started from square one: walking.

Becoming a Ninja Mom

Rodriguez fell in love with fitness again, and that’s when she decided to try her hand at personal training. It was the perfect way to marry her love of fitness with work, and she was good at it. She had a waiting list of clients at a commercial gym, but something still wasn’t right.

“I decided that the reason I started my fitness journey — for my children and to protect my children — was totally not there anymore, because I was working 60 hours a week or more. And I couldn’t even see my kids,” she said. So, she handed in her resignation and set out on her own.

At the behest of her friends, she started posting on Instagram without any intention of making it a career. She developed a unique style of training, which she dubbed “ninja mom” training, that helped her get in shape for virtually anything life could throw at her. Functional movements like handstands and precise muscle control from her fingertips to the tips of her toes became the focus of her training and the essence of her BodyMa (Body Mastery) method.

When a training video of hers gained traction on Facebook and garnered millions of views out of the blue, she got a taste — well, more like a heaping spoonful — of the tough side of social media. Many commenters called her selfish and surmised that she was doing it for herself, not her kids. Others insisted that moms must sacrifice their self-care to be good parents. We don’t have to tell you that those sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth, but the negative comments weren’t always easy to ignore.

“The more I read them, the more I believed a lot of the comments and I wondered if what I was doing was okay,” she says. “But, you know, I had a lot of support and I gained a lot of confidence that I’m okay and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” Her husband, Jose, was her biggest supporter and helped her get through the toughest times in her fitness journey — including any unwarranted social media hate she received.

Not an Influencer, an Inspirer

Now, at 44, Carmel Rodriguez feels better than ever and hopes other women, especially moms, can take some inspiration from her journey. But she’s not a fan of the term “influencer” to describe her social media presence and coaching business.

“I don’t like the word ‘influencer.’ I just consider myself someone who is going through all the same things that a lot of people are going through. I’ve had some insight because I’ve gone through and come out of some of them, but I’m still facing my own stuff every day, just like everybody else. And I’m finding ways to get through it.”

She prefers the word “inspire” versus “influence,” explaining that the term influence comes with the idea that the way she’s doing something is the best way to do it. Instead, she wants others to only use methods of hers that fit into their own journeys.

“​​What I want to do is for people to see pieces of my life and think, ‘I can do this either better or differently,’ or ‘This is going to help me figure out who I am or what I’m about and what I’m supposed to be doing,’” she says. “It doesn’t have to be what I’m doing, but if pieces of what I’m doing can help inspire them to be who they are, whatever that is is what I feel like my title should be, and I would accept that title.”