Interview: Rachelle Leyva – bodybuilding, yoga, and mental wellbeing

Rachelle-LeyvaThis week, I’m excited to introduce you to Rachelle Leyva, someone I thought had such a different experience from me with her training and approach to fitness. I was really interested in picking her brain about bodybuilding and finding balance. What I ended up learning about her was more interesting than I’d even hoped for. And I learned that we have more in common than I expected. (Love that interconnectedness that keeps cropping up over and over.) I deeply appreciate her strong commitment to mental health and allowing our growth to begin internally.

What can you tell us about yourself?

I grew up here in Richland, Washington. I absolutely love the Pacific Northwest. I have a degree in anthropology from Eastern Washington University. I would say my biggest passions are yoga, hiking, and bodybuilding. I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for about four years, hiking for just as long, but have taken much more of an interest in it the last couple years. I just recently competed in a bodybuilding competition and found an even greater interest in the sport.

When you look at your own life, what are you most proud of?

I went way out of my comfort zone competing in a bodybuilding competition. I’ve always been terrified of standing in front of large crowds and being the center of attention. I’m proud of myself for facing that fear and going for it.

As we get busier and busier, sometimes happiness seems like something we don’t have time to focus on. But we all are striving for happiness in some way. In your own life, what brings you joy?

I love being active outside. The Pacific Northwest is such a great place to enjoy nature. I find a lot of joy hiking and kayaking.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your life?

I’m incredibly grateful that I had a comfortable life growing up and saw a lot of privileges others didn’t/don’t have. I couldn’t say there has been a tremendous obstacle I’ve had to overcome in my life, but like a lot of people, I have struggled with anxiety and depression. When I found yoga it was during a time in my life that I was struggling mentally and emotionally. Yoga helped me heal during that time.

Mental and emotional health are such big issues, so important to address for real health and wellness. At what point in your life did you start caring about your health?

When I think about my health, I believe I put a priority on my mental and emotional health before anything else. It was during the time in my life I found yoga and was struggling with anxiety and depression that I really started to focus on my mental wellbeing and how important that is to your overall health. I had been exercising before that, but wouldn’t say I had a true passion for it. I had tried a few Les Mills classes and CrossFit, but it really wasn’t until I started to care about my mental health that I truly found a passion for yoga and from that a passion in being active and healthy overall.

It’s amazing what a shift we can see when the mental and emotional health improves and we focus on feeling good. I met you through the avenue of body-building, knowing you were competing. How long have you been a competitive body builder?

I started prepping for my first show January of this year. I had been contemplating pretty much all of 2016 about competing in a show, but could never really find the courage to go for it. I already had a yoga practice established and had been weightlifting for a couple years before I really started considering competing realistic. I loved the process of prepping for a show, it was challenging myself to something I had never done before, but I honestly didn’t know if I would even enjoy being up on a stage. Everything moves so quickly the day of the show that the whole experience and excitement doesn’t quite sink in. And I think that’s what a lot of people enjoy about this sport and why they continue to pursue it.

We all have something that we struggle with as we strive for health. What is your biggest health struggle? Or what is the hardest thing for you to stay on track with?

I love food and I have the biggest sweet tooth. I honestly have to have dessert every day and it’s really easy for me to over indulge on sweets. I’ve been following a flexible dieting approach to nutrition for the last couple years and continued with this approach while I was in prep for my competition. I don’t cut any foods out of my diet and I don’t label foods as good or bad. It’s just about finding balance between foods that have better nutritional values and those that could be considered “treats.” I needed an approach to nutrition that would allow me to enjoy food and not feel guilty or ashamed over what I was eating. As I started following this approach I gained a lot of knowledge about nutrition and I found I started making healthier choices the majority of the time, but it still allowed me the freedom to have those treats without feeling guilty.

What are your favorite resources for fitness and nutrition?

Social media, like YouTube and Instagram, can be such a great resource. There are a lot of people out there that share great information on fitness and nutrition. I really like Jeff Nippard, he has an Instagram account and puts out really good YouTube videos.

What is your best piece of wellness advice to share with the community?

The best piece of advice I could share, from my own experience, is that caring about your health starts with your mental wellbeing. I truly believe if you shift your focus to getting things right on the inside things will tend to build upon that.