Taking Her SHE Back: Carrie Leonardini
September 11, 2019
Before I was “officially” a health and fitness and lifestyle coach I was a “coach” in other ways and worked daily with women to encourage and support them. I lead a weekly fitness and nutrition group at my church, I met with women who struggled with infertility and loss, I helped administrate the Women’s Ministry at our church and I co-lead a women’s group in my home where we encouraged women to stop committing to things out of obligation and rather pursue the opportunities in their lives that utilized their gifts and talents – to say no to others’ agendas and yes to God’s plan for their lives.
But let me back up. The idea that I was doing “women’s ministry” was God’s joke not lost on me. I grew up with brothers, I hung out with Derek and the guys, and I went to work in a male dominated profession, practicing law.
I didn’t do women’s events. Nope. Touchy-feely women’s functions? Not for this girl. Shopping, fashion, other girly girl things? Nope. Nope. No thanks.
Then one day I found myself on a path of infertility and loss of our first baby (a little girl) and I sensed God was going to use these circumstances to serve other women. The first time my pastor called and asked if I would meet with a woman who was facing a life-threatening diagnosis for her baby, I knew God was thrusting me into a place where I would be very uncomfortable, and yet my experiences could help others. And so I took that step.
Over time my heart expanded in such a way that I wanted to work with women – I wanted to see their lives restored from tragedy. I wanted to support them as they struggled with questions of self-worth and identity. I wanted them to learn to be comfortable in their own skin.
I was on this journey for several years before facing some health issues that caused me to seek out new fitness options when running in the cold early mornings was no longer an option. And I discovered tools for nutrition that finally got this Jenny Craig girl off the diet roller coaster. Suddenly I realized that the health and fitness tools I discovered for my own life were simply another tool in my tool box to help other women. How could we talk about identity and purpose and calling when they struggled with feeling comfortable in their own skin? I simply started coaching to have more tools to help serve more of women’s needs. But even after 4 1/2 years on this coaching journey, it’s still the heart of women I am after. Yes, I love a good weight loss transformation story as much as the next person, or a great HGTV before and after renovation, but it’s the deeper transformations that speak to me.
And that’s how I connected with Carrie. A mutual friend told me about this cool gal that I just had to meet. She thought we had a lot in common with our passion for our fitness and our faith. I was just months away from moving and up to my eyeballs in end of 8thgrade/DC trip/moving tasks, but I knew if my friend was insisting we should meet I needed to make it happen. I’m so grateful I did.
We met for coffee (off to a good start!) and I just got a small snippet of Carrie’s story and her leap of faith in launching her new personal training business. But it was her heart for women despite, or maybe in spite of, her own circumstances, that resonated with me.
When I started this Super Woman blog series I knew I wanted to learn more of Carrie’s story and I knew someone else out there needed to hear it too.
In Carrie’s words:
Seven years ago my life changed. Everything I thought I had was now gone.
My marriage as I knew it had ended and all I had hoped and dreamed my life would be as a wife and mother was forever changed. I felt broken – not only my heart but my spirit. How could this happen? Wasn’t I good enough? Aren’t husbands and wives supposed to work through their differences and problems?
This time in my life was almost unbearable.
I soon became a single mom of two toddlers, 1 and 4 years old. My kids and I had to move within 2 months as I had to go back to work and in order to do so we had to move from Oregon back to California. It was such a whirlwind over the next 3 years just trying to survive and keep my head above water. There wasn’t any time to grieve and mourn. I had to support my babies, solely on my own.
But there is a rainbow at the end of this. About 8 years ago I had met my friend Nicole. I know now that God put Nicole in my path you see, as Nicole is the one who introduced me to Jesus. If she hadn’t taken the step to ask me to church, I wouldn’t have come to know the Lord as my savior.
Little did I know that less than 6 months from the time I accepted Christ, my marriage would be falling apart. I would not have been able to handle all that I did with my divorce, raising my babies, going back to work, finances – any of it – without God.
I was able to lean into my faith, my family and friends and my church family and feel the presence of God by my side. As I look back over the last 7 years all I can do is see God’s foot prints over it all. I am strong because He made me that way. I can’t do anything apart from Him. He is my stronghold, my fortress, my comforter, my everything.
Today I stand as a strong, confident, fit, healthy, vital, inspiring, encouraging, determined, persistent, loyal, and loving human being that has my own business, makes my own schedule and has a village around me that supports me, rebukes me when needed and loves me and my kids wholeheartedly. I am blessed beyond measure. My life isn’t easy by any means and I am shown daily that I can’t do this on my own and when I try, I fail miserably. God didn’t make us to do this life by ourselves. We are made in His image and He wants to have a personal and intimate relationship with each of His children.
No matter where you are at today, know that you are not alone and you don’t have to do this life alone. God is with you.
In the midst of finding her way as a single mom, Carrie left the security of the business world behind to pursue her own business, Essentially Empowered Fitness, as a personal trainer. In the world’s eyes, this was a wildly risky move. But Carrie worried less about the odds and more about pursuing her passion using her gifts and talents. Today Carrie focuses on helping women #takeyoursheback. SHE = Strength, Health, Empowerment.
Maybe you are starting to understand why Carrie and I instantly had a mutual admiration society. Although I moved shortly after we met, we have continued to stay connected online and encourage and support and lift each other up. We both have a heart for women to be their healthiest – from the inside out. And we both rely firmly on our faith to move forward each day.
Carrie, I am proud of you and honored to have met you on your journey. Your commitment to women’s health, even as you face your own challenges, is inspiring. I know you are just starting to unravel the greater plan for your life and I will be out here standing on my chair cheering for you!