In celebration of Latine Heritage Month, Tonal coaches Frances Flores, Jared Rodriguez, and community member Conrad Rodas open up about overcoming challenges to follow their dreams.
Hard-working parents, a grandma’s revelation, a challenge from a friend: Three different circumstances inspired these Latine athletes to honor their heritages and follow their dreams. As part of Latine Heritage Month—observed in the United States from September 15 to October 15—Tonal coaches Frances Flores and Jared Rodriguez join community member and triathlete Conrad Rodas to tell us their unique stories. Here, they share how their roots and loved ones helped strengthen their resolve to pursue their dreams.
Moving to the U.S. taught Coach Frances the true meaning of strength
Coach Frances was born in Puerto Rico to a family of musicians, artists, and teachers. Coming from a household of hard-working, creative, and passionate individuals gave her the freedom to explore her own passions. “I never felt like I had to make myself fit inside a specific box,” she said. Seeking new opportunities, Frances’ parents moved their whole family to the U.S. when she was 13 years old.
Relocating to America was what helped Frances begin to understand the meaning of inner strength. “Leaving what we are comfortable with, our family, friends, and home, and moving to a place where we don’t know anyone—with a different culture and language and without knowing what lies ahead—takes a lot of strength and courage,” she said.
But Frances saw her parents work hard and make sacrifices daily to ensure that she and her brother were provided for and exposed to the best opportunities. “We were always encouraged to follow our dreams no matter what they were. As long as we had a plan and worked hard to achieve those dreams,” she said.
Still, following her passions didn’t come without its challenges, and it certainly wasn’t a straight shot to success. “I’ve lived many lives, and it hasn’t always been easy, but in the end, it has always been rewarding and fulfilling, and that’s what matters,” she said.
Most importantly, the strength built within her family helped Frances stay true to herself. “It taught me to never give up on myself,” she said. “Everything I have done in my life has been connected to my roots in one way or another. So, be proud of who you are and where you come from.”
Coach Jared’s grandmother inspired him to let go of fear.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Coach Jared was a timid kid. Scared of the world, he gravitated toward magazines filled with images of strong bodies. “It was tough to explain at the time, but I was obsessed with the physicality and power of a muscular body,” he said. “I thought [building muscle] could be the start of becoming something special.”
Life had other plans, and Jared ended up playing professional baseball for 15 years instead of pursuing his passion to become a bodybuilder. “When I came to realize that ball was over, I turned to fitness, and it became my life,” he explained. As Rodriguez’s fitness career progressed, his “deep desire to build muscle and compete professionally still burned like a raging flame.” Now, the only thing holding him back was fear.
Jared finally shared his fears with his grandma. “’Mijo,’ she said, ‘This has been a big problem in our family for generations. The fear of putting yourself out there, fear of failure, and the fear of not being enough have been passed down from generation to generation as we have only known survival mode and nothing more,’” he shared.
Rodriguez said this revelation was the powerful awakening he needed. “It was time to decide my future and make my roots proud in a way they haven’t been before.” The following year, he joined the National Physique Committee (NPC), and after 13 weeks of intense training and competition, he finished fourth out of 16 participants. “It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. My Mexican roots pushed me to realize that I am powerful, incredibly able, and in this life, the future belongs to the brave,” he said.
After Conrad Rodas lost his motivation, a friend helped him reignite a passion from his youth with a bet.
Rodas grew up swimming for the Guatemalan National Team, believing that someday he would represent his country internationally. After high school, he moved to the U.S. to join a division one swimming program in Louisville, Kentucky, but swimming and studying full-time left him feeling burned out. Rodas ended his swimming career shortly after graduating as an engineer.
Life away from the pool resulted in Rodas losing his motivation for fitness. But then, a buddy challenged Rodas to participate in an Ironman Triathlon with a high-stakes bet that he wouldn’t make it across the finish line. Although Rodas agreed to the challenge, his heart wasn’t exactly in it. “While training, I found myself going through the motions and following a program without any real passion,” he said.
One day before the race, everything changed. Rodas was sitting at his dining table flipping through the race guide, looking for his name, when he saw that his bib number displayed the Guatemalan flag. Realizing he would be the only athlete representing his country that year reignited Rodas’ passion and competitive spirit. “It’s not something I have felt many times in my life, but it was a very emotional moment. I felt a chill down my spine,” he explained.
Rodas held the Guatemalan flag as he crossed the finish line of his first Ironman in 2011. Winning the bet felt good, but Rodas’ real win was representing his country and Latin America. “It was a privilege I will never forget, and I look forward to proudly continuing that,” he said. Since then, Rodas has caught the bug and represented his country in several triathlons: five half Ironman World Championships and one Ironman World Championship.