Christa Camarillo: From Broken Dreams to Fixing Broken Hearts

Life doesn’t always give you what you expect. It is full of twists and unexpected turns.

And sometimes, you can feel like you have been dealt an unfair hand by fate. But, at the end of the day, life is what you make of it.

Clinical exercise physiologist, health coach, and speaker Christa Camarillo has experienced a couple of strikes in her life. These downfalls may have led to broken dreams in her promising sports career, but they shaped her to be good at what she does now.

A Promising Sports Career

Christa Camarillo grew up in New Orleans, LA, and discovered early on that she was gifted in sports and school. The only issue that impeded getting to the national and Olympic levels was that soccer was not well-established in Louisiana.

However, she was prepared to do whatever it would take. And it involved traveling three times on weekdays and on the weekends to Baton Rouge —a 180 miles round trip—throughout her high school to play for a traveling team.    

The sacrifice paid off as it led to being recruited by the top teams and signing with Powerhouse NC State. 

Halfway into the season, she injured her lower back and had to take the spring off to recuperate at home. On March 11, 1993, she was feeling much better and decided to go for her first track session. She was 18 years old.

Christa Camarillo was just starting to warm up at the stadium track after training at the stairs when her world was about to be shuttered. A serial rapist who was out on good behavior brutally attacked her for what seemed like hours. Barely conscious, she managed to escape and seek help. Police arrested the criminal as they knew him well by description. He would be later sentenced to life without parole.

After her hospital treatment, Christa numbed her mind and resumed her physical training harder and more determined than before. All her energy was on winning the national title. So good was she that she earned a starting position in her sophomore year.

However, they did not win the national trophy but finished fifth in the country, which was a big deal. But not for Christa. She continued working hard and playing with semi-pro teams and working the college camps during the summers until she graduated. 

She then moved to Dallas, TX, in 1997, where she played for the semi-pro team Dallas Lightening before it folded a year later. She also trained with the Chicago Cobras in 1999 for a few months before applying for grad school and going back home to New Orleans. 

It was also time for bigger things. The first women’s pro league was going to start in 2000 and she wanted to train for the combines. 

Sadly, a tragedy that cost her the pro league and soccer career happened. One morning, as Christa was riding her training bike, she was knocked by a car. Someone driving while on the phone ran over her slamming her head with the windshield.  

The accident caused her skull fractures, lacerations, and ligament tears all over her body. All her league hopes and sports dreams were shuttered in a single moment. 

Mending Broken Hearts

Recovery was rough, taking months of wound, jaw, physical, and occupational therapy and counseling. 

But Christa was still willing to conquer her setbacks. Amid her pain and suffering, she limped through grad school, graduated as an outstanding graduate student, and worked as an exercise physiologist at a local hospital, rehabilitating people’s hearts. 

She resonated with her patients. Seeing them dealing with heart conditions and their lives coming to a stop reminded her of her own broken heart and how her life almost came to a standstill. The next step was learning empathy and retraining, which came naturally; she could transfer this to her patients with positive results. Christa Camarillo had found her calling. 

She continued working for the hospital until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina swept through her city. It destroyed everything, including her home and was one of the hardest blows for her and the whole city. 

When she returned to New Orleans in 2007, she opened her fitness and wellness business to heal the broken city. 

Even though business was good, the memories of her broken dreams were taking their toll on her, and she relocated to Buffalo, NY, in 2014.

In 2019, Christa put her business on hold after being recruited as a Cardiac Exercise Physiologist in Monterey, California. Later, the COVID pandemic came and increased pressure in her life. This and the long clinical hours left her burnt out, sleep-deprived, and self-medicating with alcohol. 

Early summer of 2022, Christa Camarillo took a leave of absence to put things back on track. After three months of deep spiritual, mental, and physical work, she became more apparent with her purpose. 

Today, with renewed faith, she is working on relaunching her company, Retrain LLC. Additionally, she is hosting forums and workshops on stress and the heart, risk factor management, and habit and mindset change. She is also consulting with Reframe–the top alcohol reduction app in the country.

Christa Camarillo’s new purpose is to help the larger population retrain on their health, heart, and alcohol struggles. 

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