A Journey From Athlete to Health: Visionary Christa Camarillo Mastering the Game of Health

From a young age, Christa had figured out what she wanted — to be the best soccer player. 

And she had the resilience to do whatever it took. Throughout high school, she trained hard and traveled long distances to play for a traveling team. She had to commute all the way from New Orleans to Baton Rouge – 180 miles to and fro – three times on weekdays and weekends.

But her sacrifices were not in vain. The exposure led her to be recruited by the top teams in the country and sign with Powerhouse North Carolina State University as one of the top recruiting classes in the school’s history.

Christa Camarillo was poised to become a top athlete, and the future of her sports career looked bright. 

Halfway into the season, she injured her lower back and took a break to rehab at home that spring. Little did she know that it was going to be a life-changing break.

Heartbreaking Sports Career

Just when she started getting much better, tragedy struck. A serial rapist brutally attacked her as she was training at the stadium track. She managed to escape, barely conscious after the torturous ordeal that would remain with her forever. 

Police arrested the assailant and, after trial, locked him up for life without patrol. As for Christa, she vowed to get back up and started hard training as soon as she got from the hospital. She numbed her mind to the pain and only focused on returning to Raleigh to win the national title.

Her hard work and energy saw her secure a first position as a sophomore. She went on to compete in three NCAA college cups. Looking back at her college days, Christa sees the much she achieved as all her teammates were Olympic and world champions from USA, Canada, and Norway, while she was the unknown girl from Louisiana.

After graduation, Christa Camarillo played for a semi-pro team in Dallas,TX. Later, she trained with a squad in Chicago, but left early for grad school and to train for the combines for the first women’s pro league that would start in 2001 .

But a car accident derailed her plans and changed her. On a sunny day, she was doing a cycling workout when she was hit by a careless driver concentrating on his phone. The impact was so severe that she is thankful to be alive.

However, her sports career died that day. Healing took months of therapy — a wound, jaw, physical, and occupational therapy — and counseling. 

New Purpose in Retraining Health

Christa Camarillo’s story is one of hope, resilience, retraining, and rebuilding life’s purpose. The end of her athletic career marked a new beginning. When she started recovering, she limped into grad school and slowly picked up the pieces.

She immersed herself in her studies and graduated as an outstanding graduate student. This opened an opportunity to work as an exercise physiologist at a local hospital. 

She had found a new purpose in helping others rebuild their health. Empathy helped her connect with the patients and positively impact their healing. She knew this was what she wanted to do and, by 2005, wanted to do more. Her choices were nursing, PT, and medical school. She settled for the latter, went through the application process, and was to sit for her MCAT during the fall. 

However, that summer, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina — a storm like nothing ever witnessed before in her city. When it was announced that the Hurricane was heading for the city, she and her family packed all they could in an SUV and left.      

The Hurricane would hit her livelihood hard. Her entire city and everything she knew was destroyed. Her home, the hospital, and everything she owned were gone. There was no more life for her there. 

When she returned to New Orleans in 2007, the city was still broken, just like her. She opened a fitness and wellness business to help people rebuild their mental wellness. She was successful in her mission, but the weight of the memories was still too much, so in 2014, she moved to Buffalo, New York, for a fresh start.

Even though Christa Camarillo returned to her work as a clinical exercise psychologist, she realized that her tragedies and the tough times taught her never to lose faith, to retrain her body and mind to sit through the tough stuff, and to be more apparent with her purpose.

She needed to help more people going through complex trauma to reflect, retrain and use their hardships as tools to rebuild and live a meaningful and purposeful life. This also led her to people struggling with alcohol abuse, especially post-COVID, when more people abuse alcohol and go through alcohol-induced stress.

Through her company, Retrain LLC, she hosts forums and coaches people on stress and its effects on the heart, risk factor management, and how habit and mindset change can help their journeys.  

She helps more struggling with alcohol to change their relationship with the drug, find more meaning for their lives and mind their health. She also consults for Reframe, a top alcohol reduction app, so as to impact more people willing to take this walk. 

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.