40-pound weight loss inspires Sonoma personal trainer to share what she knows

Danielly Rocha gained 40 pounds when she moved to Sonoma County from Brazil, dropped the weight and had people asking for her to train them. She became certified and opened Danielly’s Fitness in 2018.|

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the sounds of an aggressive alarm go off welcoming Danielly Rocha to a new day. All her mornings start out the same, seven days a week, with that 5:30 alarm. The busy mother and owner of Danielly’s Fitness in Sonoma takes advantage of her early start as a way to set up her day to maximize her time.

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She wakes up and works out until 7 a.m., then she wakes her daughter. The two eat breakfast and head out the door for daycare. After Rocha, 35, drops off her 3-year-old daughter, she heads out to begin a full day of work as a personal trainer.

It’s 8:30 a.m., and her workday has officially started. A typical day consists of meeting clients, answering emails and phone calls, business meetings and occasionally covering personal training sessions for her employees.

“I am a personal trainer, but I am also running a business at the same time,” said Rocha on how she wears multiple hats throughout the day. “On top of that, I am a mom and a wife as well.”

By 5 p.m. Rocha is done with work. She picks up her daughter from daycare and heads home. By 5:30 p.m., she’s making dinner, a family favorite is Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian pork or beef stew with beans.

The beans are always made from scratch because as a Brazilian, “eating beans from a can is a sin," Rocha said.

At 6:30 p.m., the family of three eats and after dinner, Rocha and her husband start their bedtime routine for their daughter. And by 8 p.m. the little one is in bed.

Following a full 15-hour day on her feet, running her business, meeting clients, making dinner and connecting with family, one would think it’s time to unwind or go to sleep, but Rocha’s mind isn’t ready to rest. She either reads a book or watches a movie with her husband while simultaneously checking emails because, as a business owner, the work never stops.

Finally, around 9:30 p.m., Rocha is in bed and recharging for the night as another tasked-filled day awaits her in eight hours.

Leaving Brazil for Sonoma

Originally from southeast Brazil, Rocha grew up in the capital city of Espirito Santo, Vitória. In Vitória, she lived on the beachfront, and at that time, her whole life was dedicated to sports and the ocean. Rocha played volleyball, soccer, surfed and was even a lifeguard.

In 2009, she moved to the United States at 21 years old to work as an au pair for a family in Sonoma. During that time, she didn’t speak any English — only Portuguese. The plan was to become an au pair in Spain, but found Sonoma County more affordable than Europe.

Seeing the need to learn English quickly, Rocha’s mother paid for English lessons when she settled in Sonoma. On top of learning a new language, Rocha was by herself in a new country.

“I didn't know anyone. At first, it felt like an adventure leaving your country, your family and your friends and coming to a country where you barely spoke the language,” she said of that time. “And later I was crying almost every day. I was out of my comfort zone, but a few months later, I met my two best friends, my husband and a Brazilian friend.”

When she first got to Sonoma, she worked 40 hours a week as an au pair and lived with her host family. She also worked as a dishwasher at a local restaurant to earn more money to travel and explore Northern California.

Catalyst for change

Then, she was eating lots of fast food that she gained 45 pounds.

“When I came in 2009, I met my first best friend, McDonald’s,” she said.

Recognizing how much her body changed, Rocha wanted to do something about it. Looking back at that time in her life, Rocha said she was depressed because she missed her family, which led to filling that emotional void with food.

“I tried everything that everybody does to lose weight. I tried diet pills, diet books and I even went to Food Addicts Anonymous,” she said.

Then, one day she was watching the female wrestlers on WWE, and thought “why can’t I look like that?”

It was after that segment that she started studying wellness. She learned about nutrition, weight lifting and how to recalibrate her mind. This is where she realized she needed to be in good mental shape before starting a physical journey to lose weight.

“That day I finally decided that I was going to lose weight. I started applying myself and really started to understand the concept of weight loss,” she said.

Rocha began hitting the gym and credits adopting healthier eating habits, and learning how to cook, as a major factor in her losing weight. All that paired with a positive mindset and over time, she finally started to see progress in her weight loss journey.

“After that, I was able to lose 40 pounds, and I started teaching (and train) people for free,” she said.

About the business

In 2018, Danielly Rocha officially started, Danielly’s Fitness with an all-women staff that now includes three other personal trainers, a group instructor and one life coach. Her staff includes Claudia Jereb, Katie Duffy, Bria Gabor, Roxana Garcia and Lori Varsames.

The team offers virtual, in-person and corporate sessions.

More information: 707-343-5777, daniellysfitness.com

Becoming a businesswoman

Rocha went from showing people how to workout for free to people wanting to be trained by her and offering money for training sessions.

She eventually left her au pair job and worked for a biotechnology company in the morning. Then in the afternoon and on weekends she would train others while working toward various personal training certifications. Rocha began taking courses and received certifications in CPR, yoga, TRX, fitness nutrition and metabolic training among others.

“Rocha is not just a trainer, but has become a trusted friend. I started (training) with her ... five years ago because I was getting injured by my former trainer,” said Keith Ridenhour, a loyal client. “She is constantly searching out new techniques and ways of exercising and training. But most importantly she watches carefully and assesses what I need to do and if I’m hiding pain or discomfort.”

In 2018, Rocha officially started, Danielly’s Fitness with an all-women staff that now includes three other personal trainers, a group instructor and one life coach. Her staff includes Claudia Jereb, Katie Duffy, Bria Gabor, Roxana Garcia and Lori Varsames.

“I love our team. I always feel supported,” said Gabor who shares workouts on her Instagram.

The team offers in-person personal training sessions through their fully-equipped fitness van and online virtual sessions. Most of their in-person sessions are in Sonoma County, but the team also has virtual clients all over the United States, including Los Angeles and New York.

“My favorite part about being a trainer is listening to people and helping them. I love it when clients tell me they lost weight, but I don’t like it when they tell me I am the only reason they did,” Rocha said. “I tell them you did it, you lost the weight. I just taught you the techniques and told you what to do.”

Goals for herself, the team

Rocha said her goals for her business are, of course, to expand and obtain more clients, but also she wants to help provide more financial stability for her team, especially when it comes to daycare services. Three out of six of her staff members have small children.

“My dream is to be able to help them financially,” she said. “I want to be able to pay for a part of the daycare because it can be expensive. I want to show them that they can have kids and still keep working. I want to do this because I know they want to work, they love to work but financially it’s hard. When I am able to do this, I will finally know that I made it in this business.”

As for advice for fellow Latinas looking to starting their own business, Rocha said, “don’t give up. Businesses are like stock markets, they go up and they go down. If something doesn’t work out it is because you gave up too early. You have to keep trying and learn from your mistakes.”

Rocha loves what she does and gets so much joy from helping and teaching others. She believes that her path is to teach and gets so much gratitude from what she does for a living.

“I just love what I do,” she said. “I love teaching people, I believe teaching is my path. I want to share my knowledge and be able to explain it to people in multiple ways until they understand it. It just feels so good.”

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