“3 Years of CrossFit and This Is What I Have Learned”

3 Years of CrossFit and This Is What I Have Learned
by Sara Carr

There has been a lot going on with blog comments and I have been wanting to throw in my two cents a lot but wanted to do it in a constructive way. So here goes.

Three years ago I walked into CFNYC. I was already pretty strong and had a gymnastics background but I wasn’t familiar with the CrossFit movements or standards and I had never experienced anything as intense as any given WOD provides. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I became a good and competent CrossFitter and the following is my conclusion.

I did every single mainsite WOD for an entire year. As rx’d. Three days on, one day off. Some of them I did in class, some of them I did at the other gym I was working at. Some of them I crushed and some were a complete shitshow. I remember doing “Elizabeth” (with full squat cleans) one night. Hari counted for me. The instructor ran two heats and I was in the first. I did not call time until after everyone in the second heat was already done. I don’t advocate this and you all know I am all about scaling. I actually scale more WODs now than I ever did in my first year. However, I learned my limitations, how to pace myself, how to be efficient, what was too heavy, and what was too light. I still refer back to those numbers and times.

Over the course of that first year I took class with every single instructor and I can still tell you who taught me which movements. There were some coaches I preferred but I picked up different cues and ideas from all of them. When I started working the front desk (yes, I used to be the desk staff) I would spend four hours every night listening to Court, Mike K, Justin, and Allison teach different movements and I still remember and use their cues.

I worked out with people who were better than me and knew more than me. I owe a lot to Craig Chaikin, Brett Tom, Kevin Willims (Torch) and Zach Singer. They made me put weight on the bar, gave me more shit than I give all of you, and made me do stupid cashouts with them at every class. The one and only time I have ever deadlifted 265lbs was with Craig and it is because he would not let me leave the gym until I picked the bar up. We were there until after 10pm.

I started competing immediately. Competition gives you motivation to train and inspires you to work harder. All of you should do it. No excuses–there are tons of local competitions with scaling options for anyone.

I did not read a million articles about how to do CrossFit or how to be an athlete. Instead, I watched a lot of videos of the Olympic lifts, slow lifts, and gymnastics movements. I then practiced them all on my own without anyone telling me what to do. The only private training I have ever had is with Brian D. on the oly lifts (who I highly recommend).

I did switch to OPT competition programming for a period of time. It worked. I got strong and fast, became adjusted to a high volume of work, and learned to push myself to my limit. However, I had 3 hours a day to work out and I was training for the Games. If I were to train for the Games again I would consider going back to his programming…it is not for many people. In fact, I can name maybe 5 people at the box who I think would benefit from it.

I never ate paleo except for one month when I did the Box’s challenge. I don’t take fish oil. I also don’t drink more than once a month and I get 8 hours of sleep almost every night.

The point I’m trying to make is this. You will not get better at CrossFit by doing anything but CrossFit. Your program will not make you a better CrossFitter. What you put into it will. 95% of the people at the box should do nothing but take classes and work on the things they are bad at (preferably pull-ups and getting stronger). Starting Strength will not make you a better CrossFitter. It will make you fat and unconditioned. Wendler is not necessary if you are showing up and actually putting effort into the lifting portion of the WOD class. Eating paleo is great if it works for you but it will not make you lift more weight unless you put weight on the bar. It will not make you look better unless you actually train. CrossFit Football is great for people who are already efficient at the movements, need to get stronger, and have been taking classes for a long period of time. Same goes for Invictus. However, keep in mind you are missing out on the community aspect. Those of you who do alternate programming should take an actual class every once in a while. Newer members need you to push them and you can benefit from helping coach them. And for pete’s sake, stop being so negative all of the time. This is fitness, it’s supposed to be fun.

(Photos courtesy of Kayam R.)


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  • This is why AM rocks! 

  • InvictusWayne

    Great post Sara.

  • Kevin

    Nice post Sara! Very important to know if you are trying to be good at crossfit. Work your goats then do the wod!

  • Dickie

    “For Pete’s sake.”

    For once she pulls a punch.


  • Nice. I love this post.

  • Anonymous

    so, if you asked me 6 months ago if I thought hanging out at 6am everyday with a 25 year old would change the way i think about fitness and my ability to push myself out of my comfort zone i would have said… “no fucking way”…. Then i met Sara Carr.   thanks coach! 

  • Moon

    “Starting Strength will not make you a better CrossFitter. It will make you fat and unconditioned.”

    While I am not a fan of absolute statements, it is also fair to say that Starting Strength will also quickly make you much stronger than the vast majority of CrossFitters.

    • Anonymous

      …and just how strong are the “vast majority of Crossfitters”?  And if said majority did Starting Strength instead of Crossfit, how much fitter would they be?  

      Perhaps if you come to Crossfit to only get strong, yes, Starting Strength might be a better option.  But I think the essence of Sara’s statement is that focusing on one element of your fitness vs. all of them will not yield favorable results over time for anything except that one element.

      • Moon

        “…and just how strong are the “vast majority of Crossfitters”?”  
        Not very, apparently.  My at-best-mediocre CrossFit Total record of 1072 stood (and stands, I believe) for well over a year at the rather large CrossFit gym where I set it. 

        I think there could have been a good argument made that Starting Strength will not make a person a better CrossFitter, but to say – and to only say – that “it will make you fat and unconditioned” seems to give an very incomplete and negative view of what strength training can do for a person. 

        • Sara

          You’re absolutely right Moon. Being strong is vital to CrossFit. Starting Strength is a great program for some people and I have seen it make (when done correctly) a lot of people really strong. I personally have not witnessed anyone get better at CrossFit from doing Starting Strength. I also am not an expert on strength training and am happy to admit that was not the best worded statement I have ever made.

      • Johnautobahn

        The “vast majority of Crossfitters” are DYEL. I bench more than most of my fellow xfitters squat.

  • CAIN

    Best things about S. Carr:
    1 she goes REAL HARD (abortion burpees, anyone?), but
    2 she will always listen & learn from someone she respects/trusts

    • Sara

      Best things about CAIN:
      1. He has a platform in his basement
      2. He practices his rapping skills while jump roping

  • Meret Hofer

    love this article! really appreciate the perspective as someone just starting crossfit.

  • Avery W

    What I love and admire about Sara is her work ethic.  Even though some of this stuff comes naturally to her (ahem short arms! = HSPU) she works harder than most anyone I know.  Also, she keeps things so simple — if you are willing to work hard you will get the results – it’s not that complicated.

    • Sara

      Why I love Avery:
      1. She lets me steal all of her coaching cues
      2. She lifts more than most men and never drops her bar
      3. She is one of the few people I know who works harder than me
      4. She’s super bulky

  • Bryce

    Sara is still one of the toughest and one of the best coaches I’ve had.  She’s Marine Corps tough and holds her athletes accountable.  

  • Torch

    One handed kettlebell push up are a fantastic cash out

  • Tracey

    Great comments Sara!  

  • Emily Wheaton

    Sara…  I still talk about how you get in my face when I’m working out.  you were one of my favorite coaches @ the Box because you made the workouts FUN.  and you made everyone feel competent, even when first learning.  COME TO CFPC!!!!

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  • Coach Sara, LOVE the serene face in the lifting pic.


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  • limace31


    I don’t mean to look rude or aggressive but here is my thought about something you wrote.
    This article is extremely biased as you seem to dismiss any strength program in favor of CrossFit WODs only. Have you ever heard of periodization? Do you know that a lot of Boxes and Crossfit coaches use Starting Strength and or Wendler to make their athletes stronger?

    Also, Starting Strength does not make you fat. What you eat makes you fat, and people doing the program, in general, tend to only think about strength and have gigantic meals.
    Starting Strength is one of the best novice programs based on linear progression. It is not meant to last forever: it is meant to make you stronger FAST. Why would you dismiss such a powerful tool in favor of an inferior methodology?

    Sure, CrossFit will make you moderately strong. Sure, Starting Strength makes you unconditioned. But when you have a 400 lbs deadlift and twice bodyweight squat, WODs become much easier and so does performance.

    As for conditioning, it takes as little as one month or two to get back to previous levels while it takes years to develop strength. Mixing strength and conditioning in the same program and you have the recipe for years of average performance, unless you have very good genetics of course.

    Make not mistake: I love Crossfit for its ability to make you lose fat and for the wonders it does to women’s bodies…and I love when I do WODs. But I understood that strength was to be developed first if you want to make the best of CrossFit.

    Once again, just my thoughts. You’re entitled to your opinion of course and I respect that.

    • limace31

      After reading the comments, I saw that you already answered this with a great sense of honesty. So, please disregard 😉

    • thinkbeforeyouspeak

      You wrote this just to hear yourself talk, didn’t you.