"CrossFit is my slice of quiet time during the day. It's time when I can really zone out and not think about kids or my job. I can just focus on myself for one hour, and then get back in the car and put on my mom hat."
Emily Carothers’ story may sound familiar to many CrossFitters.
She doesn’t own a gym or spend hours and hours training, but this wife, mother of two young boys and start-up entrepreneur has been able to successfully juggle family, career and CrossFit – so well, in fact, that she currently sits in a comfortable 9th place going into the North West Regional.
“I’m just a regular person,” she humbly says. “I don’t live in the gym; I don’t own a gym; I don’t train obsessively. I’m a working mom, and I’m able to be successful. There are plenty of women out there who can be successful without having to live in the gym.”
Reviving Her Athletic Edge
Competition is nothing new to this 30-year-old from Maple Valley, Wash.
Carothers practiced gymnastics for 18 years, including a successful stint as a Division 1 athlete for the University of Washington. Her specialty: the uneven bars.
“I did the elite circuit when I was younger, and then went on to do college gymnastics,” she says. “That experience definitely aided in my success at CrossFit. The foundation of CrossFit has a lot of gymnastics movements, so it helps when you’ve done that for 18 years.”
CrossFit captured Carothers’ attention in February 2010 when a gym – Maple Valley CrossFit – popped up across the street from her workplace. At first, she thought it was just another gimmick. “But then I walked in there and watched and was just blown away,” she says. “I wanted to give it a try.”
After a grueling week of workouts, what she found was a sport that could take her to the next level, “that would allow me to push my body and go back to that competitive atmosphere,” she says, adding that it also helped her get back into shape after the birth of her eldest son, Deacon, who is now 2 years old.
Carothers jumped in with both feet – and boy, was she ready.
Muscle Memory Redux
Burned out following her collegiate gymnastics career, she decided to take some time away from athletics to allow her body to heal. But when she started crushing workouts and getting back into shape, her muscle memory from so many years of sports snapped her body back into place.
“It was amazing to me how fast everything came back,” she says.
CrossFit’s Olympic lifting movements were new to Carothers, but she pushed herself and planned to compete in the 2011 Games. That changed on Christmas morning 2010 when she learned she was pregnant with her second child, Nash.
“I spent all last year pregnant and not able to do the Games,” she says. “I definitely lost a lot of strength. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I couldn’t even maintain where I was at. [Nash] weighed more than 8 pounds, and at 5-foot-2, that’s a lot of baby! I had to stop working out at 36 weeks.”
But five days after Nash was born, Carothers headed back to the gym, ready to go at it again. “We ran a 5K that first day back,” she recalls. “I was definitely sore for a week.”
Now, she’s back – and ready compete against the best of them in the North West Regional. “I surprised myself a bit,” she admits. “I didn’t think I’d be where I’m at today.”
Focus on Strength, Training
Over the next two months, Carothers plans to ramp up her workouts and focus on building strength, she says. “My potential for improvement is so much higher because I didn’t train at the intensity that a lot of people did last year because I was pregnant,” she says. “I’m going to work on training longer to see what I can do.”
Her main challenge: juggling her priorities and finding time for training. Her husband and fellow CrossFitter Greg is there to help, but sometimes her boys need their mom.
“Time and trying to fit in my workouts every day are big challenges,” she says. “There are days, unfortunately, that I just don’t make it into the gym. My main focus is my kids, and if they’re having a bad day and need me around, then that’s what I do. They are my No. 1 priority.”
Still, she truly relishes her workout time – like many CrossFit parents do.
Besides discovering a sport that challenges and pushes her to the next level, she realized stealing an hour a day at the gym gives her a much-needed “slice of quiet during the day,” she says. “It’s time when I can really zone out and not think about kids or my job. I can just focus on myself for one hour, and then get back in the car and put on my mom hat.”
Carothers’ Open Stats
12.1: 128 burpees
12.2: 89 total reps
12.3: 375 total reps; 10 completed rounds, plus 15 box jumps
12.4: 245 total reps
12.5: 120 total reps; finished round of 15, plus 18 thrusters and 12 pull-ups