Sarah Carello is one tough (plant-based) cookie. No matter the weight, no matter the workout, you can count on Sarah to push herself and inspire others to do the same. Sarah has been a member at the gym for 2 years, and has been doing CrossFit for almost 4. In her time at CFQS, Sarah has continuously put in the physical and mental work required to make progress in all areas of her fitness. Read below to learn more about how Sarah achieved her first strict muscle-up (!), how she plans to become a “smarter” athlete, and how she feels about the strength of the CFQS community.

How do you like to rest and recover? I normally like to spend two days a week completely outside of the gym. One of these days I normally spend working and getting caught up on a lot school work. My other rest day I like to do things to relax like read, watch movies, do some cooking, spend time with friends and eat delicious things. Taking time to get my mind off all the things that I have to do prevents becoming overloaded with stress which really affects my recovery.

What do you eat on a typical day? 

Most of my food choices revolve around making sure I am getting enough food so that I feel good and recover well. Monday through Friday I am mostly eating meal prepped meals. 
Breakfast is basically the same every day: oatmeal with berries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and peanut butter. For lunch and dinner my main considerations are including a protein source (tofu, beans, tempeh, nuts, seeds) some high-quality carbs (potatoes, potatoes, potatoes) and veggies. 
Some common batch meals that I make for the week are:
-tofu scramble and potatoes
-black bean burritos bowls with quinoa 
-chili or soup (tortilla soup is my favourite)

I like to try new recipes and change it up but recipes like these take less than an hour to whip together, are filling, have all the nutrients I’m looking for, and are so delicious!

Have you changed the way you eat since you began CrossFit, If so, how? Before I joined CrossFit I struggled a lot with nutrition. There is so much information out there and I tried quite a few different things with the goal of losing fat and gaining muscle but ultimately my relationship with food was bad and it made eating “healthy” really difficult. When I first joined CrossFit, I went through a period where I counted my calories but my quality of food was not that great and I felt restricted and guilty all the time. Then I found the simple genius of Michael Pollan that moved me away from calorie counting and I followed one simple rule “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” I cut out most processed food from my daily life (still treat myself) and focused on filling my plate with veggies 3 times a day. Six months ago, I took this a step further and went fully plant-based. This transition has allowed me to eat intuitively while making gains and to feel good about what I’m eating.

How does training/CrossFit fit into your life? Training and CrossFit are a huge part of my life. Exercise has been important to me since I was young, it was always a way for me to have fun and relieve stress. Once I found CrossFit, it became much more important. Training is how I challenge myself physically and mentally, and this has helped me improve my life outside the gym as well. More importantly, I consider my people at Queen Street my second family and they’re the reason that Kingston now feels like home to me. CrossFit is an amazing sport that has allowed me to be my fittest and my most mentally tough, but the people are really the best thing.

What reasons did you have to train when you started CrossFit? Have those reasons changed? If so, how? When I started CrossFit, I wanted to be strong and I wanted to look good. I wanted to squat above 100 pounds, I wanted to snatch and have it look like the people in the videos that I watched. What has changed is how I value my health and fitness and what I get out of my training. I now know that I get a lot more from training than just a strong body. Working hard teaches us grit and gives me confidence in myself. The CrossFit community has also provided me with tools and support to work on my mindfulness to improve my fitness and my life. These things plus the ability to do the amazing things I’m now able to do (compared to when I started) are why I’m still doing CrossFit.

What improvements have you made in the past 6 months that you are most proud of? What I’m really proud of is a project that started over a year ago. I decided that I was going to commit to the process and do what I had to do to get a strict muscle-up. This meant programmed extra work at first 5 times a week and then transitioned to three times a week. It took one full year. I’m so happy to have gotten my strict muscle-up last month, but what made it so sweet was the fact that that moment had been something that I had been working towards for so long. Asking Callum for help and trusting him through the process is one of the things I’m most grateful for that I’ve done in the gym.

Do you currently have a main focus or goal(s) with your training? I’m continuing to focus on gymnastic strength and skill work, this dominates my extra work. My other main goal for my training is working on being a smarter athlete. This mainly means choosing the right scales for workouts, working on how to pace workouts better, and listening to my body.

What would you consider to be your greatest strength as an athlete? I would consider my grit as my greatest strength as an athlete. Having grit, I believe, applies to my training in two ways. It means that I push through a workout despite the pain or tiredness. It also means I move towards my goals no matter the obstacles that might come along the way. I think it is so helpful to realize that there are no pre-requisites to setting a goal and chasing it – yes it will take longer than the people who don’t have those obstacles (maybe) – but you will only get there if you just start, and then commit. When I started my work with Callum to get a muscle up I only had 1 chin over bar pull-up and I couldn’t do a ring dip. Grit to me just means committing to the hard work no matter what and I owe a lot of my success to that.

What is one thing that you do every day that you feel is essential in contributing to your success in the gym? I can’t stress enough how important being in the right mindset is for success in the gym. Almost every day I do some form of reflection work to work on my mindset. This means reading books on the topic, taking time to cook or work or walk to school in silence and think, and having conversations with people I trust about the process. This doesn’t mean that every day I feel great. But getting better at controlling my thoughts has had a huge effect on my performance in the gym and how I see myself.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you started CrossFit, what would it be? If I could give myself once piece of advice when I started it would be "Stop worrying about what other people may or may not think about you here."
When I started, all I wanted was to be able to do all the workouts RX. I thought that once I did that people would see me as "fit." I was driven by a lot of insecurity at the time. I'm sure other people have felt the same way. What I wish I had realized sooner was that nobody in this gym labels people as fit or not fit, and everyone who shows up day-to-day is killing it already. Realizing that the gym is full of people who wanted the best for me and who weren't judging me was huge in terms of making friends and enjoying myself at the gym.

Do you have a favourite quotation or mantra related to training? During a workout my mind is pretty quiet just counting and focusing on what I’m doing, but my mantra for training in general is “trust in the process.” For me, this mostly reminds me not to get caught up in the PRs or any specific workout where I do really well or don’t do well. Everything will come if you work for it, I just need to trust in my coaches and the program and that my own hard work will pay off.

Is there anything you would like to add? Being plant-based is super awesome and it gives you super powers.