If there’s one thing that stands out most about Sarah Hopping Estrella it’s her warm smile. She’s always smiling and remains true to her mantra of loving what she does:
“The best advice I can give is find what you love and do it to the best of your ability.”
During a record-setting competition weekend at the NorCal Regionals, the Hopping, as she’s known to her friends, worked through some of the biggest challenges she’s faced to date and set the record with a 192-lb snatch. Remarkable, considering she dislocated a rib “midway through the Open this year!”
Sarah’s drive and passion for the sport of CrossFit is truly inspiring. When she steps up to compete, there is a look of calm on her face and her fighting spirit shines through. It is clear how much she enjoys this Game of CrossFit:
“It’s so fun to be here. I’ve worked so hard to make it back again this year after taking a year off for weight lifting.”
Sarah has faced many “forms of aches and pains” – a broken elbow, a subluxated rib and last year, a femoral stress fracture, but she never quits. Instead, she seeks the rest and recovery she needs and the counsel of experts like Dr Taylor Rabbetz, a talented chiropractor that Sarah says she owes “a huge debt of gratitude for his role in making this possible.”
Sarah and her husband, Rob Estrella, run a CrossFit gym in San Francisco called Arena Ready – “an elite performance center dedicated to improving” lives “through commitment to form, function, and the pursuit of excellence.” It is here, through the Arena Ready Community that Sarah finds her inspiration and the fight to keep going. In a blog she wrote called So Grateful she says:
“Every athlete is a product of the training environment, and mine has been wonderful. I’m so grateful to each and every Arena Ready athlete who has pushed to be better while part of our community. Your effort, your tenacity, your determination, and your enthusiasm inspire me on a daily basis and make me want to make the best of myself.”
And make the best of herself she did during Event 5 of the California CrossFit Regionals when she pulled off that record-breaking 192-lb snatch. When we asked Sarah about her approach to training for the Regionals and changes she’s made to her diet this year, she said:
“Last year I spent a lot of time trying to cut weight. This year I’ve decided to focus on performance, so I’ve educated myself about the role of carbs in training mostly.”
The Paleo Diet and The Role of Carbs
We wanted to know more about Sarah’s approach to nutrition and how she thinks this has helped with her outstanding performance this year:
“When I started CrossFit I did a ton of research about the Paleo diet, followed it very strictly, and successfully lost the extra 20 pounds that I’d been carrying as a hammer thrower. For the next three years, I could pretty easily manage my body composition within a few pounds using the Paleo diet – more compliant meant I would be more lean in a few weeks, more relaxed meant I would be less lean in a few weeks.
“When I started trying to cut for weightlifting, I realized that without structure around quantity, I was eating way too much fat, not enough protein and almost no carbs. In order to lose about ten pounds from an already fairly lean baseline, I studied to become a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach, and using the information I gained through that certification, combined with the parts of the Paleo diet that works for me (no added sugar, no gluten, dairy, or legumes), I upped my protein and carb intakes to between 150 and 175g per day, and managed my fat intake based on the caloric deficit I was targeting. I leaned out a lot, but I was having a hard time recovering and getting stronger.
“When I decided to get back into CrossFit, and stop trying to maintain an artificially low bodyweight for weightlifting in the 75kg class, I kept my protein target about the same, but instead of cutting back on carbs like I had in the Paleo days, I decided to focus on keeping carbs in my diet by eating fruit, white rice, oatmeal and Revive-Rx Recovery, which offers a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein versus the pure protein I’d used in the past.
“In combination, I’ve gained back about five pounds, but I recover better, I avoided overuse injuries leading up to Regionals, and probably most exciting, I’ve been able to maintain the strength I gained while weightlifting. I bombed out at Nationals last summer opening at 192, and I didn’t even have to walk on my hands and do two demanding workouts the day before that! I’ve also had much better stamina in CrossFit workouts – the muscle burn that used to cripple me long before my wind gave out is almost never an issue anymore.”
Sarah has reached a stage in her career where she appreciates that times change. In a recent interview, she said, “I feel like I’m approaching the season as though it could be my last. I don’t necessarily know that I’m going to retire, that I won’t compete again, but I have a much greater appreciation for each year that I make it…everything is a blessing at this point.”
As a veteran of the sport, Sarah has seen many friends suffer “injuries or lose focus or get burned out.” She says, “I’m very conscious that my life can’t continue to have this level of focus year after year forever. And I very nearly didn’t make it this year. I want to appreciate every last bit of the season, and I want to know that at the end of it, I’ve done everything in my power to be the best CrossFitter that I can be.”
Well, we’re glad Sarah did make it this year because she set the record with her impressive 192-lb snatch and an overall performance that was astounding to watch. Such grace and poise. She makes it look so easy.
The Fitmark Team