What do CrossFit and Coding Have in Common? More Than You’d Think…

I’ve been a “CrossFitter” since 2013. Since before it was well-known. Since before there was a gym on every corner. I fell in love with it while trying to get ready for a college volleyball season. I had just returned from a summer program on a farm in Denmark and I was…not as strong as I wanted to be (to put it nicely). I could barely back squat a weight that I can easily snatch today. I almost threw up during my first trial class, and then told them I wanted to sign up and start right away. I did the “on-ramp” in one hour because I told them I was an athlete and learned fast. As a coach now, I would have looked at me and laughed, but somehow the owners of my first gym agreed.

I went to class every day, and after the first week, I could barely walk the stairs up to my bedroom. Every workout was hard. I couldn’t do most movements. Forget about the Rx weights (Rx = CF lingo for prescribed/suggested). Pull-ups? Absolutely not. Heavy power cleans? Nope. Toes to bar? Handstand walks? No, and no again. But I kept showing up. I was obsessed with learning all of the movements. I was obsessed with getting stronger. As a competitive athlete, I was also obsessed with beating everyone else.

With time, commitment, and practice I improved — my Olympic lifting got better and I even learned how to do a strict pull-up. I put myself through multiple heavy squat programs, Oly lifting programs, and even the occasional endurance program. I’ve joined or worked at a gym in every city I’ve lived in and sought them out during my travels. There were times when I went to the gym twice a day because there were so many things I wanted to learn. I decided that I wanted to coach and signed up for a coaching seminar. I started to get jobs at gyms, both training personal clients and coaching group classes. I moved to Colorado from Boston to continue to pursue a career in fitness.

Fast forward seven years — I’m no longer training for a college volleyball season, or anything, for that matter. I exercise in my garage because I simply love working out. I am a former CrossFit coach and a recent graduate of a coding boot camp. I decided to pivot my career and take it in a new direction at the end of 2019. I wanted something completely new, where I could challenge myself differently. I have always been interested in problem-solving and technology. I like to think and come up with creative solutions to real-world problems, so I figured I’d give coding a go. I also figured that most companies have an engineering department, and maybe I could get back into fitness in a different capacity.

I started my boot camp and had no idea what I was doing. I read the lessons, watched the videos, and completed the exercises, but I still didn’t really get it. The first time I had to do a real drill, I had to Google what the drill was even asking me to do. I persevered. I started to get it. StackOverflow became my best friend. And at some point, it started to click. I understood the difference between classes and IDs in CSS. I learned how to write functions and for loops in JavaScript. I built my first web application. I wrote code in React and Node. Gradually, I saw myself improving. It didn’t take me as long to understand new material. I knew what questions to Google to get the answers I needed. I found myself understanding more complicated concepts. It finally felt like this was something I could DO.

Now, it hasn’t been all sunsets and roses. During some units I got so frustrated I found myself in tears. This is taking me too long to grasp, I thought. The negative thoughts crept in. I’ll never get it. Maybe this isn’t meant for me. Other people are probably learning way faster (the competitive mindset tormented me). I had my weekly ups and downs.

And I realized that I had been here before. This process was familiar to me. The constant curiosity and desire to grasp as much information as possible was not a new feeling. I have started something and have not been great right away. I have pushed through the discomfort and the imposter-syndrome feeling and come out on the other side. I actually ended up being quite decent at the thing that I thought I’d never get good at. If you’d told me in 2013 that someday I’d be able to do multiple strict chest to bar pull-ups (in a row!) I would have said, “no way, I’m not good at gymnastics.” Similarly, if you had told me that by 2020 I’d be able to build a full-stack web application, I probably also would have given you a weird look. CrossFit has taught me a lot of important lessons. While on my journey to becoming a software engineer, I realized that most of them apply to coding, too.

What do CrossFit and coding have in common, anyway?

  1. You won’t be good at first (most likely) and that’s okay.
  2. It takes a lot of consistent practice — a few hours on the weekend won’t cut it if you want to improve at any kind of pace.
  3. Master the basics. Don’t go trying to do a muscle-up if you can’t do a pull-up. Don’t learn some complicated framework if you can’t write a simple function. The fundamentals matter.
  4. Ask for help when you need it. And you will need it.
  5. It never gets easier. You just get better.

Starting something new is hard. As a coach, I watched countless clients start CrossFit for the first time, and it always brought me back to my first few classes. Not knowing how to read the workout on the board, or what any of the CrossFit jargon meant. Be patient with yourself. Keep showing up. Ask questions and stay engaged. I am constantly reminding myself of these things as I search for my first full-time role as a software engineer. Don’t give up. Keep learning. You are more capable than you think you are.




Software engineer (looking for work!), fitness enthusiast, volleyball coach, novice piano player.

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Sara Warnock

Sara Warnock

Software engineer (looking for work!), fitness enthusiast, volleyball coach, novice piano player.

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