Carleen Mathews: Leading by Example

Carleen Mathews: Leading by Example

Carleen Mathews: Leading by Example

If you follow CrossFit, you are familiar with Carleen Mathews and know her as the tattooed badass with braids in her hair, but she is so much more. Carleen does nothing else, but lead by example in all facets of her life. She runs a free fitness program for people recovering from substance abuse, out of her gym with 11 years of being clean and sober under her belt. Carleen is a 10-year CrossFit veteran athlete overcoming injuries to make her second return this year. She runs a CrossFit business while holding the most important job title: Mom.

Carleen first stepped onto the CrossFit Games scene in 2015, but it wasn’t until the 2017 CrossFit Games when she was forced to withdraw mid-competition. During her hiatus of recovery, she hit another bump in the road, infertility. Now, with Baby Charlotte on her hip, she finds herself on the other side of her obstacles ready to step onto the floor at the 2022 NoBull CrossFit Games

Carleen received her invitation to the games after placing 9th in the world for the Women Age Group 35-39, but the road to the games isn’t a cheap one. Athletes are 100% responsible for the money it takes to participate and Team Carleen has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the travel and lodging costs for her immediate family and support team.

If you feel compelled to help this badass CrossFit mama make it to the games, you can donate to her Venmo at @carleen-mathews. 

We were lucky enough to chat with Carleen about her history leading up to the games, her life outside of CrossFit, and some advice she would give to others and her past self. Read on to learn more! 

Q: When and how did you get into CrossFit?

A: I kinda just fell into CrossFit. I had no idea what it was when I started and I actually started with just some small group training with a trainer at a CrossFit gym. I didn’t start in classes. He took me through all the basics and some of the athletes who competed, started noticing me. I started taking more classes and realized I was getting better. I did a local competition and realized this was what I wanted to do! 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out in the CrossFit world?

A: Mechanics, consistency, then intensity. Build in volume don’t just try to jump into it. Do less, better!

Q: What about advice for someone just starting out in the competitive CrossFit world? 

A: Pick a program that works for you, and attack it with everything you have. Focus on each session as it’s the only session. Volume doesn’t mean better. Train with others who are better than you!

Pro Tip: we just partnered with Mayhem Affiliate Programming which offers 9 programs in total for your athletes to help them break through plateaus. Find a program that works for them and train them like champions. You can find them here. 

Q: You do a lot of work with addiction recovery can you explain a little bit about that work you do there?

A: I am in recovery from drugs and alcohol. I have 11 years clean and sober. I also had a history of an eating disorder and am in recovery from that. I am involved in the recovery community at CrossFit St. Helens; I offer and coach free CrossFit to anyone in recovery 3 days a week! 

Q: When was Recovery Rx’d program first piloted at CrossFit St. Helens?

A: Recovery Rx’d was established in 2016. It was under a different name, but the same program! 

Q: When did CrossFit St. Helens open?

A: We took over CrossFit St. Helens in October 2014.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part about being a gym owner?

A: I love being able to share my passion with others. I do not enjoy and I struggle with the business side. I’ve learned to give that stuff over to someone who enjoys it and is better at it. My gym manager does a lot of the administrative stuff for us. 

Q: In 2017 when you withdrew from the CrossFit Games, what was the tipping point that pushed you to make the decision to withdraw?

A: I showed up at the games, with what I didn’t know then was a bulged [disc] C6/7. It basically cut off my tricep on my left side. I did not know what was going on. I thought I just had a knot in my back. I was there a few days early, and noticed my left tricep wasn’t working. I was able to do the run and the swim, but when the “Amanda .45” event came up, I had tried a few muscle-ups in the back and couldn’t dip out. I went on the floor knowing it would be a miracle if I could get a muscle up, and I couldn’t. There was a minimum work requirement for that event and I had to be done.

Q: Fitness is great for the physical body, but what has fitness done for you on a mental and emotional level?

A: Ftness is my release! It is my therapy. It is my stress relief and my coping skill!

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Q: How long has CrossFit St. Helens been using Wodify software?

A: We have been on Wodify since 2017. 

Q: What problem did Wodify help solve in your business?

A: Wodify helped us put everything in one place. It’s very user friendly, also. We love that our members can use the software so easily!

Q: If you could name one, what is your favorite feature of Wodify?

A: I love the sign up feature so our athletes can sign up for class and now our athletes love that they can see who is signed up for each class!  

Q: Which feature of Wodify helps save you the most time as a business owner?

A: My gym manager does most of the work with Wodify. For me personally, having the option to change the schedule quickly is helpful and time saving for me! 

Q: Out of all the workouts you've done over your career, which has been the most memorable?

A: This is hard! I remember a lot of workouts, I am very detail-oriented so I remember a lot of details of a lot of workouts. So, ONE doesn’t really stick out, but if I really had to choose one I’d say that a Street Parking workout with the sandbag when my water broke! The workout was 3x5 minute rounds of deadlifts and burpee sandbag overhead. I got through like :90 and my water broke on the deadlifts! I was mad that my workout was over! 

Q: Do you have a go-to workout that you frequently repeat?

A: I don’t love repeating workouts. I know what it feels like and I know I’ll have to hurt worse than the first time! We do “Murph”, “Chad”, and benchmarks yearly though! 

Q: How has your training shifted since becoming a Mom?

A: When I first had Charlotte, wow my world got turned upside down. It was hard to find balance with spending time with her and also working out. My training was get in what you can, and not worry about things that don’t get done. I found myself settling and not pushing myself to get better at things I wasn’t good at. I was skipping the things that were hard. I realized I was missing a big part of what I loved about CrossFit! Once i realized that, I started attacking some of my weaknesses and committed to doing the things I didn’t want to do!  

Now that Charlotte is older, she spends her mornings in the kids room while I train. She is a pretty good independent player. There are days she tests me and is more needy. Those days I try to get in as much as I can, and then give her some momma time before trying to finish my session later. 

Q: What is a piece of advice you'd give to someone who is on the postpartum fitness journey?

A: Give yourself some grace! Take it easy! Don’t rush anything! Slow is steady. There is no rush! But get your kiddo used to being in the gym. Get them used to playing alone, and get your YOU time!

Q: Lastly, what is one piece of advice you'd give yourself 15 years ago?

A: You are free to be YOU! You don’t have to be who you think everyone else wants you to be. You are loved for being YOU! Not what you look like or how much you party. 


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