Q&A with Jess Estrada

By Rebekah Smith – December 1, 2022
Jess Estrada

Jess Estrada is a Jill of all trades when it comes to fitness. 

Growing up, Estrada was always involved in some kind of sport — gymnastics, basketball, soccer, track. But it wasn’t until college that she was introduced to triathlons and CrossFit. She started officially pursuing CrossFit in 2010, competing in annual regional CrossFit competitions from 2011 to 2018 and performing in team events at the 2012 and 2015 CrossFit Games. 

Estrada also became a coach and personal trainer immediately following college and in 2015, she opened Karhu Training Co. with her business partner Michael Winchester and joined the CrossFit Gymnastics certified coaching team. Today, she hosts 2-day weekend courses across the country on everything related to gymnastics in CrossFit. 

AFM got to speak with the athletic Wonder Woman about all things competition, training and mental toughness.

AFM: What did CrossFit look like for you when you were competing? 

Jess biking.

Photo courtesy of Jess Estrada

Jess Estrada: Depending on our season, it was anywhere from one to three hours of training. If it was a deload, active recovery or rest day, you just came in to move. In our peak season, we were training 2 to 4 hours (for) 4 or 5 days a week, and on Saturdays, we did specific team training. We (also) did mock competitions over the course of a day or two days. 

Having a good coach who can program for you (is important for recovery) so you’re not constantly wrecking your body. However, the truth is, when you’re training at a high level for CrossFit, you’re destroying your body. There’s no way around that. When I was doing CrossFit, there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on recovery like there is now. I still train 90 minutes to two hours a day, but (compared to) the intensity from when I was competitive, it’s half of that. I listen to my body a little more now.

AFM: Why did you stop competing? 

JE: The main reason I decided to stop was due to time and commitment, knowing if I wanted to compete at a higher level, I would have to be training three to five hours a day on top of trying to run a gym. It was (about) what’s more important at the moment. I had a great experience, but it was time for this next generation of athletes to move in and for me to get out of the way. And I say I’m retired, but I haven’t completely ruled it out. 

AFM: What kept you from giving up?

JE: Quitting has almost never been an option for me. There might (have been) a handful of times where I’ve quit a workout, and one was after having hip surgery, my hip was starting to hurt (and) I was like, “Is it worth it to continue, knowing I’m only three months out of surgery?” So, I had to pull out of the (CrossFit) open that year. That was one of the hardest things because I felt like I was quitting when it was more like (I was) finally putting my body first instead of the other way around. 

(But not quitting is about) setting an example for athletes to follow through and finish, even if they finish last. The thing is, when you’re training, it sucks… I could walk off, and it wouldn’t matter. But I know once I’m done, it doesn’t matter how much it sucks at that moment — I’m always grateful, and there’s always a lesson to be learned on the other side of it. 

Jess working out.

Photo courtesy of Jess Estrada

AFM: What advice would you give to fitness beginners? 

JE: Don’t limit yourself to one thing. Do CrossFit or a cycling class or join a running group. If it gets you excited about training, then stick with it. A lot of people start training, thinking, “I just need to get into fitness. I just need to move my body.” So, they find something or somebody convinces them to work out, and they don’t enjoy it but feel like they have to. (Choose) something you look forward to. Even then, there are days I don’t want to get up and train, but it’s important to find something you enjoy because, if not, you’re not gonna stick with it.

That’s kind of where I was with triathlons. When I first started, it was just a means to compete, but I didn’t enjoy it until now, which is crazy because I’m back into cycling and running, but it’s on my own terms. I’m doing it because it’s fun and enjoyable, and I have control. So, try everything until you find that one thing — and it might not even be one thing. People put themselves in a box of how they should train, so be open to all different types of fitness, and don’t limit yourself to one thing. 


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