Member Stories

Use CrossFit training and Paleo nutrition to look, feel, and perform better. Get 6 free articles to learn more.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Blog

Member Story: Sarah Rives Gray

Sarag RG
My husband, Tyler, and I recently celebrated our 3-year wedding anniversary. We like to review our ‘bests and worsts’ during life transitions and decided to do the same for our preceding year of marriage (while drinking wine and eating oysters).   To my surprise, despite all of the camping trips and adventures we have had together this year Tyler mentioned that his ‘best’ has been my participation in Crossfit at Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning. I come home a happier person. It feels good to have finally found a fitness home where I can slowly work on skills and see noticeable improvements. I can do double unders! I just learned how to snatch! A strict pullup!

“It feels good to have finally found a fitness home where I can slowly work on skills and see noticeable improvements. I can do double unders! I just learned how to snatch! A strict pullup!”

Growing up I played soccer with rec leagues and co-ed teams. I played tennis with my mom, did basketball camps and joined a lacrosse team. I stood out on all of these teams because of my speed, so in high school I joined the cross country and track teams, participating in mostly long-distance events, but also the hurdles, and pole vault. An elective weightlifting class during high school gave me the taste of how exciting strength training could be. I didn’t spend much time with weights again until a summer in Mexico during grad school when I lived down the street from a tiny gym and started going every day. I wasn’t running, but at the end of that summer was able to complete my first half marathon. I was astounded that I felt and performed better than I had when regularly running.

Sarah RV and hubbyAfter grad school I joined the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. For two years I lived in a small town on the border of Haiti and had to find a way to exercise, mostly for my mental health. I would run along the road, the first 200 meters or so always followed by a pack of children. I learned how to use my bedframe to do dips and taught my host family’s kids how to plank. I stayed in the Dominican Republic after finding a very satisfying and challenging job in a public hospital and I continued to maintain the same workout routine of running 2-6 miles a few days a week.

It was towards the end of my five years in the Dominican Republic that I started having terrible bouts of abdominal pain. Assuming my symptoms were from some sort of parasite or tropical disease it took over a year to finally be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the intestines.   At that time I was living in New York City studying nursing. The abdominal pain flared up frequently, which I tried to control with medications. It put a big damper on my social life and my energy level.   Around the same time I dislocated and fractured my knee playing soccer and essentially didn’t exercise for a year. Luckily, however, I had married a runner and he encouraged me to get back into it. I eventually signed up for races and completed a few more half marathons.

In 2012 Tyler matched at the Santa Rosa family medicine residency and we moved west. Neither of us have family in California, but it is like a playground for nature-lovers. We started running in a winter trail group, but my knee pain and difficulty motivating myself to run during the rest of the year made me want to get back into strength training.   A few fellow high school athletes were posting a lot about Crossfit on Facebook and I had always been intrigued by the idea of doing this type of workout.

“I LOVE Foundations. I loved it even more when I started seeing certain movements repeated again and again. I could really start seeing myself progressing.”

I signed up at Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning and fell in love with the movements, endless learning potential and immediate changes I saw in my body. On my first day Joanna pulled me aside since I had noted my Crohn’s diagnosis on a new member form. She told me about the paleo diet and recommended a few books to learn more about the evidence. I’m an evidence kind of person. What I had been doing wasn’t working well and the least I could do was give paleo a shot for 30 days while logging everything I ate as well as my symptoms.   It was a tough shift, especially breakfast! No toast? No oatmeal? But I couldn’t deny the way I felt at the end of those 30 days. I hadn’t had any of the flares of pain that used to keep me laid up in bed for 24 hours. That was June 2013 and I’ve been trying to stick to the paleo diet since (it’s tough not to eat cheese).

I was two months into Crossfitting and I had recently started a new job as a fresh-out-of-school nurse practitioner at Petaluma Health Center, a busy community clinic. I became totally overwhelmed with my new job, having to stay late to finish my notes. It was becoming more stressful to think about my poor participation in Crossfit than it was beneficial on the days I was able to make it to class. I put my membership on hold and eventually cancelled it. I became consumed by my job. I often arrived home in tears, grumpy and exhausted. I heard over and over again from my colleagues that the 1st year out of school was the worst but I wasn’t prepared for it to take a toll on my body and my marriage.

Finally, after almost a year on the job I decided I had to return to Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning. I started back slowly, having to prove to myself that I could make room in my schedule for exercise.

I LOVE Foundations. I loved it even more when I started seeing certain movements repeated again and again. I could really start seeing myself progressing. I was hooked and figured out a schedule that would allow me to increase to an unlimited membership. I sat down with Pasha and decided to add on Strength classes twice a week in addition to Foundations. On many days on my way home from work when deciding whether to get off at the exit to take me to SRSC or the exit to take me home I would hear Pasha’s voice asking me “What is your commitment to your fitness?” Once in the door and warming up I was always so glad I had chosen fitness. My initial goal was to run without knee pain. I’m not sure that will ever be possible, but my new goals are small and simple. Show up. Learn new skills. Keep getting better.


by × October 13, 2014 ×

The 2014 Fall Health Transformation Challenge

Click on the picture for more info.
Registration deadline is Saturday, October 11thFHTC



by × October 1, 2014 ×

Easy Homemade Mayo (plus two super-useful food processor tips)

I like mayonnaise. I like to dip things in mayonnaise, and I can make all kinds of quick dressing and sauces out of it. But store-bought mayonnaise is made with cheap, industrial byproduct oils like soybean or canola, as well as preservatives and stabilizers – the stuff you can’t pronounce. No thank you! Avoiding unhealthy fats is one of my key strategies for recovery and health. (That and bone broth!)

Apparently people get intimidated at the idea of making mayonnaise, but I’m here to show you it is really, really easy. Ready?

This is all you need:


1 fresh egg
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (in a pinch use mild vinegar like white or apple cider)
A hit of mustard powder (1/4-1/2 teaspoon)
1 cup or a little less of cold pressed, naturally refined avocado oil or macadamia nut oil or olive oil*
salt and pepper to taste

*Refined avocado oil will you give you the most neutral, mayonnaise-y flavor. You do need to make sure that your avocado oil is “naturally” refined, meaning that no chemical solvents were used in the refining process. (Please note that refined oils – even avocado – may not be your healthiest choice. Read more here.) Another option, macadamia nut oil, will you give a nutty, earthy flavor that is unique. Although olive oil is classically used to make aoli, I find the flavor of extra virgin olive oil far too strong and bitter for this; however, I’ve never tried using a ‘light’ or naturally refined olive oil.


1. Put the egg, 2 Tbsps of lemon juice, mustard powder, and pinch of salt into your food processor or blender. Turn it on and let it go.


2. While the processor is going, measure out your cup of oil.


3. Now check out this food processor tip: have you ever noticed that the white push-down thingamajig in the top of the processor has a tiny little hole at the bottom? This was a brilliant innovation! All you have to do is pour your oil into the white thingy, and it will slowly drip into the rest of the ingredients as they are whizzing around. It needs to drizzle in slowly like this so the oil will emulsify – that’s the science magic of mayo.

IMG_3156Since the little hole in the machine is doing it for you, you can walk away and tend to other things. It will take a while, several minutes. There are no worries about over-emulsifying or anything. Go cook something, check your email, whatever.


If you’re using a blender, maybe it too has an awesome feature like this? Look around. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to stand at the blender and very, very, very slowly drizzle in the oil. Like, a really small stream. It will take a long time. I suggest investing in a food processor.


4. Finished product: homemade, creamy mayo. Taste it, and if you want to add more salt or some pepper, do it now then whir it around a little more to mix.

Other flavor additions: you could add some curry powder, chili powder, garam masala, garlic, basil, jalapeno, mustard – any flavor profile you want.


5. Use a scraper and put it in a container with a lid. Mark the date. The mayo will stay good as long as the batch of eggs it came from would.

And here’s the second food processor tip: Don’t bother scraping the mayo off the blade. Just scrape the sides of the bowl as best as you can, then return the blade to the bowl and put the bowl back onto the machine and turn it on. Voila – centrifugal force throws everything from the blade onto the sides the bowl, where you can easily scrape it into your container, and the blade ends up clean.

Enjoy! SO much better than storebought, for health and in flavor.


by × September 23, 2014 ×

SRSC hosts NCL Weightlifting Meet on Saturday, October 4th

We are excited to announce that the North Coast Weightlifting League‘s (NCL) fifth meet will be here at Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning on Saturday, October 4th from 2-4 pm. The NCL is a cooperative organization comprised of USA Weightlifting club gyms from Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties, with the goal of promoting the sport of weightlifting locally and providing opportunities for new lifters to compete.

Please come out to support our local weightlifters! Team SRSC will be represented by Haley Mills, Eric McCafferty, Lance Hagge, Andrew Meyer, and Devin Colwell, and they need your cheers and support to lift some big weights and go for PRs!

Here’s Haley at her first NCL meet:

We also need volunteers. We will provide on-the-spot training in all the jobs, as part of the mission of our league is to encourage growth of the sport and offer support to those new to it. Volunteering is a great opportunity to learn more about this Olympic sport that is practiced around the world.

Volunteer positions we need filled:

weigh-in attendants, male and female

Please help and be part of this great event! And please come out to watch and support Team SRSC and all the other local weightlifters!

For more info, email: or call (707) 542-7725. 20 lifters total. One session. All lifters weigh in 12-1 pm. Session starts 2 pm.



by × September 17, 2014 ×