#644 – Emma Cary

Sevan Matossian (00:01):

Bam. We’re live. Can you hear me, Emma?

Emma Cary (00:03):

Yes, I can.

Sevan Matossian (00:04):

Oh, awesome. I got a, uh, some new computer equipment and it own everything off. Ah, how’s that? Is my voice better now?

Emma Cary (00:15):

Yes, that’s great.

Sevan Matossian (00:16):

Oh, yes, everything’s working again. Holy cow. It’s a full house already. We barely even started. Thanks for doing this.

Emma Cary (00:27):

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a podcast. Got a lot. I’m excited to share.

Sevan Matossian (00:32):

Oh, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome. Your dad DM me, um, yesterday.

Emma Cary (00:40):

Oh, <laugh>. What did he

Sevan Matossian (00:42):

Say? It just, it’s just dad talk, just code. My daughter’s gonna be on your podcast. Yes, sir. That’s it. That’s all. That’s all he needed to say. I knew exactly what he was telling me.

Emma Cary (00:51):


Sevan Matossian (00:52):

That’s, I know exact, I know exactly what dad’s telling me. I told, I told people on the podcast this morning, I’m gonna be on my best behavior.

Emma Cary (01:02):

<laugh> good.

Sevan Matossian (01:04):

Uh, no plan B. You didn’t do the online, uh, age qualifier, so you had to go individual. You’re like, uh, you’re, you’re truly already got like this David Goggins, uh, you know, in, in, in our own world, kind of Matt Frazier thing, uh, Malcolm X by any means necessary. And you even hinted that you would leverage your own fear, uh, to push you.

Emma Cary (01:33):

Yeah, a hundred percent. Last year was an amazing year. Um, it was just confidence.

Sevan Matossian (01:39):

So, sorry, last year, 2021? Yes. Okay. Okay. Um,

Emma Cary (01:46):

It was like, it was a scary decision. Of course there’s fear, but I think like the best things happen when you’re afraid, like that fear has to be there for you to perform. Like there has to be something on the line. And it was like individual games ticket or no games ticket. I mean, there was only one option to me, and that was like games ticket the way I always wanted to do it. Like, I don’t think any teens are training, um, like with their ultimate goal of like just making the team division. Like, even if it’s not as big of a part of your life, you have to have that like little dream that maybe you can take it further. And like, that’s how mine started as like, just a thought. Like what if this is possible? I know that nobody’s ever done it before at 17. Um, but what if it’s possible? And then it was like just more confidence and confidence as I worked harder, got stronger, saw those improvements. It was like a no brainer. Um,

Sevan Matossian (02:52):

No one said to you, Come on Emma, that’s crazy. Just do, do both have a backup plan. It’s okay.

Emma Cary (02:58):

No, I definitely got that. I just didn’t care. And there’s a story I love. I cannot tell it very well, uh, but there was, um, I believe an explorer who came, I’m actually not sure if it was to North America, but I wanna say that it was, and he burned his boats. Um, so there was like no way to escape, no way to go back. They would fight and they would either win or they would lose and they would die. Um, and like, obviously I didn’t have that much on the line, but I knew it was a very real possibility not to make the games, but that was how I wanted it. Like, I wanted that level of fear. I wanted that level of pressure, and I think I grew a lot more because of it.

Sevan Matossian (03:47):

Uh, uh, who can you tell me who told you that it was a bad idea or who maybe tried to talk you out of it?

Emma Cary (03:53):


Sevan Matossian (03:53):

How about your mom and dad?

Emma Cary (03:55):

No, not them at all. They, they have so much belief in me. Uh, they always have like,


Like immediately it was like, I wanna be the best. Up until that point, <laugh>, this is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I tried gymnastics for a little while. I wanted to go to the Olympics, like thought I would. Um, I played tennis for maybe a week and I was like, I’m gonna play in the French Open because that’s what I watched on tv. Like, didn’t know anything about it. But I just, I would like go back and forth, like seeing all these new things. I mean, one week it was even we bowling, like I was really good at we bowling, so I was like,

Sevan Matossian (04:36):

That’s the video game. Yeah.

Emma Cary (04:38):

On the we. And I was like, I’m sure I’d be great at real bowling. Like let’s go for it. Um, and then I played bowling and I was like, Okay, I’m not great at this. So like when I said I wanted to be the best at CrossFit, it was something they’d heard before. Uh, and I am so grateful that they took that seriously. Like they never shot that down and they supported me in any way they could. And like in 2021 when it was like, I’m gonna take a risk, um, it didn’t feel like a risk really, because I believed in myself so much. They were all in with that. Um, my coach Matt was all in with that. Like, he

Sevan Matossian (05:16):

Is it, is it, is it, um, is it a healthy kind of delusion? Like, like you or, or, or you’re nurturing a dream? Or what, what is this? This,

Emma Cary (05:29):

I definitely wouldn’t call it delusion. I would just call it confidence and self-belief. Um, not, not that everything’s going to go perfectly because it’s not. Um, but that I was as prepared as I could be and that I could handle my emotions. I could just really manage the pressure when inevitably things would not go great. Um, and like obviously there’s the possibility of like big adversity. Like I had this past, um, where either like you can’t get through it or it’s not the best choice to get through it. And like we knew that even that was a possibility. Um, but what I’m referring to more in like the 20, 21 season was like I knew I might, I don’t know, get some no reps, um, that at the time I didn’t agree with. But now, like I fully agree with that. Uh, I knew that I would be frustrated.


I knew that like maybe I’d have some bad strategies and I got to do that and I got to make all of those mistakes at the granite gains. Uh, but because like mentally I was able to, I don’t wanna say keep it together, um, but to just be resilient and not even, not even like return to my emotional baseline, um, but to like have applied those lessons so quickly in the couple of hours I had between events. Like I trusted my ability to do that and like I was able to execute that very well at the Granite Games. Um, so like, it wasn’t perfect. And going in, I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. I just trusted in my ability to handle the imperfect.

Sevan Matossian (07:06):

What place did you get at the Granite Games?

Emma Cary (07:09):

I got third. Um,

Sevan Matossian (07:10):

And they took top five. Yes.

Emma Cary (07:12):

And that was actually a very big disappointment to me. Um, like winning is always the goal. And now looking back on it, I have a lot more perspective that like, I don’t need to win the open. I don’t need to win quarter finals. I don’t need to win.

Sevan Matossian (07:29):

I hope they changed that. I hope they changed that.

Emma Cary (07:31):

Uh, yeah,

Sevan Matossian (07:32):

I hope they put more pressure on you guys.

Emma Cary (07:35):

I like in 2021, I definitely put too much pressure on every stage of the season. Um, like I don’t regret wanting to win, of course. Like that’s just who I am as a person. Um, but at the Granite Games in the last event, I was actually in a tie for first, um, going in. So I just knew who I needed to beat and I took that risk. Like I tried to go unbroken on the lunges. I couldn’t completely got to failure, couldn’t even finish the event before the cap. Um, and as heartbreaking as that was at the time, like I would so much rather live knowing that I took the risk and just physically wasn’t capable than that. Mentally I feel afraid to take that risk. Um, and like, how cool is it that I got to make all those mistakes, get all that learning so early in my career and still make the games. It was best case

Sevan Matossian (08:27):

Scenario. Who were the two, Who were the two girls? The two ladies, uh, who took first and second,

Emma Cary (08:31):

Ariel Lowen and Ma obrien

Sevan Matossian (08:33):

And, and tho and which one were you eyeballing being like, Okay, she’s gotta go down. I have to beat her.

Emma Cary (08:40):

Ariel Lowen.

Sevan Matossian (08:41):

Ariel Lowen. She’s a good girl.

Emma Cary (08:43):

Love her so

Sevan Matossian (08:44):

Much. You got beat by Mama. Yeah, <laugh>. That’s okay. Give her, she’ll be gone. She is her last year. There’s no way. What what is she doing? I always pick on Ariel. Uh, so the, so, and and then in 2021 you took second place in the worldwide Open.

Emma Cary (09:03):


Sevan Matossian (09:03):

And you won an event.

Emma Cary (09:05):


Sevan Matossian (09:06):


Emma Cary (09:07):

Yeah. That was,

Sevan Matossian (09:10):

And you wanted to redo the workout too. You were like, Nah, it’s not good enough.

Emma Cary (09:14):

Um, that’s, that feeling’s always there. Um, right. <laugh>, I’ve learned that like at that. Um, and that was a cool moment. Like that was the moment when I fully believed in myself. Like up until that point, I, I trusted in my hard work and like I knew that I was improving and like I trusted, I trusted my process because I could see that improvement. Um, but that was coming off of Covid year. That was, that just felt like working in the shadows and not knowing where I was at relative to anyone else. And like that was the moment that really made me truly believe, um,

Sevan Matossian (09:55):

When winning that event in the world. Yeah.

Emma Cary (09:58):

And it wasn’t, it, it was so much more than just an open workout to me. Um, like in the grand scheme of the season, the open is not the most important. Um, but it just like, it was being tenacious and like aggressive from the very beginning, which like, when it pays off, I think that that is one of my biggest strengths as an athlete. And I’m still learning when to use that strategy and when not to use that strategy. Cuz sometimes it’s definitely not the best way to start a workout. Um, but

Sevan Matossian (10:35):

That which is what, which is what? To just to come out, just balls of the wall, just full throw out, Put your foot on the gas.

Emma Cary (10:40):

Yeah. Um, pretty much just sprint from the beginning. Like not hold yourself back. I love workouts when I get to do that. Uh, and that was, that was for sure one of those workouts. Like not most workouts aren’t most workouts, there is more of a strategy. Um, but this one was just like, I’m gonna go fast and believe in myself and see what happens. And I loved the result and that just gave me a lot more confidence and like momentum going into the rest of the season. And it’s even kind of a similar feeling going into this season that I’ve kind of been in the shadows, like working in the darkness, not really sure where I am at relative to the field in a lot of areas. Um, and like obviously it’s, it’s different because I was still able to watch people and learn from them, which is, which is cool.


And it feels like almost an advantage that I have that I got to just be quietly building kind of, kind of felt like where no one could see me, no one could know what I was doing. Um, very similar to the year that I was able to like make the big transition from like teen athlete to an actual elite athlete, um, which is a big, big jump. Like, so much bigger than I ever expected. But that year was by far the year I made the most progress, like ever in all areas. And this year kind of feels like it’s set me up the same. So I’m super excited.

Sevan Matossian (12:10):

You, you’re, you’ve just been in the shadows training with the Jesus squad.

Emma Cary (12:13):


Sevan Matossian (12:15):

Has your affectionate, has your affectionally referred to as the Jesus Squad

Emma Cary (12:19):

<laugh>. I will proudly accept that.

Sevan Matossian (12:22):

All right. Um, you, you were, you’re not only the youngest athlete ever to go to the CrossFit games, but you’re the youngest athlete ever to win a worldwide open event. Uh, you, you, you’re um, this is kind of a a weird question, but what, what are the, just for the sake of like just the feeling of the athletes you’ve been around, are the 14 to 15 year old athletes, are those girls, are you competing against girls or girls already? Women like those, like when I look at the 14 to 15 year old boys, I’ve seen pictures of James Sprague next to, um, Tudor. Magda and those are boys. And now no one would ever accuse James Sprague and Tudor Magda of being boys.

Emma Cary (13:06):

I guess I’ve never really thought about it. Like in my mind they’re just competitors. Um, and even when I was

Sevan Matossian (13:15):

Like, really? You weren’t, like you didn’t, you weren’t, you didn’t get to the games and be like, Oh shit, these are women.

Emma Cary (13:22):

No, not at all. Um,

Sevan Matossian (13:23):

No. Okay. And I’m a pony and now there’s horses all around me.

Emma Cary (13:26):

<laugh>. I just really reminded myself that I earned the right to be there just like they all did. Like, I, I don’t even really like talking about things that I’ve done in the past. I don’t like resting on any of that. Um, and I kind of apply the same like view to everybody else. And I have so much respect for what the top athletes have accomplished in the past. Like, so many years of success that I feel like I can learn from and be inspired by, but not intimidated by because it’s in the past and like you can’t, you’re, I mean even Tia at the Games doesn’t win events because she’s Tia like she doesn’t win the CrossFit games just because she’s won it before. Like every year that’s reset every event. Like really it starts new. Um,

Sevan Matossian (14:18):

I mean this is how this is, this is 2018. How old are you here?

Emma Cary (14:23):

That would’ve been four years ago. So I was 14. That’s, I don’t really know why I posted that. I would

Sevan Matossian (14:33):

Never Well, I know why you posted it. So we, so the, all the guys in the room could be like, okay, what, uh, I need to contact, uh, Matt Tor and you’re doing your own programming

Emma Cary (14:40):

Here. Yes, I was.

Sevan Matossian (14:42):

Yeah, send me that please. <laugh> send me that. I need to get on that.

Emma Cary (14:47):

That wasn’t the best plan. Um, I just, I knew what I

Sevan Matossian (14:50):

Was, That’s pretty good to me.

Emma Cary (14:52):

And I thought the approach was to do a lot of that. And like, the longer I’ve done this, the more I feel like I truly don’t know. Um, and I’m so grateful for my coaches who like do know these things and can answer my questions. Like I used to just be so stubborn in accepting that like, my way is the only way and I just really didn’t wanna give up control. Um, but as soon as I finally did, which I’m so grateful, I did like working with Matt has been the best choice I’ve ever made. Um, and like I started asking these questions, learning more and more and like, the more I know, the more I feel like I don’t know. So it’s cool. And that’s one of the things I think I love the most about CrossFit is just feeling like there’s always something to improve. Whether that’s just like learning, whether that’s practicing, whether that’s going second faster, Like I will always be improving. Like, and I have so many different things I can do that in. And that’s, that’s one of the big things that drives me.

Sevan Matossian (15:52):

There’s a quote, there’s a quote you say that you always wanna win, but, uh, and I’m paraphrasing, but you’re also very capable at um, enjoying your improvements.

Emma Cary (16:01):

Yeah, yeah. Um, that is something that,

Sevan Matossian (16:07):

That’s a delicate balance, right?

Emma Cary (16:09):

It is. And that’s still something that I feel like I’m trying to find and trying to balance. Um, like something I’ve learned pretty recently is that every day can’t be just laser focused on winning. And I was given a book a few years ago and it’s called Chop Wood Carry Water. And I love to read anything sports psychology. And so I was like, This is cool. And it’s written like a children’s book, which I was actually very disappointed to see at first cuz I was like this, I mean, how can I learn from a story? But it was actually just the coolest thing. And it follows this man named John, um, along his journey to become a samurai. And he has a sensei who guides him. And like one of my, yeah, um,

Sevan Matossian (16:56):

2,805 star reviews Joshua Medcalf.

Emma Cary (16:59):

But one of my favorite stories is when John is, he’s just so focused on the end result. And it’s like he is gaining all of his motivation from that end result. And he’s missing so many things he can do in the moment to make himself better. Like he’s making so many mistakes. He is, I mean, so many oversights. He’s just missing so many things. And the sensei tells him when you have one eye on the end result, you only have one eye for the journey. Keep both eyes on the process that, that hit me hard. Um, I feel like even at the Granite Games, kind of going back to the last event when I took the risk of go, trying to go unbroken on the overhead walking lunges, I didn’t have to do that to win the Granite Games. Like I wasn’t aware of what was going on around me. I wasn’t aware of the pretty sizable lead I had on who I needed to beat. Um, I was just so laser focused on winning that I didn’t win that. Like, I made choices that pushed me to physical failure and didn’t allow me to win. Um,

Sevan Matossian (18:13):

By the way people, that’s why this podcast is called The Air to the Throne has arrived. You just fucking heard it go. Sorry. Darn it. One swear, one swear word. I have to mark it one swear word, one swear. Okay. We’re one, we’re one down.

Emma Cary (18:25):


Sevan Matossian (18:26):

Sorry Mr. Kerry. That won’t happen again.

Emma Cary (18:28):

And I feel like I can apply that in training. Um, and sometimes I see actually very negative effects on my training. When you can be so focused on where you want to be, like where you feel like you need to be, where maybe even where you feel like other people are, how you feel like, you know, you just are under pressure all of the time. You have to go into every workout with expectations to like be the best at this given workout at any given time throughout the season. And like, there’s a lot wrong with that. Obviously it’s exhausting and it’s not maintainable for the long term. Um, but also it takes away detail. Like it takes away my attention to detail from the little things. Like I might be trying to get the fastest time I possibly can in this workout, when really what I need to do is work on bigger sets of my chest to bar.


Um, like maybe I could go five seconds faster in this workout and completely miss the intent. Um, and for so long I made mistakes like that just thinking like focused only on winning and only letting winning drive me. Like winning the CrossFit games, like overall winning instead of like winning at the little things in training. Um, cuz every day in training I can’t control winning the games, but I can control like making this next snatch my best snatch of the day. Like I can control being connected to the bar and staying over the bar or whatever the cue I’m thinking about. Or I can control the speed of my transition. Um, so that’s, that balance is something that I’ve really been working on because I do think it’s important to be motivated by your long term goal. Oh, <laugh>. Yeah. Um, but I at the same time am not somebody who really struggles with motivation.


Like, I feel like I always have motivation. I am not afraid to suffer. I am not afraid to sacrifice. Um, so I think that that balance is going to be different for different people. Like I, I don’t need to remind myself to suffer as much as I can as early as I can in the workout. Like when really what I might need to do is be smarter approaching the workout, maybe pace this workout better. Um, so that balance is hard and I sure can’t say I get it perfect every time, but that’s been one of my biggest improvements in the last few months.

Sevan Matossian (21:04):

I get a pass from Dad. Thank you. Thank you. Whew. Wipe that beat a sweat away. Um,


Uh, I’ve interviewed a lot of athletes, um, and uh, the one that really stands out to me that was one of the most confident athletes that I ever interviewed was, uh, Sam, well corny over there at Mayhem. And when I, uh, when I was done with the interview, he had convinced me that he was gonna win the games. Uh, just, I mean, not that he was trying to do that, but like, I was like, Whoa, this, this guy’s gnarly. Yeah. Um, and, and uh, when I watch all of your content, um, you, uh, you may, I think you might be the most confident person I’ve ever, um, I I’ve ever heard speak about yourself. It’s, that’s not, there’s no, it’s not, there’s no, it’s not braggadocious. Uh, but it is a, it it’s quite profound. I mean, you really, really believe in yourself, your talk.


I believe that a lot of the talk that we hear when you speak is not only the the talk, you’re speaking to us, but you’re giving us insight into your internal talk. You’re not giving us like, you’re letting the insight out and it’s like, holy shit, this is really, this is how she talks to herself. Um, and yet you said about with that probably comes a shitload of trying to be control. And you were saying you gave that con you’ve learned to give some of that control away. For example, with, uh, your relationship with uh, the Brute Strength camp and Matt Torres is, do you have to sacrifice confidence to, um, as you give away control, can you keep both? Are those two related? They seem like they would be really related.

Emma Cary (22:43):

Yeah. I have so much more confidence working with Matt.

Sevan Matossian (22:47):

You do. Okay.

Emma Cary (22:48):

So much more. Like when I programmed for myself, I thought that confidence was like, I’m doing everything I can, like truly everything I can just because of the amount of volume I was doing, like, just because of what I could pack into a day of training. Um, and it was like, and I think this is right, but with Matt I can have full confidence that what I’m doing is right. Um, Right. For me specifically, like it’s not a cookie cutter program, It’s, it’s a relationship of like almost three years at this point. Um, a lot. Wow is a lot of lows like improvements that I never thought were possible to happen so fast. Um, and not that speed is everything, but everybody’s improving. So I mean, that is how you set yourself apart. Like that is how you climb up the leaderboard is by getting better faster than other people.


Um, and like knowing, knowing the progress I’ve made in the past and having the trust that like not only are we doing the same thing now following the same process, like foundationally, it’s so much better now that I’m here in Naples. Like that working with Matt just remotely is the first best decision I’ve ever made. Second best is moving to Naples. Uh, and I mean, I guess cuz I would have to put them in that order, but it’s, it’s amazing here. I love everything about the training environment. Um, and we’ve made some just big changes in how I approach training. Um, like more is not better. Faster is not always better. More suffering is not always better. Like I understand the need for, I mean, zone two stuff in my training now, when in the past if I saw a zone two written, I would kind of completely ignore it and be like, Oh cool, like a 40 minute time trial run. Um, instead of

Sevan Matossian (24:52):

Like a like, like, like almost like that wasn’t for people who were serious. Like, okay, go do that in your affiliate you zone tuners. So zone tours.

Emma Cary (25:00):

Yes. And seriously just feeling like I needed to suffer as much as I possibly could to get as much better as I possibly could. Um,

Sevan Matossian (25:08):

I, by the way, it makes sense. It’s not, it’s not like you weren’t, you, you were out in left field. It makes sense. I betcha I think there’s a lot of us as you say that. I’m like, yeah, that’s when I found CrossFit at 34. That’s what I was doing. Pack in as much as I can and just heard as much as I can.

Emma Cary (25:21):

Yes. Um, another big change we have made is the intention that I’m able to lift with now. Um, and it’s really crazy that I got as strong as I did, um, working with Matt remotely with some of the habits I had. Um, and like, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I just don’t want other people to make the same mistake. I remember one day when I missed a snatch 17 times before going down and wait. Um, like it was almost a badge of

Sevan Matossian (25:54):

That’s awesome.

Emma Cary (25:55):

Trying as hard as I could. And I think it is awesome because it shows, it shows that I care. Um, and like it shows that I don’t give up, but it also is dangerous and it reinforces bad positions cuz I mean, I’m missing those lists for a reason and I, it takes so much energy away from the day and the week of training. Um, so I mean stuff like that that I always thought was okay. Like I still had confidence doing that because it’s like, well, I’m doing everything I could. But when I got onto the competition floor, it was like, you know, every training day I probably have, I don’t know, two or three times the amount of misses that I have makes it’s so much harder to trust that in competition. So, and I mean the strategies I would use in my training, uh, really just kind of in general before coming to Naples, it was like, let’s just start fast and see what happens.


Um, I remember pretty recently I’ve, I’ve asked Matt like, Oh, should I just like start fast and kind of just see what happens, see if I can hold on. And Matt was like, I don’t think you should ever just see what happens. Like, I think you should feel like you know what’s gonna happen. And I was like, Wow. Like not only am I gonna get more out of my training, I will have more confidence and competition because I’ve seen what happens using that exact strategy with success and training. Um, instead of like practicing failed lifts, practicing failed strategies, like failing so often can be good and it can be valuable lessons, but when you refuse to learn from them, like you’re getting nothing out of that. So I think those changes, I mean the programming change a few years ago and then like so much more recently moving to Naples, I’m a completely different athlete with a lot more real confidence, not just like hope, um, but actual confidence at this point.

Sevan Matossian (28:01):

You were on a group chat with other athletes in 2021 and you said, um, people were talking about doing the workout that you won in the worldwide open. People were talking about doing 10 minutes and, and, and that was a super fast time. And then you dropped the text and they’re, I’m gonna go sub nine or I’m gonna go nine. Yeah. Um, that, how does that fit in with what Matt Torres is saying to not let the wheels fall off the bus? Is it because it’s just the open and you could get another shot with it, but in your defense, you did say in this interview that I was watching that you calculated each rep out. You’re like, Okay, one second one. Okay. I can do the

Emma Cary (28:38):

Yes. Um, I had actually done a workout with 24 inch burpy box jump overs, so like a little bit higher. I knew that would be a little slower and a little bit more taxing, um, and heavier dumbbell snatch. So I had a decent idea of what it should feel like. Um,

Sevan Matossian (28:57):

When you wrote that, were you like, I’m not saying this, I’m guessing if she said this, so gimme a pass here guys. Were you like, Oh shit, I can’t believe I just text that. Like, was it part of you was like, who’s typing this?

Emma Cary (29:11):

No, I was no

Sevan Matossian (29:12):


Emma Cary (29:13):

Like I, I wrote in my journal that I was gonna win this workout, um, Wow. Like it would, and I was like, I just had that confidence and really a piece that this was going to be a very good workout for me. And I mean, ultimately I can’t control whether or not my best possible execution, best effort, best strategy leads to a win. And like that can be hard to accept that I could do everything right and still not win. Um, but sometimes, I mean, you just have this confidence in your ability that’s, that’s scary and it’s like nothing can take this from me. And that workout was a feeling like that. Um, and I remember telling.

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