Can’t Be Conquered| Carissa Joy Johnson
Fitness model and competitor Carissa Joy Johnson is an inspiration to many. She took something that she had always had passion for and turned it into a full blown career. Beyond competing and modeling, Carissa is also a personal trainer certified in the areas of strength and conditioning. She lives by the motto of faith, family and fitness.
Fitness has always played an important role is Carissa’s life. “I played soccer growing up so my physical health and fitness was always important to me. In college I took a break from soccer, but continued to run and workout on my own. Eventually I developed shin splints, which progressed into further injury as I never gave my body time to heal. I ended up getting to the point where I was walking with a limp from all the stress I put my legs through. Running was always my physical outlet, so without it I decided to finally join a gym for other cardio options and in order to keep my sanity. There I developed a love for weight training in addition to my cardio obsession and I realized my passion for fitness far exceeded my desire to succeed in the corporate world as an accountant. So, heading into my mid -20s, I decided it was now or never. I decided to pursue everything fitness and earned my CSCS, and began fitness modeling and competing,” Carissa says.
Just as many others Carissa has had to overcome many obstacles. The biggest, however, was her recover from an auto versus pedestrian accident. “I was pinned by an SUV against a steel rail fence. I went from being in the best shape of my life, having just won my Pro card with the WBFF, to having both of my legs crushed, with an uncertain future. I sustained compound bilateral tib/fib fractures (my bones snapped and split through the skin on both legs) and a compound left ankle fracture. It was a miracle I survived (saved by God’s hand and His amazing grace) so to expect any more than that was absurd at the time. I was at high risk for infection and non-union in both legs after the doctors inserted rods and pins to put my legs to put me back together.
I was completely helpless and in excruciating pain for months. I literally lived on the couch and relied on help from my mom for 3 months. Getting anywhere was a huge challenge as the pain was intense, and I had to rely on a wheelchair. I would sleep most of the day away as the pain felt too intense to endure at times. My favorite part of the day as I just had to sit and wait was doing arm exercises off the side of the couch. I would spend an hour most days just lifting light arm weights in order to feel any slightest sense of normalcy. My recovery required time and patience, hope, perseverance, consistency, courage and the list goes on. With the extent of my injuries and uncertainty of how my legs would heal, I was encouraged to put my fitness pursuits behind me. Yet, I could never manage to let go. I was helpless but could not accept the idea of giving up on my passions. I went through a season of mourning attempting to accept what seemed like my new reality. I went to PT 3x a week for 6 months; with my legs still broken all that could be done was dry making in my back to help ease my migraines. Before my legs healed I decided I needed to get back into the gym even if for my sanity alone. I limped from station to station and attempted to work out my upper body as much as I could. Thankfully my bones finally fused 6 months later and I started making extreme baby steps in my recovery. Even body weight exercises seemed near impossible and were incredibly painful; yet, I stuck with it. It took time, but thankfully I fought my way back to the competition stage just a little over a year later,” Carissa explains.
While this was a quite intense experience for Carissa, her return to competitions became one of the most rewarding opportunities of her career. “There have been countless rewarding moments, but earning my Pro card was definitely a highlight. My return to the stage post-accident was also very rewarding. I never imagined I’d be able to return to my former fitness lifestyle,” Carissa states.
Overcoming such challenging hurdles has definitely given Carissa a strong mindset. She uses her past experiences to help inspire others and get them prepared mentally to tackle the journey to a healthy lifestyle. “A person’s mindset is so integral to their success because like Henry Ford said , “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t -you’re right.” If people don’t think they can achieve a goal, they often times won’t put in the effort necessary to achieve success. Vice versa for people who believe they can achieve a task. Often times they will do whatever it takes to see that goal accomplished,” Carissa says.
“One of the biggest mental hurdles for people who are just getting started in fitness to overcome is the idea that they will see changes immediately. Change takes time and patience, so it’s important to set realistic, achievable goals and to track progress along the way. Many people give up if they don’t see the results they want immediately or get that quick fix. It’s easy to get discouraged so it’s necessary to just be patient with yourself.
Another mental hurdle is becoming a slave to the scale. Numbers on the scale only tell part of the story. You can lose weight and gain muscle and the scale may show no change, when in reality you are making progress. It’s important to take progress pictures and to notice how your clothes fit in order to notice even small positive changes.
Comparing one’s progress to another’s is a significant mental hurdle as well. Everyone has a different path and unique challenges so when we compare ourselves to others the possibility of getting discouraged is significant. So it’s crucial to have a me vs me mentality in which you strive to become the best version of yourself,” Carissa explains.
These are all obstacles that can be conquered with the right approach. That is why personal trainers are so important in helping people achieve their goals. Personal trainers like Carissa will not only help you physically, but they will also give you the tools to overcome the mental battles as well.
What three pieces of fitness equipment should everyone have?
In your opinion, what are the most overrated and underrated exercises?
Most overrated exercises – bicep curls, abductor/adductor machine, Smith Machine
Underrated – the basics -Squats, Deadlifts
Can you share a workout session that you routinely do in the gym?
Back and Core
4 sets x 12 reps alternating conventional and sumo
4 sets x as many reps as possible
4 x 12
Bent Over Rows
4 x 12
5 x 20 SUPERSET with
Glute Ham Raises
5 x 10
What are your go-to snacks when you’re on the run?
Quest bars and chips, fruit
What’s your beliefs on performance diet like? Do you prescribe to a particular philosophy on diet (example: Paleo, Gluten free, etc…)?
I do believe it’s important to eat according to your fitness goals. If you’re training for athletic performance, your dietary needs vary according to whether you’re an endurance athlete, or whether you’re training for strength, power or aesthetic physique purposes. The specific diet needs to be tailored to each individual athlete according to their goals.
Carissa Joy Johnson