3rd Fittest Woman in the World: Kari Pearce
Earning her first podium finish at the 2020 CrossFit Games, Kari Pearce showed the grit and determination it takes to be the 3rd Fittest Woman in the World. And she graciously agreed to tell us about the process.
“It feels like it should. It feels amazing,” Kari humbly admits. “Not just because of those [titles], but because of the hours and hours and hours of work that goes into it to accomplish that. Being the 3rd Fittest Woman on earth, that’s incredible. Especially because you’ve seen me get better. I started off 21st in 2015, then worked my way up to 3rd. I just know how much work has gone into my life as an athlete and how much work I continue to put into it, especially on days when I’m tired and not feeling it. But it feels amazing – the final result as well as the process of it all.”
When she refers to the hours and hours of work, she’s alluding to an athletic career that began at age 3. Kari spent 18 years as a gymnast, starting at age 3 and finishing at the University of Michigan, winning 4 Big Ten championships with the varsity gymnastics team. She then dabbled in weightlifting, physique and powerlifting before committing to CrossFit 6 years ago, climbing the ranks to take the podium this year.
In the final event of the 2020 Games, Kari started in 5th place. When the workout was announced, she knew it was a wheelhouse workout for her, but that “it was going to hurt really bad” if she were going to pull ahead.
“Mary was one of my best performances last year. I won Murph in 2016. So on paper, it looks like I should win. But the keyword is should. There’s a difference between ‘You should be good at this workout’ and having to suck it up and endure the pain. There are also other super fit girls who are incredible, so even if I should win on paper, I still have to. I still have to put in the work to do it. So my mindset from the minute the buzzer went off was to give it everything I had.”
And being the world-class athlete that she is, Kari came in with a plan.
“From the first mile, I knew I had to push it more than I wanted because some of the other girls are very good runners. I was in front at first and then Haley passed me – she’s an amazing runner. I thought ‘let her run her race and you run yours.’ Then handstand pushups came and I love handstand pushups. They’re my favorite exercise. So I knew to go as fast as I could without getting to the point where I was failing them. Then pistol squats, smooth and steady, continue to work, don’t go balls-to-the-wall in the beginning but don’t stand around resting for 30 seconds. Then by the time you get to the pull-ups, you see 300 reps and that’s a lot of reps. So it’s hard to know how to break something like that up. I’ve never done 300 weighted pull ups in a workout in my life. And it’s at the end of a Games event when your body is tired and you’re fatigued, so I started with sets of 10. You can always go down. You’re probably not going to go up. So I started with 10, then I got down to 8 and 7 and 5s and at the end I was down to 4. You can get fatigued-ish but you still don’t want to rest too much. And I could hear my coach screaming the whole time and I just thought, ‘You have to continue to play your own race.’
“Once I finished the pull ups I knew it was going to hurt. You know you’re going to have to go into that dark place to finish this workout, and it’s time to run. It’s not going to be any longer than 8 minutes. Just go hard now because you don’t want to regret this for the rest of your life. You need to suck it up for 8 minutes.”
And she did. She pulled ahead in the run and beat the odds, despite training through a pandemic that closed all her local gyms.
“I ended up moving across the country because gyms in New York were closed for 7 months. My coach owned a gym in New York and he had to leave New York because no one knew what re-opening looked like. I was able to train some during quarantine but I trained by myself. I wasn’t able to train with anybody else. And when you’re training that much and that hard, it’s nice to have other people. Even if it’s just for an hour or two a day, it makes it more fun. It makes you want to push yourself. So I moved to Las Vegas and I’ve had a consistent training partner. But when everything shut down and was postponed and cancelled, my motivation definitely went down. During the whole thing we were all just thinking ‘Is the Games going to happen?’ They were saying it was going to happen but all these sporting events were getting cancelled, so no one knew.
“Luckily I was able to train and train hard. I enjoy training and I enjoy the process and I had to keep reminding myself that I don’t train just to compete in the Games. I train because I love it, and the Games is a reward at the end. So overall COVID changed it a little bit, but it was a good reminder that you have to love the process and not just train to compete but train for yourself.”
In addition to her feats as a CrossFit athlete and overall decorated competitor, Pearce has developed a training program called Power Abs that’s helping over 14,000 subscribers get the abs they’ve always wanted.
It’s 5 days a week, 10 minutes a day, and it’s a 30-day program. And the best thing about it is that there’s no equipment needed, so there are no excuses. All you need is your floor and 10 minutes.
“It’s been really cool seeing all the before-and-afters for people who have done it and have had success with it. It’s helping tens of thousands of people and it’s mind-blowing for me. I just took the exercises from my gymnastics program, but most ab programs have the same boring exercises, so this is something different. Something people enjoy instead of some boring ab workout people do at the gym with no results.”
You can learn more about Power Abs and sign up here.
In the meantime, Kari is taking some time for rest and relaxation. She’ll ease back into training, regroup with her coach and figure out what’s next.
And no matter what is next for her, we look forward to seeing this all-star sweetie, 3x Fittest American Woman, 3rd Fittest Woman in the World, continue to excel.