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From Gymnast to CrossFit Powerhouse: The Meteoric Rise of Kari Pearce

Posted on Fri, 09 Jun 2017 12:02:00 -07:00

From Gymnast to CrossFit Powerhouse: The Meteoric Rise of Kari Pearce


Kari Pearce has used TRX training tools for years, first as a gymnast, and now as one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes. This summer, TRX is chronicling Kari’s journey to the CrossFit Games with a weekly series about her training program.

Kari Pearce is no stranger to competition. A gymnast from age 3, she entered her first gymnastics meet when she was 5, and continued in the sport through college at the University of Michigan. But, as with most gymnasts, the competitive side of floor routines and beams wrapped up after college. Pearce found herself looking for a new sport, and—after dabbling in bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting—she found her niche in CrossFit.

“One of my teammates from college had been trying to get me to do CrossFit for a while because I was good at gymnastics, but I was also good at pull-ups and dips. One day, I was watching CrossFit at the gym where I worked, and it looked like something fun and interesting,” she recalls. There’s so much going on and so many things to work on. It’s similar to gymnastics because there’s always something new to learn.”

Pearce officially started CrossFit in November 2014 and began training under Mike Varrato. Six months later, she was the competitor everyone was talking about when she placed third overall at the 2015 North East Regional. “People were most surprised at my first regional because I qualified for the games,” she says. But Pearce’s success was no fluke. In 2015, she placed 21st overall at the CrossFit Games. In 2016, she placed fifth. This year, she took third in the North East Regional, and she wants a spot on the podium at the CrossFit Games.

In the course of three years, Pearce has gone from CrossFit neophyte to Fittest American Woman. While she is enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of the CrossFit world, her entire athletic career has been a series of building blocks to this moment. Her gymnastics background paid off in her first Regional, which included two handstand events. Pearce won both. (“I love anything that’s handstands,” she says.) Her weight lifting experience prepared her for snatches and cleans and jerks. Years of performing in front of large audiences meant that Pearce could tune out the cameras and the crowds to focus on her sport. But that doesn’t mean that success in CrossFit comes easily.

Pearce currently works with three coaches, training several hours a day, six days a week. On top of her regular workouts, she does another half-hour of mobility work, plus knee and shoulder rehab to prevent injuries. She may look superhuman in competition, but Pearce’s real superpower is her commitment to hard work and challenging herself. From weights, to metabolic conditioning, to accessory work with her TRX PRO Suspension Trainer and TRX DUO Trainer, Pearce is continually pushing herself to the her failure point, and challenging herself to achieve new goals.

Heading into her third CrossFit Games, Pearce explains that she’s learned to expect the unexpected in competition. “In gymnastics, you have set skills. You know what you’re going to do going into a competition. You know what your routine is. When you go into a CrossFit competition, you don’t know what you’re going to do. You don’t know how your body will react,” Pearce says.

In 2015, Kari Pearce was a relative stranger at the CrossFit Games. Now, she’s one of sport’s biggest stars. And in August, the world will be watching to see if this former gymnast can vault her way onto the podium.

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