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.
In less than 50 days, Kari Pearce will walk into Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin as the Fittest American Woman—and one of the 40 fittest women in the world. It will be her third appearance at the CrossFit Games. But Pearce isn’t content to simply compete; after finishing fifth at last summer’s Games, she wants to end her summer with a trip to the podium. If she takes the top spot, she’ll be the first American woman competing as an individual to win the Crossfit Games since Kristan Clever in 2010.
One of the hallmarks of CrossFit competition is the events are a surprise. Organizers explain that the Games exist to test fitness, and the element of surprise is key to that test because “athletes cannot train for what they do not know.” That raises a practical question: what goes into training for the unknown?
For an elite athlete like Pearce, preparing for the Games means smart, structured workouts with her triple threat coaching team of Mike Varrato, Akin Ojo, and Rob Carson. Pearce has been training with Varrato, her primary coach, since she started CrossFit in 2014. Varrato plans her workouts, and oversees her strength, metabolic conditioning (“metcon”), knee and shoulder preventative rehab, and swimming.
Pearce has emerged as one of the top CrossFit competitors in the world in less than three years by putting in hours of hard work every day. “Generally, I work out six days a week,” she says. “One day will be a completely off day, and sometimes my coach changes it and makes it active recovery. I might go for a hike or walk.”
Like many CrossFit athletes, Pearce’s least favorite event is swimming, and it’s an area where she’s committing the time to improve. “I would much rather be on land and know that I’m safe,” she jokes, but that doesn’t hold her back. “It’s one of those things you can keep practicing.”
Pearce’s main workout each day is approximately three hours, and she does double sessions two or three times each week. “One of my sessions always starts with weightlifting, then strength work, then a metcon. Two or three days, I’ll do a rowing session or a swim, and, every once in a while, running.” A session can include between one and eight modalities. Her cooldowns vary, but she usually likes to bike slowly for 5-10 minutes after the metcon, then work on mobility for 10-15 minutes.
CrossFit may be known for massive barbells and medicine balls, but Pearce regularly uses her TRX Duo Trainer™ and Suspension Trainer™ in her workouts. “I like using the Duo Trainer™ for dips because the [standard gymnastic] ring structure isn’t ideal for wrists.” With her Duo Trainer™, Pearce can safely complete longer duration challenges, like 60-second L-sits, and high repetition exercises.
Pearce looks to her TRX Suspension Trainer™ for both strength conditioning and injury prevention. “You need to stay strong and healthy, and work those stabilizing muscles. I started using TRX back in college. I still incorporate that a couple times a week.” Her Suspension Trainer™ work includes plenty of hamstring curls and single-leg split squats. “I love the Bulgarian split squats for stability,” she adds.
As August approaches, Kari Pearce doesn’t know challenges lie ahead in this year’s CrossFit Games, but she’s doggedly training to ensure that she’s ready.