For her 13th and final event at the 2017 Crossfit Games, Kari Pearce completed three handstand push-ups and five kettlebell deadlifts, followed by five handstand push-ups and eight kettlebell deadlifts, then another eight handstand push-ups and 13 kettlebell deadlifts. Then she picked up two 35-lb. kettlebells and lunged with them overhead to the finish line. That was after four days of grueling competition: lifting, climbing, running, swimming, and cycling. Of course she was tired. Of course she was in pain. Still, she powered through to finish fifth in the event.
Months later, Pearce recalled one of her coaching clients at her gym lamenting the pain that accompanies Crossfit. "There's just so much suffering,” he observed. “Why do I want to put myself through that." Pearce’s response? “Some of us enjoy suffering."
Growing up in a fitness-oriented family, Pearce was taught the importance of sports and movement from a young age. Years later, she continues to embrace an active lifestyle as a professional athlete. “As I get older, it's just something that I enjoy doing. Days that I don't move and I'm not active, I can feel my body is just tight and I get uncomfortable. I love the feeling of working out, just pushing myself and ultimately seeing what the human body can do.”
In the year that’s passed since Pearce’s last appearance at the Crossfit Games, she’s had the opportunity to embrace the joy of movement and to practice patience when she needed rest. After the 2017 Games, Pearce took time to rehab an injured Achilles tendon—almost three months of impact-free training. (No jumping, no running—not an easy task for a professional athlete.) With months away from impact exercise, Pearce dedicated more energy to weightlifting—one of her priorities for the 2018 Crossfit Games—and fine-tuning her gymnastics techniques.
Gymnastics training is important for Pearce because her competitive gymnastics background makes her a top Crossfit competitor. Thanks to a lifetime of handstands and pull-ups, Kari can handle any upper-body-strength workout the Games present. Her day-to-day training to hone those skills includes ring work with her TRX Duo Trainer, along with L-sits, dips, and pull-ups. “It's been great having the Duo Trainer,” she said. “It just feels better on my wrists.”
Allotting time for each additional discipline is a strategic process for Pearce and her coaches. Every hour Pearce spends improving one discipline could mean compromising her performance in another event. “It's crazy because there are so many different disciplines that you have to be good at [in Crossfit]. I was trying to explain this to my weightlifting coach. In weightlifting, you don't really do cardio unless it's a recovery day; you don't actually do separate cardio sessions like [Crossfitters] do. When I started working with him, he said, ‘You must stop your cardio, that's going to end our benefits. We're not going to progress as fast as I want.’ I told him, ‘’You don't understand, Crossfit is about being well-rounded at everything.’"
With the 2018 Crossfit Games only a week away, Kari Pearce will soon learn if months of grueling training will earn her a spot on the podium. “Each year, you work on your weaknesses, as well as keeping your strengths and fine-tuning. I feel like each year my coaches and I get a little bit smarter with our training. We figure out what I need to work on volume-wise and what is a good set up for me as an athlete,” she said. Will there be pain? Certainly. Will she be pushed to her limits? Without a doubt. And will Pearce, like that client in New York, lament that “there’s so much suffering” in Crossfit? Maybe. But in those four days of competition, Pearce will ultimately see what the last year has prepared her body to do, and she’ll love every minute of it.