As the 2017 CrossFit Games begin, athletes are fine-tuning their mental and physical skills. Kari Pearce is one such athlete. This former division one gymnast has had a meteoric rise in the CrossFit realm, qualifying for the 2015 Games (and placing 21st in the world) after spending only six months at CrossFit SPOT. In 2016 she silenced any naysayers by finishing fifth in the Games, beating out veteran favorites Camille Leblanc Bazinet and Annie Thorisdottir. Now, she is ready to take Madison by storm.
What makes her stand out among the thousands who strive to make the Games year after year? According to Pearce, it’s her five pillars of fitness. “I thought about it long and hard and found that these are the most important things that have made me into a successful athlete,” she says.
Pillar of Fitness #1: Focus
“As an athlete, you cannot allow yourself to get distracted during your daily life, your workouts, or your competitions. To make sure I get my training done, I designate a time every day like an appointment; then I will not be one of the people who ‘can’t find the time’ to exercise.
“When I am training, there times when people want to take photos or videos or talk to me in the middle of a WOD. I know they are not being malicious, but I can’t let them distract me, and I kindly remind them that I would love to fulfil their requests when I am finished.
“During competition, I am sometimes distracted by other competitors, but I incorporate techniques such as visualization to help stay focused and on point.”
Pillar of Fitness #2: Recovery
“Recovery is very important, and for me it has many facets that need to be addressed. I foam roll as much as I can and get in at least 10 minutes after every workout, focusing on the areas that were hit the most that day—as well as my lats which are always tight.
“And though a lot of people don’t think of it as such, nutrition is a huge part of recovery: If you do not feed your muscles properly then they can’t rebuild properly. I avoid processed foods whenever possible, and typically eat clean staples such as chicken, peppers, spinach, eggs, oatmeal and broccoli. Eating the proper foods at the right times is also important. For example, you must eat carbs and protein after your workout to refuel depleted muscles and help speed up the recovery process.
“Because sleep is when the bulk of this recovery process takes place, I try to be in bed for 8 to 10 hours a night. I find my weekly acupuncture treatments help me to sleep better—and therefore recover quicker—while also treating areas that are in pain or need extra attention.”
Pillar of Fitness #3: Support
“Unsupportive people do not come around often but if someone does not agree with the way I want to live, then they will not be a part of my life. Fortunately, I have a great support system that makes it easier for me to excel, including my family, my coach, my friends, and my manager. I am very thankful for them because I know it isn’t always the case that an athlete is so well-supported. These people believe in me, push me to be better, allow me to focus on my training, and just make me a happy person who loves what I do.”
Pillar of Fitness #4: Sacrifice
“Nothing worthwhile comes easy. To succeed you often have to make sacrifices. For instance, I don’t go out late so I can get my sleep, I say no to activities that get in the way of training, and I often bring my food with me to parties and gatherings so I know I am fueling correctly and getting in my macros.
“When things get tough, I just remind myself of why I do what I do. I love being healthy, feeling good, and being able to push my body. When I eat things out of my normal regimen, I feel it right away. That motivates me to stay on track. People do give me grief about being a party-pooper sometimes, but I know in the long run it will pay off.”
Pillar of Fitness #5: Enjoying What I Do
“Luckily for me, I found gymnastics at the age of 3 and I did it for 18 years. After finishing my gymnastics career I played around with weightlifting, bodybuilding, and powerlifting, and finally found CrossFit. I love it. I love pushing my body to the limit and the daily challenges it brings. You can always be better and improve yourself, so if you don’t enjoy what you do, take an objective look at your situation and try out different things until you find one that resonates.”
Follow Kari Pearce on Instagram @karipearcecrossfit