CrossFit Games Athlete Kari Pearce on How to Unlock Your Inner Athlete This Open

Very few people may know the the journey behind Kari Pearce’s explosive rise to the top of the fitness scene. In just over two years, Kari has made herself an elite female CrossFit Games athletes, finishing 5th in 2016 and 21st in 2015 (she qualified for the 2015 East Regional only six months after starting CrossFit® training, going on to ultimately take 21st overall at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games, nine months after she first began her training). Kari’s journey to Games has been one forged through a strong upbringing in gymnastics, collegiate athletics, weightlifting meets, and powerlifting competitions, all of which have made her who she is today.


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Kari mid rope-climb, taken by @fronzenintimefr

I had the opportunity to talk with Kari and discuss her journey, insight, and tips on how aspiring athletes and members around the globe can improve their performance during the 2017 Open, in class WODs, and throughout their personal fitness and life. 

Meet Kari Pearce

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kari began her journey with gymnastics at the age of 3 with her sister, and found herself 18 years later finishing a stellar collegiate career at the University of Michigan, winning four team Big Ten Championships in Gymnastics.

Following her collegiate career, Kari strengthened her understanding of strength and conditioning as she took an internship with her Alma Mater (University of Michigan) where she began Olympic weightlifting. After her first weightlifting meet, previous injuries from her athletic career started to show themselves, which led her to hang up the weightlifting shoes and go into her first competitive physique competition (bodybuilding and fitness).

Following her weightlifting and bodybuilding phases, she found herself moving from the Midwest to New York City in May of 2013, where she began powerlifting, ultimately going on to win her very first powerlifting meet. During this time Kari was contacted by CrossFit SPOT about a coaching opportunity, and she felt she was ready to make the jump.  


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Reebok CrossFit Games and Regionals Finishes

In November of 2014, Kari Pearce began her CrossFit® training in her 650-square foot duplex apartment in New York City. After six months of training, she found herself taking 3rd overall in the North East Regionals in May of 2015, earning a spot to her very first Reebok CrossFit Games appearance in Carson, California in the summer of her very first year.

  • 5th in 2016 Games
  • 21st in 2015 Games
  • 4th in 2016 North East Regionals
  • 3rd in 2015 North East Regionals
  • 17th in 2016 Open (Worldwide)
  • 108th in 2015 Open (Worldwide)

Below, Kari’s shares her tips and insight on how to train harder this Open season, and how to unlock your inner athlete. Also, make sure to check out last week’s interview with Alex Anderson, CrossFit Games Athlete Alex Anderson on How to Crush the 2017 Open!

How do you mentally prepare for an Open workout?

To prepare for an intense WOD or open workout, I set out a plan of how I am going to perform the workout. This includes how I break up the reps, the amount of rest that I take, and anything else that needs attention in the WOD. I like planning it out because it makes the big picture smaller and allows you to focus on one thing at a time. One big thing that I have noticed is that this makes the workouts go by much faster because I am so focused on the task at hand.

What tip can you give people who mentally struggle through and Open WOD?

Many people get ahead of themselves by looking at a workout and overthinking it. If you can do each movement in the WOD, you will be fine. Yes, it is obviously different doing elements when you are tired as opposed to fresh, but your body is physically capable of it. This should instill self confidence intend of doubt.


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It often helps to think of a workout as one repetition at a time especially when you get further into the WOD. Each one will get you a little closer to the end of the workout or improve your score a little more.

What foods/lifestyle habits should people become more aware of before Open WODs?

It is important to get a good night of sleep before performing an Open workout for best results. You will be well rested and your body will have time to recover. Eating a good meal before working out is a must. I generally eat a meal with 45g of Carbs, 18g of protein and 15g of fat 1.5-2 hours before I workout. RP Strength does my nutrition. This gives me the energy I need for the workout so I can perform at my best. Some people prefer more or less time before training so that is something you can play around with for optimal results. Also make sure you have a good warm-up before performing an intense WOD or Open workout. This will ensure that your muscles are ready to go and greatly reduce the risk of injury.

What tips do you have to keep heart rate and breathing rates from soaring during intense Open WODs?

One mistake that I have noticed many athletes make is going out too hard in the beginning of a workout. It is easy to do because your body feels fresh and ready to go. When I go into a workout, my goal is to start and end with the same tempo. Don’t get me wrong, its a very hard thing to do but elite athletes do it very well because they know what they are capable of.

Build in rest time to your workouts but keep it to a minimum. This will keep your heart rate from soaring within the first minute of the workout. It is also important to remind yourself to breathe. There is a lot going on so many people think about everything else and then start huffing and puffing. Continuing to breathe will keep your heart rate lowered as well as deliver oxygen to your muscles for optimal performance.

What tips would you give someone doing their first Open ?

The first tip that I would give to someone doing their first Open workout or someone with minimal WOD experience is to keep an open mind. The workouts are very tough especially for someone not used to that type of intensity. Also talk to other CrossFitters about their strategy for the workout. Each WOD is different and will require a different approach.


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Talking to an athlete at your box that has some experience will be very helpful. One last tip that I would give to a novice CrossFitter is to pace yourself the whole way through. I am big about being able to maintain a pace the entire workout and not going out to hard in the beginning which I see so many people do. Once you crash, it is hard for your body to perform at its potential.

How do you gauge your intensity/pacing during a WOD/open workout?

During a WOD/Open workout, I gauge my intensity by making sure I am aware of how my muscles feel and how my breathing is. If it is a longer workout, I make sure my muscles don’t get close to the point of fatigue early on. Breathing during your workout is also very important and that’s why I focus on it as I am working out. When the workout is nearing the end, I really push hard and put whatever I have left in the tank into the workout. It is important not to push too hard too early. If you do, you won’t get the best results from the workout.

Any other tips/insight on how to generally crush WODs like a pro?

The biggest tip that I can recommend about being successful at WODs is knowing what pace you can hold and not going out to hard in the beginning. Once your heart rate has skyrocketed, it’s hard to bring it back down. Also with gymnastics movements, once you begin to fail, it takes so much longer to recover. Break up the bodyweight movements more in the beginning than you want because you want to stay as far away from failure as possible.

Follow Kari’s Journey!

Follow Kari through her training, mental and lifestyle preparation, and the entire 2017 CrossFit Games journey on her Instagram (@karipearcecrossfit) and her personal website.

Featured Image: @karipearcecrossfit via @frozenintimefr