Pro Gymnast, CrossFitter, And Trainer Kari Pearce On Efficient Workouts For Maximum Results - Exclusive Interview

Kari Pearce has been an athlete since she was just three years old, and she spent 18 years competing at elite levels in the gymnastics world. When she graduated from college and moved on from gymnastics, Pearce knew that she wanted to make fitness her lifelong career, but she wasn't quite sure how. Luckily, her strength and conditioning coach had an idea: Shadow a variety of fitness professionals to see their careers in action and decide which one was the best fit. 

Pearce loved the idea and spent some time working alongside physical therapists, physician's assistants, and personal trainers. During her time shadowing personal trainers, a passion for helping people change their lives through fitness was ignited within Pearce, so she started her career as a personal trainer. She also developed her own training programs based on her experience as a gymnast and weightlifter to help her clients get fit in the most efficient way possible. 

When she wasn't working, Pearce found ways to scratch her itch for competition. She discovered competitive weightlifting and bodybuilding, and eventually, found her way into the competitive CrossFit scene. Currently, Pearce is the third fittest woman in the world, and she's been named the fittest woman in America a total of four times.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Pearce revealed how she helps people get fit through efficient, quick, full-body workouts, how to fuel your body for intense workouts, and why rest is such an important part of your workout schedule.

Making a career out of fitness

You've been a competitive athlete since you were a kid, but what made you decide to make fitness your career?

My path to turning my passion for fitness and working out into a career began after finishing my career at the University of Michigan on the Varsity Gymnastics team. After 18 years of gymnastics, I knew that I wanted to keep working out, but wasn't sure how I would turn that into a career. That is when my strength and conditioning coach at the time suggested I complete an internship working with a variety of sports, so I could figure out how to use my experience and education for more athletes to succeed.

During that time, I shadowed a physician assistant, volunteered at a physical therapy clinic, and began personal training. Although I learned a lot from each of those experiences, that is when I discovered my love for personal training. Helping people get fitter and stronger was a true passion of mine because of how much it changed my client's lives. Working out is so much more than looking good and building muscle ... It's about building confidence in yourself and appreciating all of the amazing things your body can do.

My path from loving to work out to creating life-changing fitness programs for people all over the world began with my passion for fitness — and now I get to help others fall in love with fitness, too!

When did you discover CrossFit and how did you get involved in the competition scene?

A friend of mine told me about CrossFit and was adamant I'd be good at it – but after competing in gymnastics for 18 years, I was ready to try something completely different. I participated in a weightlifting competition, then a physique show, and a powerlifting meet.

A part of me kept getting pulled towards CrossFit. It wasn't until July of 2014 that I watched my first CrossFit Games competition on TV. I was at the gym I was currently personally training in NYC when the games came on, so I laid out a yoga mat and watched the entire TV broadcast. It was then when the thought crossed my mind that, "Hey, this could be a lot of fun!" Not long after that, I was contacted to coach CrossFit and so began my path to being a personal trainer and training to compete.

In 2015, I started officially competing in CrossFit and after just 6th month of training in a specific sport, I qualified for the CrossFit Games,  which are basically the world championships. I was hooked and continued to compete for seven more years.

Developing her own fitness programs

What inspired you to come up with your PowerAbs fitness program?

Over the years, I've received quite a few compliments about my abs. I credit my strong core and solid 6-pack to my many years as a gymnast. If you've ever tried gymnastics or competed on a collegiate level yourself, you understand how much emphasis is put on building a strong core in order to complete the movements.

During my time as a personal trainer, I noticed the lack of focus on the core muscles. That's when I decided to put everything I learned onto paper (or into a program) so people outside of gymnastics could achieve the same amazing results. I had a lot of ideas of how I could make these programs highly effective, but I also wanted to make sure they were efficient on time and fun.

It was then that my team helped create the very first 10-minute core strength program that required nothing but your body and a floor. I guess you could say that's when PowerAbs came to life, and it has been an incredible program that's changed the lives of so many, including my own.

What about the PHIIT program?

Have you ever done a high-intensity workout? They are amazing! I love the feeling of accomplishment that rushes over me once I'm done. This type of workout is truly the best way to get amazing results in a very short amount of time. That's exactly why I created PHIIT. This program is a full-body, no-excuse, high-intensity program that truly transforms your body in just 10 minutes a day, five days a week.

Everything inside of my PHIIT program has been hand picked by me and gives you real results that you can see and feel, no matter your schedule. I know many people do not think they can get in a good workout with only 10 minutes but trust me, I know you can. I designed the PHIIT program so you can push yourself in a short period of time to get healthier, fitter, and stronger. Everyone has 10 minutes so this takes any excuse out of the question — anyone can do PHIIT!

Getting fit in just 10 minutes a day

What makes the PowerAbs and PHIIT programs different from other workout programs?

Both programs are based on my experience as a gymnast, a competitive CrossFitter, and on science. The way both programs are designed allows you to get the most out of those 10 minutes. The workouts are a challenging 10 minutes, but you can do anything for just 10 minutes. Many of the movements will work multiple muscles in your body, meaning you'll get the most bang for your buck with your time. There are 2 levels in both programs, so no matter where you are at in your fitness journey, there is something for you. Plus, due to the intensity of the workouts, you will continue to burn calories for hours after you complete the workout. That is another huge benefit you get with PowerAbs and PHIIT.

One of the things I hear most from people who have completed PowerAbs or PHIIT is how much they love that the programs challenge you, but also allow you to progress over the course of the 30 days. I think that's a huge win. Seeing how much stronger and fitter you can become in the 30 days is incredibly motivating.

How can people get fit in just 10 minutes a day?

To get fit in 10 minutes a day, you need to focus on the right movements at high intensity. By doing exercises that are designed to keep you moving for the majority of those 10 minutes, you'll be working multiple muscles at once. Plus, the high-intensity from the workout keeps your body in 'burn mode' for longer, so not only will people burn calories while they workout, but for hours after. I structured my programs to help you continue to push yourself as hard as you can during those 10 minutes so you can get the best results in the shortest amount of time possible.

The importance of rest and nutrition

How do you incorporate rest into your schedule?

I incorporate two rest days or "active rest days" in all of my programs to allow your muscles to recover. Active rest days include taking walks, strength, foam rolling, and even yoga. I also tell people to focus on sleep because that is such an important part of rest and recovery. Plus, the best thing about it is that it is free and you already do it. I aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night and suggest others to do the same.

How do you fuel your body for all the workouts you do?

Oatmeal! Just kidding ... that's a little inside joke I have with everybody in my PowerAbs group. Here is an answer I shared with someone the other day: I follow a fairly strict nutrition plan most days, and give in on cravings (especially when there's cookies or ice cream) but one thing I never do is drink alcohol. I rarely eat sugar and usually limit it to when I am craving ice cream or a cookie, which are my two favorite desserts.

As far as bread, I do not eat it much just because I prefer oatmeal, fruit and sweet potatoes for my main source of carbs. There are some whole wheat and sprouted grain breads which are good, though! My diet mainly consists of unprocessed foods. I usually eat eggs with vegetables and oatmeal with fruit and nut butter and cinnamon for breakfast.

Lunch is mixed vegetables with chicken and either sweet potatoes or oatmeal with fruit and nut butter. Dinner looks very similar but I will have turkey, beef, or salmon instead of chicken. Depending on the day, I will either have a 4th meal that looks like that or a smoothie that I make myself with fruit, almond milk, protein powder, and ice or another bowl of oatmeal.

Check out Kari Pearce, the award-winning fitness trainer who has taken the business world by storm by starting two successful fitness brands — PowerAbs! and PHIIT — by visiting her website.

This interview has been edited for clarity and formatting.