Monday Motivation: Eva Clarke, the inspiring mom pushing the limits of fitness

By Kristen Stephenson
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Our Monday Motivation series on profiles the inspiring stories of commitment, courage and dedication behind some of our most extraordinary titles. This week we're placing the spotlight on a super fit Australian mom of three, who has overcome personal adversities to achieve ten incredible fitness record titles. 

Eva Clarke is an unstoppable force in the world of fitness. 

Coming face-to-face with a physical challenge never seems to deter her - with every problem encountered, she has taken on each adversity with a determined mindset and a will to succeed. 

Eva has tackled family hardships, illness, ultra-marathons, and seemingly impossible fitness challenges – but arguably her most impressive feat is her collection of ten incredibly difficult world records. 

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Though the Australian mom of three has become an esteemed and venerated Guinness World Records title holder, her life leading up to that point is what laid the foundations for her incredible triumphs. 

The beginning of Eva's record breaking story can be traced back to when she was eight years old, an age which saw her discover an inclination and passion for sports.

“I loved the way it made me feel, I had a natural ability to run and play soccer. I loved to compete, win or lose. I loved nothing more than knowing what I could achieve. In all honesty sport and physical education was why I loved school. I was never bad academically but I loved sport and when I grew up sport and competing was a major part of my life.” 

With such a strong preference for athletics, Eva was more motivated to get through high school, as sports had given her the opportunity to thrive. 

Her teachers saw the innate talent she possessed and encouraged her to keep going, fuelling her drive to perform well on the field and in the classroom. 

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As few things interested Eva more than competing or playing organised games, sport also began to serve as an escape for the other issues that haunted her life. 

Growing up in a household where her mother battled schizophrenia, Eva and her siblings took several rotations through the foster care system, going in and out depending on her mother’s state of health. 

Undergoing a consistent change of environment and dealing with her mother’s unpredictability was tormenting for Eva and her family, which is why athletics eventually became the singular reason she was motivated to stay in school. 

In a way, the activity became her refuge, a place where she could find consistent happiness and obtainable goals. 

“I could've given up as a kid, but I didn't want to! I needed to get away from welfare and the environment of alcohol and abuse, so as soon as I finished school I packed up and joined the military. I chose something that allowed me to continue sport and escape the lifestyle I had been accustomed to as a child.” 

In 1998, Eva joined the Australian Army, where she was able to continue her fitness journey by educating her fellow militants as a sub unit physical training instructor. 

Eva was now content with her newly structured life, which allowed for her to inspire others on a day to day basis.

She also learned a lot about herself and capabilities as a fitness leader as it was one of the first times her guidance had an explicit impact on the lifestyle of others. 

However, Eva had to halt the progression of her training career in 2005, when she was unfortunately diagnosed with Kienbocks disease. 

Kienbock’s is a rare condition that debilitates movement in the joints and causes chronic and severe pain in the carpal bones of one’s wrist. 

Left untreated Eva could suffer from bone death from a lack of blood supply to the affected area. 

“Eventually I lost the range of motion in my wrist and had to have a pin put in place due to the injury, making me medically unfit to continue my position in the Royal Australian Corp of Transport.” 

With this loss, Eva was set on making her next decision practical, so that it would benefit both her condition as well as her fitness career. 

Despite the circumstances, Eva’s persistence was admirable - even though she experienced unyielding pain from a hindrance that could have prevented her continuing a fitness education career, she was still willing to teach using modified exercises.

Thus, she transferred to the Royal Australian Airforce, which gave her a chance to continue her line of work. 

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“I had a medical chit [doctor's certificate] that allowed me to do push-ups on my knuckles as I couldn't do them with palms down. My commanding officer at the physical training school gave me a chance to continue on the course based on the fact that I wouldn't let any medical restrictions exempt me from lessons I needed to conduct. I had to develop a lot of strength in my wrists to get me through - modifying all my exercises. Even burpees meant I had to do them with my knuckles hitting the floor.” 

Burpees are already one of the most daunting exercises in the realm of fitness and the repeated impact of her knuckles slamming the ground caused Eva some serious bruises. 

Nonetheless, Eva pushed on until she needed surgery. 

Once performed, the fitness enthusiast was incapable of doing a push up – which sparked her tenacious mindset to get into better shape than she was prior to having Kiendock’s. 

“Within a year I was getting 60 cadence out. It wasn't until after my third child that I started pushing my limits with higher reps. I was dared to a push-up challenge and I completed 99. I said to myself ‘I will get 100’. So I just worked every day until I did it. After a year of achieving 100 push-ups almost daily, I started adding 1 rep, so I did 101, the next day 102, 103 etc., until I got to 200. I knew there must be a record for this, so I checked it out and there was. I was confident I could do this, and so I decided to get involved in doing these world record challenges for charity.”

Naturally, Eva’s first record attempts in 2014 played into her battle with Kiendock’s – for Most knuckle push-ups in one hour (female) and Most knuckle push-ups in 24 hours (female). 

Both would take place at the Wahda Mall in Abu Dhubai UAE, where Eva had moved with her family for work. 

These first attempts would benefit the Gems American Academy, a school in Abu Dhabi that offers students an international curriculum of studies. 

“I remember feeling nervous, I was like ‘what have I got myself into?’ But, if I say I am going to do something, then I know I will get it done.” 

Within the first hour, Eva had trudged on and completed an incredible 1,206 push-ups, earning her the title. 

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She kept going though, as her target was to do the most in 24 hours – a gruelling task for any fitness expert. 

“My arms started to go black and my knuckles were torn to shreds. I did get dizzy and I felt the lactic acid take hold of my body, I had to get on a stationary bike and move, I tried to lay down but it was just too much. “I cried a little, I laughed a lot and I think at midnight myself and my team got a little crazy and decided to push through. Everybody kept pushing me, they would get down and do push-ups and it pushed me to keep going.” 

Eva never wanted to give up - she firmly believed that pushing the body to its limits was just as much of a mental challenge as it was physical. 

“Once I hit the target of 7,000 I was like, 'Ok it's going to be over soon, it's only 24 hours.' That's when my mindset set in and I started thinking of children who are starving, families battling cancer, people suffering through war."

"I said to myself 'Imagine their pain. If you think that 24 hours of exercise is painful, then imagine how much pain these guys are enduring every day.' I knew my suffering would be over in 24 hours therefore I had no excuse not to continue.” 

After a tremendous effort, Eva broke the record by completing 9,241 push-ups in 24 hours. 

Once Eva had started record-breaking, she couldn’t stop. 

Over the next two years she would labour her way to more tiles, all in varying fitness disciplines. 

In 2015, she attempted three more records, starting with the Most knuckle push-ups in a minute (female), in which she achieved a total of 70. 

Following that attempt, she had the opportunity to work alongside fitness expert Ryan Lee, who helped Eva to achieve the Most burpees in 12 hours (female) and Most burpees in 24 hours (female) by supportively doing the attempt with her.

After a gruelling full day of cardio, the pair had managed to raise $20,000 for World Childhood Cancer, and Eva completed the 12-hour attempt with 8,178 burpees and the 24-hour attempt with an outstanding 12,003 burpees. 

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Just a few months later, Eva decided to continue to support World Childhood Cancer by running in the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon for the title Fastest marathon carrying a 40-lb pack (female)

The fit mom blazed through that record in a time of 4 hours, 32 minutes. 

However, in 2016 Eva would face what she deemed to be one of her hardest attempts yet: a series of pull up records that would take place in Al Wahda Mall in the UAE. 

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In the span of 24 hours, she would aim to break three records for Most pull ups in one hour (female), Most pull ups in 12 hours (female), and Most pull ups in 24 hours (female)

“The pain was so intense. I had trained continuously for the hour - and lifting your body with split hands 3,737 times is really tough. It was hard because this time no one was doing them alongside me, I was on my own. I think doing 725 in the first hour really gassed my body, but as always, I grit my teeth and carried on until I hit the target.” 

For these high-intensity endurance records, Eva has to think carefully about her diet; she knows that the human body can only push itself so far without proper sustenance. 

“I had plenty of small snacks at hand. I needed to refuel quite frequently as I was taxing my muscles for 24 hours. I rested when my I felt I couldn't go anymore and I stretched and iced my muscles. I refuelled with foods and drinks including, water and diluted Red Bull, Gatorade, bananas, gels which contained amino acids, nuts and salt and vinegar chips. 

“Sometimes I didn't feel like eating. I guess having a support team there made that easier as they would make sure I ate. My snacks were small and so were my meals - I couldn't stomach eating too much in one go.”

Despite feeling ill from putting her muscles under such rigorous circumstances, Eva’s internal strength allowed her to leave the mall that day with three additional titles: accomplishing 725 pull ups in one hour, 2,740 pull ups in 12 hours, and 3,737 in 24 hours.