Athlete of the Month: Annie D’Amato


Congratulations to our February Athlete of the Month, Annie D’Amato!
Annie has been a loyal Praxis member for just over a year and a half. She can usually be found enjoying/suffering through long Endurance workouts and challenging her limits behind the barbell. To learn more about Annie’s well-rounded fitness journey (see college athlete, yogi, hiker, endurance racer…) check out our Q&A with her below!

How did you get started with CrossFit?

I was convinced to try CrossFit by my friend Bess, who used to belong to Praxis. We had both been athletes in college and she swore CrossFit was a “life changing” experience. Truth be told, I was little apprehensive to try it at first because of the connotations I associated with it in my head, I didn’t want to become one of those crazy, CrossFit obsessed individuals. You know what I’m talking about. My concerns were unfounded, to say the least, and I ended up loving the intensity of the workouts and the challenge of learning new skills and improving at old ones, so I decided to stick with it!

How long have you been an athlete at Praxis?

I’ve been at Praxis for about a year and a half, although I took a short hiatus this past summer/fall while I trained for a half Ironman. It’s been great to be back in the gym with everyone after having to work out so much on my own, and I’m looking forward to hitting that two-year mark this summer.

Did you have prior athletic experience?

I do. Like a lot of people at the gym I was definitely an athlete in my former life. Growing up I was predominately a swimmer, but I also played soccer and figure skated (yeah, I know) all the way through high school. In college I was nowhere near fast enough to swim for the University of Wisconsin, so I ended up walking on to the rowing team instead. I rowed for 3.5 years and had a blast being a Badger. It also gave me a pretty solid leg up on any CrossFit workout that involves erging, which I won’t complain about. So basically if you ever want to work on your rowing technique, improve at swimming, or learn how to ice skate, I’m totally your girl.

What is your favorite/least favorite type of WOD?

Anyone that knows me can probably guess that my favorite WODs are long, grueling endurance workouts. What can I say? I like to suffer! I don’t love lifting heavy, mainly because the sound of dropping weights terrifies me and I never want to have to do it, but I’m working on changing that. Luckily we have a community at Praxis that pushes you to challenge your limits and work towards the edge of what is possible each and every day.

What has been your greatest improvement and/or achievement since joining Praxis?

This is a hard one, since I can’t really point to one specific gain I’ve made that stands out above the rest. I would say that my overall fitness has improved dramatically though, and I’m able to lift a lot more weight at a lot more reps than I used to be able to. Someday I hope to check the ever-elusive pullup off of my list, but there’s a lot more work to be done before that becomes a reality.

What advice do you have for Praxis rookies?

If I can do it, you can do it.

But like, seriously. I know it can be really overwhelming when you first start CrossFit if you compare yourself to everyone around you and to base your success off of their abilities. The trick is to stay in your own lane, and to make incremental improvements at your own pace. Paying attention to the technique in the beginning is also really important. I think if you can hone in on how to properly do the skills early on, it makes it easier to make gains down the road. Finally, I would say learn to embrace the suffer. I think what sets good CrossFit athletes apart from great ones is the ability to fully surrender to the workout and enjoy the process. No one said it was going to be easy, but if you teach your body to not just tolerate, but enjoy the feeling of being challenged, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

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What is your fitness diet like? Favorite “fun” food?

Perhaps counterintuitive to the CrossFit world, I have been a vegetarian for the past 18 years and refuse to change that no matter how many times I hear that “paleo is life.” That being said though, getting the requisite amount of protein I need can be a struggle. I usually turn to things like tofu, tempeh, eggs, beans, and quinoa to try and fill that protein gap, and eat lots of veggies on a daily basis. I also don’t really eat gluten, though if you made me a chocolate chip cookie I wouldn’t say no. My favorite “fun” food would probably be ice cream. Or cheese. What can I say, I’m from Wisconsin.

What do you like to do with your “free time” outside the gym?

Outside the gym most of my time is spent, what I would call, “side hustling.” I baby-sit, dog sit, and teach swim lessons in the area most weekends, which can be pretty time consuming. On days I’m not working, I love to spend time outside hiking, sailing, biking, running, playing tennis, etc. The list goes on. I also work at a yoga studio once a week in exchange for free classes- gotta work that flexibility! When I’m tired of being active I can typically be found in my room watching Netflix. I’m addicted to the Office and watch it almost on constant loop. It’s possible I may need help, or at least new show suggestions.
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What motivates and pushes you to continually improve?

I’ve always been a very intrinsically motivated person, and I’m incredibly competitive. My dad always tells this story about how when I was 8 or 9 he took me out on the boat to learn how to waterski. I’d never done it before, and he thought after a few tries of me not getting up maybe we could just head in and try another day. I had a different idea though, and made him stay out on the lake for almost two hours as I tried over and over again to master this new skill. As the sun was literally about to set, I finally got up and skied around the lake. He always says that in that moment he decided to never again challenge me to something without at least three hours until sundown, but I think that I learned that day that if you really set your mind to something, there is nothing you can’t accomplish.

CrossFit offers me a chance to channel that intrinsic need to achieve as an adult, and I love that there is always something I could learn how to do or to be better at. My goal is to get back to, and then exceed, the shape I was in in college, and if I take some names along the way, even better. I don’t think anybody trains for second place, and that’s what keeps me motivated and constantly trying to improve.