March 21, 2012
Peter D'Amore on Learning from the Top Down
By Chris Cooper

Peter D'Amore is a seventh-grade teacher, but he considers himself to be a student when it comes to competitive CrossFit.

A competitive soccer player in college, D'Amore has “always had a big engine.” He was looking for something new when he found CrossFit through a gym buddy. “I was looking for something competitive; something where the harder I worked, the better I could get,” he says.

His training buddy's brother had just opened CrossFit Battlefield in Hamilton, Ontario.

“I did the first workout, and decided to try it for a week,” he recalls. “After that, I knew I wanted to compete at CrossFit. I gave myself two years to work up to competition.”

But, he wouldn't have to wait that long. “I realized that I was picking skills up more quickly than most. My work capacity was already good, from soccer,” he says. 

“Somewhere I picked up the idea that my body always has 20 percent more to give than what I expect of it. If I think I'll be exhausted at 100 reps, I know my body can get to 120.” 

That led him to enter a local competition, Overdose at Element CrossFit in 2011. He finished in 4th place, then decided to try out the Open the same year. “People started talking about doing the Open. I signed up just to try, and then realized that I was hanging in 4th place,” he says.

He finished the 2011 Open in 4th. He had yet another 4th place finish at the Canada East Regional. It was his second live competition ever, and Peter considers it a good learning experience. “I had been neglecting the Oly lifts for my first eight months of CrossFit, and that gave me a wake-up call in competition,” he says.

He's been working on them since. “I felt comfortable in 12.2,” he says. “I wouldn't have done nearly as well last year on that same workout.”

The feeling of confidence across a broader spectrum of exercises has helped D'Amore in 2012. “The more your skillset expands, the more workouts start to feel like they're 'in your wheelhouse,'” he explains. “I feel comfortable with more of them now.”

CrossFit Battlefield leans toward a strength bias, and that suits D'Amore. Soccer – and a lifetime of other sports – has brought him to a level of conditioning that is not easily lost. His strength numbers are excellent, but his greatest asset seems to be his brain, he says.

“My biggest fear is always having something left in the tank at the end of the workout,” he says. “Somewhere I picked up the idea that my body always has 20 percent more to give than what I expect of it. If I think I'll be exhausted at 100 reps, I know my body can get to 120.”

He's excellent at overcoming the mental hurdle. “I've tried doing workouts more than once, in different ways, and going as hard as possible from start to finish is best for me.”

Rather than pacing himself, or trying to keep his mind blank – strategies that are successful for others – he tries to listen to his brain. “My mind is sending me signals to keep going and not stop,” D'Amore says.

His long-term strategy involves adding 10 pounds to his 190-pound frame, and he's been practising with a 10-pound weight vest on during his workouts, so “I'm ready when I get there. I'll already know what it feels like.”

His strength numbers are impressive: a 500 deadlift, a 415 back squat, and a 265 clean and jerk. His Fran time is 2:20. His Grace is 1:48. He can handle 55 consecutive pull-ups.

His goal for Regionals is to finish in the top two and qualify for the Games in July. “You try to win every workout,” D'Amore says. “You don't say, 'I'm going to try to be top five in this, and top three in this. You try to win every one.”

More than anything, D'Amore hopes to learn and keep getting better. He's already a threat in Canada East. His worst finish on the Open so far was a 17th place in the region on 12.2. On the other three workouts, D'Amore recorded two 3rd-place and one 4th-place finishes, leaving him in second place in Canada East with one workout to go.