#GirlsRock: An Interview with Crossfit Trainer Dana Mather

photo credit: kurt.stocker stormtoopers via photopin (license)

In all of the uniform fitting nights for all of the soccer clubs in America … she walked into the uniform fitting for the soccer club I’d been coaching for.

cd-interviewsShe’s Dana Mather, Crossfit trainer. That night, though, she was Dana Mather, matchmaker. As her sons tried on the club’s new kits, we talked soccer. Pay attention, and you can learn volumes about someone in a single, initial conversation.

My impression of Dana: Optimistic, energetic, in all the way in all she did.

Dana carries a quiet confidence that falls short of swagger, mostly because of her humility. A mom, wife, and athlete, Dana surprised me by asking lots of questions about my own coaching. That night, my coaching future was uncertain.

It was unlikely I’d return to the club to coach.

I was there for volunteer hours, to keep my two youngest daughters playing with scholarships. Dana recommended I look into a coaching vacancy at Liberty Prep, a small school in Mooresville, N.C. The experience changed my life.

I’ll write about that more, soon.

I’d love to introduce you to Dana, in a #GirlsRock feature. Those of you who don’t know: #GirlsRock is a periodic feature that highlights women who do cool things, to inspire my daughters and yours. Dana certainly qualifies. Please give her a warm CD welcome.

# # #

Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?

Courtesy of Dana Mather

Dana: When I was little, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer.

Eli: Really? How did that happen?

Dana: Growing up in rural Indiana, my childhood days were filled with adventure. Weekends were oftentimes spent exploring the creek near our home (I loved catching crawdads), riding dirt bikes with my younger brother, tending our large garden, and having my dad teach me how to throw a football, shoot a basketball, and hit a softball.

From an early age I was extremely active and very competitive. I received high marks in elementary school except for my “recess conduct” in which I received “less than satisfactory” marks due to being too rough with the boys during kickball and tag 😉 I began gymnastics and softball at age 5 and would go on to be competitive in both sports, plus a few others (basketball, track, cross country).

I also loved animals. My family would take in any stray dog or cat that wandered onto our property, and they instantly became one of the family! We also spent many weekends camping, in which you saw animals of all kinds. And it was always a special day whenever we would take a family trip to the Indianapolis Zoo!

Eli: So when did the dolphins come into play?

Dana: My fascination with dolphins began in elementary school and I simply would read everything I could about these fascinating creatures. I didn’t see the ocean until I was in junior high when we took a family road trip to Florida. This is where I had my first dolphin siting! I remember crying as I watched these beautiful animals navigate their natural habitat. This experience gave me such clarity. I decided that I wanted to be the first in my family to attend college and I would study marine biology.

I put everything I had into high school, knowing that my performance during those four years would definitely impact my future. As a student-athlete, I took the most challenging classes, played sports year round, and ended up the Salutatorian of my graduating class. So, in the summer of 1988, my family, once again, took a road trip. Only this time, it was to the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where I would stay and study marine biology through their Honors program.

I was so incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend college that I took nothing for granted. I once again studied diligently and made the most of every opportunity during those four years. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Eli: Wait! Biology? Not Marine Biology?

Dana: Yes! I studied marine biology for 3 1/2 years and finished the last semester studying human biology, taking exciting courses such as human anatomy, exercise physiology, and sport psychology. Why? I discovered in college that my fascination with the human body slightly outweighed my fascination with marine life. I wanted to know how the body moved, how it reacted to it’s environment, and how I could help people have a healthy, thriving body. Needless to say, my trajectory in life changed dramatically!

I discovered in college that my fascination with the human body slightly outweighed my fascination with marine life.

For the next 10 years, I would experience many adventures with my adorable husband and take on exciting career opportunities! A few of my adventures included canoeing the boundary waters between Canada and the United States, hiking up Longs Peak in Colorado, where I reached the summit of a 17,000-foot volcano in Ecuador, exploring the Amazon rain forest where we interacted with an indigenous Indian tribe, and trained and competed in the National Aerobic Championships placing fourth in the country.

My career path was just as exciting! I helped direct a medically based wellness center for thousands of county employees, giving them the gift of health. I starred in a DVD that was used in children’s education internationally by designing motions to award winning songs – such a fun project! I completed my Master’s degree in Business. I began a speaking career, inspiring and teaching hundreds of women on being their best selves. I became an official member of the Energy Girls team.

Eli: So what happened next?

Dana: In 2001, I began a new career….I became a mom! In the next 4 1/2 years, I would have three precious boys. What a new adventure to say the least. For this season in my life, I gladly put aside grandiose adventures and a paying career to invest in these little ones and it has been worth the ride. So where am I today? Well, my boys are 14, 13 and 11 years old, I have been happily married for 25 years, and life continues to be both exciting and challenging. And my career?

Well, four years ago, I dusted off my dreams and with the encouragement of my husband, walked into Crossfit 77 in Mooresville, having never heard of Crossfit. My hope in doing so was to regain my health. While raising a family, I had been struggling for several years in trying to find time to exercise. I wasn’t happy with how I felt, which was really old and tired. I needed something exciting, something effective, and hopefully something competitive! Crossfit 77 was my answer!

I became a member, reignited my love for fitness, experienced transforming results AND became a fierce Crossfit competitor. Today, I have the privilege of being a Crossfit 77 coach, paying it forward through the transforming power of functional fitness. I am also currently ranked 25th in the world for my age division in the 2016 Reebok Crossfit Games, with the hopes of making it to the Reebok Crossfit Games in 2017.

Because I had experienced such a transformation, through Crossfit 77, I was chosen to be a paid extra in the Hunger Games movie Mockingjay Part 2. I shot a few scenes with Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. It was the experience of a lifetime. The reason I was chosen is that they were looking for females over 40 who were fit! We didn’t need to look a certain way but rather we had to be able to endure long days of filming that included running, jumping, falling, walking, etc. It was incredible!

I shot a few scenes with Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Eli: Wait, J-Law? I need a moment. …

Okay. Very cool. So after all that, what is something you’d want to tell young girls out there about what possibilities lie ahead for them?

Dana: Here is what I would want young girls to know:

1. Pursue the ability to love others deeply because life is about relationships.

2. Embrace failure because while difficult, it creates tremendous growth!

3. Don’t do things with perfection (no one can) but do things with excellence (simply try your best)!

4. You are perfect in every way and designed uniquely by God! There’s only one of you in the entire universe, so be YOU!




  1. John Holton says:

    Fantastic interview, Eli. She sounds like a positive and friendly individual. Quite pretty, too… 😉

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you liked it, John. She has that kind of personality that permeates a room. You want to do a little better, run a little longer, do a little more, after talking to her.

  2. ksbeth says:

    wow, what a powerhouse! now, about liam…

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      She is quite the powerhouse, Beth. However, we’re still talking about J-Law right now … patience.

  3. pilch92 says:

    Great interview. She is an amazing woman. I feel like a lazy couch potato now ( which I am).

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks! I knew instantly she should become a Girls Rock girl. We all kind of fall short; but the good news is that even the slightest physical strain qualifies as miraculous.

  4. Wonderful interview and as the mom to two young girls loved her advice at the end to all girls growing up now.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      More than the success she’s enjoyed, it’s the outlook, Janine, that impresses me most about her.

  5. Great interview Eli. And what an inspiration Dana is!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Deborah. The thing I like about Dana is that she’s extraordinary, without making those around her feel ordinary. If anything, she makes the rest of us feel extraordinary, too.

  6. stomperdad says:

    She seems one of those kinds of people whos positiveness and personality enter a room just before she does. What a great influence and a great story that got her to where she is today!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I definitely felt it that night we met, Eric. Humility, too.

  7. Take the Floor says:

    Please….I was on the Walking Dead last week. “Denny” aka Neegan and I go way back!!!

    I wish! I enjoyed the blog post and that is one fit momma!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      She’s like, able to beat anyone up, but cool enough not to have to.

  8. amommasview says:

    What an inspiring and highly motivating interview with the perfect way of ending it! Great quote! Thanks, Eli, for this! I take a lot out of this chat you had not just for my daughter but also for myself.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you liked it! She’s an inspiration. I’m glad I crossed paths with her, and that she did this interview.

      Hers is definitely a message for not only us, but for our kids.

  9. It only shows that if we pursue our passion, we can make it big and work for us. Thanks for this inspiring post, Eli!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Kind of puts a spring in your step, doesn’t it? Thanks for dropping by – look forward to reading your posts!

  10. Great post, and great interview. I love what she wants young girls to know. These are all things that I want to teach my daughter as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Cassie. Girls need to see women in motion like this. You’re providing a great role model for your daughter, too.

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