When you think of athletes who’ve made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given, Jason Khalipa might top your list. Having won the CrossFit Games in 2008, he’s held a top 10 spot ever since. Earlier this year, he experienced his most memorable CrossFit moment as part of Team USA at the CrossFit Invitational.
Jason has made it his mission to build a lifestyle around the sport he loves. He’s passionate about giving back and using the communities of which he’s a part to make a difference on a grander scale. Not only is he a talented athlete, but also a successful entrepreneur, husband and father. We interviewed Jason and learned about his accomplishments and how he keeps the ‘blend’ as he likes to call it, in doing it all.
How were you introduced to CrossFit?
JK: In 2006, during my sophomore year of college, I was introduced to it by a coworker, while working at a conventional gym. My first workout was Fran. I had to do it with jumping pull-ups. It was pretty humiliating, to say the least. After that I continued with my body building because I didn’t understand how such a short workout could equal out to the body building style workouts I was doing. After six months of going back and forth between CrossFit and body building, I finally converted because I understood what it was all about; the intensity aspect is what I wasn’t getting before. Shortly after, I got my Level 1 Certification and started coaching at a gym. After I won the CrossFit Games in 2008, I opened my own box.
What motivated you to enter your first Games competition?
JK: We were watching YouTube videos of James ‘OPT’ FitzGerald and I wanted to test myself against others to see how I could do. I’d missed the deadline for the 2007 Games, and I’d just started to get really passionate about it at that time, so that’s what got me to compete in 2008.
What were your expectations for that first competition?
JK: I just wanted to go out there and do my best; to give it my all and see how the cards fell. After day one, I was in 7th place or so, and I thought I had a chance to place in the top 3, but I didn’t expect to win because of guys like Josh Everett who were closer to the leader, who I think was Chris Spealler. I just went into the last event, hitting it as hard as I could. Luckily the workout fell to my advantage and I was able to do well in it and win.
Throughout your experience competing at five CrossFit Games, what’s been your most memorable experience?
JK: Well, recently being on Team USA has been the best experience, but the most memorable experience was passing out on that run [at the 2009 Games] just because I’ve never done that before. I don’t know what happened. Lights went out. I blacked out and fell. To come from behind in that event, do well in the overall competition and win the Spirit of the Games award meant a lot.
A lot of guys who competed and did well four years ago aren’t as competitive now. What do you attribute to your being able to stay in the game?
JK: Consistency is the key. I think if you got into this in 2008 and only competed for the glory or whatever, it’s tough to last without truly being passionate about training and CrossFit. That’s one of the biggest differences. Whether or not I’m competing in the Games, I’ll still be doing what I’m doing now, maybe not as much, but I’ll still be doing it, just because I love the camaraderie and throwing down hard. Competition is really only a small piece of the puzzle. It’s all the other days you put in that get you prepared for competition.
How often do you work on your weaknesses?
JK: I work on those a lot. You can’t be blind to your strengths and weaknesses. I think you should always work on your strengths, but also work on weaknesses. A lot of people don’t like to do that. For one, it’s sucks because you’re not good at it, and it’s not fun. You just have to suck it up and make it happen. I’m just getting started on making running my major focus, 3-4 days a week.
How much running do you think you’ll put in?
JK: A lot! I’m not sure what that looks like right now, but it’ll be a lot with a lot of technique work. Of all my strengths and weaknesses running is by far, by far, by far my biggest weakness. No question about it.
Do you think competition is shifting to give an advantage to guys who are a little bigger, heavier?
JK: Here’s the argument. I could probably learn to move my body a lot better but I’m still going to be able to handle loads. Loads are going to keep getting heavier. Distances are going to keep getting longer. The gymnastics is going to get harder. The question becomes, ‘Who are the guys that are going to be able to lift heavy weight and move their bodies?’ I think bigger guys are going to be able to gain the capacity to move more body weight, but the smaller guys are going to continue to get crushed with load. In the future, I see very few men at 155lbs that will be able to win the CrossFit Games. I think the same about someone who weights over 220lbs. They’re just too big. Our sport is in a position where it’s getting more challenging and it’s about developing capacity, whatever that may be.
You gotta be great now. The sport is getting too challenging to be good at something. You have to be great. That’s the exciting thing to watch, the progression of our sport.
If you could tell your members about the difference between competing in CrossFit and CrossFit as a lifestyle, what would that be?
JK: Only a very small percentage of people compete. We train members with a bigger picture in mind, the 99% who are getting results, living healthier lifestyles. That 99% cares about coming together, camaraderie, having a great workout and going home. Although we have very legit athletes at our gym, we don’t focus on competition. We want these athletes to continue CrossFitting because they love it, rather than pushing them to compete.
Speaking of competing, we know you like to train with buddy Neal Maddox – What does training with him do for you?
JK: That’s what it’s all about. You can easily see what having a training partner does by what happened at Regionals. Having a training partner puts you on a different level. Camaraderie is what takes it to a different level. We trained together for a year leading up to those Regionals and it was mind blowing to see how training together made us better than everyone else. We actually have a new crew that’s training together, with the potential to sweep the Regionals. That’s my goal. To sweep the Regionals with people who work out with us, even though Neal is not a NorCal coach, he’s still a bro. (laughs)
Defining Corporate Social Responsibility
You have so much going on, but your focus is still giving back. Tell us about the different initiatives you’re working on.
JK: I think we’re barely scratching the surface of what we can do. CrossFit gyms are amazing at creating communities. They do a lot of community outreach, help people lose weight and get in the best shape of their lives. But now the question is, ‘how do we use this community to do something better for the greater community?’ As a business I don’t think you have to focus on profit. If you focus on what you can do for the community, I think you’re guaranteed a successful business as a byproduct. I’d love to see gyms start doing more for the community. If you can get 100 people to get behind a cause, you can do a lot of good for that community.