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AMRAP'ing with Jason Khalipa

The CrossFit star talks about training, diet, and time management
Jason Khalipa at the 2013 CrossFit Games

Jason Khalipa has dated only one girl. Before he became one of the world’s best CrossFit athletes, he had only one other job. So he knows something about commitment. For Khalipa, everything is about focus. One task at a time. One goal at a time. In that respect, life is sometimes just like a CrossFit workout.

“Look at everything like an AMRAP,” says Khalipa who placed second at the 2013 CrossFit Games, behind Rich Froning. “That’s the way I like to look at it. People who understand CrossFit, they think AMRAP—as many reps as possible.”

Khalipa, 28, married his high school sweetheart and worked at a conventional gym before being introduced to CrossFit as a sophomore at California's Santa Clara University. Now the former 2008 CrossFit champ currently owns or manages 15 CrossFit boxes (gyms), including his flagship NorCal CrossFit, which houses four facilities throughout Northern California. He launched into an appropriate CrossFit-inspired example to explain how he handles such a dense schedule.

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“You’re in the middle of an AMRAP and your phone goes off. Are you going to answer it?” he asks, then answers his own question. “Hell no. If I’m at work, answering e-mails or on calls, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not doing anything but [that]. If I’m home with my daughter, that’s what I’m doing. So, no: My phone is put aside and I’m AMRAP’ing it.”

That’s the advice Khalipa would give anyone trying to shoehorn serious training into a busy work/life schedule. It’s the same approach the former CrossFit champion is taking as he prepares for the Northern California Regional competition, starting May 30, then ultimately the 2014 CrossFit Games.

Khalipa is currently in second place behind Froning after the CrossFit Games Open, and just signed on as an ambassador for Gillette Body. He talked to Men’s Fitness about the Open, his rivalry with three-time champ Rich Froning, and his training and nutrition. Here, our Q&A with one of CrossFit’s premier athletes.

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Men’s Fitness: You’re sitting in second after the Open. What was your impression of the first five weeks of the CrossFit season?

Jason Khalipa: In terms of the whole, I think they were great. I think the Open went well. Not just for me in particular, but I think the cream always rises to the top. It’s interesting the way it works. People always say that programming plays such a huge role. But at the end of the day, what you find [every year] is the same couple of guys creeping to the top. I think this year was a testament to that.

Did any of the workouts surprise you?

Not really. The fact that they had a workout for time—the last workout, 14.5—I think that’s going to set a precedent for the future. However, nothing really surprised me. The Open is supposed to be for everybody, so they're not going to put in rope climbs where some gyms might not have ropes. There won’t be gymnastic-ring handstand pushups. They won’t do things like that. It’s designed to be inclusive.

What, if anything, are you doing differently to prepare for Regionals and to try to dethrone Rich Froning at the CrossFit Games?

What can you we expect at Regionals? Who knows. We’re gonna go long. We’re gonna go short. We’re gonna go heavy. We’re gonna go light. It’ll be CrossFit…What's it going to take to beat guys like Rich? We’re not going to face him until the Games, but you know, for me, it’s just going to take continuing to enjoy the experience. It’s going to take me continuing to train hard and truly enjoy it and not look at it as a job but as a passion.

Rich and I have had a nice little battle, and it’s fun for me. Right now we’re—for lack of a better term—a rivalry. CrossFit needs a rivalry because they don’t have any of those in CrossFit. It’s cool because Rich and I go back and forth. He beats me. I beat him at a few things. It’s cool. It’s exciting.

Was there anything you’re working on in particular to prepare for these Games?

Right now it’s about perfecting movements, getting rid of any inefficiencies. That’s what I’m doing. If you look at anyone who's an expert at what they do, they make it look super flawless. That’s what I’m really going for—for someone to watch me move and be like, “Damn, this guy is moving fast, but boy, he looks good doing it." I want to get rid of the slop. No slop.

Tell us about you diet and how you work it into your lifestyle.

Well, for the most part it’s really meat and vegetables—keeping it simple. It’s the old-school way of eating, the real way. But I’m not going to be that guy who, if it’s my birthday and someone brings me a cupcake, I’m not going to eat it. You’ve got to not take things so seriously. I think sometimes people get so caught up in CrossFit. It’s like, CrossFit is great, but let’s take a step back and live our lives. At the end of the day, if you’re too wrapped up you’re never going to be able to sustain, ever. I’ve watched it so many times. It’s like clockwork. People come into CrossFit and they’re all gung-ho. They go from zero to 10 overnight, then all of a sudden they’re burnt out. Instead, take your time; you don’t have to go crazy. That’s the thing about fitness and that’s the thing about life: Take your time. Chill. 

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