Last year, 61-year-old Christopher Kulp placed 2nd in the 60-plus Masters Division at the CrossFit Games. Kulp’s road to the Games started several years ago when his coach, Sam Radetsky, convinced him to start entering CrossFit competitions.
“Sam saw potential in me and encouraged me to go to the Masters Regional competition in 2010,” he says. With the advent of the Open the following year, Kulp was in full competition mode, “I was seeing some of the numbers that I was putting up relative to other Masters. I did the Open and it went quite well and I went to the Games.”
Kulp has the nickname, “Professor” around the CrossFit community due to his profession outside of power cleans, pull-ups, and burpees. Kulp is a philosophy professor at the prestigious Santa Clara University. Among his professional colleagues, Kulp confirms, “I’m pretty unusual. I have to live a very, very disciplined life,” says Kulp, whose daily routine consists of three main focuses. “I have a family whom I love very much, and so basically my life is three things: in the CrossFit gym, in my classroom in my office writing, and being with my family. That’s about it.”
After experiencing the CrossFit Games, Kulp says being there as an athlete was great. “The Masters were taken quite seriously,” he says. “I don’t think anybody looked at us as a bunch of old folks out there being politely permitted to do their thing.”
If anything, the age of Kulp and his fellow competitors made their performances that much more sensational. “We were valid athletes and that’s very confirming. We were treated as valid athletes and I think that brought out the best in all of us,” he says.
Kulp believes the most challenging aspect of the Games, “was attempting to excel against my fellow competitors.” While the arena for the Masters athletes was smaller, there were exceptional performances across the board in all age divisions. As for Kulp, he finished in the top three in all five workouts.
At his box, CrossFit Los Gatos, Kulp preps himself for the Games with workouts that involve a specific strength element followed by a met-con. To get ready for the Games, Kulp trains five days a week at Los Gatos with fellow potential Games athletes, albeit with one major difference. “I ‘compete’ all the time against guys always younger than me, usually considerably younger than me. So, I have had lots of experience being in a competitive environment in CrossFit, but it is unofficial, not nearly as much at stake,” he says.
Although Kulp’s training partners are significantly younger, they share the same goal of qualifying for Regionals and eventually the Games. They have no doubt helped Kulp obtain a new fitness level. “We have a number of folks, particularly the guys, that are quite serious about competing, so it is a highly competitive environment,” Kulp explains. “I train along the lines of what the other competitors are doing, but somewhat different because Sam thinks, and I think he’s right, that my principal deficiencies have to do with mobility and certain skill sets. Things that the younger guys have less problems with.” “My two biggest assets as I see it, and I believe Sam sees it, are upper body strength and endurance,” he says.
Kulp expects the Masters competition at the Games to grow more popular as CrossFit becomes better known around the world. “What I do see is the Masters just getting better, and better, and better … I think that older people are going to increasingly see that if they go about things correctly they can actually put on pretty remarkable performances relativized to their age,” he explains. “I think they’re just discovering that.”
As for the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, Kulp is ready to add to his 2011 podium finish. “I think things could possibly go quite well for me this year,” he says. I think I’m still going to be in the fight.”