"My mentality has changed to the point that if you said today 'We're all going bungee jumping,' I'd say 'Yes!' Definitely that comes from the capabilities I see in myself. The 'can do' attitude has gone through the roof."
Robert Khalipa has been watching his son Jason compete in CrossFit since 2008. For four years, Robert was satisfied with taking photos from the sidelines, but Jason had other ideas.
Two summers ago, Jason sent one of his coaches, Cheryl Licon, to his parents’ home to put Robert and his wife Sue through their first CrossFit workout.
“How bad could it be? It’ll only be an hour,” Robert thought.
After a warm-up and some time working on basic movements, Licon had Robert and Sue do a five-minute AMRAP of three burpees and five air squats.
“They were completely annihilated,” Licon recalled. “Totally trashed.”
Robert wasn’t sure he liked the experience, but Sue was convinced. The couple has been coming to their son’s box four times a week for the last two years.
In the beginning, Robert went because Sue enjoyed it. But eventually, CrossFit changed aspects of his life and relationship with his wife that made the sweaty, exhausting workouts worth it.
Before CrossFit, Robert and Sue were sedentary empty nesters. Their days involved work, dinner and time on the couch. With the addition of CrossFit, their routine was broken.
“To have something exciting—what I consider to be quality time—came in a most unexpected way,” Robert said. “I love being there with her. It’s the best time of my day, both of us together … in pain!”
Robert sometimes holds Sue’s hand while she’s doing step-ups, and helps her on assisted pull-ups, Licon said.
Robert is regularly impressed by what his wife achieves in the box.
“Sue could never run or jump,” he said. “Now she can do it with ease.”
Over time, the workouts changed Robert’s body and something more.
“My mentality has changed to the point that if you said today 'We’re all going bungee jumping,' I’d say 'Yes!' Definitely that comes from the capabilities I see in myself,” he said. “The ‘can do’ attitude has gone through the roof.”
Although he’s approaching 60 years old, he’s now chasing the younger athletes at the box.
“I want to be like young people. It’s the rebel in me,” Robert said. “I want to prove I’m not old or getting old. Maybe I’m fighting my aging. CrossFit has made me feel like a lion.”
Sometimes, it takes a tough workout and some killer soreness to remind him that he is, in fact, human.
“For a long time I didn’t know how capable I was,” he said. “Sore is acceptable. Needing three days to recover means I overdid it.”
Now, he tries to walk the fine line of pushing himself without trashing his body for multiple days.
It’s easier said than done. With his son, Jason, and Pat Barber, Garret Fisher and Miranda Oldroyd cheering for him as he did Open Workout 14.2, Robert pushed himself as hard as he could go.
“I purposely pushed myself. I overdid it. Too many ’Titans of the Industry’ were watching me,” he said. “I did twice as many reps that didn’t count. I’ve never felt so judged in my life.”
But in the end, he’s glad he did it, he said.
“You don’t have to be Mr. Macho to be able to start or do CrossFit,” he said. “You can start with no strength or physical background and CrossFit can still do something for you.”
“My dad is an inspiration for people who think the Open or CrossFit in general is too challenging,” Jason said. “The sport of CrossFit can be intimidating. At the root of CrossFit, though, is not the elite athlete … it’s people like my dad and mom pushing hard daily to live a longer, healthier life.”