Like Father, Like Daughter: The Hippensteels

July 19, 2013

Brittney Saline

“We’re the kind of family that has pull-up bars in every doorway.” 


In little more than a week, David Hippensteel will prove his fitness in the Masters Men 55-59 Division at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. Then he’ll cheer for his daughter, Heather Hippensteel, who’s competing with CrossFit Invictus.

With 25 points accumulated throughout the Open, David, 57, secured first place in his division and earned a spot at the Games. A month later, Heather and her team won the 2013 SoCal Regional.

“It’s incredible,” David says. “The whole family will be out there supporting us.”

In the Hippensteel house, the kids grew up on dirt bikes, trampolines and ziplines. David took his four kids out into the countryside to ride bikes and coached them in backyard soccer games late into the night.

“We’re the kind of family that has pull-up bars in every doorway,” he says.

When he noticed that his 6-year-old was good at somersaults, he enrolled her in gymnastics. Six years later, he encouraged her to join the diving team. Heather went on to join the University of San Diego diving team.

“My dad wanted us to find a sport that we were naturally good at, that played to our strengths,” Heather says.

Eventually, she returned the favor.

During her senior year in college, she discovered CrossFit and thought her dad would be good at it.

“He’s super competitive and loves anything that gives him a challenge,” she says. “He’s done gymnastics before so I knew he’d be good at a lot of the movements, and he’s super high intensity. He’s a thrill seeker.”

Across the country, her dad started at CrossFit SolaFide. Before long, the father and daughter were comparing Fran times when they called to check in. When she came home to Tennessee in the summer of 2012, she joined her dad at the box.

“She’d ride on the back of my motorcycle and it was just a fun memory, being able to ride to the box and do these crazy workouts at CrossFit SolaFide,” David says. “We really encouraged each other because I saw her potential and she saw mine.”

Over the next few months, the two started to dabble in more competitive training. Heather returned to Southern California for work, and started attending the competitor classes at CrossFit Invictus. Back home in Tennessee, David followed the same programming.

“It was super challenging. I wanted to do their weights and I could hardly do it, but I still tried,” David says. “It was so fun because we were doing the (same) workouts and we could talk about it afterward. It was an extra way of bonding.”

During the 2013 Open, they strategized together and tried to one-up each other on the Leaderboard.

“There’s a rivalry going on for sure, but it’s a great rivalry,” David says. “We challenge each other. It’s super inspiring to be around her because she’s such a great athlete.”

Once the Open was over, their programming diverged. Heather focused on team training, and David started programming tailored to his needs by CJ Martin. With a lifetime of endurance training behind him, David needed to work on balancing strength work with metabolic conditioning. It hasn’t been easy to readjust.

“He told me to do a 5K (run), and I did a 12-mile bike ride first,” he says.

During the last couple of months, David has worked on his Olympic lifting with cues passed along by his daughter.

“She’s a great resource for me and an encouragement to continue, especially with the Olympic lifts,” he says. “I’ll learn whatever I can from her. She’s a great teacher.”

The biggest challenge, Heather says, is getting her dad to rest.

“He has a tendency to over-train,” she says. “So the biggest thing I’m trying to help with is making sure he takes recovery days. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘I’m not going to talk to you about any of our workouts until you take a recovery day!’”

Still, David got to play coach to his daughter once more after Regional Event 6 was announced. Double-unders, one of his strengths, had bested Heather in Open Workout 13.3, and she was terrified to see them come up in her first Regional competition.

David told her to do 100 double-unders every night.

“He’d give me tips and told me to watch videos, and really made sure I practiced them every day,” Heather says.

When the event went down, she stumbled once, and then did almost all 50 unbroken.

“It was hard not to cry,” David says. “I’m super proud of her, it was so amazing."

She’s proud of him, too.

“My dad is one of my biggest role models and one of my heroes,” she says. “He’s such a hard worker and he always pushes himself and strives for excellence in everything he does. I really look up to the way he lives his life.”

Although he’s training to win, he says sharing the competition floor with his daughter in Carson, Calif., is the biggest prize.

“It’s about always doing the best you can and improving, having goals and achieving them and a community to support and encourage you,” he says. “We’re in this together.”