June 2, 2013
Fear the Beard: Chris Hoppe
By Gabriel Romero

“CrossFit gave me an outlet to work with my recovery program. The grassroots of CrossFit is based on community and self-worth, so it was easy, it just kind of flowed into my recovery.”

In CrossFit circles around Colorado Springs there are some well-known athletes. One of the best known is Chris Hoppe.

The soft-spoken, incredibly gracious man has never competed at the Regional level before now, but now, the rest of the world gets to meet the man behind the beard.

Dedicated to CrossFit

Hoppe, a former college football player, weighed nearly 300 pounds at one time. He had the athletic background to make a good transition to CrossFit. However, the transition was not immediate, and Hoppe had demons to deal with before he became the person he is today.

“I’m a recovering drug and alcohol addict,” Hoppe says. “After my first year of college, my life really started to spiral out of control. I eventually ended up in rehab when I was 21.”

Hoppe’s addiction problem was ongoing for several years. Along the way, he discovered that fitness was his way out of a life that he no longer wanted for himself.

“At first it was difficult to move from being addicted to drugs and alcohol to being addicted to fitness. It’s something that I certainly had to address because you can easily get obsessed,” Hoppe says. “And replacing one obsession for another is never the answer. Being dedicated is a healthy form of obsession but the two are certainly not the same.”

“I eventually got into personal training and as most trainers that discover CrossFit, I heard about it and instead of dismissing it, I started trying — trying being the key word here — to do these workouts, and at the time, it was frustrating because I wasn’t even able to overhead squat the 45-lb. bar, much less do what I felt I was capable of.”

Hoppe persevered through addiction and eventually CrossFit became the therapy he needed to move past his demons, start to refocus his life and rediscover what makes life worth living.

“CrossFit gave me an outlet to work with my recovery program. The grassroots of CrossFit is based on community and self-worth, so it was easy, it just kind of flowed into my recovery,” Hoppe says. “On a day to day basis, I continue to use CrossFit as a way to be positive and have that outlet to do that very different, evolved thing each day. I’m never stagnant, I’m never bored. I’m always trying to better myself and that’s how I try to live my life outside of CrossFit.”

His Back is Back

In late 2011, Hoppe suffered a back injury that required surgery. Though the surgery would not sideline Hoppe forever, the time off was eminent.  

“I had back surgery in February of 2012 and after 10 days of bed rest, the surgeon, who happens to be my girlfriend’s dad, took the stitches out in his kitchen and told me that I could walk and swim, and that’s about it,” Hoppe says. “He did, however, explain to me what would happen if I needed to have surgery again, and that would be spinal fusion. It would make me a completely different person and my CrossFit career would definitely be over.”

“So I took my time and spent the eight months recovering and it actually helped me not only to properly rehab my back, but I was able to really focus on my overall mobility, re-align my hips and address other ongoing issues I had prior to surgery,” Hoppe continues.

As with any back surgery, the rehab process was long and hard, but Hoppe strictly followed his regimen and eventually recovered. It started with staying away from CrossFit for many months, one of the most difficult challenges he’s ever faced.

“What I know about myself is that I do not have the ability to go into a competition or training at half intensity, it’s just not something I’m prepared to do,” Hoppe says. “So even though it was difficult to skip the Open last year and stay away from most CrossFit movements, it was the best decision I could have made for preserving my future in the sport and overall wellbeing.”

Hoppe at the 2013 South West Regional

If you’re following along, you know that Chris Hoppe sits in sixth place after Day 2 of the South West Regional.

“I didn’t really have any expectations, so to be here competing at Regionals with all of these big names is amazing,” Hoppe says. “I was exactly where I expected to be after Day 1. I put up 295 lb. on the overhead squat ladder and that was something I knew I had to do because the burpee muscle-up workout was certainly not my best. In fact, I knew it was going to be my least favorite event, but it didn’t knock me out of contention, and I think I’ll be OK the rest of the way.”

On Day 2, Hoppe finished only seconds behind Matt Hathcock, diving across the finish line in dramatic fashion on the 100s Event to secure fifth place for the top men’s heat.

“Being able to experience life without drugs and alcohol is so much better than where I was back then,” Hoppe says. “To be here at the CrossFit Regional with all of my friends and family, alongside the best athletes in the sport is just surreal. This is where I want to be and I can’t even fathom that when I was in that place so long ago, that I would be here today. What a paradigm shift.”