He’s one of only two men to have finished first and second in the history of the CrossFit Games. In 2008, he notched a come-from-behind win to take the title of “Fittest Man on Earth,” then, five years later (and wiser), he finished second. The time elapsed between these two finishes is extraordinary.

To have won it at all is a hefty feat. But in the punishing, intensity-above-all world of CrossFit, having your body perform that well five years apart is an age-defying spectacle. Sure, the serious athletes – Khalipa among them – take seriously their commitment to body maintenance such as stretching and foam rolling and are bullish on wholesome, balanced nutrition. But the day in, day out grind of heavy lifts, gymnastic-based moves and soul-crushing WODs takes its toll. Khalipa is still young at 28 but what the years of wear and tear translates into for serious CrossFitters is of some debate.

Regardless, the Northern California-based competitor, gym owner and family man continues to make it look easy. He breezed through this year’s Open and Regionals, perhaps due in part to the development of a team of endurance, weightlifting and gymnastics experts that helped him bolster his already wide array of skills. He will be quick to say that he doesn’t need to win – a successful business owner and sought-after CrossFit coach, he isn’t chasing the cash prize or new endorsement deals (he recently became a Gillette BODY ambassador). But his preparation is evidence enough that he loves to compete and will certainly give defending champ Rich Froning fits as he attempts to win his fourth title in a row.

To date, no one has won non-consecutive CrossFit Games championships. Could Khalipa be the first? We spoke with him about winning, his relationship with Froning and what his training days really look like.

What was it like winning the whole thing in 2008?

It was extremely exciting and unexpected. I only hope that it can happen again. 

Six years later, how do you feel and how has your body held up to all the training?

It has held up well. CrossFit is an excellent program. It incorporates so many things that my body never feels burned out.

A lot of people “game” the Open and Regionals, doing “just enough” to qualify. How did you approach qualification this year and what do you think about people taking it easy to qualify?

I performed each Open workout once and let my scores settle where they did. At the Regionals the goal is to win and qualify for the Games. I put together performances that I believed would put me in the best position to do so. Taking it easy and CrossFit generally don’t go together!

How do you expect you’ll do this year?

My goal is to win. This should be the goal for most top competitors. 

What are your thoughts on the perceived “rivalry” between you and Rich? What separates fact from fiction with the relationship between you two?

The rivalry is definitely there. However it is 100% friendly. I respect Rich. He is an amazing competitor. At the same time, athletes don’t like to lose. Everyone should go to the Games trying to win. At the 2013 Games, I think we put on a pretty good show for people. The back and forth was good for the sport in my opinion. 

It seems like you two kind of push each other to better performances. What has he meant to you personally as an athlete and competitor? 

Rich shows us what is possible. He is pioneering what the human body can do. Training and hard work is the secret. I think he has elevated the sport beyond anyone’s expectation. I believe all the top competitors have. It will be amazing to see what happens in five or 10 years.

How do you think you guys compare head-to-head?

It really depends on what events come out. I believe we are both physically and mentally prepared.

crossFit Jason Khalipa

Khalipa at Work

Here’s what a day at the box looks like for this perennial CrossFit Games contender.

You can take any part of Jason Khalipa’s average training day and you’d have a tougher single workout than you’re probably accustomed to. Competitive CrossFitters have to possess otherworldly strength and stamina and you don’t get it by just showing up – you have to crush it, everyday.

Phase 1:

30 minutes on the Airdyne bike, performing 2-3 minute “on” intervals and 2-3 minute “slower” intervals.

Phase 2:

30 muscle-ups for time

Phase 3:

30 strict handstand push-ups

Phase 4: 

As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of:

15 thrusters @ 95 pounds

15 pull-ups

After this, Jason will usually include a fifth component. On a day like this, he will wowrk his way up to “find a heavy overhead squat,” which has a lot of carryover for other heavy lifts.

The 2014 CrossFit Games begin July 25. For more information, competitor bios or event lineups, visit games.crossfit.com