David Hippensteel is a five-time CrossFit Games Masters athlete and the 3x reigning champion of the Masters 60+ Division. A former triathlete and decathlete, he started CrossFit in 2012 and enjoyed early success at the CrossFit Games before finally winning in 2016. Aside from his CrossFit Games success, Hippensteel is a dentist, owning two practices, and is the owner of Screaming Eagle CrossFit in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Read our interview with him to learn more about his athletic background, his diet, and how he balances work and CrossFit.
KC: You’ve just won your third straight masters title at the CrossFit Games. How does it feel to be the fittest man in the world in your age group?
DH: I couldn’t be happier. When I won the first year, it was really awesome. Words can’t describe it. The second-year felt even better than the first. The third year was even sweeter by a long shot. I fulfilled a calling in some ways. It took me four trips to the CrossFit Games to finally win. After my first victory, I refused to let myself relax. The next day I was back to training. The second year, I took a day or two off but got right back at it. This year, I am strategizing but not fully back to training.
KC: You’ve made it to the CrossFit Games a number of years in a row now. What do you think is the biggest key to your consistency?
DH: I think I’ve always been so well rounded. I appreciate the challenge of a lot of domain. CrossFit offers so much versatility and that’s what I bring to the table the most. I love the challenge of new skills like agility, balance, strength, and endurance. I’ve always loved those skills – they’re apart of who I am. I think that’s been the key. Coming into CrossFit in the beginning, you don’t know what to emphasize because everything is new. I was pretty successful in my first three years at the CrossFit Games even though I didn’t win. I placed 5th and 9th being the oldest guy in my age group. I learned pretty fast and figured out the balance of programming. No one could figure it out for me, I had to do it myself. Figuring that out was super critical. I learned from so many athletes and coaches along the way, picking up things that were most important to me.
KC: As you said, you only started CrossFit in 2012. What was your athletic background prior to CrossFit?
DH: I played football and ran track in high school. In college at Cal State Fresno, I was a decathlon runner despite never having run it previously. I was also a walk-on springboard diver despite having never done that in high school either. I just have a knack for balance and coordination. After dental school, I did triathlons for 20 years because it was the only type of multi-sport at the time.
When I was 40, I unexpectedly got into motocross. I always want to be in the best shape possible and I read that the two types of athletes that are in the best shape are soccer players and motocross riders. My neighbors had dirt bikes and every time I watched I got goosebumps. Once I got a bike and started riding, it felt right. On the ten acres of land I had, I created a course all throughout the land, including a 90-foot ramp. The riding came with injuries, so I got back into triathlons since that my son was doing them. Eventually, my daughter got me into CrossFit.
KC: How important is your diet to your success?
DH: I think it’s huge. I started paleo immediately after starting CrossFit. All of the guys at the CrossFit gym were cut. I was in shape, but not cut like them. They told me they were eating spinach and eggs for breakfast every morning, so I started doing the same. The eggs weren’t working for me, so I switched to eating steak, roast beef, and avocado along with my spinach every morning. I eat it for lunch, too. I look forward to it every day. I am cheating on my diet at the moment since I just finished the CrossFit Games. I had some pizza and cheeseburgers to celebrate, but it’s not often that I stray from my normal diet.
KC: Your whole family seems to be into fitness on some level. Has that been something you and your wife have always pushed? Or did that just happen naturally?
DH: They inherited some of my abilities. We’ve always been super active as a family. We’ve always had a weight room and pull up bars in our house. It wasn’t a question of doing sports, but what sports you were going to do. I wanted to plug my kids into the sports that highlighted their abilities and showcase their God-given talents. Fitness is a desperate need in our society, so I wanted to motivate them and others to be fit.
KC: How are you able to balance owning two dental practices and being a competitive athlete?
DH: I work hard at everything I do. I have a calling towards excellence. I try to practice that and learned it from my dad who served in the Air Force during World War II. He instilled that discipline in my life. I didn’t catch on right away, but I learned it around my senior year of high school. My parents were great about putting me in the right direction. Balancing life is tough, but the most important thing is that CrossFit is a healthy way of dealing with the stresses of life, whatever those may be. I need that stress relief and intensity that CrossFit brings in my life. I am playing a little catch up after the (CrossFit) Games. I want to go after that fourth title, but I want to make sure that I am progressing in my dental practices as well. I want to serve my patients with the highest quality. I am trying to find a way to devote more time to CrossFit as well, so we will see how that goes.
KC: What does Kill the Quit mean to you?
DH: If you kill the quit, you can never give up. It’s making me tear up right now just thinking about it. It’s vital to everyone’s lives. You have to persevere and keep that fire – that 1000% focus. It’s so important. So many events at the (CrossFit) Games wanted to break me, but I had second and third place right on my heels, so I couldn’t back down. It’s amazing how the body responds when you don’t quit. (Kill the Quit) has more of a meaning to me now than it ever has.