Aye Kalimba: I Wasn’t Going Down Without a Fight

Aye Kalimba: I Wasn’t Going Down Without a Fight

The following is a guest post from Kalimba Edwards, a friend, athlete, firefighter and self proclaimed “everyday soccer mom”.

Her current goal is to attempt one competition every month in 2014.

She regularly shares her adventures on her blog Aye Kalimba – the training, the people she meets, the highs and lows, and the lessons learned.

Each month, we will catch up with Kalimba to hear about her progress.

This month Kalimba tells us about competing in the Unite & Fight Charity Boxing Match.

Where do I begin? Let me start with the fact that Unite & Fight was one of the most fun events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

From the moment I walked into the gym the staff and crew were amazing. It was well organized, entertaining, and everyone was encouraging. Alex Freese is probably one of the coolest guys I have ever met.

I’m not saying this just because he’s a fellow firefighter but also a kick ass boxing trainer with a great sense of humor.

He put together an amazing event, much respect is due. All the trainers at the gym were super motivating, helpful, and friendly.

Lisa Bach, the owner of Uppercut, is one of my new idols. She’s about as baddass as they come and her no nonsense approach to running a successful business is something that I need to study diligently.

I would like to say thank you to everyone at Uppercut Gym for putting together such an awesome event for charity. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of it…

…until that bell rang. And I got my first real punch to my nose.

Okay, I’ll bring it back a little. When I arrived at Uppercut Gym I signed my waiver and was told to get my uniform on and go take pictures.

The first picture was a solo head shot type pose. My arms folded in front of me and a serious look on my face.

Real fighter status. The second was the “stare down” with my opponent. This was the moment I first met Nicole Carle.

She walked up to me with a smile on her face and shook my hand. She seemed kind, even gentle, someone who should probably be my friend.

(FYI, I think everyone should be my friend and I don’t think that is a boxer mentality, but there I was.) Our stare down was intense.

For a whole fifteen seconds I looked into her eyes so deep I think I saw her soul. The whole time my bottom lip quivered like a scared puppy, but I don’t think she noticed.

She did probably notice my stuttering, fragmented sentences, and my nervous creepy laugh. I bet she wished she could of ran out of the gym. Or maybe not.

Aye Kalimba: I Wasn’t Going Down Without a Fight

Next, I went to chill out and get my mind right in the warm up area. I’m sitting there with my headphones in listening to Three Six Mafia because I’m trying to get my “northside mind frame” when I realize I’m in the wrong warm up area.

Rookie mistake. I grab all my sh!t (said like James Franco in Spring Break) and move to the Red Team area.

I spent the next three hours rotating between getting hyped watching my teammates kick ass and shaking in my shorts watching them get hammered on by the blue team.

Guys and gals I had never met before became my best friends in those three hours.

I was chatting to everyone, no surprise there. A common theme for pretty much everyone was “trying to relax” which never really worked.

I would sit down and put my music on for 30 seconds then hear the crowd scream and jump up.

I would say my “fight or flight” reflex was in full gear during that time.

I began to warm up a couple fights before mine. I was punching the focus mitts with my trainer from Uppercut.

Fellow firefighter Leonard Crawford and Sean Thomas were there to help me out and I’m super grateful for them. Everyone was giving me really good tips.

I was feeling pretty good in the minutes leading up to the fight.

“Come on, you wanna go?” I said with my gloves up to Alphonzo Vasquez (a 20+ year boxing veteran and trainer at Uppercut) who was warming up like a champion.

“Naw man, I see those back muscles,” he said laughing.

“They are all for show.” I responded back. I wanted to say, “Yeah, I CrossFit” but I didn’t.

It’s my turn now. I see Nicole go by with her crew. All I can hear is my heartbeat and someone behind me saying “relax”. The announcer says “Aye Kalimba” and I start my entrance.

Now, I’m not saying that I love attention but I did enjoy the walk in. I mean, really, how could I not? Everyone cheering for me.

People giving me high fives. I stopped and talked to little Clara, letting her know woman can and should be strong.

The crowd was hype and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eating it up. In fact if I could of danced around the ring for the three minutes and maybe told a few short stories I would said I was be in my element.

Aye Kalimba: I Wasn’t Going Down Without a Fight

Then the bell rang. I ran out like I was going to do something serious and immediately was punched in the nose.

Then I took a hook to the temple. Honestly, every time I went to punch her I got punched in my face and I couldn’t figure out why.

It wasn’t until I got home I remember Alex telling me during sparring that I need to “hide behind my shoulder.”

Nope, I was just walking right into her fist. It’s funny now that I think about it, last night, not so much.

I wanted to walk right out of there after that first round. Everyone was talking to me.

I couldn’y hear anything. My head was pounding already and my nose was stuffed.

I really thought my nose was broke. That’s what happens when you’ve never been hit before I had nothing to gauge the pain against. All I knew was I didn’t like it.

Round two was more of the same. I heard people yelling for me to hit her and all I was thinking was “I might as well hit myself.” I felt like I was getting the crap beat out of me.

Round three I took a couple to the head and mentally I was done. I was thinking “Let’s just forget this whole thing.

Can’t we be friends. Request me on Facebook, I’ll send you some funny or motivating pictures.”

“You alright?” The referee says to me grabbing my hands.

“Not really.” I said back.

“I’m going to talk to you for a second,” the ref says to me.

“Yes, what do you want to talk about? Let’s chat till the bell rings.” I’m thinking.

He lets my hands go though and I have fight again.

I end the fight standing. I landed some body punches. In my mind I got my ass handed to me. When I watched the fight back it wasn’t as bad as what I thought.

I think she went easy on me. If so, I thank her for that. She did tell me I punch hard so maybe I did land some.

“You see that? You want some of that?” I said to Vazquez when I came back to the dressing room. Everyone laughed and I was happy because I didn’t get my sense of humor beat out of me!

There is one thing that made the memory of all of blows fade. My son, Tyheem, hugging me and saying, “Your awesome mom! Next year I’m going to train and do it with you.”

That’s what Aye Kalimba is all about. That’s what this mom lives for. Inspiring people, especially my children, to try things that scare them. To chase their dreams no matter how crazy they are!

Aye Kalimba: Do Something that Scares You

Aye Kalimba: Do Something that Scares You

Time for a flashback. Cue smoke

It’s 3:45pm and my track coach tells us to go run a lap around our dirt track in rural Nebraska. I walk out out gym door dragging my feet while complaining about having to run when all I do is shot put and discus.

As a senior in high school was well over 200lbs and pretty much gave up on any athletic goal I ever had.

I jog 100 meters, look around for coach Hunt, then sprint across the infield to the other side. I walk back into the gym for stretching trailing the rest of the team.

I’m breathing heavy not realizing my “cheat” way was probably harder than just jogging. I had a chip on my shoulder the size of a boulder and I sure as heck was never going to be a runner.

I was NEVER going to be a runner and if you compare me to most others I still am not. I don’t have long lean legs.

My stride is about as supple as a platypus. My feet are flat and while I hate to admit it I have knock knees. It pains me to run a sub 10 minute mile. Slow as molasses and I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Yet, I ran marathon just to see if I could and I changed my life in the process.

In January 2011 I found myself with a lot of free time and in need of some inspiration. I picked up an incredible book called Born To Run.

It’s one of the very few books that I’ve read completely and I finished it in a week.

Now, if you have ADHD or know someone who does you know this is rare. (I’ve always wanted to be able to get caught up in a book but couldn’t, it sucks.)

Born To Run was full of every kind running story and I absorbed it like a sponge.

When I finished the book I began to run more. I had dreams of running marathons and ultra marathons, but life got in the way. I would run often but never more than 8 miles.

In April 2013 I hadn’t run in months but after a 2-mile run I was feeling pretty empowered.

I sent a text to my friend Tiffany immediately and let her know that I was signing up to run Chicago marathon with her. I mean, why not? It just 26.2 miles.

Uh yeah, was I wrong there. It was hundreds of miles of training runs. It was 4am early dark morning runs.

It was schedules being adjusted due to runs. It was driving my route the night before to drop off water and snacks, obsessed runs.

It was multiple pairs of shoes, inserts, and foam rollers. It was shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and hip flexors so tight I could walk with a normal stride.

I took every ounce of love that I had for running and I stomp all over it day after day for six months.

Crazy thing is I loved it! My favorites were my long Saturday runs with my brother Josh’s girlfriend.

Her and I on the road for hours gave me ample time to see why Josh loves her. We would talk, probably mostly me talking, until about mile 10 then just run in silence.

When I wanted to give up she’d encourage me and I’d do the same for her. It’s a great bonding experience and I am eternally grateful I was able to share it with her.

The actual marathon was indeed the hardest thing I have ever done. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of crowds.

Running for 5 hours in a crowd of 30,000 people was almost enough to send me over the edge.

People everywhere! If I wasn’t trying to maneuver around someone in front of me I was stopping and tripping someone behind me.

It was an accident waiting to happen. I also made the mistake of drinking the Gatorade and once I started I couldn’t stop. Every water stop I was downing two to three cups of the sweet nectar like I had never drank before.

I knew it was a bad idea but I couldn’t resist. About mile 13 I developed a side stitch that stayed with me the remainder of the 26 miles.

I had to alternate frequently between running and walking. It was the most pain I had ever experienced and that includes child birth, but I kept on running.

The six months of training and those five hours of running that day made me believe that I can do anything!

Now when a challenge comes my way I look at it in a different way. If I compare most things to the marathon it’s doable and I give it a try.

When they say a marathon will change your life they are right.

I’m thankful for the challenge, the pain, and all the small victories that it brought me. I try things (like boxing) that I wouldn’t of attempted.

Mainly because NOTHING can be as painful as running 26.2 miles when your me.

This year I’m planning on running Twin Cities and I am excited for a summer full of adventures. I need to find someone to run and train with me.

Until then I’m training for the Cannon Falls duathlon on April 26. Time to get my cardio in check.

Being Crazy Isn’t Enough

The following is a guest post from Caitlin Carrigan, a fellow CrossFit athlete and Holistic Health Counselor.

She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods.

Caitlin now offers health and wellness counseling and great recipes and nutritional advice through her company Long Live Food. In today’s post, she tells us about her experience training for her first ironman.

You. Are. Crazy.

These are three words I have heard many times in my life thus far. The most recent commentary has been in regards to me deciding to do the 2021 Ironman Texas in May. Before I go there, let me tell you why I decided to do this.

Tuff Love Comp Toes to BarMy family has a history of heart disease, and has sort of accepted that it is a normal thing that happens to people.

Basically, the opinion is that as you get older, you lose your quality of life, you get fat and unhappy, and you die.

Obviously this thought process doesn’t sit well with me. I firmly believe we are all in charge of our destiny, and can choose to live an amazing life, no matter what your size or genetic history.

Being Crazy Isn’t Enough

During college was when I first realized how much crap was in our food.

I started eating cleaner, and instantly eliminated lifelong digestive issues.

I also realized how terrible medications were. I saw how my father’s quality of life diminished quickly after he was put on multiple heart medications, and I decided to toss away anything I was taking for ADD and acne, and to not fill the prescription my doctor wrote out for “high cholesterol”. “You’re crazy”, I was told.

So, the Ironman. The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. I have always had this event on my bucket list, and it was something to work towards.

Truthfully though, I only decided to sign up after my Boston Qualifying time of 3:34:02 was about 40 seconds too slow to make it into this year’s Boston Marathon.

So, in a fit of rage, I signed up, e-mailed the head CrossFit Coach at our gym, and started training the next week.

CrossFit Endurance is what I am using for my training, and the programming was designed by Caleb Diebolt at CrossFit Sanitas in Boulder, Colorado. Basically I train six days a week, and three of those days are more intense than the others.

Even of my day off, though, I am either hiking or biking for an active recovery. When telling people I am using the CrossFit endurance model for a full triathlon, the phrase “you are crazy” gets dropped on the daily.

But I have really learned to trust my training, and my coaches. My workouts are intense. For example, rather than running a 13-mile training run at a steady pace, I do 6-minute and 15 second mile repeats.

I do high intensity intervals that include dead lifting, and using an old school AirDyne bike (which I believe is the worst machine ever invented).

Being Crazy Isn’t Enough

This will be my first triathlon of any sort, so I am both excited and nervous. I just want to finish.

But ideally it would be awesome to get a time that I can be proud of. I also sort of want to prove the “haters” of CrossFit that it is a super effective program, and should not be dismissed (by the way, I Boston Qualified by only using CrossFit, and running, at max, a 10k. Another thing I was “crazy” for doing).

Lastly, the most important aspect of my training has been my sleep and nutrition. I burn through calories, but am pretty strict on eating unprocessed foods.

I abide closely to Paleo guidelines, but really try to never eat anything from a box. This has meant a lot of eggs, sweet potatoes, and vegetables.

I cannot stress enough how a low inflammatory diet has made me excel in every aspect of my life. My sleep, overall mood, and energy has improved.

My cholesterol is perfect. Plus, my performance is proof in itself. When I drink beer and pizza the night before a big workout, my time suffers, and my strength as well.

A typical day of eating looks like this:

  • Pre-workout: 1 egg, 1 piece of fruit, and maybe some oatmeal
  • Post workout: two eggs, 1 piece bacon, with broccoli or some greens
  • Lunch: huge spinach salad with turkey or chicken, and a ton of sliced veggies, balsamic/olive oil dressing
  • Dinner: some choice of meat with mixed veggies, sometimes with rice or quinoa
  • Snacks: Generally, nuts, fruit, beef jerky, rice and veggies, sweet potatoes, and almond butter & jelly sandwiches (shh, don’t tell)


All in all, I really want to get out there and help people understand you’re not crazy for your dietary or exercise choices. I am choosing longevity and a high quality of life.

I listen to my body, rest when I need to, and I never over train.

I sleep as much as I can, and eat as clean as possible. I try to convey this through my blog, Long Live Food, and work with people as a Health Coach to help them make positive lifestyle changes.

I truly believe an active, healthy lifestyle is the way to live, and I want to help as many people as possible get to where I am today.

Celebrate the Success of Others

Back in February at the Freeze Fest Team Challenge, the first event was a clean ladder. At the second platform, the weight on the bar was 135-lbs, which had a been a PR at the time.

The whistle blew and I was able to do the clean on my first attempt but failed at the hang-clean, which meant I had to start again.

On the second attempt, I got the clean, but was struggling to complete the hang-clean. I dug deep and stuck with it and got the rep.

I bring up the event, not to tout how I powered through, but to be able to mention the fact that standing at the next platform were Keith and Jess, aka Team Honey Badger.

They were complete strangers to me at the time, as so often our competitors are in life. They were watching me struggle and started to vocally cheer me on as I went for that second attempt.

In reflecting upon the day, I was struck by how Keith and Jess were so quick to celebrate my success without even knowing me.

Training and competing is inherently a very personal experience. Your time and attention is centered around “me, me, me”.

What could I do better?

When am I going to the gym?

What am I going to eat this week?

Why I am sore?

Will I hit a new PR?

That drive and focus is absolutely necessary; but, being able to take off the blinders and see that those around you are accomplishing great things is just as important.

It’s easy to celebrate as spectators the good things – the success and accomplishments – that happen to our friends and families.

We find out via Facebook or text or phone and we happily offer hugs and kisses and congratulatory messages. We send presents or buy the first round.

Like when my sister and her husband recently gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy or when my friend Kseniya’s first book got published.

Or Caitlin completing the Ironman Texas triathlon or Kalimba and her son Tyheem competing together as a team in the Gear West Duathlon.

Or Tracy setting new PRs in her first powerlifting meet this past weekend. These are all awesome and deserving of every accolade.

Yet, as the Dakota Games draw near, I am reminded more of Keith and Jess who were able to celebrate the success of their competitors while on the playing field.

We live in a winner-takes-all mentality and so often, in the heat of the race, our fellow athletes become our enemies.

We stare them down, we taunt, we pump our chests and try to intimidate. I understand that it helps us take charge and give it our all if we have a clear foe to defeat.

And I am absolutely gunning for the win in Fargo. I am not showing up to just get my participant ribbon.

However, I believe that I will have a much more rewarding experience if, in the pursuit of the win, I am able to step outside of myself and recognize my competitors and their accomplishments. It goes beyond good sportsmanship.

It’s about putting out the right type of energy and treating your competitor with the respect that you hope to receive in return.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles. – Proverbs 24:17

It’s also about recognizing that their success does not diminish your own. The person who is best prepared will win at the end of the day.

And if that happens to be your competitor, than why not acknowledge that accomplishment? Only you can strive to do your best and perform at your highest ability.

They are not a barrier, merely just someone else trying to do the same thing.

I’ve had a lot to celebrate this past week in both my personal and professional life; but only possessing an inward focus is not a satisfying life.

Rather, I find my joy comes from celebrating the success of others. And I am going to take that attitude with me into the heart of the battle.

When the success of another makes your heart sing, your resistance is gone, and your own success soars. – Esther Hicks

They Call Me Big Jerm

My nickname at the gym is “Big Jerm”. My buddies Josh, Jake and Shawn lovingly crafted the name over two years ago because I was a lanky guy trying to gain strength and pack on muscle. All three of them are much stronger and can lift much heavier things.

It is a name similar in vein to that of Robin Hood’s compatriot Little John, who was anything but little. Or like Curly of the Three Stooges.

What some of my friends in Minneapolis don’t know is that at one point that name was much more literal. Up until graduating high school, I was never overweight but also not in great shape either.

College led to the “freshman fifteen” thanks to a dining hall that offered daily access to a fro-yo machine and frost your own cookie days.

Couple that with a lack of exercise and moving into a fraternity and I reached a high of 197 pounds.

That weight fluctuated a bit after college as I did make some focused attempts to run and swim. They would usually peter out though and the New York City lifestyle of take-out food and happy hours kept my weight high.

I also take the blame as my focus was all about my social life and extracurricular activities, none of which involved exercise.

In the fall of 2008, I moved to Rome, Italy. Despite what you might think about living in the land of pizza and pasta, I actually started to shed some weight immediately upon arrival.

Everyday I walked 30-minutes each way to and from my apartment to campus, which was a lot more exercise than I was used to.

I was also cooking my own meals at least two times per day and eliminating a lot of processed foods without realizing it. Rome doesn’t do shelf life. Most of their food is perishable and it’s a diet much more focused on homemade rather than made in China.

By Christmas break, I had lost 20 pounds.

I have told the story before of how by the spring of 2010 my focus turned towards fitness. I started running and I was feeling really good.

When it was time to move back to the United States, I didn’t want to return to NYC partly because I didn’t want to fall into the trappings of my old lifestyle.

For so long I had normalized what I looked like when I was at my heaviest that it wasn’t until I lost the weight that I began to understand the lack of health and wellness in my life.

It’s amazing how a suit and a tie and a haircut can hide what’s truly underneath.

This all makes for a long introduction to the fact that now almost three years into doing CrossFit and starting to compete, I am nervous about going backwards.

I want to get “bigger” but I don’t want to be big again. I realize that perspective is all relative and that my “extreme” weight is far less than others.

But I can only compare me to myself and the fact is that I am in the best shape I have ever been. It makes me sad that it didn’t happen until I was almost 32 years old, but I can’t dwell on that and instead have to just be thankful for what this new lifestyle will mean for my next 30+ years.

However, with all this cleaner eating and heavy training, I hit a low of 161 pounds in January of this year. Lanky is no longer the desirable aesthetic.

Now that I have so many tools in my arsenal in terms of exercise and diet, I have consciously been trying to put back on some weight – hopefully mostly muscle.

But it is hard to think about bulking up and eating extra calories because of that fear that all my hard work will go away.

I realize that this is not rational since I am at the gym so often. I know that I won’t go back to before. And at the end of the day, the number on the scale is not as important as how I look and feel.

Rich Froning weighs 195 pounds and he is only 5’9″. Michael Phelps is 6’4″ and weighs 194 pounds.

The scale doesn’t tell the story any longer for either of them. And I would be happy to look like either in terms of physique.

The fact is if I want to get stronger, I need to put on some weight. So I am cycling in HMB+ Creatine, which helped me back in April put on six pounds and I will start again next week.

I am focused on my protein intake and carbs, rather than calories.

And I am not worrying about my weight as an indicator of my strength or physique. I am looking in the mirror and feeling better about walking around with my shirt off.

I am so hesitant to even include this before and after as I don’t want to be that guy, but I think it is important for me and for others to see the transformation taking place, even if it is not overnight.

There is more work to do, but I like the guy on the right a lot more as he is a lot stronger and healthier, even if he is a bit heavier.