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.

Into the Fire

David walked into the valley
With a stone clutched in his hand.
He was only a boy
But he knew someone must take a stand.

There will always be a valley,
Always mountains one must scale.
There will always be perilous waters
Which someone must sail.

Into valleys, into waters,
Into jungles, into hell.
Let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell.
Into darkness, into danger,
Into storms that rip the night.
Don’t give in, don’t give up,
But give thanks for the glorious fight.

You can tremble, you can fear it
But keep your fighting spirit alive boys.
Let the shiver of it sting you,
Fling into battle, spring to your feet boys.
Never hold back your step for a moment,
Never doubt that your courage will grow.
Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go.

Are there mountains that surround us?
Are there walls that block the way?
Knock ‘em down, strip ‘em back boys
And forward and into the fray.

Into terror, into valour.
Charge ahead, no, never turn.
Yes, it’s into the fire we fly
And the devil will burn.

Someone has to face the valley
Rush in, we have to rally and win boys.
When the world is saying not to
By God, you know you’ve got to march on, boys.
Never hold back your step for a moment,
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head ever higher and into the fire we go.

Let the lightning strike.
Let the flash of it shock you.
Choke your fears away.
Pull as tight as a wire.
Let the fever strike.
Let the force of it rock you.
We will have our day, sailing into the fire.

Someone has to face the valley.
Rush in! We have to rally and win boys
When the world is saying not to,
By God, you know you’ve got to march on, boys.
Never hold back your step for a moment.
Look alive! Oh, your courage will grow.
Yes, it’s higher and higher and into the fire we go.
Into fire!
Onward, ho!

– Nan Knighton, 1997