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146. Fabulous In 15, Starting At 50 with Kim Rahir
Episode 14627th June 2024 • FINE is a 4-Letter Word • Lori Saitz
00:00:00 00:45:17

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Picture yourself living what seems like a regular life as a parent and entrepreneur, where everything seems uneventful and you have every reason to expect the rest of your life to follow a pretty straightforward path. You know, everything’s FINE.

Then, one day you go to pick up your kids from school and all of a sudden you’re seeing double.

Next thing you know, your life has been turned completely upside-down, your legs are numb and you’re sitting in a wheelchair.

In what version of reality could you picture yourself becoming an Olympic weightlifter just five years later?

This is Kim Rahir’s story of how Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Fortunately, she was raised with two values that would support her through her unexpected midlife journey – always be ready to show up and perform, and conscientiously show respect for people and take them as you find them.

Along with these values, she became a person who did not wallow in self-pity or claim victimhood status. There was no asking “why me?” when faced with adversity.

When she first started seeing double that day when she was 45 and picking her kids up from school, her doctor suggested she might be experiencing a cerebral hemorrhage and urged her to hail the next taxi to the hospital. After a long series of tests combined with the onset of additional health issues, it eventually became apparent she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Now wait – five years later she was at the gym training to become an Olympic-level weightlifter?

As you’re about to discover, her doctor discouraged her from doing it in a way that indicated he didn’t want to be involved. She was told to take all sorts of injections that made her feel worse, and ultimately traded them in for some ibuprofen. All of it made her feel disrespected, and she had to find a way to reclaim her power.

This isn’t the outcome you’d imagine for someone who has Multiple Sclerosis - nor would you picture her becoming a fitness coach helping women feel fabulous doing 15 minutes of work each day.

In a moment, when you meet Kim, you’ll be awestruck by her comeback story.

Kim’s hype song is “Far From Over” by Frank Stallone.

Resources:

Invitation from Lori:

In my special guide, 5 Easy Ways to Start Living the Sabbatical Life, you'll discover, step-by-step, how you can stop settling for “fine” and look at your life with a fresh set of eyes even if, like many people in today’s high-speed world, you’re not in a position to take a month or year-long sabbatical.

You know how you normally hear the disclaimer “Don’t try this at home!” In this case, you CAN try this at home. And not just “try,” DO.

Once you read it, you’ll

✅ Discover a counter-intuitive approach to making intentional changes in mindset and lifestyle.

✅ Learn how to own your feelings and your struggles so you can address them.

✅ Find out how to face fears, step out of your comfort zone, and rewire your beliefs.

It’s only 7 pages, so it won’t take you long to get through. When you’re ready to say F*ck Being Fine, this guide is the place to start and it will give you new perspectives that could change your life starting today!

Go to https://zenrabbit.com right now to download it for free.

Now let’s head over to the gym and meet Kim. Don’t be put off if it takes her a moment to notice we’ve arrived – she’s probably in the zone!

Transcripts

Lori: Hello, and welcome to Fine is a 4-Letter Word. My guest today, Kim Rahir. Welcome to the show, Kim.

Kim: Thanks for having me. I’m excited and looking forward to our conversation.

Lori: Oh, I know this is going to be so good because your story is just so incredible and so inspiring. Yeah, this is going to be good. First, I’d like to start out with asking you, what were the values and beliefs that you were raised with that contributed to you becoming who you’ve become?

Kim: I think one was to be always ready to serve and perform. And it wasn’t a way that whatever you could do, you should do. So don’t wait for others to come. Go ahead. Be kind and courteous, be punctual, all these old school values. Then respect. Respect the people around you, respect their time, respect their values. I think respect is a big one because it gives everybody the room they need to sort of evolve in their way. I think respect is a way of giving people space to be the way they want to be. And at the same time, to make them feel valued. It’s something that I’m really allergic to is when I feel someone is not respecting me or is disrespecting me. That’s something that can sort of get me a little bit irked.

Lori: Okay. I like that, that respect gives other people the space to be who they are.

Kim: Yes. That really is that way. It can be something like really super small like, I don’t know, table manners or something. If you were to sit at the table and, I don’t know, make loud noises or stuff like this, you’re kind of imposing. You’re sort of invading people’s space. So respect is not following some rigid rule because somebody told you to, it’s because it gives other people enough space to be themselves, even if it’s like looking or listening to you eating and in an unpleasant way, whatever it is.

Lori: My producer, Adam, is going to love that analogy when he hears this. He has a thing about people chewing loudly, and how it drives him insane.

Kim: I think there’s a name. I think it’s even a condition or something.

Lori: There is.

Kim: But I think it’s really important to understand that so many of the rules of civility that we have, they exist for a reason. Some older stuff, it’s become totally useless, and that’s fine. We can move on from that. But some things, they really are there for a reason and they make life easier, makes also your life easier when you meet new people. You know more or less how to conduct yourself. It’s helpful. It gives you a certain amount of safety and security because you’re not jumping into a situation where you don’t know what you’re supposed to do or what other people are going to do. There’s a base amount of respect then. Everybody can sort of move freely.

Lori: Yes. When you have some expectations of what to expect, I guess. So how did those values come into play as you became an adult? How did they play into your story? Which I want to get into more in a minute.

Kim: I think this idea of doing the best you can and being ready to do what you can help me a lot. When adversity struck, I was not prone to feeling like a victim or complaining or thinking, like this sentence that I hear very often and I don’t understand that reaction at all, it’s like, “Why me?” Like, as a plan, someone picked you for this sort of fate or for this adversity and you ask, “Why me?” which means, “Couldn’t they pick someone else?” So it’s like you wishing this upon someone else and thinking that someone else should deal with this that you are having to deal with right now.

I never had that attitude. That was my life. That was what happened to me. It’s not that I liked it. Really, it scared the living daylights out of me and everything, but I never had this idea that this shouldn’t have happened or it should have happened to someone else. It was always up to me to deal with this and to do something. And I think that really helped me also to not get into victim mode, not adopt that identity that’s so easily stuck on to you when you have an illness or a disease. I think that’s what got me kept me moving forward.

Lori: Interesting. Okay. So that’s a perfect segue into you sharing the story of what did happen. I’m so intrigued by what happened and how you overcame it.

tually, because it started in:

Lori: What? So insensitive.

Kim: Absolutely. So lots of tests and stuff. They knew it was something autoimmune but they couldn’t put their finger on it. I stayed in the hospital for six weeks. After three weeks, my legs were totally paralyzed from the hip downward. I couldn’t wiggle a toe, nothing at all. It crept upwards and it was so scary. It was terrifying. It was sad. My kids were small. My oldest was 10. I was in hospital and they were at home. My mom came and looked after them. They tried all sorts of treatments. We have public healthcare in Europe. So always start with the cheapest version, also at the blood panel and the cheapest version of whatever they can give you. So a lot of time passed. When I finally got better, we didn’t really know which of the treatments they tried was the one that made me better.

I got out of hospital just before Christmas in a wheelchair. I had to learn walking again. Two crutches and one crutch, and then after about six months, I could walk. Okay. I still had very weird sensations in my legs because that was the problem. My sensitive nerves had been attacked by my immune system. I couldn’t stand. When you don’t have feedback from the ground, you don’t know where you are, you can’t stand. These weird sensations, they stayed with me for a while.

But after two years, I was told that they had made up their mind. It was a Guillain-Barré, which is a one-off syndrome. It comes, it goes, and then you’re done. They said, “You’re done with this. You’re fine. You can just live your life.” Yes. I had called my husband and cried because I was given a second shot at life.

Lori: Now you had full feeling or you were still having those sensations?

Kim: No. After two years, my toes until this day feel a bit weird. But you don’t really pay much attention to your toes, so it’s okay. I was normal. I felt normal. I was going to be normal. My plan was to be just normal.

Lori: You decided, which plays a lot into it. I mean, the mindset of, like you had said earlier, “I’m not going to be a victim. I am healed.”

Kim: Yes. Then a year later, we moved again. Because we were always moving around, changing countries, and we were in France. I felt my left hand going numb. Because that was the same weird sensation that I had known from my legs, I knew something was wrong. More tests. And then they told me this was different. This was an immune attack on the white matter in the nerves. And if it happened again, that was MS, multiple sclerosis. So I hoped that it wouldn’t come back. They have that protocol. If it says one episode, it’s fine. Second episode, you’re officially a patient. It did come back after a year. It was extremely mild. I only noticed it because I was doing a weird yoga pose on the bedroom floor. I was doing the plow, and then I had this tingling in my spine and I knew that wasn’t good. So, then back to treatment.

Lori: I’m going to ask you a question. How in touch with your body were you before this started happening? Some people are very in tune with their body. And I imagine that the first experience put you more in tune than you had been before. Some people are just completely oblivious, like things show up and they don’t even realize.

Kim: Absolutely. I think that was totally my case. I thought I was indestructible. I thought that people who were always going on about, “Oh, I have a little bit of an ache in my right heel when I move it towards the left and stuff like this.” I was like, “Oh, they are just wimps. I have no problem with this.” I really thought I was indestructible. So that was a huge, big illusion that was just one fell swoop, that was gone.

I think it was done after I had the first episode, it was going to be my MS, that I was very attentive because they said if it comes back. So from then on, I was very tuned into my body. Not really looking at, “Oh my God, do I have pain here or something?” Just these weird sensations. You can’t even describe them, which makes it so frustrating. I would know when they would come back. When they did, I was attentive. And that one, we nipped it in the bud. It was very mild. I would never have noticed it if I hadn’t even done this weird yoga thing. But then I was summoned to the doctor and he said, “Okay, you have MS and you’re going to need lifelong treatment.”

Lori: How old were you at this point?

Kim: Oh yeah, that was the year I turned 50.

Lori: Happy birthday.

Kim: Yeah, great new decade. Thank you. When he said lifelong treatment, I was very upset. I told him, “Is that really necessary?” I said, “My second episode was so mild, maybe I’m getting better. Or maybe my body is healing and this was nothing big.” The funny thing was he was not used to people talking back. He was not used to it at all. He was kind of patient at the beginning. He got more and more impatient as he talked to the stubborn woman who didn’t want his treatment. Because what does that mean? You give your power away. I had felt so powerless in the hospital. When you’re in hospital, you don’t decide anything. Not even when you’re going to sleep, or when someone’s in your room or not, when the light is on or off. You don’t decide anything. I couldn’t even decide when I wanted to go to the toilet because I needed someone to help me get into the wheelchair and stuff. So I think this idea of giving my power away, that didn’t sit well with me.

Lori: What happened after that? Did you say, “I’m not working with you because you’re not listening to me or you’re not open to my participating in my own health care?”

Kim: No, I gave in. I had to give in. He was scaring me. He said, “All the things that can happen if you don’t treat this. You could have just a relapse and you get serious damage.” So I started injecting myself three times a week with interferon beta, which makes it pretty miserable or made me miserable. I suppose the reactions are different, but I had flu-like symptoms every time I injected myself, with headaches and heavy limbs and stuff. So yeah, I just took over the counter drugs. That was one thing. I didn’t want my life to be sort of dependent on how I would feel on the injection. So I just took an ibuprofen and went about my life. I didn’t tell anybody that I had a mess. The closest friends, yes. But when I moved again to another country, to Spain, I met new people, I was not walking around saying, “Oh, by the way, I have MS.” I didn’t want that.

Lori: Well, it goes back to the whole premise of the show. Everything’s fine. I’m fine. Nobody knows anything. Even though behind the scenes, everything was not fine.

Kim: Absolutely. I think it goes back to this, what you’re saying about everything’s fine, that’s something that I’m thinking a lot about even today. Because before my first illness, when I thought I had reached the pinnacle and I had it all, because after years of freelancing, I had a full-time job again, I had my three kids, we lived in a beautiful house. And I thought, “Wow, this is fantastic. This is what I always wanted.” I think I didn’t pay much attention. I thought I was indestructible, as I said, and I think there was far too much stress and pressure on me and I wasn’t fine at all. My body just acted up and said, “Hang on a minute. We can’t keep going like this.” It’s not your typical thing where when you get burnout or exhaustion or something. I think is something that I’m sort of genetically prone to because there are other cases of MS in my extended family. But it was still my body saying, “Hey, everything is not fine. Can we take a break?” Which we did.

Lori: Which is how it happens for almost everyone, that if you ignore the stress, whether it’s to the point of burnout or not, if you ignore that extra load of stress, it’s going to show up. Most people that I’ve talked to, it shows up in physical ways. We just say, “Well, it’s genetic,” or “Well, my immune system needs a boost,” or something like that. We don’t pay attention to why we make up these other reasons why. And it’s really because we’ve neglected ourselves and ground ourselves into nothing.

Kim: Yes, absolutely. I think the reaction that your body shows will depend on your disposition on your nature. Well, I have learned the hard way. We are just one big system and it all ties in together. So if we don’t pay attention to our mental health or our stress levels, then we’re going to pay the bill.

One big lesson was from my first day in the hospital. I think this, for me, took a lot of stress out of the rest of my life. You always think as a mom, you have your kids, you have your home, you have your job, and you think you’re irreplaceable. When you’re due and you don’t show up the next day—and I still talk to women today, every single day, they are convinced, if they don’t show up tomorrow, that everything is going to stop and nothing is going to work. Can you imagine the pressure? It’s like you’re carrying the whole planet on your shoulders. I was out from one day to the next. There was really no slowing down or anything. I was out from one day to the next, and the world kept on turning. I came home for Christmas, there was a tree, there were presents. I hadn’t done any of this. I had made this experience. I had this experience. I have that in my bones. Now I know that I’m replaceable. But if I could somehow transmit that to all those women who think, “Oh my God, it doesn’t work without me,” yes, it does and it will. We may all not be here tomorrow.

Lori: I hear you saying that from a place of it’s not giving up like, “Oh, I don’t matter.” It’s accepting that everything will still be okay. Whatever is happening, trusting that—like you said, the world is still spinning.

Kim: Yes, absolutely. It doesn’t keep you from giving your best today at all. But I think if you boil it down to “I’m just going to give my best today,” it makes it less of a load on your shoulders, less of pressure on your mind. I do what I can now, and then we’ll see. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Lori: Yes, tomorrow is not guaranteed. And your effort today does not reflect what your effort might be tomorrow.

Kim: No. This is something that I also do in my work a lot. The best thing we can do for our health and for our happiness is really focus on today and what we can do today. That’s what I learned. It’s also, when I got my diagnosis, I turned to meditation because I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to learn something. When you see body and mind as a whole and you pay attention to both, it’s easier and it’s less stressful.

Lori: I was going to ask you what other components you had brought into it, in addition to the medical treatment parts?

Kim: Especially when I got the MS diagnosis, I was scared. There was so much darkness that sort of tried to invade my soul, and I knew that I had to do something. I tried various things. I knew meditation was going to be a good one. I remember, when I was a kid, my mom took a class or a course in meditation, and what she described sounded totally super complicated. You have to sit in a certain way, and if you move your little finger that it’s all messed up and the whole session—it was horrible. So that was sort of my preconception. I think I bought like two books and then I found an app that’s called Headspace. This British guy founded it, and it’s now worldwide. It takes all the stress out of this. You just sit in silence and you watch your breath, and it’s absolutely changed my life. It really has.

Lori: That’s not the end of your story.

Kim: No.

Lori: You didn’t just say, “Hey, I’m going to keep taking this medication for the rest of my life and doing meditation.” Both of which helped you. And there’s more. Go on.

Kim: When I accepted that I had to inject myself, I asked the doctor, “Could I go back to the gym again? Could I train? Could I exercise?” And he said, “Yeah, it’s okay. But please be careful.” I’m angry about this answer until today because it doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s just like, “I guess exercise is supposed to be good, but I don’t want anything to do with this. You're sort of on your own, so be careful.” I was lucky because I talked to a nurse who showed me how to inject myself. She said, “Exercise is great for MS. It makes you fatigue resistant.” Fatigue is a big problem in MS.

So I went to the gym, armed myself with a book, one of the first that said, “Women should lift heavy.” I had gotten to the gym before but in a different mindset and spirit. It was about sort of staying in shape, maybe looking a certain way, controlling my weight and everything. This time, I just wanted to become strong. I wanted to build myself back up. I had this desire to be strong and get my power back. At least by my physical power.

Lori: Well, when you are in the gym, you’re getting your physical power, but you’re also getting your mental and emotional powers. I think that people miss that part when they don’t understand what happens in the gym.

Kim: Absolutely. I got better physically very rapidly because you can get stronger so soon, and it’s absolutely amazing. But I think the main point of that journey is exactly what you say. Because the mental health effect of strength training, it’s absolutely mind-blowing. One of the things is they’re not 100% sure of why strength training is so good for mental health. It’s got something to do also, of course, with blood circulation to the brain and things like this, like very mundane stuff. I think it’s also because when you train for strength, you overcome resistance, right? That’s what you do. Gravity resists you and you overcome that resistance. Yes, our brain is complex, but our brain is also a simpleton. So when it has this experience—and you have that experience in your fibers, literally, because you have overcome that resistance. When you encounter resistance in other parts of your life, you will have this. It doesn’t have to be a conscious process but there will be this memory of “I have overcome resistance before. So I’m not going to just give in. There’s something I can do about this.” I think that the whole mental health disempowering aspect of training is also what helped me get so much better and just feel so much better about everything. After injecting myself for a total of four years and my Spanish neurologist suggested that I stop the treatment, and I did.

Lori: Completely?

Kim: Yes. I’ve been without treatment for seven years. Close to seven years.

Lori: Wow. That’s incredible. It’s a testament to the power of the mind.

Kim: I think so.

Lori: Like you’re saying, you took control of your situation. You followed what your inner voice was telling you, it was that “If I go to the gym, if I build muscle,” and all of these factors contributing to building your strength back in every aspect.

Kim: Yes. That’s something I really want to say. I’m not claiming or pretending that all you have to do is go training, and then you will control your MS. There are various forms of MS, and I consider myself lucky. But I’m sure that whatever deck of cards I was dealt, I definitely made the most of what could with that approach. It doesn’t mean that anybody with the diagnosis can just go and lift weights, and it’s going to go away. That’s not what I’m saying. But anybody who has some kind of scary going on in their life or some low point, I think this is a valid option that anyone can try and find out if it helps them and changes their situation.

Lori: Yes, absolutely. People who have been listening to my show have probably heard me say this before, just about me personally, the gym is my sanctuary. I’ve been lifting weights off and on, mostly on, since I was 17 years old. This is my place. And for some times, for a long time, it’s still a little bit today even, it’s the one place where I feel comfortable. Like I know if I do X, I can expect to get Y result. Whereas out in the rest of the world, it doesn’t always translate that way. I guess it’s a level of confidence of what happens in the gym that is starting to translate to other parts. That’s why the gym has always been a sanctuary for me. And it sounds like for you, too.

own business, there’s like:

Lori: Yes, I love that. I totally relate to that. I do not even look. I look at my phone because I’m tracking my reps and sets on an app on my phone. But I’m not opening social media. I’m not. I’m not taking calls. I’m usually not taking texts unless it’s urgent. Like something comes in and I just want to respond, what I will respond with is, “I’m at the gym.” And everybody knows that they will hear from me later now.

Kim: That’s amazing.

Lori: But yeah, getting your total focus. There was another question I was going to ask. Are you competing?

Olympic weightlifting back in:

I loved it right away. I even left my commercial gym and signed up with this weightlifting club where there’s no music, no mirrors. You can’t look at your phone. The trainer will shout at you because he wants you to be in the zone. I had been training there for two weeks when someone came in said, “Hey, Kim, great that you’re here. Do you want to compete?” and I said, “What?” I was 55 at the time and I said, “You know how old I am?” Stupid question. I would never have asked the question again because I want to compete until I’m 90. At the time I said, “Do you know how old I am?” Typical talk. And then they said, “So what? We don’t care. Look over there. That lady, she’s even a year older than you. She’s competing.” I said, “Yeah. Okay. Let’s do this.”

Lori: I find it interesting that you said something just a minute ago and I just want to pull this out, that you sucked at the beginning. The point is—and I think a lot of people are afraid because they suck so they don’t do something. But you have to suck at the beginning in order to—it’s part of the process. You can’t be better unless you first suck. So whether you’re speaking on a stage, or you’re competing in weightlifting, or whatever it is, expect that you’re going to suck, embrace the suck. As Brendon Burchard says, “Move forward with it.” The first 100 times, you’re going to be terrible. And then at 101, there’s going to be some magic. That’s not necessarily the right numbers, but after a certain time, you’ll hit, you’ll be good.

Kim: Absolutely. For weightlifting, especially when you start late, because it’s difficult for me to what we call mechanize certain movements, it takes much longer. But I’m still getting better. It’s lifelong learning. You could never make two lifts in the exact same way because they’re very speedy movements. So you can’t control the entire movement. You just have to sort of visualize, decide what you’re going to do, and then hope that your body will execute. But that’s also something, and that goes back to what we talked about at the beginning. I sucked at it but I knew that it was up to me to get better. It was not to say, “Oh, this is shitty sport,” or “No, this is not for me,” “Well, this is impossible, isn’t it?” No, I knew. This was something that I found very interesting. And if I wanted to sort of explore that further, I was the one who’s going to do the work and try to get better. I think that’s a big thing. Just accept that you’re going to suck at the beginning. And it’s actually at the beginning when you suck that you’ll make the biggest progress. It’s same for powerlifting. The first six months, you’re going to have insane strength gains that you’ll think, “Oh my God, if I keep on at this pace, I’m going to deadlift 400 pounds in two years,” which of course never happens because it’s not linear. It’s a great one. Embrace the suck. I like that.

Lori: Oh my gosh. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for joining me. I have two more questions for you. Oh, actually, I have three. Did you ever go back to that doctor that said, “This is just how it’s going to have to be,” and show him that it’s different than what he projected?

Kim: No, I didn’t because we moved. We moved away. So I just moved on. I left him behind.

Lori: That’s better. I was just curious. Okay. What is your hype song? What’s the song that you listen to to get a boost of energy? Is this the song you listen to before you compete?

Kim: Actually, before I compete, I don’t listen to music. I know many athletes do that. I sort of tried to find some inner quiet, quiet confidence in silence. But when I drive to my training or when I walk to my training, I listen to Far from Over by Frank Stallone. It’s from the Rocky movies, and it’s Stallone’s brother who wrote that song. It’s got the most energetic forward driving vibe of all songs on the planet. Sometimes the training sucks and can sometimes suck for weeks, especially in January when you come back from the winter and stuff. That song says, “I am down but I’m far from over.” That always gives me this drive to just keep trying, keep working, keep moving forward.

Lori: That sounds like it encompasses your whole story. That title is your whole story.

Kim: Absolutely. But I think, in a way, it’s everybody’s story. Nobody’s over. I know many women our age, they feel like this was it, nothing. No, you are far from over. If you’d embrace the day and do something today, whatever it is, you’re going to come back and get better.

Lori: I love that. Okay. If someone wants to continue this fabulous conversation with you, how do they reach you? What’s the best way?

Kim: They can go to my website, which is kimrahir.com. I actually have a free assessment on their health and strength assessment, which is pretty holistic. So it’s not only about being able to do push-ups. You get a very good view of where you are at, and then some ideas of what steps to take next, if you want to get better physically and from a deep health perspective. Then you can always look me up on Facebook with my name, Kim Rahir, where I share my weightlifting adventures and lots of free challenges and trainings and fun stuff. I try to make it fun and entertaining. That’s where you can have a little peek at what I do.

Lori: I love it. Thank you. I will have links to both of those places in the show notes as well as the link to the song. Thank you so much for joining me today, Kim, on Fine is a 4-Letter Word.

Kim: Thanks for having me. I really had a great time talking to you.

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