AREA FITNESS: Endurance for a cause

Exercise science student Rumen Hulmequist conducts 24-hour full body endurance marathon over the weekend

Photo by Sam Thiel Rumen Hulmequist does a pushup during his 10,000 repetition/24-hour challenge at the Marshall YMCA on Friday. Hulmequist, a senior at SMSU, did 10,000 repetitions of a combination of jumping jacks, pushups and leg raises while also swimming a total of 10 miles in a 24-hour time period to raise money and awareness for cross-cultural adoption.

MARSHALL – Rumen Hulmequist grabbed his headphones and water bottle and went to turn on his music. Then he started doing a few jumping jacks.

Yes, it might have looked like an ordinary workout on a Friday morning to most, but for Hulmequist, it was only the beginning of something much bigger. The 24-year-old from the Twin Cities was embarking on a fitness journey that tested full body endurance and delivered to a cause all at the same time.

Hulmequist performed a circuit of 10,000 repetitions consisting of a combination of pushups, leg raises and jumping jacks as well as a 10-mile swim, all in a 24-hour span in order to raise money and awareness for cross-cultural adoption through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and the Children’s Home Society.

A senior exercise science major at Southwest Minnesota State University who studies on the campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Hulmequist wanted to give back to more than just himself with the event and said it was a blessing to have the support to be able to do it.

“I said, ‘What can I do to give back to more than myself and more than life itself.’ And I figured it should be for our future generation, our kids, who are trying to be a better self,” Hulmequist said. “When you have someone who believes in you, truly and whole-heartedly, that’s a blessing right there.”

CROSS-CULTURAL JOURNEY

Hulmequist’s fitness journey towards his endurance marathon may have started a little more than a year ago, but his life journey began thousands of miles away.

Growing up in Bulgaria, Hulmequist spent the first four years of his life in an orphanage. He said although the first few years were tough, he’s grateful for what it led him to and the opportunities he was presented with.

“When you have a chance to bless a child’s life, that’s an opportunity of a lifetime. The first four years, they were hard, but I’m not going to sit here and complain about my life, I’m grateful for my first four years,” Hulmequist said. “The last 20 years here in America have been absolutely great; I have found out what I want to do, met the great people in my corner and have a lot of great mentors and coaches and have my mom and dad, who have been my rock and supported me since Day One.”

His parents, Dale Hulme and Sue Quist, were looking to start a family and got involved with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. Hulme said they didn’t think much of cross-cultural adoption at the time, but after they were told adopting domestically wasn’t a promising option, they looked at international adoption. That’s when they heard about Bulgaria and Rumen.

“We didn’t think much about that, we were just basically interested in starting a family. I was a little bit old to start a family and for domestic adoptions, we were told, ‘Honestly, Mr. Hulme, the mothers are looking for a father, not a grandfather,’ and that we probably wouldn’t get selected for domestic adoption,” Hulme said. “So we went international and then Lutheran Social Service was doing Bulgaria at that time. Also at that time, the situation in Bulgaria was pretty dire economically; it was right after the fall of the Soviet Union and there were a lot of children up for adoption, mostly of Roma which people erroneously named gypsy, a very large population in Bulgaria and there was no social welfare net, so the orphanage was packed with children that needed a home. People just had to give up their children in Bulgaria because they couldn’t feed them, so I think that kind of struck us after we visited and found out how poor those people really were. That’s kind of a bonus to the adoption, just the idea that you’re helping out in something that’s an international need for children to find homes when their homes are broken by economic situation or war or any of these other things.”

Hulme and Quist ended up adopting both Rumen and his non-biological sister Rumyana. Quist works with the Healthy Transition and Homeless Prevention program in Minnesota, a state-wide program that works with youth and foster care to help them develop independent living skills and create a pathway to success as adults. She said they were always open to the idea of cross-cultural adoption and wanted to make sure both Rumen and Rumyana remained familiar with their Roma roots.

“The thing about the cross-cultural adoption is we were always open to it and I think too, when we were doing this, we needed to make sure our children have somewhat of a focus on their culture,” Quist said. “We tried to incorporate Roma music and different things and stayed in touch with other Bulgarian children and families that had adopted children when they were younger.”

Hulme said the first time he met Rumen, he remembered him as a very active and gregarious person and had a strong leadership quality about him.

“I remember driving up to the orphanage and seeing all of these children and they have a deflated soccer ball, the ball had a hole in it because they had no money. One child was standing out in front and we were driving up and I couldn’t pick out who it was; he had his head sticking out of the fence,” Hulme said. “All of the boys were behind him and sure enough we drove up and Sue had already met him, but it was Rumen. He had the ball, and all of the other kids were gathered around him, so he’s kind of had that leadership quality.”

The event also helped raise awareness of cross-cultural adoption and Hulme added he hopes that the event will inspire and encourage people to explore the world of cross-cultural adoption for their own.

“I just see in the world today all the disruption of family life through war and everything else, and I’m hopeful this event will spur people to see the value of adding to their families or starting families through international adoption,” Hulme said. “Children are out there and they’ll bless our lives that they can never imagine, so I hope that this accomplishes that as well.”

FAITH AND FITNESS

As a pastor in Minneapolis, Hulme said it was important to instill faith in what their family did, including with fitness.

“That’s always been the value in our family. Before children, Sue and I we ran a youth ministry and still do which emphasizes outdoor education and athletics for children and they fit right in it. The value of physical fitness in holistic living and that includes community as well as one’s own personal fitness, just to value how one can contribute to community when one is healthy and when one is unhealthy, it’s so difficult to feel like a whole person.”

That incorporation of faith and fitness is a driving factor in Hulmequist’s day-to-day life.

He acknowledged that although he wasn’t very religious growing up, he’s realized how much of a role his faith has had on him.

“My dad’s a pastor and usually you grow up with people assuming, ‘Oh, you have to believe in God.’ I wasn’t really super religious when I was younger, but now I’ve really found out what God has done in my life and those first four years,” Hulmequist said. “In the moment, you’re not really grateful, but now when you look back, those are the “ah-ha” moments, those are the lightbulbs that are, ‘Wow that actually happened for that particular reason that didn’t happen because God was trying to help you out.’ For me, I found out when you have faith over few, God helps you become a ruler of many.”

Hulmequist said he was unsure of what he wanted to do when he went to college, but knew he wanted to revolve it around being with others as well as fitness.

“I have never known what I had wanted to do but I knew I wanted to work with people and with fitness,” Hulmequist said. “To be honest, it was hard for me to figure it out and I always prayed to God asking, ‘What do I need to do and how I need to find that path,’ but six years ago I had a transition phase. My grandma had passed and I don’t know, life just kind of happened and the doors were opening and I figured out what I wanted to do and that was exercise science and fitness coaching and being a motivational speaker.”

TRAINING WAY

UP HIGH

Before he would set forth on his journey, Hulmequist tried getting in contact with multiple venues to put on his event. When they declined his proposition, he was forced to look elsewhere. That’s when Tom Bolin and the Marshall YMCA stepped in.

“I contacted five to six places before the YMCA and they all denied and said, ‘We don’t want to deal with that and be liable,'” Hulmequist said. “I emailed Tom and he said, ‘We are honored to have this.’ He welcomed me with loving and open arms.”

Bolin, who is the executive director for the Y, said he was intrigued by Rumen’s story and immediately agreed to having the event in Marshall.

“Rumen contacted me about six months ago with the idea and looking for a venue and it really fit well with our mission,” Bolin said. “We were excited to look into it and then as he came out here and met with us, he’s just such a passionate and motivated young man, so it was exciting to see the day finally come and see him be successful.”

Bolin added that the event also fit perfectly with their mission as a fitness and social service organization.

“Just that the Y is often times seen across the nation as a gym and swim-type facility, but in reality we’re a Christian social service agency. So doing an activity like this is really unique and it fits right in with our mission of helping others and the social service side of things,” Bolin said. “It’s exciting to have Rumen here and do something that not just he can be proud of, but the Y can be proud of in supporting Lutheran Social Service and cross-cultural adoption.”

In order to prepare for the event, Hulmequist decided to travel to Colorado and train at high altitude for the entire month of August. Hulmequist said he put himself through hours of rigorous workouts to push his physicality – and his psyche – to the limits.

“The training in Colorado was the hardest training I’ve ever done. The reason is because you have to go somewhere mentally, emotionally and psychologically so far that it creates a different state that you’ve never been in and you have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and that’s not a good feeling,” Hulmequist said. “So I wanted to make the training in Colorado part of the event so when the event came, it was easy. For example, on leg day, I tied up my hands and just swam four miles with just my legs, so I really pushed. I’m on a calorie regimen that’s about 6,000 calories a day, so it was about the food and the psychological training as well.”

When it came time to do the actual event, Hulmequist broke down his repetitions and swimming into 10 1,000 rep and one mile stages, with the swimming consisting of 32 laps per mile. Whether it was his training or just pure adrenaline, Hulmequist completed his first stage in just over an hour.

The first thing he said after the first stage? “That was fun,” Hulmequist said as he flashed a smile.

Between each stage, Hulmequist would take rest periods and get his vitals checked from exercise science students and professors from SMSU, led by associate professor Kris Cleveland.

Hulmequist would calculate physical measurements such as body fat percentage, heart rate, etc.

Hulmequist reached the halfway mark roughly around 8:30 p.m. on Friday night and continued to go strong throughout the night. As he approached his final stage, he decided to perform his last 1,000 reps outside nearby the local farmer’s market.

A small crowd gathered around as they did their mid-morning shopping, and helped Hulmequist and his team count down the final 100 reps. Then, at 9:23 a.m. on Saturday morning, with a final pushup, his mission was complete.

Hulmequist said it was an amazing feeling to see his dream become a reality and have all of his hard work pay off.

“Like I said, 387 days ago, I had a dream and a goal. I had the right people in my corner and in the moment you’re working your butt off, but when you’re in the moment right now, you’re like, ‘Wow, you brought everything to fruition, you’re done,'” Hulmequist said. “Just to be able to help my cause and exactly why I did this event is even better.”

Hulmequist said a driving factor behind the event was an acronym that helped create a foundation for his motivation – G.F.A.

“I would say there is a three-letter acronym that follows three words and the philosophy that was the backbone of why I did this event,” Hulmequist said. “That was G for Gratitude; when someone has a solid gratitude just of life and who they love and why they’re here, I think that can create a certain fortitude and once you have a Fortitude, you can climb and be at any Altitude you want. That is exactly why I did this event.”

This isn’t the first time Hulmequist has set a world record. Last summer, he worked out on battle ropes for 10 consecutive hours and wanted to make things more personal this time around.

“Every summer I break a world record. Last summer, I got the world record for battle ropes, the huge ones you slam on the ground,” Hulmequist said. “I did that for 10 hours and 12 minutes straight on my birthday last year and this year I wanted to do something more personal and not shed the light on me and do a service for others and was dear to my heart.”

RAISING

AWARENESS

Hulmequist’s ultimate goal of 10,000 repetitions had a deeper meaning behind it. The inspiration all started after watching the 2016 film, Lion, a story about a man named Saroo Brierley and his journey of finding his family 25 years after being separated.

“As crazy and corny as it sounds, it was God. I watched a movie and it is called Lion. When you watch that movie, there are some facts about that movie,” Hulmequist said. “Every 12 seconds, a child dies from world hunger. When I watched that movie, it dawned on me, I don’t know how it did but the number 10,000/24 hour dawned on me. More in depth, what I wanted to do with 10,000, I just wanted to impact 10,000 kids and 24 hour meant in a 24-hour time period. So basically 10,000 repetitions to impact 10,000 kids trying to raise 10,000 dollars.”

Donations are still being accepted, with every penny going to Lutheran Social Service and the Children’s Home Society. To donate to Rumen’s cause, contact the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota at 651-529-8899, or visit www.lssmn.org/give and select “10,000 24-Hour Community Fundraiser” under “Donate Now.”

Hulmequist said with donating, he wants to not only reach his goal of $10,000, but also wants to bring even more awareness to cross-cultural adoption and is excited to work with that through future events.

“My most gratifying feeling I would say is certainly raising the 10,000 dollars but also it’s just the impact that you have on people who are getting the knowledge and bringing awareness of cross-cultural adoption and how important that is,” Hulmequist said. “I know that in the future I’m going to be doing more events like this and it’s going to get bigger and better, so I can’t wait for the future.”

Hulmequist’s main message for those who see his story is to have faith and go after your dreams by putting in focus and hard work.

“Have faith; I know some people might not like that and some might not be very religious but at the same time, when you put a belief mentally into something, you create answers you don’t get. As hard as it is to say, it’s so true,” Hulmequist said. “Another message I would say is people who are young, middle aged or elderly, you’ve got to go and dream. All it takes is self-discipline, focus and vision. Once you can vision something, all it takes is hard work and you’ve got to be the bigger bear and work bigger and harder than the average bear.”

As for what’s next on Hulmequist’s list, he has a couple of goals set in mind, including winning American Ninja Warrior and working on his master’s at the University of Iowa.

A lot of doors are opening, which I’m so grateful for. I will go and try and win the TV show American Ninja Warrior for Minnesota or there’s another show that Dwayne Johnson created called the Titan Games. I know for American Ninja Warrior if you win it, it’s $100,000, so why not,” Hulmequist said. “Those are the non-academic ones. The academic one is I have basically a full-ride masters scholarship to the University of Iowa for strength and conditioning. Either that or I definitely want to just keep on going up; keep doing bigger campaigns like this, get sponsored and be able to make a living but at the same time be a service to others.”

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