Athlete of the Month

Feb 1, 2021

 by Billy Bacarella

February Athlete of the Month

Jesse Karkheck


Tell us about yourself, hobbies, interests, family, job, etc.
My name is Jesse Karkheck, and I am the proud father of two wonderful girls, Melanie (6), and Tara (2), and a husband to Leslie, who is also a member of the gym. Being a dad is my number one job, but I have A LOT going on at all times in addition to this. I have degrees in Glass Engineering Science and Global Business Management, and I have spent a good portion of the last 14 years traveling around the world doing everything from developing glass for iPhones, troubleshooting manufacturing problems, conducting experiments, and managing suppliers. I’m currently the Global Data Manager at Guardian Glass, and I have the privilege of leading an amazing team of engineers who support 25 manufacturing plants around the world. We specialize in Process Engineering, Advanced Analytics, and Data Science. I absolutely love what I do! My wife and I also own the Dundee Veterinary Clinic as well. She runs it, but I help with some of the business strategy and analytics. I have tons of hobbies, and I really enjoy photography, cooking, drones, cars, and saltwater aquariums. I farm saltwater corals in my spare time. I know it’s odd, but I really enjoy it!

How long have you been doing CrossFit?
I have been doing CrossFit for 3.5 years now.

What do you remember about your first CrossFit experience?
On the first day of foundations, I remember thinking how surprised I was when just basic body movements such as air squats and lunges felt so hard. I distinctly remember needing to get some food off a shelf in my basement, and debating how badly I needed it. I ended up scooting down the basement stairs on my butt because my legs hurt so much!

What do you most enjoy about CrossFit?
I love that the biggest obstacle in Crossfit is to show up. If you show up, you are committing an hour of your time to make yourself better. You do not have to figure out what you need to do once you get to the gym, because the hour is all programmed. I’ve been a member at several other gyms before and rarely used my memberships. A lot of the time, I would arrive at one of the other gyms without a plan of what I was going to do for the day, didn’t know how to use all of the equipment properly, and didn’t stick with it. In Crossfit, (LTF in particular) you are being taught in a small class atmosphere by people may have a passion for making people’s lives better. The coaches are great, and they are very focused on ensuring that you’re lifting things correctly. This has advantages in both safety and efficiency. I also enjoy the ability to drop into other CrossFit gyms (for a small fee), and have dropped into several other CrossFit gyms over time. Each of them have a slightly different atmosphere. Whenever I travel to a different country, I try to drop in at a local box to for fun. So far, I’ve dropped in' in Bangkok, Thailand, Bilbao, Spain, and Passau Germany. Each time, I’ve come away with a very cool experience, and an appreciation for both the differences and similarities to LTF. LTF is truly top notch, and we are lucky to have such a special place in town.

What do you most enjoy about being part of Light the Fire CrossFit family?
I love the community. We have people from all different walks of life come through the doors, many of whom would not normally run into each other in day-to-day life. Everyone is there with a common goal of making him or herself better, and it is a really positive environment to be in.

What motivates you to come to the box?
My motivation for coming to the box is to have some time to focus on self-improvement. I have always focused on helping others before helping myself, but I have found that taking care of myself is paramount to helping others.

What is you most recent PR/biggest accomplishment?
I recently started getting several of my barbell lifts over 200 lbs, and that is a big step for me. In the last few months, I’ve gotten my Power Plean and Full Clean over the 200lb mark, and I’m closing in on 200lbs with my Clean & Jerk.

What is your favorite wod, lift, movement, or skill?
I really like rowing. I have gotten better at it over time, and have come to really like it.

What is your least favorite wod, lift, movement, or skill?
Deadlifts are my least favorite. As a tall person, it’s one of the more difficult lifts for me. I do want to get better at them though.

What is your current CrossFit goal?
My current goal is to improve my endurance. My cardio runs out before my strength does, and this is what is currently holding me back from making more progress. I want to focus more on eating well and sleeping better this year, and believe this will help improve my endurance.

What would you tell a newbie or someone that has never done CrossFit?
Anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter how young, old, fit, not fit, etc you are. Everything can be scaled to match your abilities, while ensuring you are still getting in a good workout. The biggest challenge is getting off the couch and showing up.

Have you had a life changing experience since starting CrossFit?
I have had several life changing experiences since starting CrossFit. My wife and I welcomed our second daughter into this world in 2018, I was promoted to a Sr. Engineering position the day after she was born, and 3 months later, we bought the Dundee Veterinary Clinic. Our lives have become significantly busier over time, but we are thriving! Both my wife and I have had the opportunity to show our girls that it’s cool to be strong, and that you can accomplish a lot by treating others well and working hard.

How has CrossFit affected your life outside of the box?
My confidence, personal happiness, and career have all taken off since starting CrossFit. I was not particularly happy with my job or my social life at the time I joined. My job was stressful, I was on the project from hell, and I had very few friends due to being a relatively new to Michigan. CrossFit gave me a way to deal with the stress, get better mental clarity, and provided me with a social circle of some amazing friends. Things have really fallen into place since then. I’m a happier, more relaxed person, and I’m stronger than I have ever been. I wouldn’t trade this crazy life for anything.