Monthly Archives: July 2016

3 Simple Steps To Restart Your Life

Don’t let your days roll by in the continual humdrum.

“I’m feeling pretty tired lately. Lol, maybe I’m getting old?”

I received this text from a friend today. She’s 20-something.

I also spoke to a not-quite-as-young friend of mine today who told me she felt great. She just started joining a hiking group last year, and now she does it regularly. She’s 50.

Listen, if you’re like my first friend, you’re not just getting old. Most of us feel exhausted after working for at least eight hours a day, five days a week plus the one-hour commute on both ends. When we get home, we watch at least two episodes on Netflix because it’s damn well-deserved and the only time we get to “relax” before we go to sleep.

Wake up and repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat. No wonder you feel tired.

So how do you get out of this vicious cycle? How do you restart your life? Hint: NOT by adding something new to your life. Not yet. But by making sure your body is ready and able to actually handle new hobbies.

The first 3 things to check to make sure you have right:

  1. Your mindset
  2. Your sleep
  3. Your food

Why these three? Because these are three keystone habits you’re doing. Tweaking existing habits are much easier than adding new ones in, and if these three aren’t in good shape in your life, you can bet you won’t be in the optimal shape to start making positive changes in your life.

So let’s start.


“Oh man, another one of these self-improvement things. I hope I can do it, but I’ve tried these things before, and I just never stick with it.”

This was something I used to say to myself every time I try to start something new for myself. It turns out I’m not alone with these invisible scripts. There’s a fear-driven side of your brain which tells you, “You can’t do this.”

If you realize that your brain is trying to sabotage you, what can you do? Well, the tip here is to talk to yourself like you’re talking to a friend, or a coworker, or a child who is being told by a bully they can’t do something they want to try.

Would you say to that person, “Yeah, you can never do it, so just don’t bother”? No. (If you said yes, I can’t help you. You’re too far gone.)

So the next time you try something new, be kind to yourself like you would be kind to others. You are your own worst critic. But you can also be your staunch defender. Stand up for yourself against yourself (whoa, meta).


The Huffington Post has a whole section on sleep, and for good reason.

Without sufficient sleep, we’re basically going through the day drunk. This means tiredness, difficulty to respond quickly and smartly to anything that comes up.

The entire myth about “sleep is for the weak” is actually more accurate reversed: without sleep, you are weak. You are more irritable, slow, stupid and much easier to actually get sick.

The sleeping hours needed for an average adult ranges from 7 to 9 hours. If you don’t have a good sleeping habit already, there are tons of articles in the HuffPost “sleep” section to help you sleep better.

Just keep in mind that your body is not wired in the same way your computer is. You cannot have instantaneous change. Let yourself have at least 1 to 2 weeks minimum to start sleeping a little earlier regularly. And this sort of timeline is meant for small changes, like 15 minutes to 30 minutes earlier than your current sleeping schedule.

But this is an absolutely must. Without sleep, your body and mind is weak, slow, and definitely not energetic enough to accommodate any new activities you want to do.


We all have heard the phrase “you are what you eat.”  But in the plethora of information available out there, what can we actually begin with? What are the easiest steps and rules of thumb to keep in mind?

If you are looking at what you eat for the reason to feel energized, then the general rules are:

1. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not.

2. Be mindful when you eat. Chew at least 20 times. (Funnily enough, when I count, I either chew like 5 times or 30. There is no in between, but you are welcome to try.) Let yourself taste and digest your food. Your body wasn’t made to eat 45-minute lunches with 15 minutes waiting in the canteen line.

3. Don’t do three things at once when you’re eating. Again, your body wasn’t made for that.

4. Preferably, eat “real” food. Eat food your great-grandmother would realize as food. I know “real” food seems expensive to people strapped for cash (and those are the ones most strapped for nutrition) but there are plenty of books and articles out there that talk about how to eat cheaply and healthily.

One day you can be this sort of person, the type that gets up in the morning… and hikes all the way up to the top of a mountain above the clouds. But start from the basics.


To recap: there are way too many people out there who are stuck in a vicious cycle in their lives. The first step to getting out of this is to examine the three areas of your life of things you’re already engaged in and are huge factors to how you function.

Ask yourself:

1. Are you kind to yourself when you try new things? If not, try to talk to yourself you would to a friend or coworker. If your mind already tells you that you can’t do something before you can try and actually commit, you won’t go very far in whatever you do.

2. Do you sleep well? Sleep at least 7 to 9 hours. Without enough sleep, you are weaker, slower and generally less pleasant to be around. Give your body at least 2 to 3 weeks to adjust.

3. Do you eat well? When you eat, to you just chew and swallow to finish your meal in 15 minutes or do you actually let your mind realize you’re actually eating? Start by being mindful of how you eat, and you’ll start realizing what you eat will make you feel a difference as well.

Don’t let your days roll by in the continual humdrum. Start by re-examining these key habits in your life already to build a body that can start doing things you want.



Howard University rower says he’s lost his sight, but not his vision

July 11 at 1:45 PM
Blind Olympic Rower Howard University.jpg

As Ibrahim “Dammie” Onafeko watched his vision deteriorate to the point of blindness, he was nearly alone.

He’d had six surgeries attempting to save his eyesight, which was being overtaken by cataracts. His mother had returned to Nigeria after a three-month visit.

“I didn’t have my mom with me, not my dad, not my brothers, not my sister, not my friends. I didn’t have school. My life in Nigeria, I had nothing,” Onafeko said. “I only had hope. I was depressed.

“In the middle of it, a voice asked me, ‘Dude, what has been keeping you back?’ I realized it’s not my vision, but my vision. I might have lost my vision, but I haven’t lost sight of my vision.”

This is how Onafeko, 32, ends up rowing on the Anacostia River on a recent Monday evening, a smile painted across his face as he repeatedly raps the chorus to Terror Squad’s “Lean Back.”

“Dammie, man, I don’t know how he can sing,” his coach, Jai Mitchell, said from the chase boat, shaking his head. “Maybe I need to work him harder.”

Even with the rough times, including the pain that comes from rowing more than 5,000 meters, Onafeko says being blind is no excuse. He uses it as his motivation to do better.

“Do something with what you have and what you can,” Onafeko said. “You gotta do something with what you can. You do not worry about what you can’t. Let what you can’t go. Life in itself is anything but fair. Enjoy life to the fullest. You’ve got to make the most of what it gives you. I think I’m doing the best I can in the moment.”

‘A natural’

The spirit of a champion has run through Onafeko’s veins for most of his life.

“I grew up in an area back in Nigeria where everyone wants to claim a champion,” Onafeko said.

After he lost his vision, he was looking for a specialized sport to get involved with. With his strengths being height, speed, power and agility, he immediately thought to take up boxing. Instead, he found a different challenge.

Before Onafeko started rowing, he worked out with other visually impaired people at the now-closed YMCA on Rhode Island Avenue. Onafeko said one of the volunteers there knew one of the former coaches at Capital Rowing, Karen Eakes. That volunteer introduced them, saying that Onafeko was a “perfect fit” for their adaptive rowing program.

On the first Saturday of July 2014, Onafeko spoke with Eakes on the phone and told her he’d come out to the boathouse that next Monday. And ever since, he’s had a ripple effect across the sport.

Rowing is one of the most demanding athletic endeavors, Mitchell says, as it takes endurance, strength, power, balance and strong senses. Four of Onafeko’s senses are well above average; they compensate for his blindness.

Dan Longo, another rower in the Capital Adaptive Rowing Program, has rowed with Onafeko four times since they both started two years ago.

“He’s strong,” Longo said. “We just have to stay in sync. He has long arms, long legs.”

Onafeko stands 6 feet 5, and his coaches say he has the perfect build for rowing.

Despite participating in the sport for the same amount of time, Longo said Onafeko generally rows with more experienced competitors.

“Dammie’s more of a natural,” Longo said. “He came out of nowhere on the circuit.”

Within Onafeko’s first six months rowing, he won a gold medal at his first competition at the Bayada Regatta. He’s currently first in the world on the Concept 2 ergometer, or rowing machine, for his category.

There are several class­ifications of adaptive rowing, which incorporate those with physical or intellectual disabilities or visual impairment. Onafeko competes in the men’s legs-trunk-arms, visually im­paired category.

Onafeko was invited to a legs-trunk-arms development camp in Boston in late May. The camp was put on by USRowing, the governing body for rowing in the United States, and the United States Association of Blind Athletes. Because of support on his GoFundMe page, he was able to attend.

Looking for greater things

Onafeko is a rising junior at Howard University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in audio production. He has a summer internship as the assistant production manager at WHBC 96.3 FM, the student-run radio station at Howard.

“I’m looking forward for greater things to happen,” Onafeko said. “My ambition is to be a radio personality and at the same time audio production personnel. I’m working all of that out. Rowing is just part of the life. You can’t not stand on your two feet and not want to make contributions to the world. Blindness is just an opportunity for me to do more than I could have ever done with vision.”

One contribution Onafeko wants to make is to row in the Paralympics, which begin Sept. 7, for Nigeria. He’s currently trying to qualify, and he’s one of the world’s best in his category. But there’s a catch.

There is no Nigerian Paralympic rowing team.

And Onafeko needs two Nigerian women and one Nigerian man, all of whom are Paralympic rowers in his category, to row with him in order to qualify.

But Onafeko isn’t giving up hope. And neither are his coaches.

“The Olympics will mean a great deal to me,” Onafeko said. “The meaning of the Olympics to me is self-actualization, meaning you should not settle for less, but reach for more, until you accomplish the best that you could ever be in life. If I’m doing this and I’m climbing up the ladder, why not go to the top of the ladder, if that’s the next rung on the ladder to climb? Doing that will mean I have self-actualized myself in rowing.”