Health Fitness Revolution and its founder Samir Becic have created a list of the Top 10 Fittest Mayors 2018. Since 2013, HFR has been creating lists of the fittest politicians in various branches of government in order to motivate Americans to embrace a healthier lifestyle.
In this interview with one of the Top 10 Fittest Mayors, Samir catches up with a Honolulu mayor who not only catches big waves politically, but he also catches them in the ocean as a form of daily exercise. He beautifully articulates life’s ebbs and flows, as if being on a paddleboard and describes the lessons he’s learned from the sport: remain flexible and open to possibilities. At 66, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is an inspiration to us all.
Congratulations Mayor Caldwell for being named among the Top 10 Fittest Mayors in America 2018! This automatically qualifies Mayor Caldwell to be considered for HRF’s upcoming Top 25 Fittest Politicians in America 2018.
Samir: You’re doing an amazing job in Honolulu! I read that you’re a big fan of surfing, hiking, biking, and paddle boarding. What is paddle boarding?
Mayor Caldwell: It’s a sport that is similar to surfing. I use it to go surfing but instead of lying on a board paddling with your hands, you stand up and you use a paddle. It’s really good for your core. It’s good for your feet, your legs, your butt, your stomach, your back and your shoulders. You’re like the aft of a ship, basically.
Samir: Yeah, first of all, you have to balance on water, and then you have to balance on water while you’re paddling. So, it’s balance squared.
Mayor Caldwell: While you’re balancing and paddling, you get picked up by a wave and have to balance even more. You’re a human gyroscope, is what we call it.
Samir: That is amazing! I just wanted to make sure that we have the correct age, it says you’re 65?
Mayor Caldwell: I just turned 66 on September 4th.
Samir: Wow and you’re paddle boarding? This is amazing, mayor. I was thinking the way you were talking with such vibrant energy in your voice that you were around 40-45 years old! Good job, Bravo.
Mayor Caldwell: I feel like I’m 40. I feel like I’m 30 actually. But I can tell you stand-up paddle boarding is like a metaphor for life. If you’re rigid and don’t change with what’s going on about you, you’re going to fail. And in paddle boarding, if you don’t move with the water, the waves and the wind you’re going to fall off.
Samir: So, you have to be flexible not only physically but mentally as well?
Mayor Caldwell: Yep. When I’m out there it reminds how I need to be as Mayor every day at my job.
Samir: That is very good. John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, but it is also the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” What is your stance on this?
Mayor Caldwell: I agree with President Kennedy. I try to run at least 2 to 3 times a week during lunch and I jog around Ala Moana Beach Park or any beach park that is along the water and then I do sit-ups, pushups and leg extensions and things like that. But you can ask my assistant, when I come back from running, I have more ideas, more things I want to do, more energy, and a clearer mind. Because when I’m running, first off, no one is with me. So, I’m all by myself with my thoughts. It’s one of the few times a day I’m all by myself and I want to keep it that way. I’m thinking, I’m reflecting, I’m feeling the sun, the wind, the rain. I’m listening to the ocean, I feel more relaxed, and I come back rejuvenated with a clearer mind and ready to tackle the rest of the day. Every time I come into work I will say, OK, I want to have meetings on this topic, or I want to set up this program, or I want to work on this idea, and all this motivation to work comes from physical activity. I think it’s probably the same for everyone else who gets out and runs or surfs or does any kind of physical activity.
I want to tell you a story about President Kennedy. When I was a young kid, in fourth grade or so, President Kennedy was our president, and he started the Peace Corps. And the Peace Corps who were going to Asia came to the island where I grew up, the island of Waipio. They went there to train because they could go down to Waipio Valley, which is very luscious, like southeast Asia. My father, who was an OB-GYN, would go down to teach them health issues and midwifery and things like that, but while the Peace Corps was on the island, President Kennedy started his fitness campaign. He vocalized that smoking was unhealthy and created the first warning from Smokey, and he asked people to do these long 50-mile walks. I remember walking with my mom and dad on these walks and walking along the island of Hamakua Coast with a lot of Peace Corps guys, and after we were done with the walk we had a big party at Chubby Checker’s. I think about those really powerful days when there was a lot more hope in our country. Kennedy was forward-leaning, young, and trying to be healthy. My parents were young. They were trying to be healthy. They stopped smoking because of him, and I think they helped me not smoke. I never smoked and I never wanted to and they got me wanting to be healthy, you know, and eat well and take vitamins and exercise.
Samir: Fitness improves your brain, it improves your physical health, mental health, and spiritual balance. I like the message you’re sending. Fitness connects people from different backgrounds: It is one of the best ways to unite people under a common cause, when we have so many divisions in our country right now. It’s good for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, cultural or financial background. What’s your stance on this?
Mayor Caldwell: On that point, I did want to share one other thing on biking. So next month, I’m going to be going to Japan to participate in a bicycle race. It is one of the famous bicycle events in Japan where you ride on bridges between islands, and the mayor of Hiroshima is going to be joining us along with the mayor of Uwajima. So, we have two Japanese mayors and a mayor from Honolulu. Our first sister city was with Hiroshima, and Hiroshima’s first sister city was with Honolulu. Dwight Eisenhower started the sister city program to avoid another world war. He was very involved in it and believed the program was about people-to-people and cities-to-cities. It’s a chance for people to connect with each other, and Hiroshima’s mayor invited me to come over. You know, the war started here in Honolulu with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It ended at Hiroshima and Nagasaki four years later with the dropping of the atomic bomb.
So, I wanted to emphasize what you said earlier – biking connects people. We are getting together to ride bikes. We’re going to sweat, we’re going to breathe hard as we pedal uphill and cruise as we go downhill. We’re going to break for lunch and dinner and we’re going to talk. We’re going to talk about connections, not divisions. We are going to talk about our history and talk about our presence in going forward, and it’s all around biking. Looking at beautiful scenes of the Japan Sea and autumn will be there, fall will be there. The maple trees will be changing color. We will feel the warmth and the cold and the rain and the wind and we are going to be healthy physically and mentally and spiritually.
Samir: OK, that’s excellent! Thank you very much for sharing your story. Appreciate you for everything you do.
Mayor Caldwell: Thank you very much. Come down here so we can take you surfing.
Samir: Looking forward to it.