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Bemidji couple shares love of bodybuilding

Jeff and Karri Lamke work out at Anytime Fitness. Laurie Swenson | Bemidji Pioneer

For Jeff and Karri Lamke, competitive bodybuilding is more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle, and they share both the joys and the frustrations.

Jeff and Karri Lamke won the couples championship at both events in which they competed.

The Bemidji couple participated in their first competition last May and their second in October. They placed in both individually and won the couples championship in both.

The impetus for their first competition came from a conversation with a friend with whom they were working out.

“They both looked at me and said I should do a fitness competition because I have big arms for a chick,” Karri said. “It was game on right away. There was no turning back after that.”

Typically, bodybuilders train for 20-24 weeks before a competition, but as newcomers, the Lamkes trained for 40 weeks for the Mr. & Ms. Natural Minnesota competition in Bloomington. With 198 competitors, it was the largest such show in the country, Jeff said.

Karri competed in bodybuilding and placed fourth in the novice division and fifth in open. Jeff was fourth in novice in bodybuilding.

They won the couples championship, a feat they repeated in October when they competed in the Northern States Natural Classic in Elk River.

“I wanted to do another one, because I had so much fun with it,” Karri said.

Individually, Karri competed in figure, finishing third in the beginner division, fourth in novice and fifth in open. Jeff took fourth in novice in bodybuilding.

“In the first show I did bodybuilding, and I didn’t think I’d do well, because I have a small frame,” Karri said. “I was surprised.”

For the October event, she switched to figure, which focuses less on muscle mass and more on being in shape and toned, with a low body fat percentage.

“I think we’re going to keep doing it, because we enjoy it and we’re good at it,” Karri said, although they’re not yet sure when their next competition will be.

Time together

Competing as a married couple can push people apart, they said, but as time went on, the Lamkes were drawn closer together.

Jeff is the taskmaster, setting up the structure of their regimen and using a spreadsheet to calculate their diet.

“You get used to the structure, which I appreciate now,” Karri said.

Even though they’re not currently training for a competition, their maintenance regimen keeps them busy.

When they’re training for a competition, they wake up at 3 a.m. to work out. Now, they rise at 5.

“If you sleep in until 6 now, you feel like the day’s wasted,” Jeff said.

But it can be hard to find quality time together. Working out isn’t conducive to conversations, so they’ll often stop for coffee and a chat after going to the gym. At home, they have often eaten meals sitting together on their kitchen floor.

They walk to destinations when they can, which gives them communication time. They also enjoy cards, cribbage and board games.

Spending time with others has been difficult at times, especially when food is involved.

“Anywhere we went, we’d have to bring a cooler,” Jeff said.

 “My sister was married Sept. 29,” Karri said. “There was cake, brownies, ice cream, burgers. We couldn’t have any of it.”

Body building is also expensive, they said, pointing to the membership and competition fees, accessories, supplements and food.

They adhere to a strict diet, with levels of protein, carbohydrates and fats that differ depending on where they are in their training. Chicken, turkey burgers and tilapia are common sources of protein.

“It starts in the kitchen,” Karri said of bodybuilding.

They moved to a house in March, two months before their first competition, and left their old kitchen intact so they could eat regularly during the move, Jeff said.

Karri is hypoglycemic, which is characterized by low blood sugar. “We had to find the right carbs for her to keep her sustained longer,” Jeff said.

Jeff, who was born in Norfolk, Va., and lived in Annandale, Orr and Hill City, Minn., moved to Bemidji in 2001. He works at BOD Constructions and does part-time data entry for Synergy Solutions. Karri, who works at Stellher Human Services, grew up in Alaska and attended Valley City (N.D.) State on a track scholarship before transferring to Bemidji State University in 2003.

Fitness was a part of their lives since well before they met in 2005 at CBS Fitness, a facility that was located on the site that now houses Bemidji Bowl. They were married Oct. 2, 2010, and had their bachelor/bachelorette party at the bowling alley on the site where they met. Their honeymoon was spent along the North Shore, where they would hike 10 miles before lunch.

Bodybuilding has taken their healthy lifestyle to another level, even thwarting interest in unhealthy foods such as those packed with sugar and/or empty carbs.

After their second competition in October, they bought 10 boxes of Little Debbie treats, expecting to love the sweets they had craved. But they didn’t.

“They were disgusting,” Jeff said. “We gave them to trick-or-treaters.”

Their house proved to be a popular one on Halloween.

Pictured are the awards Karri and Jeff Lamke have won in their first year of bodybuilding competition.

Laurie Swenson
Laurie Swenson is a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. She has been with the Pioneer since 2004.