The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Carl Ukkestad

Novice log-roller keeps persevering in new Y activities


      When Carl Ukkestad began log-rolling classes two years ago at the YMCA-La Crosse Branch, the other participants were two-feet shorter and 35 years younger. Yet the students and their families encouraged him. “It was something I always wanted to try. I kept on going with it,” says the 47-year-old Carl, who stands a lean, 6-feet-3-inches tall. “The kids and the families involved in the sport are the nicest bunch of people. We’ve all become friends.”


      Carl may have sparked an interest in log-rolling, because the Y now offers log-rolling sessions for youth as well as adults. Participants strive to master the log, learning skills from beginner to World Class Competitor. “It’s harder than it looks; some days go better than others,” Carl says. “You fall off the log hundreds of times, but you just keep getting back on.”


      Log-rolling is a popular sport in the community, and many Y members have advanced to competitions at the national and even international levels. Carl enjoys watching the various contests held at the Y. “I would like to get good enough to compete someday,” he says. He continues to register for the log-rolling sessions with each new season. He also likes practicing log-rolling during the open sessions on Fridays. Carl says he’s also getting closer to the point where he can log roll in sync with another person – that’s doubly difficult.


      Carl joined the Y in 2008, following his retirement from the Minnesota State Patrol, after serving 20 years in law enforcement. He began to work regular hours for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which created time for him to regularly take Y exercise classes. One of his friends invited him to try group strength training, and then he went on to work out in yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. “I enjoy the group setting and the interaction with everybody,” he says. “The longer you’re here - you become part of the Y family.”


      In the fall of 2009, when Carl had broken his leg on the job, he discovered more personally how the Y becomes like family. Although he missed attending Zumba classes, he completed his three months of physical therapy entirely at the Y. He focused on swimming and doing yoga. “Everyone was super,” he says. “I believe I healed faster because I did all of my therapy here.”


      Since Carl started working out consistently at the Y, five to six days each week, he’s dramatically improved his health. Having had a career in law enforcement required him to work varying shifts, and it was difficult for him to establish a healthy routine of sleeping and eating habits. “I’ve experienced weight loss and increased flexibility and energy levels,” says Carl. “Overall, I feel better, physically and mentally.”


      Carl eagerly shares what many members already know about the Y, “It’s an amazing place. Everyone here is always friendly and helpful,” he says. “I really enjoy interacting with the ‘regulars’ that I have met. The Y is a great place full of energy. Everyone is here for good things.” Obviously, with his courage to start log-rolling at the beginner’s level, Carl has no fear to try new activities. This spring he felt enthusiastic about joining the ranks as a first-time volunteer for the Y’s Annual Campaign. “It’s a great cause,” he says. “You know what you do will make a difference for somebody else.”

~ By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC