33| Rona Kilmer, multi-sport athlete, sexual assault survivor, and business cofounder: Finding strength in vulnerability and healing from trauma

Rona Kilmer was a former Junior Olympics competitor and an aspiring basketball player, when as a young teenager, she experienced sexual assault and everything changed. She’d grown up identifying as an athlete. Now she was a party girl with a hard exterior. Over the ensuing years, she would navigate disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with exercise, later diving into adventure racing and triathlon and rediscovering the joy of sport. Through therapy and hard work she was able to heal from her trauma. Today she is the co-founder of Reddiyo, a training platform for cyclists she launched during the pandemic. 

Connect with Rona
Website: https://reddiyo.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reddiyo/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/goreddiyo/
Reddiyo Twitter: https://twitter.com/reddiyo
Rona’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/rkunboxed
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronakilmer/

Get a FREE 30-day Reddiyo trial with the code RealFit30

TW: sexual assault, dieting, weight loss  

In this episode, we talked about…

  • How fear after her gymnastics injury interfered with her progress
  • Beating all the boys in pull-ups in the Presidential Fitness Test in middle school
  • How much she loves basketball despite the heartbreak of not making the JV team
  • Surviving sexual assualt at age 13
  • The silver lining of being in a dysfunctional relationship
  • Moving to Israel’s West Bank in high school and the perspective it offered her  
  • Restrictive diet and exercise in pursuit of “the perfect body” 
  • How she discovered adventure racing
  • Getting into triathlon and starting to heal her relationship with food, her body, and alcohol
  • The role of EMDR in healing from trauma
  • Facing impostor syndrome as a woman in tech
  • Making the decision to leave her stable job and co-found a startup 
  • Staying motivated to grow her business 
  • The power of curiosity


I was a victim of sexual assault and all of my exercise or any joy from moving kind of went away and I didn’t come back to exercise for many years. 

I was definitely not in that camp of “let me be vulnerable around people.” No, no, no. It was the opposite of that. It was around that time when I was using drugs and alcohol to kind of numb whatever I was feeling.

I still looked like what I want to look like, and this is for the birds, man. I was hangry all the time. It wasn’t fun.

If I’m not eating enough, I don’t perform well enough.

You cannot compare your trauma to somebody else’s.

Most people who feel imposter syndrome are higher performers because they’re worried about being “found out,” like, “I don’t deserve to be here. Somebody is going to find out I need to work extra hard.” But then starting a company, the fear there is, “What if it fails? What if it doesn’t work? What if we faceplant?” How embarrassing would that be?

And I also want, you know, what,  entrepreneurs that fail, that’s kind of a badge of honor to be like, yeah, I tried and it didn’t work. It’s a bigger badge of honor  to have tried and have it work. Sure. But like gnocchi actually looks down on people for trying,  it felt like we just didn’t really have anything to lose. And we had so much to gain because even in quote unquote failure, we were going to learn so much.

Nature and the trees and the outdoors and mountains are my church.

You wouldn’t worry so much what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.

So when you’re sitting here going, “I am such an idiot, they’re going to find me out.” This goes right back to imposter syndrome. “They’re going to find me out. I said the thing wrong, or I looked funny.” Nobody’s thinking about you — don’t worry about it. You are already gone from their thoughts. Move along. 

Success means trying. It means showing up. It means showing up consistently. It doesn’t always mean doing your best all the time, because sometimes we just can’t be our best all the time, but it means just being there and doing the work and striving to always be learning,  striving, to find joy and gratitude in what you’re doing. Trying to be a positive force in someone’s life. Being kind, being kind to yourself, to myself, to my body. If I can look back on, on a day or a week or a month or a year or a lifetime, and I can say yes to those things, then I have been successful.

Tae Bo and Billy Blanks
Eco Challenge Adventure Race
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
EMDR therapy 
Roar by Stacey Simms
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
My interview on the Omnia Fit podcast

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