I am happy to bring you a new fitness interview with professional triathlete Jessi Stensland. Jessi has competed in various races and has had 20 career wins both nationally and internationally. Besides being a triathlete she is also an endurance performance specialist and video producer. Thanks Jessi for participating in this interview!
1. Could you provide a brief background on yourself and how you became interested in fitness?
I thank my parents for keeping me active in a number of activities from early on. I was competing in swimming at age 6 and stayed with it all the way through NCAA Division I college swimming at George Washington University. I loved it. I played a number of sports including tennis along the way but swimming was always my main sport.
2. How did you get your start as a triathlete?
I’d heard about triathlon from a friend’s father in high school but didn’t think much of it. It sounded crazy to me! Then in college I remember seeing the Ironman Triathlon on TV and thinking that the people doing it looked a LOT older than me and that if they could do it, I could do it! So the summer before my senior year of college swimming, envisioning the end of my swimming career that year, I borrowed a bike, started running a little and did a couple local triathlons. I was hooked from the beginning.
3. What is a typical training day like for you when you are preparing for a race?
My training involves a lot of general functional, athletic training. I train to be an athlete first: injury resistant, efficient and powerful. I then use my athletic ability to do any number of sports or types of races. A typical day would be a movement/strength session and a cardio session (swim bike or run.) The movement/strength session could be anywhere from 30min to 4hours depending on the time I have and that challenges my flexibility, mobility, strength, stability, elasticity and also includes running/swimming drills. The cardio session could be anywhere from a short 30min interval session on the treadmill, to a 2-3hr mountain bike ride or a 45min interval workout in the pool. I always include at lease 15minutes if not more of regeneration and recovery per day as well which would include Trigger Point Therapy and Active Isolated Stretching techniques for example.
4. Which part of a triathlon is your strength and which is the most challenging for you?
I have always been strongest on the cycling portion of triathlons. The most challenging is still the swim – always room for improvement!
5. How do you prepare mentally for your sport?
I prepare mentally by preparing physically. The more I’ve come to learn and know about the body and what it needs to perform, the more I’ve been able to eliminate the guess work and be extremely confident and calm in the race. Also, preparing equipment pre-workout or pre-race is key to staying calm and focused. Probably most important however is simply enjoying the moment and having fun first and foremost. I never lose site of that, and that’s a huge strength!
6. What advice would you give for those who fall into an exercise rut. For example, I have a friend who starts exercising for a week and then gives up.
You’ve got to have purpose. Whether internal or external. What motivates you? Exercising alone, because the world says you should, isn’t enough. Surrounding yourself with others who are being active, particularly a group, is a great way to stay motivated, especially with a group teacher or coach. It allows you to turn your brain off and just do what they tell you to do. Don’t put such pressure on yourself and keep the rules easy. But do something. Move, sweat, breathe hard. Find something you love to do that makes you move and do it!
7. What is your current nutrition plan like? Does it differ when you’re training and when you’re not?
My nutrition rules are simple. Eat like a heathly person should eat. Great rule of thumb even when training. That means, number one: eat clean food…minimal to no processing and from great sources. Eat colorfully, balanced, smaller meals more often in a day and stay hydrated. I will add nutrition as needed surrounding specific workouts. For example I will drink 200 calories of carbohydrate with electrolyte per hour during my workouts to keep my glycogen stores topped off and keep me going the effort I want to go, which help maintain and build my body’s efficiency and metabolism in the long run. All ways keeping fuel on the fire.
8. Many people find it difficult to eat healthy on a regular basis. What is your advice for sticking with a healthy diet?
Again, you must have purpose. “Eating healthy” is not enough its what the “eating” does to you. Most people already know that when they eat well they feel better and vice versa. So focusing on the outcome and what you want for yourself and how you want to feel, is key. You must decide to do it and commit to it and then make appropriate changes to your habits and make new habits. Habits are easy. They are the things you do without really trying. I’ve changed my habits…where I shop, what I look for. I’ve tried new, great options and found ones I like. Bottom line. You’ve gotta want it.
9. Are there any fitness myths you would like to debunk?
The number one thing I like to point out to people is the idea that the “fat burning zone” suggested for cardio workouts is not the most efficient way to help lose fat and increase fitness. I subscribe to getting leaner by increasing my metabolism and I do that my strengthening my muscles, which includes my heart. By challenging your cardio system with higher intensities over short intervals and getting your heart pounding and stronger you’ll increase your overall fitness and metabolism. It’s time efficient too. You can spend way less time on the treadmill (for example) and burn just as many calories, while increasing your strength and cardio and leaving you more time to other things whether in the gym or in your day.
10. Could you tell us more about your MOVEMENTU web site?
MovementU is like school for those wanting to learn about their body’s performance in life and in their sport. It is designed to enhance the understanding of the body and how to create and maintain injury resistance, movement efficiency and overall power. In life that means understanding how you never have to have back pain and we offer simple strategies to help you do so. In sport that means never getting injured and getting more out of the same effort you put in. The same principles apply in all situations. You’ve heard them all before, we simply give you a better understanding of them so you are motivated to maintain them: flexibility, mobility, strength, stability, elasticity an cardio capacity. We provide interactive educational experiences across the country to all fitness levels and athletes. The website will also soon be a resource for all things related to performance education.
11. Are there any upcoming events or anything else you would like to share?
I have a number of races planned for the fall including XTERRA Portland and the ITPMAN Triathlon in Darien, CT. You can follow my athlete adventures at www.gojessi.com
MovementU workshops will be offered in 7 locations across the country this Fall: Portland, New Jersey, Orlando, Denver, Southern California, Cleveland, Phoenix. All details and registration can be found online at www.movementu.com.