Sarah: The Tough Girl Podcast, all about motivating and inspiring you.
Hello, and welcome to the Tough Girl Podcast. I'm absolutely delighted to be here with Jessi Stensland, who is an elite multi-sport athlete, video journalist, and movement specialist.
Jessi, I know you've had an incredibly distinguished career over the past 20 years, with highlights from winning the Half Ironman in Mexico in 2004 to the US Olympic triathlon trials. I was hoping that you could just introduce yourself and tell everybody a little bit more about what you're about.
Jessi: Sure, Sarah. Hello. Thank you very much. Yes, I was into sport from an early age, and that really became swimming. I think my parents put me into quite a few activities. My sister, as well. It turns out that by the age of 6 or 7, she really was en route to be a dancer, and I was the opposite of that. I was en route to be a swimmer. It naturally occurred that, yes, we were put into quite a few things, but, basically, naturally, I was this type of athlete. Only many years later did I realize why and it suited my personality. Ultimately, I was given the chance to figure out what that was, and it happened without too much of a thought.
That lead to me being a swimmer quite seriously, though I did play tennis, and I did play other sports. By the time I finished through high school, I was interested in swimming further in college. I knew that I had more to experience of myself, so I became a swimmer in college, university. Towards the end of that, interestingly enough, swimming just was, I capped myself out, which was ... I knew inherently that I had something more to find out about myself. I didn't see that in many of my other swim teammates. They were pretty burnt out after 20 years of swimming.
What was interesting was, yeah, I continued ... I can't tell you why, but I knew that I had something more to find out about myself. That's when triathlon came in. A random person had suggested it. I don't like to think of it as too random. These people who are in my lives that gave me these nuggets, surrounded by people who were positive, that's an absolute huge, huge thing. I can maybe mention that more later if we have time, but how important these people have been that weren't insignificant, put it that way, where he mentioned this multi-sport event.
I looked into it, and I did my first one just to see what it was all about, knowing that only I could know whether it was something I wanted to do. I absolutely loved it, and I was pretty good at it. Swimming gave me quite a good fitness level. Although I wasn't the best at the bike and the run, I had quite a good fitness level, and I did quite well. The people were awesome. They were motivating. They were fit, and they were happy.
Triathlon immediately just grabbed me, and that changed the course of my life to be able to focus in on that, do a little research as to what was available for me just to say, "What do you do in this sport? How can I do it? Who can tell me how to do this thing? I want to get smarter." That's when I found a triathlon camp out in San Diego in 1998. There were not many triathlon camps or places to go. San Diego was the place that was across the country from where I lived. When I did enough research and was as passionate as I felt, my parents saw that, and they gave it to me as a birthday gift to go to this camp.
By 20 years old, 20, 21, I got to go cross country, super support, and see what it was all about. Within a day of being cross country, it was awesome people, good energy. I simply said, "I want to be here." In this sport, it was motivating enough to know about myself I guess a bit more, not knowing what it would bring. While the rest of my friends hung up their swimsuits, it was obviously just something that was super exciting for me.
Within the year, I moved out and went and ventured on my way. I think that was the first biggest step, the support I had and the vision I had to be better, to learn more, and to put myself in a place, I have to say, that if I'm going to do this next thing ...
One of the biggest things I was thinking about was that in swimming, I had to fall into who was around me. I wasn't good enough as a swimmer to choose my coach, to choose ... I just happened to have these coaches and these people around. They were good, and I took responsibility for what I did and got the most out of it, but I said, "You know what? If I'm going to do this again, I want to have all the responsibility on my shoulders, meaning I want to put myself in the absolute best surroundings I can so that in the end, I know that it was all on me, and I have no question when I decide I'm good and I'm done and I've done my best. There's nowhere else to look, because I've done it, and it was on my shoulders." I wanted that, and that's what I gave myself in triathlon. That's what kicked that off.
Sarah: That's absolutely fantastic.
Jessi: To get to that sport, yeah.
Sarah: I was just going to say, I always want to take you right back. I think it's interesting when you said about your parents getting you into swimming, and it was you and your sister. She was obviously very naturally headed towards the dance, and it was you for swimming. Sometimes it's about trying out these different sports and almost seeing what fits and what doesn't. It's great that you started that at such a young age.
Jessi: 100 percent right. They were young parents. It was a long time ago, almost 40 years ago. These weren't parents who were like, "We got to get our kids in everything." It's most like they just kept their kids active. Truly, they didn't sit me down and say, "You have to pick one, because we can't fit it all in." It was just a very chill, try different things.
Gymnastics was another. I think the environment was a huge deal, and getting that choice from the early age. I guess let's go back to the idea that kids are very malleable but smart, and they know what they want, if given the opportunities. I wasn't given 100 opportunities, but I was given a good amount. I think that was extremely important.
Sarah: You obviously made the most of them, as well. When you're 21 years old, traveling across the other side of the country to go and to learn more about triathlon, this triathlon camp, how was that? You obviously had a lot of support with your parents, which is fantastic. Making your way at that age, how did you find it?
Jessi: Right. I think this is a big deal. I've heard it across many ages and many generations, even, when they take big moves. Some people, they find friends immediately, and fit right in, and have a home. Some people say, "Man, it took me 3 years." Some people say, "I never could, and so I had to move after so long." What this big move was, and people have used the word brave and a lot of terms. I don't feel like it was brave, when one prepares themself and ultimately follows what they love, which means it becomes less brave and more logical and more fun.
As far as getting over there, I absolutely went to a place where ... I could have decided I didn't like it, but I went to a place with people with common interests, did what I loved, and absolutely found other people doing what they love and having fun doing it. The big thing was immediately I was engulfed by people that I related to, was interested in this common thing with, and ultimately they were great people. I immediately had a place to crash, to call home, for as long as I wanted. This is pretty special. This person had an extra room, and he said, "Come out. Get on your feet." I can't discount that kind of thing.
Ultimately, you could say I got lucky. That's a big thing I want to let people know when they call it lucky. There's absolutely a couple things that, by having parents who said positive things my entire life versus negative things. Hey, you cannot choose that. If you don't have that, and you learn this, and you didn't have that, you're going to have to find a way to now consciously go and surround yourself with that. That's a bigger challenge than I had, but you can do it. It made it easy to make that move, let's just say. From day one, I was swimming, biking, running with people I loved, eating, finding work. That's another story as to how I supported myself and did what I loved. Yeah. It just becomes easier when you truly do what you love.
Sarah: Yeah. I think what was really interested when you were speaking early, you talked about, when you were swimming, you had some certain coaches around you, and you made the best of the situation. When you decided to do the triathlon, you wanted to make the decision of where you were going to do, what you were going to do. You wanted that responsibility. You wanted to take ownership almost for your success. You obviously had this vision and this dream and this goal. Was your vision to get to the Olympics? What was the ultimate dream that you had?
Jessi: Initially, from starting triathlon, truly it had nothing to do with being professional or the Olympics or anything. It simply was about self-challenge, and knowing inherently that I was capable of more, and wanting another sport, which I think is awesomely important if you're into sport or whatever activity you're into, but for me, sport, to help you find out more about yourself and push yourself. I did that. By doing so and pushing myself, within the year, I was doing well.
I was doing well enough to turn professional, but why I turned professional was simply because I needed more competition. Even turning professional was not about money. It was not about the Olympics at that time. It was because I needed someone next to me faster than me to help me go faster, versus being the fastest. I signed on the dotted line. I became a professional. Different sports, you have to qualify. You make money immediately. That's not what triathlon's about. It really was just an activity, and I needed more competition around, and so I did that.
It only became clear in the next year that then the Olympics became the ultimate, ultimate, at that point, they became the ultimate nugget, carrot out in front of me that I said, "That's it. I want that," and to create a life around that and everything I did. I did a lot of things, but with that being an ultimate goal, if I can say it that way, that even though I was working, I was making sure I was getting sleep, and eating right, and doing my workouts, and doing work that supported that. Yes, I still had a pretty normal life. It was a real awesome help to have a carrot out there to fuel that.
Sarah: I think what's really important, because I believe it is so important that people need to have a goal or a vision or a dream of something that they want to do. When you talked about knowing that you were capable of so much more and wanting to push yourself, actually having a challenge, that resonated within me.
I hope young girls and women listening out there are thinking actually, "What is my goal? What's my dream? What is it that I'm aiming to achieve?", whether that's sports related or career related.
You've had these career highs, but you must have had career lows and faced real challenges.
Have you ever faced any real setbacks that you suddenly thought, "Actually, am I on the right path? Am I making the right decisions?"
Jessi: Really, injuries. Mentally, I feel like I was always, I was in the game, but injuries is a big question mark. Trying to think specifically ... I have to say, though the injuries ... People always say your attitude changes everything. You could talk Nazi concentration camps, you've seen the movies, you talk Unbroken with Zamperini, and how they faced those challenges and how they then survived. Ultimately in the end, although you're faced with challenges, it was about the attitude.
When I think back, and you had mentioned challenges, I'm the first to say I've had very little, and certainly almost to none, huge, debilitating, any kind of challenge, to family, friends, or my body, or my mind. I've had a very awesome life like that. That said, if challenges came up, I got injured. A couple things that I did that I can relay is that I took responsibility.
One, I knew I was doing what I loved. When you're doing what you love, getting injured at that or having a setback is actually a lot easier to take than having no purpose, don't know why, and then this is happening, and it's a downward spiral. It still all goes back to, are you doing what you truly want to be doing? How to know that is another story, which I wouldn't mind touching on, how to really get closer to what you might want to be doing.
That said, doing what you love, a setback occurs. You're already more challenged to be like, "I'm doing what I love, and I want to get over this, so how do I do that?" Taking responsibility. In other words, I did this to myself. This didn't happen to me. I wouldn't have known what that meant, meaning if your shoulder starts hurting in swimming because you've done so many miles, that's just what happens. Your shoulder hurts when you swim. You have Achilles problem on your foot because you're running a lot, and that's just your sport. It just happened to you. What a bummer.
Versus taking responsibility and saying, "What can I do differently to prevent that from happening?" I was that person who said, "This doesn't make sense. Doesn't make sense that a young 20-year-old person is having so much pain they cannot run."
I know everyone's dealing with that these days. That's another thing that Movement U does we can talk about, is to educate people on that.
I took responsibility. First, I did what I loved. I took responsibility. Then I sought out solutions. You hear a lot of things. I still always understood that because I heard so many things, and some that were on the same page with each other, some that really didn't make, if they make sense or not. I almost knew I had to be the captain of my ship, I call it, or my own coach, because there's a lot of people out there. There's not going to be one person that holds your hand through absolutely everything and creates you as your person.
I still knew that I had to funnel through that information and ultimately realize that the most commonsense things I was told that just I didn't need. Once you get to the right stuff, it's just logical and commonsense. A couple things. That relates back to my challenges, and then saying yeah, I came to a point, if I can jump forward then, to say, I hurt myself a lot over those years, but then I got to a point where my right, my good side started to hurt. My hips, my knee, my left side. This was 16 weeks before Olympic trials.
It's a good story about this quickly. All of a sudden, I could not ... I wasn't injured, because I knew enough that if I did the work I had to do to go to Olympics trials, which were now in 16 weeks, my absolute dream, I would hurt myself. I certainly didn't want to do that. I was smart enough to say, "I can't do that work. I can always go to the race and not be fully prepared. That's not what I want to do, either. You know what? I take responsibility. I cannot reverse what I did to my body, and I do not know how to fix it, so I'm done."
Guess what happens? This is in December. In January, my company I was working basically full time for, it was putting on big running races, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathons. We were putting on an inaugural race in Arizona.
My boss had supported me through my entire career. That's another big story. Who I ended up working for supported my hopes and dreams, and that was important. He always supported me. Everyone said, "You got to go train for trials. You're not coming to the race for a week and taking yourself out of your training routine." I said, "No, guys. I'm done." They couldn't believe it. I said, "Tim's helped me. I need to help him. I need to be there for the team. We only have a small staff. Let me go."
I go, and who do I run into and who gets involved in that race but Athletes' Performance, Mark Verstegen, this elite athlete training center in Arizona that as a triathlete I would have never sought out. It was where the ballplayers were going to prepare to handle the demands of their own sport season, football, baseball, soccer. Within the week, Mark said, "I'm taking her under my wing." My boss said, "You need to have Jessi here."
While everyone else was picking up trash after the event, I was at this training center getting tested, movement screened. Often, for triathletes, it was just cardio stuff. This was a movement screen, which says, can you even stand up straight? Is your spine straight? Can you stand on one leg without your hip dropping? No, I couldn't do any of these things, and yet I thought I was a professional athlete.
These guys pulled together every bit of information and then added to it that I knew. They took me under their wing. I spent 6 to 10 weeks there in the next 12 weeks, and I had the absolute races of my life in Olympic trials.
I got to go. I got to be the best I ever was. I have not had a chronic pain or injury since, and that was in 2004, so over 10 years since. Third of that was I guess that open mind, that still, "I know there's something for me," I guess, because I had a few other athletes walk into that facility say, "Why would you pay so much for this? What can you do in 4 walls that would ever make you a better triathlete?"
I just had this open mind. I heard the right stuff, and it all came together, let me just say that. That was the kickoff of a whole nother level of my life, actually, keeping an open mind and learning stuff.
Sarah: Mentally, you're in the right place. You've got the right attitude. You've got everything going for you. Then physically, obviously you're dealing with injuries and training full time. How did you balance the nutrition? with specialist's help? Or were you just doing what felt right for you?
Jessi: Nutrition has just been an organic, if I can use that word, learning process. I never put my head down and followed one particular diet or plan or anything. It was more of just learning things and going "aha" the whole time. It was mostly that the whole way.
That has changed, from when I was 12. I guess I could say when I was 12 and we had a little lecture about it, I came home and I told my mom, "They said we need to have low-fat milk, not whole milk." She listened to me, and she did what I said what I had learned. It turns out that wasn't the right thing to learn at 12 years old, to have low-fat milk when your body needs fat. This was the start of that whole low-fact movement. Now we know what we need.
The point is, I always was trying to learn. When I learned that that wasn't right, and continued to learn, it came up that "Wow, fat is good for you," and what's not. I guess I was always attuned to it. I always went for it, but I still always had an open mind to keep learning about it.
Athletes' Performance, this particular training center, was the first time that I ... They had nutrition as part of whole training center. I did get a little bit of direction from them, I would say. Yes, I've had a nutritionist here and there in my life.
I still feel that I continually seek out nuggets here and there and continue to add. I've been more zoned into my nutrition, less zoned into my nutrition. Ultimately, as with my movement and my lifestyle, I've gotten to the point today where I just, what I do for nutrition and movement and my sport is really to have an amazing lifestyle. It's pretty basic, simple, and creating good habits that have gotten my good nutrition
Sarah: What are some of your good habits that you have?
Jessi: Good habits, I would say, are just as easy as bad habits.
Good habits meaning seek out, obviously, whole foods, real foods. I've gotten to the point where I do not want to buy packaging. I don't want to buy packaging. I can buy bulk foods, which are any of my grains, in unlabeled bags, not that they don't come from somewhere and you got to check out the quality. I basically have a drawer full of spices, a drawer full of grains. I have spices, grains, and my fresh foods that I go and get, whether that's fruit, vegetables, or ... Yeah, fruits, vegetables, and potentially protein sources and meat and fish from good sources. Really, that's a habit.
Then saying, "What recipes can I make with these things? What do I have to get that are new?" A recipe is a big deal when you first do it. After you do it quite a few times, if not once or twice, and you know you like it, it becomes something you can throw together faster, and it's not that big of a deal.
Basically, from that staple of foods that I just told you and eliminating truly having to see anyone's logo in my face or quotes that are telling me why it's so good, just having this real simple kitchen and putting things together, like I said, more so so that it makes it easier on me with those staples. Looking up new recipe, but then making it something that I can do without looking at a recipe, which makes it take off 10 times the minutes, 10 minutes. It becomes a 10-minute process versus a 30-minute process, which maybe I won't always have time for, if that makes sense.
Sarah: It does make ...
Jessi: The biggest thing is the pantry, I would say.
Sarah: Sounds good. I've been trying to cut out processed sugar for a while, and it's proving very challenging.
In terms of training, are you still training quite a lot at the moment, or have you reduced that down? What are you activity-wise doing?
Jessi: Fantastic. I wouldn't call it training anymore, what I do day to day. I'm actually, I'm calling myself a lifestyle athlete. I have a very active lifestyle, which means that I choose to ride my bike versus drive a car, and walk.
That's a pretty big deal, which in and of itself, I lived last 2 times, last 6 months in Costa Rica, and now I'm in British Columbia. To get to my house requires a very steep climb. Just by having that in my day daily, if I did nothing else, my cardio and my muscles and my strength and my mojo of my mind is actually doing better. That's only, we're talking about 12 to 15 minutes' worth. I choose to have that activity.
If you talk about training, other than that, I have my basic staples of movement that I love to do that challenge my body. For example, this is pretty fun if you haven't heard this before, but cartwheels, handstands. Cartwheels, handstands. Pulling up on things, because those are overhead pushes. If you're doing cartwheels, you're pushing the ground overhead. That's an overhead push. You could choose to have dumbbells do that, or you could choose to turn yourself upside down. If you're not doing a proper handstand, you can put your feet up on a chair with your hands overhead in a downward dog but a little higher, and do a bit of a push. You can do so many body-weight things that require not much time.
Once you get, like I say, to a basic baseline, you can start at any time, but then there's trees, and there's bars. You can pull yourself up on them and do a couple of movements like that, the epitome of that being pulling your own body weight up. Until you can't do that yet, you can pull up a vector, part of that, half of that, if your feet are up on the tree, as well. Then you pull only half your body weight up. Hey, pull yourself up. Be strong. Hops and skips and jumps like a kid. I have to say, those kinds of things keep your body mobile, elastic, strong.
I also have trails that I just love to walk and hike on. I would not call that, again, training, but I love them. I love stairs. I love going up, and reason being is because I know how good that is. One-stop shop, in one step, your hip bends, your knee bends, your ankle bends, your toe bends. You have to be stronger to push your body weight up away from gravity, versus just walking on the ground, so you're stronger just by walking up. Things like this.
You asked me if I train. I stay so prepared by doing those fun things. Of course, on top of that, I love to ride my mountain bike. Mountain biking is a tough sport. It takes you up. It takes you down. I have a very active lifestyle that way. If I took out those extremer things and I just said, if I just had to live, for those who live in a city or don't live by where there's ... There's always stairs. There's always places to have open space to cartwheel, handstand, hop, skip, jump, play like a kid. That's what keeps me mostly fit and fun and ready.
I am doing races, as you see on my website. to do a 9-day mountain bike race, 900 kilometers. I did a triathlon last summer. I did an adventure race in last September. I'm ready for those, because those are not ... You push a pedal down. My hip is ready. My knee is ready. My ankle's ready. My glute is ready to push the pedal down. Yes, it was for quite a bit longer than I'm used to, but hey, friends get you through that. I'm quite prepared for those kinds of things, but I'm not training for them. I think we can all be a lot more strong if our daily habits included a few things like that.
Sarah: Definitely. Also, it just sounds so much fun, doesn't it? Skipping and hopping. I was trying for a while, it took me about 6 weeks to learn how to do 1 pull-up, but it's that sense of achievement of being able to actually pull my own body weight up. It was absolutely fantastic. If people listening can't do a pull-up, put it down as one of your challenges to go and do.
Jessi: Sarah, can I just say one thing about that?
Jessi: That is amazing.
That's where this concept of assess, correct, and maintain is super huge for people to know. Assess means, "I can't do a pull-up." Correct means, if you want to, you build up, and you go to a ... If you break your arm, you break your leg, you go to physio, or you can't do a pull-up, whatever it is, you say, "I have 6 to 8 weeks. I'm going to focus on this until I do it, which means I have to make improvements. I have to stress adaption." Your body then can do it.
Sarah, do you know how easy it will be for you to maintain that pull-up now for the rest of your life? You put in 6 weeks of work. Now, the way the muscular system goes, it takes 2 weeks for you to lose that. You will eventually lose it, and 2 weeks can go by in a flash, but 2 weeks is an awful long time to say, "Every once in a while, do a pull-up within that 2 weeks." If you realize within 2 weeks, you're like, "Oh my gosh," which is what I do, "I haven't pulled myself up in a couple weeks. I've got to find something quickly, go over and do it, whether that's 1 or 4," which I'm up to about 4 right now in my daily life. I can pull myself up about 4 times. Full, full, let me say . Full body weight, knees up, and really pure pull-up. If I don't do that for a third week, man, I'm going to go down to 3. I'm going to go down to 1. Then in a year, I'm not going to be able to do it, and you're however old you are.
What I'm saying is to everyone out there, it becomes like that. It's put the work in first, get it done. That's what I'm reaping the benefits of right now. I can stand on my hands. I can do great push-ups, but only 10. I want to make sure I can do that.
For life, I don't need much more, unless I'm going to try to go to the Olympics again, I need to do more.
Man, build up that baseline. Get that 1 pull-up. Get your push-up. Hop, skip, and jump up to a certain height. If you do that every once in a while over a 2-week period, man, for the rest of your life, you'll be good to go.
Jessi: It makes it a lot easier, yeah, to think of, if you think about building and then just maintaining, yeah.
Sarah: I was going to say, my mum who's in her 60s, she'd hate me saying this, but I persuaded her to come and do strength training with me. She's now down at the gym. She's doing box jump. She's lifting weights. She's getting stronger. It's so, so good for her, especially, as women age, you do struggle with bone density weakness, like osteoporosis. It just helps against that, really.
You started a company called Movement U. Can you just tell me a bit more about that, and what it's all about, and how it works?
Jessi: Movement U was borne out of the idea that I felt that people wanted to achieve something, with their movement, let's say, and particularly in my sport at the time, which was triathlon. The resources were out there to help them do it, everything from the best coaches, those who knew. When I say best, I mean most educated, most efficient coaches, of which I had the opportunity to work with. There are some out there who don't have all the tools. There's a range of resources out there. Self-massage tools. Principles are out there. I felt like those who wanted to achieve, they weren't bridging the gap between the resources out there, and if they could, what would they choose, which is where the education comes in.
The simple idea of that was, what does the body require to do what you want to do with it? Unless you know exactly that, and I can give you an example, but what does it require to be able to do a running stride, a swimming stroke, efficiently and therefore without injury, and ultimately then as fast as you want to go, whether it's whatever speed, faster, slower?
It was borne out of the idea of education. I created a 1-day workshop that was about school for athletes, school for adults, you could call it, even as young as kids would come, 12, 13. It was a learn-by-doing type of thing.
To give you a quick example, if you think about a swimming stroke, in swimming, just like anything, in my workshop, we'd talk about body basics for life, just have a good posture, as you can imagine, the fact that if your joints can move 100 percent of how they were born to move the rest of your life, like mobility, that your shoulder can move, your hip can move. How strong you move it and how fast you move it, that might change with your sport, your life, your age, that you desire.
You might not desire to run like Usain Bolt when you're 85. You know what I mean? That might change, but you still want to have the motion of your joints the whole time. You can have mobility. Let's maintain that, but you might train for different stability and strength.
For swimming, for example, we lay out those body basics, and then I relate them to say, "See, just what you want for life, you really want for swimming, too," which is why by me maintaining a mobile, stable, strong body in my daily life with fun movements, I can still get in the pool and move awesomely, which means that I'm going fast for little effort. Swimming, you want to stack your spine in a neutral spine. You want to be like a pencil in the water, like a surfboard in the water. You don't want to have a rounded back and hunched and tight hip flexors, which keep you in almost a piked position as you swim.
Basics that swimming needs are a neutral spine, as well, nice and strong from head to toe. You need your arm to be overhead and straight and mobile, so your scapula's moving, actually, which a lot of times these days, we're living with our arms at our side. It doesn't move that well. The muscles under your scapula, that back bone right under there, if you guys know what I mean.
Actually, I don't know if you know what I mean. Anyway, the shoulder gets stuck at your side, and it cannot go nicely overhead. Your elbow stays a bit bent, and you can't get into a nice streamlined position. Your scapula is a joint. It has to move, as well. Your shoulder has to move, your elbow, your hand, your wrist, to get in that nice straight position. From there, you also need your hip to open to neutral, and even back from that, because you almost get into this dolphin-like position in the water.
Any of those limitations ... I forgot to mention also that you want to rotate your spine. If your spine is straight up and strong and straight, and you rotate on one axis, as adults, we often don't rotate as much. We live in a very linear way. We sit. We work at the computer. We eat straight. We don't roly-poly like kids. You get to learn as an adult, "Wow, I didn't realize I couldn't even rotate my spine healthfully on that one axis."
To go back to that, I say, "Hey, just for life, you want to have your nice strong posture. You want to be able to rotate your spine. You want to be able to lift your arm overhead to be able to reach things as you get overhead and not be tight and trying so hard to straighten things out to reach overhead. Same in the swim. You want to be able to stand up straight, which means that you want your hip flexor to be nice and loose.
Also in the swim." The same things on land that you would want to maintain are going to work wonders for you in the water. They had no idea, one, that they were not doing that on land, let alone that that could help them in the water, that you might need your abs for your swim, that you didn't realize you weren't totally straight and able to do your streamline in the water.
This can go for absolutely anything, your life or your sport, where we just do a little consultation or a group workshop that says, "Hey, what does your body require? What's my movement like?", which is what I like to focus on. Of course, sleep, nutrition, hydration, that all comes into play as to whether you're going to move and do what you want to do best, your day or your sport.
For me, focusing on movement, we say, "Where am I limited? Wow, didn't know that it was tough for me to extend my elbow, because I've been holding my phone in front of my face for so long. Why can't I do a push-up? Oh, here's the great cues to do that."
Movement U was borne out of that passion for me to educate people there, if that makes sense. We've had a blast at the workshops and whatnot.
Sarah: I think it's amazing, because actually, with some of the training that I've been doing, even with running, because you think, "Oh, well, my knees are going, or my knees are hurting," but it's not actually to do with your knees. It's sometimes to do with your hips, because it's the alignment of how you're running isn't correct.
Your whole body is just so interconnected. You got your posture, as well, and everything you mentioned. Body basics for life mobility is absolutely fantastic. Everyone is so sedentary these days. Everyone's just sat down. They do have their laptops, sat down in front of a TV or in front of their office. It's good to get people moving again.
I know, back in 2012, that you decided to pack your bags and head off traveling around the world. Is that right?
Jessi: Yes. Yes.
Sarah: How did that all come about? What made you decide to do that?
Jessi: Yeah. I always loved to travel. That I knew from about early age, 19, 20, 21. I did start traveling. That was before my sport that really made me travel. I did. I wanted to see other places. That was maybe one of those inherent things, again, that I just liked.
Then my sport comes along, triathlon, and I got to travel quite a bit around the world and/or just meet people from all over the world at these different events. They were from places I hadn't even heard of. I said, "Man. I'm going to come." They'd invite me, and I'd say, "I don't know when I'm going to get there, but if it's in 10 years, if it's in 2 years, I might knock on your door one day in Estonia, or in Zambia," or wherever. They said, "Absolutely."
I always had it in the back of my mind to do some travels, thanks to those connections, per se, or just be inspired to travel. Then truly, in the end, it came down to simplifying life, which meant that I wanted fewer things. I had, just like many people, too many things, too many things I didn't really need. I took that, and as I chipped away at these ideas, simplifying my life, wanting to travel, having had my own businesses, like Movement U and my video production I also did, that I could say, "You know what? I'm going to put those on hold." Whatever it is you can put hold, and you can save a little bit of money.
I did. I saved everything I could and gave everything away that I could. Came down to having 2 bikes, 2 bags, my camera, my computer. Everything else, I really didn't need insomuch as my hard copy of my photos that had traveled with me from when I was college to San Diego to Boulder, Colorado, when I moved.
All the sudden, it's like, "I can digitize them. I can digitize them and still see them. You know what? I am not my photos. I'm not the hard copy of my photos. I'm not all my race numbers." I took a picture of my race numbers. Actually, not even all of them. Just spread out on the floor to remember that that was something. I didn't need the race numbers themselves, a stack of them, to come with me. It wasn't a part of me anymore.
I am all my experiences. Yeah, that's a big deal. I am all my experiences. You're going to get gifts minute to minute that aren't things, if you just go forward with the things that you had and what they gave to you. That's a big lesson, is I didn't really set out, to your point, to do all of these things.
As I chipped away at that, gave away a few more things, looked at the next thing, question, "Do I really need that? Is that really a part of who I am, what my daughter needs to see, or son, or husband?" It turns out, "No. They're going to get me, and they're going to get whatever's in that photo is me now.
I'm going to be less of me if I carry all these things around, per se, because I don't have a home yet." Some people might have a good nook in their garage to put these things in. As long as they're not ...
The point is, I did. I just said I took off. I had known a few people around the world, and I took a one-day ticket to a place that had a couple people I knew who welcomed me in. That was South Africa, in Stellenbosch, a cool little community and city outside of Cape Town. I lived such a life, so open and so loving, and doing what I loved, that this person was like, "Absolutely come. Don't think of another thing. I'll pick you up, and we'll find a place for you to stay."
This me leaving home, going halfway around the world to a new culture, a new place, had all of to do with about 4 sentences. It really wasn't about those 4 sentences and those 4 emails.
It was about how I had lived up to that point. Open minded, giving, just traveling, as well. All these little things you might do as you're going through life, they're not insignificant.
They will be very significant, whether they go towards the good or towards the bad, towards the opening you and growing you or towards the not, however you're actually spending your life. That said, I had no qualms. People say, "That was brave." I said, "No. I was prepared." That was what I had to do. That's what I needed to do.
Sarah: In terms of advice and tips that you give to the younger generation who are either wanting to get into sports or that are wanting to do something that's going to challenge them, what advice do you have to give from all of your different experiences?
Sarah: That's a big question, I know, not the easiest question to answer, but
Jessi: Yeah. I have to say, I'm trying to think of the 2 biggest things.
Challenging yourself with new things. I had a friend, a cousin, actually, say to me, "Jess, you always know what you want to do." I said for a second, "Yeah. I feel like that, but it's not that simple." I said to him, "No, you know what, You didn't see the 9 things I tried to come to the 1 that actually was the thing I wanted to do. I wouldn't have known that had I not tried the 10 things." That would be little to big, 10 recipes, 10 sports, 10 books, 10 whatever it is, until you, "This is the one I loved." Yes, I was a highly active person. My brain thought fast. I did quite a few things. Those 10 things, people wouldn't even see me do. I would say, "You won't know until you try." It's true. I've tried many, many things and different types of people, or groups, or whatever that might be.
Really, ultimately, the second to that is knowing what you love really becomes easier if you quiet down and know yourself, which means I am ...
This is an interesting point, I just have to say. To give space between all the defining factors and perspectives of the world. In other words, I am a daughter. I am an athlete. I am 5-foot-5. I am blonde. I look like this. I was all of those things, until the one day that my gut said, "You're not going to get up and do what everyone expects you to do tomorrow and what you expected of yourself," which means one day, I stopped triathlon. I stopped training.
This is a pretty big deal, because in the morning, I said, "What do I do?" There was nothing on my mind. I just went with it. It came to me. It was as easy as looking at this hard-cover computer in front of me. It was that obvious.
Everyone said to me, "Why did you stop? Were you burnt out?" I said, "No." "Were you injured?" "No." "Then you must have been burnt out." I said, "No, no, no. I wasn't. I just, now, I went 100 percent at that thing, and it seems there's another way to go. I don't know what it's going to bring." It brought something pretty quickly, as long as I gave it space.
The point that I'm also trying to make is that my friend said to me, I told him what happened, and I said, "I was surprised at how I felt." He goes, "Who was surprised?"
If you can think about this, I, the "I" that has to face the world, who is always what everyone expected, what you thought of yourself, in that moment ... This is talking about living in the moment. That "I" was surprised at how the "I" who just is, who continually changes, continues to evolve, continues to learn ... This always brings me tears, because it's a really big deal, because you can be ... Like what everyone says, it's not a fairy tale. It's that you continue to learn, so you continue to change and need different things in your life.
A lot of people will not understand that in your life. It's true. Friends, family. They just say, "You're just always this way and that way and this way and that way."
Ultimately, what worked for me was I'm always someone who needs to learn, to evolve, be curious, to want to surround myself with love. That's a big word. It doesn't just mean for a person. It means for things. Be happy. That's what drives me.
Be happy in a moment and ultimately be giving space to be able to follow my gut, because I give space to those things. It's something to train for. It's something to be better at. It's something to say, "Get super quiet and think about what you just really feel like doing." If it doesn't even come with money and it doesn't come with understanding why, you know what? As my life has shown, things come from that. Yeah.
Separating yourself from everything else for those moments, and I said, trying to make it as tangible as possible is a really big deal. I know I went a little deeper with that. That's a little bit of story that I think really is good advice for understanding what does live in a moment mean. That's really being open minded, therefore nonjudgmental, because you don't know about someone else, because you're too busy learning about yourself. Just being like that.
Sarah: Absolutely. I think you've really hit the nail on the head. I think sometimes people get so surrounded by either what their parents think, what their friends think, what the world expects from them. You've always got to think deep down inside of you, what is it that drives you?
What actually knowing yourself and understanding and taking that time out to be quiet, to really understand that is so, so important.
That's a fantastic piece of advice. I also loved your first piece of advice, which is just try different things. See what works for you. If you don't try, you'll never know.
Absolutely amazing piece of advice. I hope everyone listens to them and goes and does those 2 things. Finally, you've got a website. You've got Facebook. You're on Twitter. Do you just want to share how people could reach out, and learn more about you, and what you do through Movement U, and where they can reach you and follow you?
Jessi: Yes. Easiest way right now is probably through my website, GoJessi.com. It's G-O-J-E-S-S-I dot com. Emails come in through there. They come right to me, as you learned, Sarah.
Facebook, for sure. In my travels, I have to say, I've been a bit removed from being completely engaged in the digital world. It was quite a nice break. I am back on and online and working on a few things and available.
Movement U at the time is offline. It's Movement U as in university dot com. I have a really cool thing coming up, and I'm going to share it quickly, with Movement U switching from that workshop idea to product design.
Let me just say, my first mission will need all of your help, if you are interested in products that take the human factor into account.
First mission would be footwear. I would like to educate people on the amazingness of the foot, the shape that it was born to be, why we need it to continue to be that shape, which is wide and strong and capable, while we're living longer.
Whether you want to walk until you're 110 or whenever you might leave this world, or you want to actually want to produce force in a sport with it, and how we are shoving it into very casted, pointy shoes, for life and sport.
I want to change a bit of the perspective. Not that that isn't starting in the world, which is why this is good timing. I want to work with, depending on what sport you do, what lifestyle you have, how you can make it awesomer to have a beautiful foot that's just out and free in nature and not have to be put into a shoe.
That's where I'm going to go with Movement U next. I'm going to forward that to you, Sarah, when I have it up and running
Sarah: Jessi, I just want to say a massive thank-you for sharing so much incredible advice and information about how you got started in fitness from your triathlons, your career highlights, the challenges you faced, your advice, your information.
Please do reach out to Jessi if you do have any further questions or want to know more about what she's up to. Jessi, thank you so much again for your time.
Jessi: Yeah, thank you, Sarah. It was awesome. Have a great one.