[00:00:08] BS: Hi. I’m Britt Skrabanek, and you’re listening to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that brings together creators, teachers, and explorers to motivate you to follow your greatest passion. Jennifer Edwards, the founder of Tri Girls Rise is with us on the show today. In this episode, Jennifer reveals her journey from almost zero fitness to becoming a triathlete and how she is using this personal experience to help others shift their perspectives and gain more confidence in their abilities. A quick disclaimer that Jen’s interview was recorded remotely and we did our very best with optimizing the audio for you today. Have fun hanging out with Jennifer.
[00:00:48] BS: Jennifer, thank you so much for being on the show today.
[00:00:51] JE: Thank you for having me, Britt.
[00:00:53] BS: It’s so awesome to catch up with you as always.
[00:00:58] JE: Yeah, we need to catch up more. We have a new family member that I wish you could meet. And he’s just like a little mutt. He’s half amazing, half terrific. And he is so cute. As you know, I wanted a dog for my whole life. And since I traveled so much, I never thought it would be fair to get one. But since you’ve settled down in Vancouver I was like, “Now is the time.” And then once the pandemic happened and I went down to part-time hours, I think all the shelters are completely cleared out here because everyone was like, “It’s time to get a dog.” And I mean I was working from home three days a week and my office is dog friendly anyway. So even when I go back to normal hours, I’ll be able to be with him all the time. So he’s a lucky boy. He’s very spoiled.
[00:01:38] BS: I was waiting for the puppy voice to come in. He’s very spoiled.
[00:01:42] JE: I started patting him there and it’s like he’s just a little.
[00:01:46] BS: What’s your puppy’s name?
[00:01:47] JE: Otis.
[00:01:48] BS: Otis. Okay.
[00:01:49] JE: Otis Redding.
[00:01:51] BS: Of course. So for the listeners, there may be some puppy sounds in the background. But who doesn’t love puppies?
[00:01:58] JE: Yeah, I’ll try to keep him quiet.
[00:01:59] BS: Okay. Maybe we’ll ask Otis a couple of questions.
[00:02:04] JE: Yeah.
[00:02:05] BS: So is he going to be running with you then when you’re training?
[00:02:08] JE: I’ve taken him for a few runs, and we go for like walk runs. Because I’m pretty sure – We don’t know what he is. But he definitely has some part like hound in him because he like has that hunting. He lifts his one paw up and then follows the scents on the ground and his super either has beagle or hound in him somewhere. So he can get very sucked into smells. So he is really fast like. He can run a lot, but he does get distracted easily. So I’ve ran like maybe two kilometers with him, but I don’t think he’s going to – I mean that’s fine. We’ll just like run around the lake once, but I don’t think he’s going to be a 10-kilometer running dog or anything just because he gets too distracted.
[00:02:45] BS: Yeah. So I heard one of the funniest things ever about when dogs smell corners or lamp posts one time from somebody who used to be my acupuncturist and she said, “They’re just leaving voicemails for each other.”
[00:03:00] JE: Oh, that’s so cute. I love that.
[00:03:02] BS: So he’s just checking his voicemail.
[00:03:05] JE: Yeah. We live right near Stanley Park in Vancouver, which is a big park in the city here. And whenever I take him there almost every day and he always like pees on everything and I’m like, “You own this park now. You’re king of the park.” [inaudible 00:03:15].
[00:03:17] BS: Encourage that behavior.
[00:03:18] JE: Yeah.
[00:03:21] BS: So I know we have a lot to talk about today especially focusing on your passion for triathlons. And you also have a new non-profit that I would love to get into some more.
[00:03:35] JE: Definitely.
[00:03:36] BS: So let’s start about triathlons, because I’ve known you for a long time, and they were not always a part of your life. But now they are very major part of your life. So why have triathlons positively impacted your life?
[00:03:49] JE: Well, I think as you said, I was definitely not an athlete when you knew me, which was only like three years ago. And growing up as a child, definitely I think I avoided teen sports growing up. And I think that came from a fear of not being accepted or doing well because I think, A, I wasn’t very popular in school. And so I wasn’t one of the popular – All the really popular girls in school played soccer and were really pretty and like all just played team sports. And I think lots of people can relate to that if you weren’t very popular. You probably weren’t in team sports.
And definitely, as I grew up as a teenager and as in my young 20s, I definitely focused on more of the social parts of life and going out and having fun and traveling and did not really take care of my body at all. I remember you gave me a yoga class once and I could not touch my toes. I definitely would not have identified myself as an athlete.
Well, I found triathlon when I was living in Australia in 2017. And it was because I got a job working for a sports company that owns lots of sporting events across Australia. So like swimming, cycling, and running events, and I was doing the marketing like on the ground. So doing the socials and capturing photography on the ground at the event. And I saw my first triathlon in person and I was just like, “Holy crap! It’s people of all different shapes and sizes and abilities.” The fact it looked so hard. And the fact that they were all doing it. And when I was at the finish line taking photos of people, like everyone was crying. It becomes such an individual sport, but it’s also very community-focused as far as the triathlon community is very close-knit. There’s lots of training squads of people training together. And then the whole community comes together. If there’s an iron man in your town, if you’ve ever seen a triathlon, the whole community’s cheering you on. But at the end of the day, it’s you versus you.
So I think I kind of enjoyed the like individuality of it that it’s like a personal goal. So I signed up for my first triathlon after I saw that one and I’ll have to at least try this because I saw people in their 80s doing it. And I’m like, “If someone in their 80s can do it, I should be able to at least not die.” And so that was my goal. Literally, my goal for my first triathlon was just to not die. Like I had people like, “How fast you want to do it?” And I just don’t want to quit or die.
And so I was able to complete it. It was really, really hard. It completely changed my life. And I think it just gives you resilience and courage and confidence, because I didn’t think I could do it, and I definitely didn’t think I was the type of person who would be able to do it or would even try to do it. I just did not associate that type A, really fit person with me. And the fact that I was able to do something I just did not identify myself with, I kind of was just, “What else can I do that I didn’t think I could do?”
And so I think it’s just once you start, I think it’s such a great sport for people to try or even go look at one. Like if there’s one in your town or city, I really recommend just going to watch one, if an Ironman comes to your town because it just really – You’ll watch it and you’ll be like, “I need to do this.” And once you cross that finish line, that confidence transfers into every part of your life. And work, I felt much more confident professionally. I felt like I would take courses I maybe had and wouldn’t have chosen to take. I would be more confident to speak up to our advisory board and things like that. I just felt a lot more confident because I was like, “If I can survive four hours of like horrible pain, nothing’s worse than that. I can do anything.”
And then also I think it really transfers into your interpersonal relationships because I think you become a lot more comfortable with challenging yourself in other ways. Your identity is so shape-shifty. I didn’t identify myself as an athlete. And then I was doing all this training and all these races where was I an athlete? I also behold these pieces of identity, like, “Oh, I’m an impatient person. I’m a selfish person.” And then you’re like, “Maybe I’m not those things either maybe I can be different in my relationships to people,” and it just kind of changes how you think about yourself. I think finding your identity as an athlete later in life really like changes all aspects of your life.
[00:07:49] BS: So walk me through the process of a triathlon, because I always forget what the order is. Do you start with cycling or is it swimming? I totally forget.
[00:07:57] JE: You start with swimming. And the reason for that is because swimming is where you’re most likely to die. But, literally, they decided to put it first though because they don’t want you to be fatigued going into the water where you can drown. Do you know what I mean?
[00:08:10] BS: Good call.
[00:08:10] JE: Yes. They put the hardest thing or the thing where that’s most risky. That’s why they put the run at the end. You can’t die running. Well, you can obviously, but you can’t really fall. And like if you need to walk, you can walk. So they kind of put it in order of riskiest to less risky, because you’re going to get more fatigued.
So you start with your swim and then you jump onto your bike and then you jump onto your run. And so it is like a timed event. So you’d cross the start line and then you’re timed into five sections. So your first leg is your swim, and then there’s transition one. So you kind of run out, take off your wetsuit, which is actually very difficult.
[00:08:46] BS: That’s what I was going to ask you, is tell me about the logistics of changing clothes especially with swim being the first leg of a triathlon. And then you’re also in a race. So what is that like?
[00:09:01] JE: It’s really hectic. Like people practice it a lot, their transitions. So it would be part of your training to practice changing as fast as possible. In my first triathlon, I remember my boyfriend was at – Because really the only place as a spectator you can like see. They tried to make the courses so that people are passing through like the center village, like event village a lot. But the transition zones are in the kind of event village area. And so my boyfriend was watching me when I came out of the water and was at my bike trying to change. And I think my transition time was like seven minutes. And the average transition time is like a minute and 15 seconds or something.
He was like, “You were redoing my hair braids because I wanted my hair to be nice under my helmet.” I was like changing my socks. I was very not concerned with having a fast transition time. But he was like – People like had coming and going like crazy by the time I got up. But, yeah. So basically you come out of the water. You take off your wetsuit, and underneath wetsuit, you have a tri suit on, which is kind of like a swimsuit but that has sleeves and shorts. And then there’s like kind of a slight cushion for this bike, but it’s not as normal as much as a normal bike short. So that’s like the tri suit. So if you’re going to do a triathlon, I would recommend guide and tri suit and then you have your wetsuit over that.
And so yeah, you take off your wetsuit. You have a transition zone. So you kind of have like maybe a two-foot wide space where you can have like a towel with your bike shoes and socks kind of all laid out and you try to have your socks rolled inwards that you can easily put them on your feet. You have your bicycle helmet kind of like unhooked and upside down with your glasses in it. Everything’s kind of set up in a way that you can get changed as quickly as possible. And you get onto your bike.
And there is a rule where like if you’re going to touch your bike, you need to have your helmet on. So I really like that rule so that you can’t really forget because there’s officials in the transition zone who will yell at you. So like if you’re going to touch your bike, you need to have your helmet on your head. And then it’s the same when you’re coming back if you’re done with your bike. You enter back into the transition zone and you have to put your bike up on the rack before you can take off your helmet. So those are super important rules to remember because you can get penalties for that. And then you have the same transition zone and you just – It’s a lot easier in the second transition. You’re really just changing your shoes out, your bike shoes for your running shoes. And then you just pick up some nutrition either chews or gels and start running. So second transition is a lot easier than the first.
[00:11:26] BS: Yeah. That sounds crazy. I can relate from my dancing years because we used to have to do costume changes often on the side of the stage. So there’s a lot going on back there. But usually, we always had like a base on. So of course in ballet, it was pink tights and a nude leotard. So you weren’t completely naked. But yeah, I mean whatever. But a lot of times you had about a minute to change and often you had people helping you on the side of the stage especially if you had tiaras and any sort of complicated costumes like tutus obviously are very complicated to get in and out of as well. So yeah, I can relate, but it’s just I was interested in that aspect because I know how stressful that can be when you have to do any sort of costume change under pressure.
[00:12:21] JE: Yeah, I mean not if you’re me, and you obviously don’t care. But for most people.
[00:12:25] BS: Yes. Everyone, Jennifer is a naked gal.
[00:12:30] JE: Yeah. I definitely was like, “This is my time to relax.” Re-center before I start exercising again. But hopefully, as I get better and stronger I’ll move a lot quicker in the transition zones.
[00:12:41] BS: Have you ever had any wardrobe malfunctions during some of these costume changes?
[00:12:46] JE: No. Because kind of your base in the triathlon is your triathlon suit because it’s a one piece. It’s a one-piece short and bib kind of. And the only problem that I’ve had is that for some reason as soon as I start running, I have to pee. Like I have to pee.
[00:13:02] BS: Like you start talking about a onesie and then you have to pee. It’s like, “Now what?”
[00:13:08] JE: Exactly. So that’s the only issue. And I swear to God, because guys, I think there’s a whole unspoken world of triathlon about peeing and pooing. People like doing Ironman’s, you’re out there for like eight hours, if you’re a professional, or 12 hours if you’re not a professional. Realistically, so many people don’t want to stop especially if you’re an elite, take it really seriously person. People pee – like the men pee out on the bike with their penises just like out to the side and just pee off the bike. And like as a girl you really can’t do that. So I think a lot of girls pee themselves. I’m just not here for that. Like I will always just stop and take the extra five minutes to my time to go to a porta-potty. I feel like this was like a biological disadvantage that we can’t really point our pee anywhere.
[00:13:48] BS: We really are at a disadvantage. I’m with you. I think I would just take a break and take care of that and then continue on.
[00:13:57] JE: Yeah, but it’s annoying for me because I do feel like, yeah, you’re in that one piece and you’re in the porta-potty and you’re like just stretching and like, “Oh, this is so bad.” So that’s the only downside. But I don’t think there’s much nudity in the transition zones.
[00:14:07] BS: Okay. Interesting. Well, thanks for sharing that, because I don’t know a lot about triathlons and I knew you would give me an honest report.
[00:14:15] JE: Yeah. Definitely.
[00:14:18] BS: So let’s talk about feeling accomplished and what that means to you. So I have a quote in my notes on my phone. I have like a quotes page. I don’t know if you do that. I look at it a lot. And my first quote at the very top of it is, “Success is liking who you are, what you do and how you do it.” And it’s a quote by Maya Angelou. And I think I saw it like a year ago and I was like, “That is what I want. I want to like who I am,” and that’s what I want success or feeling accomplished to mean to me.
I think that is a very new feeling for me. Like I think growing up, I cannot pretend that I have much hardships. I’m like a white straight woman who comes from a privileged background. So I think that my family and society has like a lot of boxes that they want you to tick. Like they want you to go to college, they want you to work in a professional corporate job. And I think that there are people go through a lot worse things than your family want to need to live a certain way. But I think that success or feeling accomplished maybe five years ago or ten years ago to me would have been growing up or would have been having good grades. And then feeling accomplished would have been having a really good job at one of the top 500 companies. It would have meant making really good money. It would have been being able to afford nice clothes, a nice apartment. And I think that I made a lot of decisions in the past few years of my life where I’ve moved countries four times and I’ve left a lot of jobs. And I think my family, and particularly like my father, would constantly disapprove of my decisions I was making because especially I understand that back in their generation people didn’t leave jobs when they had a good job somewhere. And that I think nowadays people leave jobs a lot more often, but even outside of that, I definitely can own that I’ve definitely put my travels and my desire to live abroad over my career a lot of times. But that’s what was important to me and what is still really important to me is to have those experiences especially in my 20s. I always felt like a really internal conflict about it, like disappointing someone.
So I think that and recently and like maybe like the last two or three years since moving to Australia and now moving, I live in Vancouver, Canada, and definitely starting my triathlon training and other kind of passion projects. I definitely feel much more at peace with myself and kind of have like a more intrinsic feeling of accomplishment rather than looking for external validation from society or family or whether I’m successful or accomplished or not. I think it’s more I’m able to get that for myself about just feeling proud about the person I am.
Yeah. So I feel like I have grown a lot in the last few years that way. But yeah, I think for anyone feeling accomplished, I think it’s risky to have a checklist or like a bunch of boxes that you need to tick in order to feel accomplished. I think, like Maya Angelou, we should just care about if you like who you are as a person and that what you do and how you’re doing it. That’s kind of my newest motto I’m living by.
[00:17:28] BS: Well, that’s beautiful to hear especially with somebody who loves triathlons and how you are approaching triathlons. I’m not saying that you don’t take it seriously, because you are taking it seriously. But accomplishment there and also in your life means something very different to you now than it did then but also compared to other people who maybe focus a lot more on the competition side of things.
[00:17:55] JE: Yeah, definitely. We can talk about my non-profit later, but I’ve been doing a lot of research around that people identifying as athletes and especially children, children leaving sport and particularly girls who leave sport. And there’s a lot of research around why are kids dropping out of sport. Why don’t they want to do it anymore? What makes sports fun for kids?
And they had a list of 83 factors that kids have listed as reasons why they enjoy sports. And winning was like number 75 on a list of like 82. The first top three was feeling accepted by your team and like having positive team dynamics, having positive coaching. So maybe a coach who doesn’t talk negatively about failure and is okay with failure. And I forgot the one last one. But it’s just so interesting to me, because like first for me I think the reason I avoided sports is because I’m not a competitive person naturally. I really don’t care. Like I never understood people who cared about winning because I’m like, “It doesn’t matter how does your life change if you win. Nothing changes.” So I avoided team sports, because, A, I didn’t want to disappoint my other teammates because I’m like I know they really care. So I don’t want to join. And I think that learning through all this research that like most people aren’t in sports for winning. I mean I’m sure there are many type A, really intense want to win. And that’s probably the people who are you know the elite athletes who are putting everything in and have amazing performance day after day. But like the majority of people isn’t that target market. Like most people have balanced lives and have jobs and kids or is a daughter and as a granddaughter and they want to have fun and that’s why they’re playing sports, not because they want to win.
[00:19:39] BS: Yeah. I mean I think it’s so interesting that research that you shared because as a kid when I ended up doing some competitive dancing, I hated it. Because I loved dancing, I loved performing, but I didn’t like the competitive aspect of it all. And I would often – Not often. I would say every time after I performed. I would go somewhere, hide and cry. And my dad would have to go find me and basically talk me off a ledge because I was always worried after each performance. Because it was a competition, I was worried that the thing that I did where I messed up was going to ruin our chances of winning. And that studio that I went to, they were just pushing so hard for everyone to win. And it was just not the best environment to be in especially when you’re adolescent going into your early teen years.
So I think it’s really interesting that you shared that research because I wish I would have heard that when I was younger almost, but I don’t know if it would have registered, because when you’re surrounded by that and you’re a kid and really just want to have fun and be around other people who have a similar interest. And I’m not saying that other kids, they definitely wanted to win and they had that competitive streak. But I just didn’t have it in me.
[00:20:59] JE: Yeah, exactly. And like obviously I think if we talk to like 100 women right now, most people can repeat that story over and over. Like that’s literally why I dropped out of horseback riding when I was 14, which I think is a normal age for girls to drop out of sport. I was 14. Things got more competitive. And I remember I was in the bathroom at a horse competition, like a jumping competition, and a girl came up to me and was like, “Your horse better watch it. Blah-blah-blah. You better take –” She was basically threatening to injure my horse and I was like – And I being a very non-competitive person like I thought we’re just having fun here like I was not aware of this. And like at the end of the day, it is coaches and teams and parents are putting that pressure on kids.
Like I’m sure, you said, some people, maybe 10% or whatever, have that self-drive and ambition and want to be the winner. Great for them, 100%, put everything into it. But I think a lot of kids either get sucked into trying to please their parents, trying to please their coach, and don’t have that positive coaching dynamic. Like you wouldn’t be crying after the match if you knew your coach would be proud of you no matter what you did and that your team would be there and be like, “Great job,” no matter what. I mean like that’s what kids need, that positive team dynamic and that positive coaching because I think it’s only like two percent of girls aged 12 to 17 are getting enough physical activity to benefit their health. And for the normal age that girls drop out of sport are like 8 to 14 is when they start dropping out. And for every boy that leaves sport, two girls leave.
So I think there’re a lot of reasons for that. I think it’s definitely a lot of the times in the family. It’s too much time. It’s too much money. But the number one reason that girls list for not going to sport anymore is it’s not fun. Like why would I go? Which is exactly why I quit horseback riding. I’m like, “This isn’t fun.”
[00:22:44] BS: Yeah. It’s interesting that you said 14 because I quit that dance studio at that age because I was completely over it, and then, of course, those were my high school years and I was a band nerd. I did color guard because I was able to dance and perform and it was very – Even though we competed, it was – As a group, it was very non-competitive, which was awesome. It was a really close-knit community with the color guard and the band and it was a really beautiful place for me to be during those years after being in that highly competitive dance world.
[00:23:19] JE: Yeah. See? I’m telling you, it’s when people drop out. And it’s specifically girls though. Like I think there’s also research that boys and girls are different as much as they are different. They’re made differently and they think differently. And in the realm of sport, boys have like an order where they put effort in. They get good performance and then they’re accepted because of that good performance, and that works for them. Like boys can enter a team, join a soccer team. They don’t need to be accepted. They don’t care about – That they can put in the effort. They’re just going to play a match. They do well and then they’re accepted into the team. That works for them. That does not work for girls. That doesn’t work for a team dynamic. It doesn’t work for coaching. Girls are much more – And women, we focus on interconnectedness and we want acceptance first. Like girls won’t put out the risk as easily as boys to see if they’ll be accepted or not. So that’s stopped me from joining team sports as a young girl. 100%.
So, girls, it goes acceptance first. So you need to make girls feel accepted. And then they’ll put in the effort and then they’ll have good performance. It’s kind of backwards. So boys and girls have different ways that you can have a good performance, good effort, and good acceptance. And for girls, acceptance needs to happen first.
[00:24:34] BS: Yeah. And this comes down to something you touched on earlier that I’d like to get into next, which is mentors and coaches and teachers that you have and everybody’s different style there. So how has a specific mentor inspired you to be better?
[00:24:54] JE: Honestly, I haven’t. I don’t have – In triathlon, I definitely don’t have a mentor. But I think in life, as far as teachers and my mother, and even I had a horse decorating coach. Like I think I definitely have had positive female role models more than a mentor. I’d love to have a mentor. So if anyone is willing to mentor me in triathlon and as a woman, please let me know. But I am open.
Yeah, I don’t feel like I’ve been lucky enough to have a mentor who’s kind of like held my hand at any point. But I definitely have had women who have taught me throughout my life not to wait for someone to hold my hand or wait for someone to tell me, “Okay, now go do this.” So I think that rather than having a mentor who could teach me things and could kind of lead me down a road or anything like that, I kind of had the opposite of a mentor where it’s just like I’ve had these women. My mother in my life were watching her strength like during my parents’ divorce and taking care of my brother and I without any help from anyone kind of just taught me I think life can be hard, life is unfair. And you need to do things that you don’t want to do.
And I think that kind of discipline or just put your big girl pants on attitude, I have carried with me throughout my life. And I think definitely helps me in triathlon because I’m not motivated. And no one’s motivated every day. But I train and I get on my bike when I really don’t want to, because I have that voice in my head for my mother just being like, “Put your big real pants on. You signed up to do this and you need to do this whether you want to or not.”
And I think that kind of strength and grit and perseverance I have gotten through a lot of women. Like I said, I had a horseback riding coach named Lisa when I was growing up, and she was like a big badass. I thought she was the coolest person alive. And she was amazing with horses and she was kind of scary, but she definitely wasn’t there to help us win. She definitely was a positive coach. But she was very much about the relationship with you and the horse. And like I remember a horse stepped on my foot once and it was very painful and she’s like, “You have to go back to the horse and tell the horse that you forgive it because you guys are going to have a weird relationship if you don’t go tell the horse that you forgive it for stopping you.” And things like that. Or even like she always said, “You can’t be a good horseback rider until you fall off over 100 times.” So she would like keep track of how many times you fell off and stuff like that. And she was all about failure.
I remember I fell over a jump and like in between two poles and like really kind of hurt myself. And it was kind of like – I was older. I was probably around 14 and it was like a thing I really wanted to win. And she was so proud of me for falling off during it. And it was just like she’s like, “You did great. That you got the horse back under control, got back on it, and rode out.” She’s all about – I mean literally just getting back on the horse. She would always make us get back on the horse. She’d always make us go talk to the horse. Go face-to-face with the horse. Because a lot of times when you’re an eight-year-old girl, which is when I started horseback riding like you’re terrified of them. They’re huge. When they step on you or roll over on you or you fall off of them, you’re very afraid of them. And she’s, “You had to maintain that relationship with them.” And I think I have had women in my life over and over tell me do things that scare me. So I think that has definitely inspired me to be better in all sorts of ways.
[00:28:13] BS: I wish I had more dance teachers I had kept track of all the times that I fell out of my turns and jumps and encouraged me to do more of them.
[00:28:23] JE: I know, right? That is like a great way to be about it. A lot of people might be like, “Oh, you’re not a great dancer until you’ve reached this level or been in this competition.” But it’s like, really, the great dancers have fallen thousands of times, thousands of times. That’s what you should be keeping track of. You can’t get better without falling. So it’s the same thing with horseback riding. Like if you haven’t fallen, you obviously aren’t riding enough, because you need to write a lot to be good.
[00:28:47] BS: This is not related to triathlons, but I’d love for you to talk a little bit about didn’t you perform in the Nutcracker not that long ago?
[00:28:55] JE: Yeah.
[00:28:55] BS: Talk so cool.
[00:28:59] JE: Yeah. Oh my God! I’m obsessed with ballet now. So I did adult ballet a little bit in Portland and in Melbourne, and I joined an adult ballet kind of camp here called call Bunheads Dance, and this really cute 25-year-old girl from England and she was a professional ballerina and she came here and started this program, and I am obsessed. But yes, I moved here in October and we had the Nutcracker in November. So I had like eight weeks to train with them, and I was obviously an adult beginner ballet. So this is not at all – Like I’m not a good ballet dancer by any means. But it’s like just putting yourself – I’ve never performed a dance recital like in my life, zero percent. This was terrifying to me. And I was scared going to rehearsal. I was scared when I came home from rehearsal and thought about the dance. I was terrified leading up to it. And I just kept – I think a lot of people like don’t realize. Like just people who are doing these things they’re like, “I wish I could do that,” like they are terrified. Like I am genuinely terrified almost every day of the things that I’m doing and embarrassing myself and being bad at it. But like I just know that I guess those voices are still in my head for my mom and other people. You can do it – Or not even you can do it, but just like it’s okay if you fail. Like if I fall and ruin the dance, it’s okay.
So I did perform in it, and I have to send you the photos. They’re so cute. But we’ve also – And I didn’t fall, and I did really well. And my mom says I’m the best one in the group. So –
[00:30:24] BS: Thanks, mom.
[00:30:26] JE: Yeah. But yeah, I did have my friends come and my boyfriend come, and it was so funny because like I think they thought it was going to be like more proper ballet or not proper ballet, but you know what I mean.
[00:30:37] BS: Professional.
[00:30:37] JE: I’m like joining the Nutcracker. Yeah. I don’t think they realize that was an adult beginner and they’re like, “Oh my God!” But it was only 45 minutes long but they’re like, “Yeah, we really just wanted to see you, but you got to see all these other people dance. And they’re like, “No.” It’s kind of like going to see children dance, but without the cuteness.
So I’ve continued with the same group and we’re doing Swan Lake and we’re due to do Swan Lake on May 5th, but we obviously cannot due to the coronavirus. So all the studios are shut down. So that’s going to be on hold until September right now. But I am doing another performance of Swan Lake, and I have improved a lot and my coach wants me to go into the intermediate group next year. So I’m really excited. And I was in – I’m in three dances this time. So I’ll get to switch outfits like you’re talking about because I’m in like the Black Swan group and in the kind of like intro ballroom group. And I’m in a trio of Black Swans as well. So I’ve come a long way in the ballet world.
[00:31:37] BS: You have. But I want to say two things. One, I think it’s so cool that your studio is doing performances for adult beginners. I had a studio that I went to in Dallas that had some options there for all levels of adult classes to still perform, which is really, really difficult to find because you will find adult classes at studios, but they usually do not have a performance aspect. So I think that is fab. And then number two, I would say don’t feel bad about ever getting nervous when you go on stage, because no matter how many times I did it, I almost always threw up before I went on stage. It didn’t matter. I would always get so nervous because you only get one shot at it. So it’s not like you can just be like, “Oops, I messed up or I forgot the choreography. Let’s try it from the top again.”
[00:32:38] JE: Yeah, that [inaudible 00:32:39].
[00:32:39] BS: So I get it.
[00:32:40] JE: Yeah, that’s good to hear, I guess. I was seriously shitting it. Our coach, or I don’t know if in ballet you call our coach teacher. Our teacher was like, “If you panic, just gracefully walk off stage. You know what? I mean like as if it was planned.” So that was like our plan B. Like if you did kind of get screwed up, just kind of like put your arms out into second position like a little tousle off stage. Like it looks like you’re meant to be going and just stay out for the rest of the dance.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s what I’m going to do if I forget.”
[00:33:05] BS: That’s a really good call, because what can happen? And it’s happened to me before. It’s a very dreamlike state when you’re on stage because of the lights and because the audience is dark and you can usually see people in the front rows and that’s about it. And it almost makes you kind of dizzy because you’re up higher and it’s really hot on stage. And so you’ve got all that going on plus the adrenaline that you need to keep under control especially if you’re doing some controlled movements like ballet. And it’s very easy to forget the choreography. And so that’s a really good tip to just be like, “I meant to walk off the stage. It was my time to leave,” because if you forget what you’re doing and you just stand there, it would be very obvious.
[00:33:50] JE: Yeah, exactly. It’s such a good life tip.
[00:33:53] BS: Yeah, I like that. Yeah, just a good life tip. Just gracefully walk off the stage if you forget what the fuck you’re doing.
[00:34:01] JE: Exactly. Make it look like it’s on purpose.
[00:34:05] BS: So what is something fitness-specific you were not as good at and how have you worked on improving over the years?
[00:34:13] JE: I think I don’t need to be specific. I’m not good at anything fitness. I do think the more I’ve like trained and the more – Some of my friends will just casually go for a run and they are so fast and like so naturally good at it and I’m just like, “Am I missing some jeans or something?” I swear to God like I’m not strong or fast or flexible. I don’t have any natural skills. So yeah, I don’t think I was ever naturally good at any things fitness-specific.
But I guess one thing, like swimming for example, like I knew how to swim from growing up. I knew how to not die in the lake and ocean. Like I definitely felt like comfortable in water. I’ve always felt really comfortable in water, but I definitely never learned how to swim properly as far as having good technique with front crawl and breaststroke and backstroke and things like that. And so when I was in Australia and I was like I want to do my first triathlon. I think that’s the number one thing that stops people from trying it, is the swim, because people can ride bikes and people can run but they’re like, “Oh, I couldn’t do this one because I don’t know how to swim.” Or not that they don’t know how to swim, but they’re like, “I can’t swim that far.”
And so I remember the first time I got in the pool to like train for this triathlon and I literally spent like 50 meters and I couldn’t go any further than that genuinely. And I was like, “What? This is not good.” Because in my head I could swim a lot further than that. But without stopping, it’s actually really hard if you don’t have good technique. And so I think I did the best thing that anyone could do in that situation and is signed up for an adult swimming class.
So my tip for anyone is if you don’t know how to swim or don’t know how to do ballet is just take class adult ballet, adult swimming. So yeah, I took an adult swim technique class over six weeks and completely relearned how to swim. I was swimming completely wrong, which was really interesting. And it’s taken me probably like two to three years since that first swim to build an athletic base for like a two-kilometer or three-kilometer swim. It’s not normal, but like I can do that. Like I can swim for an hour without stopping. And I’m part of a swim squad where we spend on Monday nights, and these are like actual triathletes who have trained for years. And I’m in the medium lane, which I thought is the coolest thing once I got moved up from the slow lane to the medium lane. I was like, “I’ve made it.”
[00:36:29] BS: Yeah, nice work.
[00:36:30] JE: I did make it. I think some people are just genetically gifted and like in six months could train for an Ironman or something. Can’t coat everyone with the same coat of paint, but like I think for a normal person, if you want to do something or change, kind of learn a new skill or learn a new sport or something like that, kind of you have to think in like years. At least for me, it’s been like that. Like it took me two to three years of adult ballet lessons to no ballet terms and to feel comfortable, and like it took me two to three years of swimming to be at the level where I’m an adult athlete and like I can say I’m an athlete and a swimmer. And that took a matter of years. It’s not like an eight-week boot camp where it’s like, “Oh, like now I’m fit. Like to build an athletic base, have like a good view [inaudible 00:37:15] and to have a good muscle base, even especially like my core and my ass was so weak. I had no idea. I had the worst pelvic tilt, and it’s completely gone now. I’m so much stronger. And that took a long time. So I guess it’s how I was able to improve was just really just consistency over like years, because I think maybe some people might try to do ballet or something and go to a few classes and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not good at this. I’m not going to get better. Or I’m not good at ballet.”
No one starts something – I mean very few people will be able to pick up a new sport or a new skill and then just be really good at it or at a normal – Everyone started somewhere. It’s just that most people started when they’re children.
[00:38:02] BS: Yeah, definitely. That’s what I was going to say about – And I get this a lot with ballet and with people wanting to try it. Same with yoga too, but especially with ballet, because it’s very technical. Like, “Dude, I took my first ballet class when I was 10 years old, which is actually kind of a late start.” A lot of people start dancing earlier. But as adults, like we just have to be patient with ourselves. And I know it’s difficult because we just want what we want, and I think it’s very easy to get what we want quickly in the world that we live in. And yeah, it’s a practice that takes time. And there’re so many classes available now for adults. And I think it’s great that you have started so many of these new passions as an adult and stuck with them too from performing the Nutcracker to doing these triathlons and now you’re non-profit.
[00:39:00] JE: Yeah. I think you said it so well. Like we do expect things right away. And I feel like especially people with money, like expect that they can just pay their way into it. Do you know what I mean? They’re like, “Well, I bought all this ballet stuff and like I bought this class.” Well, that was all a waste of money. It’s like you need to do it. I think, yeah, if someone started at 10, then they spent 10 years learning, and now you’re in the class with the same person. You have to do the 10 years of ballet to catch up with them.
[00:39:24] BS: Yeah, it’s not going to happen overnight.
[00:39:26] JE: Yeah. So it’s definitely I think when people are starting these endeavors, they have to think in years and not months or especially not weeks. Like people with their week, six-week something. I’m like, “You can’t do shit in six weeks.” Like literally nothing is accomplished in six weeks. That’s why I think it’s really important to be like have your goals be like process-oriented. Because my goal is just to be consistent and to show up. Literally, that’s it. Like my goal even at this point – Like I still don’t have a time where it’s like, “Oh, I want to do my half Ironman in this amount of time.” If I still in process-oriented words, I just want to make sure – Because I have a triathlon coach who sets my schedule and I just want to be compliant with her coaching. Like that’s my goal, is to just continue to show up whatever 10 hours a week of training I have to do. I have to get on the bike when I don’t want to get on the bike. And like maybe this won’t make hopefully in five years from now, I’ll will be able to have, “Okay, now I want to have a personal best time,” but I’m not there yet, and I’m still not there yet. I’m still in like the surviving stage.
[00:40:26] BS: Try not to die. Goal number one.
[00:40:27] JE: Yeah, that’s my goal, is to try not to die. Now my goal is like be consistent and then maybe another year or two it’ll be like, “Oh, I want to do it in less than four hours,” something like that. But takes time.
[00:40:38] BS: It does take time, and I can’t stress that enough. I would be curious. I don’t want to dwell on COVID, of course, even though we’re sitting here talking during the quarantine. We talked a lot about classes, which obviously I feel your pain on not being able to go to ballet class. I’m doing bar at home and taking some online classes, which is okay, but it’s obviously not a replacement for those in-person classes. But do you have any sort of recommendations, I would say, for people that are doing triathlons and just focus on that? Do you have any recommendations for any good online resources? Any sort of online classes that would be relevant to that kind of training right now as studios and just gyms and everything? Trying to swim? You can’t even swim right now. So it’s like what do you do?
[00:41:31] JE: Yeah. Definitely [inaudible 00:41:31]. Yeah. Well, for swimming – So obviously, triathlon, swim, bike, run. So we’re really lucky because at least in Vancouver like we’re allowed to run outside still and we’re allowed to bike outside. And a lot of people would have trainers. Like I have a trainer in my house to put my bike on. So two of the three of sports aren’t really affected at all, like literally. The only thing that’s affected is that you can’t go run in a group of people. So your run squad is canceled. But like, realistically, your training can continue as normal. So the only the only thing that’s really affected for triathletes are, A, obviously all of the events are cancelled. So that affects your athletes. Swimming, you can’t swim.
And my tip for that is that there is an app, it’s called My Swim Pro, and the founder I actually grew up like down the street from me in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. And so I downloaded the app in Australia and there’s like an automated message like, “Thanks for downloading my app. Like I’m the founder, blah-blah. Please text me any feedback you have.” And he had a 313 phone number, which is from Detroit. Aand so I texted him and I was like, “I’m from Grosse Point.” And like I kind of slightly knew this guy, which is really weird that he started this app.
So I met with him when I was in Detroit, and he’s built seriously such an amazing resource for people, and a lot of it is free. Like the free version is really amazing. So basically it’s when the pools are open, it has like workouts that can sync with your Apple watch or your Garmin and it like has your warm-up drills. It has your main set and your cool down drills and it links to your watch. And so it counts your laps for you and the watch alerts you what you should be doing. And it’s amazing because like that’s my biggest problem with swimming is like I cannot, for the life of me, count while I’m swimming. I cannot I cannot do it.
So it’s such an amazing resource. But what they’ve done because of the pools all being closed is that they’ve started doing dry land exercises that are free and they’ve just created a huge library of kind of like on land exercises that keep your same muscles activated so that when we are able to swim again you won’t have like that kind of atrophy in your muscles in that area. And they have them for obviously – There’re these things called like swim bands. So if you have any kind of like stretchy elastic bands, those are really good, because you can really replicate the catch and pull of the freestyle with those. But if you don’t have those, they also have workouts that don’t require those. So yeah, that’s a really good resource, and that’s all for free.
And then also it’s getting warmer out. So open water swimming season is really close. I’m like considering going in the water pretty soon. And I’m in Vancouver right now. It’s freezing. I have a full wetsuit.
[00:44:09] BS: You’re going to need that, I’m sure.
[00:44:12] JE: Definitely. Yeah. Definitely, open water swimming season. And like most triathlons have open water swimming. So it’s actually even better because a lot of triathletes don’t practice in the open water enough. We just swim in the pool. And like swimming in the pool and swimming in the open water is completely different. It like really fucks you up. The water just like – Because there’s waves and there’s currents. And like every time you go to get a breath of air, there’s a wave hitting your face and you’re just like, “Jesus Christ.” It’s actually really, really good to practice in the open water, and that’s allowed right now too
But besides that, like there’s a lot of good resources, Triathlon Taren, he’s a kind of a YouTube social influencer in the world of triathlon and he has a lot of beginner triathlon plans for people who want to just start getting into it. Yeah, a lot of people are putting their training plans out for free right now, which is really great. So it’s definitely worth checking out.
[00:44:58] BS: Love it. Thank you for sharing. I do want to get back to some of the kind of negative feedback stuff that we touched on and let the listeners know a little story about what your most challenging internal negative experience was. And it could be related to triathlons or not. And then how you turn that internal negative experience into a growth opportunity.
[00:45:24] JE: I think what I kind of what I touched on earlier I think has been the hardest mental challenge. And I think that’s been like my grappling self-identity, which I feel like a lot of people struggle with. But I think that the thing that’s been most challenging for me is I think managing my internal expectations and external expectations. Like I said earlier, like my family has definitely not approved a lot of the decisions I’ve made. I think there’s been societal expectations of where I should be in my career. I’m turning 30, and the amount of people – Like 30 is just coincided with like, “Are you having a baby?” I don’t know why. But like apparently –
[00:46:07] BS: I know. I know how it was.
[00:46:08] JE: [inaudible 00:46:08 ]. Yeah. So it’s like, “Okay.” You just feel like you’re failing in like a million different ways. But on the other hand, why don’t you have a great career? Why aren’t you a CEO of a company? I was like, “Well, I can’t be a fucking mother and a CEO of a company.” I mean you obviously can, but you know what I mean? Like there’s so many different things pulling you. It just doesn’t seem like there’s any way to win. You’re not good enough at this or that. You’re not a good enough daughter. You’re not a good enough friend. You can’t – You know what I mean? Like there’s just so many things pulling us in so many different directions.
And so I think managing those external expectations as far and also just realizing that a lot of them maybe aren’t external and they actually are internal and like you’re making them up like I try to catch myself up. I sometimes imagine people having conversations about me that aren’t happening. Do you ever do that? You’re imagining your dad and your stepmom or something having a conversation like, “Oh, I can’t believe she blah-blah-blah,” and you’re just making up words about yourself that I don’t even know if they’ve ever said that. Like maybe they don’t feel that way.
I think we all have external expectations of us, but I think a lot of the time, whether they exist or they’re real or not, we can decide what to do with that. And a lot of the times I’ve tried to kind of bucket them as to I don’t want to live my life in a way that like I’m living it just to please someone else, because what is the point then? I literally do have friends who’ve like gone through like eight years of medical school and then didn’t become a doctor and they did a career change. And I was like, “What the hell?” And they’re like – Their family wanted them to go to medical school and they thought that’s what they had to do. That’s the identity they had when they were 12. So they had to follow through with it. And it’s like that’s so stupid. You can’t make these life decisions trying to please other people because it will not work out. So many people feel they’re trying to be a certain person to please someone else, but your true self will find a way out and it’s going to make it more painful and more difficult if you try to like deny that person. And it’s going to come out eventually.
So I think that regardless of whether you disappointed someone or not, you need to live your life the way you want to live it. And then if you are going to disappoint someone, go like 100% out on what you want to do. So I feel like that’s how I’ve kind of dealt with these decisions I’ve made in my life. Like I’ve left a really secure corporate job to move across the world. I’ve left another great job to move back across the world. And that was always chasing my passions. It was chasing – I wanted to travel South America with my partner. I wanted to move abroad and be able to you know swim in the ocean every day in Australia. And like those are experiences I wanted to have and they’ve led me to amazing jobs, amazing friends and where I am today. And yet I still feel like some disappointment to people and I’m like, “Yeah.” I think that’s that kind of the internal struggle I’ve dealt with the most. But I think it has turned into a huge growth opportunity like I said in the last two to three years. Finding triathlon I think – Obviously, it must help on some level like physiologically, working out must help with anxiety and depression a lot. But I think you need to have that sense of accomplishment and sense of validation come from within. Like you have to be okay with who you are and you have to make decisions that you want, like it’s your life. You can’t live it for someone else and like you need to have that internal satisfaction or else it’s not going to work out well in the end, I don’t think. So I think that’s what I’ve dealt with the most. But now I’m just kind of making decisions I’m happy with and I’m throwing everything into making that decision a success. So I think that growth has been around identifying and accepting internal approval.
[00:49:43] BS: Awesome. Jen, I know now you’ve got your non-profit, Tri Girls Rise, and you have turned into a mentor. So I’d love for you to share what kind of advice you would offer if you met a teenage girl who wanted to get into triathlons, but as we’ve already discussed, she didn’t believe in herself. What would you say to her?
[00:50:07] JE: I would tell her that I was once her and that what she’s feeling is completely normal and that everyone feels it. And she may not believe that, but like it sounds like she has the motivation and the interest, which is the first step of starting anything, like she wants to get into it. And she’s just missing that piece of like self-efficacy, that self-faith that she can do it. And that is completely normal. It’s normal to be afraid and feel fear and that like courage is feeling that and embracing it and doing it anyway. And I think that triathlon is the perfect place to start building that self-esteem up and that confidence up, because the best part of triathlon is that it’s not competitive in the traditional sense of sport. It’s you versus you. So if you need to like rest on your back in the water or walk during the run to catch your breath, like your goal is just to cross the finish line and that’s it. So it’s a hard challenge, but also you can do it at your own pace. And so I think if that still doesn’t convince her, I would tell her to like fake it till you make it. I do that all the time. Like pretend like you are someone who does have the confidence to do a triathlon, because there’s all those thoughts in your brain that are like, “Oh, what if I can’t finish? What if I can’t do it?” It’s like just every time you hear that in your head, just counter it with like, “What if I can do it?” It is all a bunch of what-ifs, but don’t let the negative thoughts. Like they’re going to be there, embrace them, feel it, but then counter it with something. What if I can do it? And like try to just – At some point if you just – I don’t want to say fake the confidence, but pretend, follow through and say the words and you’ll be at the finish line before you know it. And then at the end you’ll be so proud that you had that confidence to do something you wanted to do. And then you’ll be like, “What else can I do that I didn’t think I could do?” like it feels so amazing. And I think that triathlon is amazing way to build that confidence and that it’ll kind of transfer into all the different parts of your life. So yeah.
And also I would try to tell her that, yeah, I guess I just would really want her to know that that is a very normal feeling and that maybe it looks like everyone else is really confident and maybe it looks like everyone else knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to fail and knows that they’re not going to fail, but no one feels that way. Even the people who’ve been doing this for a really long time are shitting their pants and don’t sleep at all the night before a triathlon. So I always tell young girls who I talk to anyway that like adults don’t know what we’re doing. That’s what I feel like as a person.
I mean I’m in my late twenties, but like what I’ve been most shocked by and trained like a professional world in the corporate world, like everyone’s so dumb, me included. But like no one knows what we’re doing. Everyone’s faking it. And not in a bad way, but just –
[00:52:50] BS: Everybody is performing in a way, aren’t we?
[00:52:52] JE: Yeah, we are. We’re all just pretending like we know what we’re doing. So don’t worry about that. Everyone else is feeling the same as you. It’s just whether or not you have the gumption to just try it anyway.
[00:53:05] BS: Jennifer, can you share with the listeners a little bit about Tri Girls Rise, your nonprofit and how they can stay in touch and find more info?
[00:53:14] JE: Yes. So Tri Girls Rise is an on the ground program here in Vancouver. We’re doing our first pilot program at a secondary school here with seventh and eighth grade girls. Basically it’s like a 10 to 12-week program that can complement their other sports, but basically we’re trying to make a safe place for girls to come gather. And there’s 10 weeks and then there’s multiple training sessions. And then before each session there’s kind of like a 15 to 30-minute kind of lesson or discussion or workshop around mental health. So one week it might be about goal setting and like power of routine. One week might be about fueling your body and the importance of your relationship with food. Another week might be about body image. Another week might be about positive role models and kind of clearing out your Instagram feed of people who don’t make you feel good about yourself.
And along with the triathlon training and training and tips around transitions and getting them ready for their first triathlon event. So that’s like the on the ground version. But then we also have created an online version of the club where people anywhere in the world can start their own club at their school. Like a middle school or high school girl can want to start this club and find a teacher and follow our program and create their own Tri Girls Rise Club at their school. And then there’s also like the online community aspect of it.
So basically all of our social handles are Tri Girls Rise. So @TriGirlsRise, and so you can follow us on social media and then our website is trygirlsrise.com. And yeah, so it’s basically just a program to, A, get more girls into the sport of triathlon, because it’s very heavily gendered towards men and we want to reach that gender equity in the sport. It’s to get more girls from dropping out of sport. So we talked about earlier like making sure that it has a positive team dynamic, a positive coaching dynamic and girls are putting in good effort during the sport and really just focusing on it being fun rather than competitive or something that has negative consequences.
And then lastly kind of like an empowerment element to create girls and kind of I want that grit and resilience that I gained from it and confidence through triathlon and give that to them so that that can enter all the parts of their lives that they needed in. Kind of just creating like a badass army of young girls.
[00:55:30] BS: Yes. Yay! Jennifer, I’m so happy that you are sharing your passion and doing such a great thing with Tri Girls Rise. Thank you for being on the show and for sharing all of your lovely insights and experiences.
[00:55:49] JE: Thank you for having me. I’m glad my dog didn’t make too much noise. I miss you so much.
[00:55:54] BS: I miss you too.
[00:55:55] JE: Yeah have a cheese curd, and spot a cow for me please.
[00:56:01] BS: I will after some things open back up and we can go enjoy those things with others again.
[00:56:10] BS: Thank you for tuning in to Love Your Enthusiasm. Any links and resources you might want to grab from the show can be found on the individual episode pages on the website, loveyourenthusiasm.com. While you’re there, subscribe to get the latest episodes delivered straight to your inbox. You can also hit subscribe right here on your favorite listening channel and leave ratings and reviews which are greatly, greatly appreciated by yours truly.
Take care, and I look forward to hanging out with you next time.