I'm Jessica, a Registered Dietitian, Sports Performance Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist, Professional Kinesiologist, CSEP-Clinical Exercise Physiologist, CSEP-High Performance Specialist, NCCP-Swim Coach, NCCP-Triathlon Coach, and triathlete for 11 years and counting.
I help athletes learn how to fuel and lift for their sport so they have more energy and feel stronger and faster.
I coach triathletes to help them reach their big triathlon goals without burning out or feeling overwhelmed.
Currently, I coach with the Strathmore Silver Sharks Swim Club and with the Airdrie Triathlon Club.
Despite being an athlete my whole life, I had my fair share of struggles
I started competitive swimming at 11 years old and loved it! I felt accomplished every time I hit a personal best.
However, when I was 14, I injured my shoulder. This severely affected my swimming, and I was not able to compete at the Western Canada Summer Games the following summer, despite having a qualified spot. I cried so much that summer as I badly wanted to go compete despite my injury.
Once I was cleared to swim, I pushed myself to become faster and more efficient. I thrived on hitting personal bests and wanted to do everything that I could to help me do so. I ate healthy foods frequently throughout the day and I strength trained after swim practice.
Then when I was 16, I fainted during swim practice and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance as I was not regaining full consciousness. My coaches and my parents were frightened. Yet, the doctors couldn't find anything that would've caused my fainting. They declared I was a bit dehydrated and that I over-exerted myself. They asked if I was eating enough, and I said yes, because I was snacking all the time on veggies and fruit, plus I ate 3 meals a day. Sounded like enough to me, as I was still eating more often than my friends.
I never thought much of it after that. I kept getting faster, I got to compete at a national level and I kept getting faster right up until I retired from competitive swimming.
In university, I sought out a master's swim club as I desired that discipline and euphoria. However, this swim club was non-competitive and I needed a goal to work towards. So I joined the university's triathlon club as they swam at the same time as the master's team.
I was hooked. I had two new disciplines to learn - road biking and running. However, as I'm sure you have experienced yourself, training for three sports takes a lot more time than one - and I had a lot to learn.
My very first team ride outdoors was a disaster. As I was excited about my new sport, and like any excited new triathlete, I purchased a triathlon bike. I never thought I would need to practice riding my new bike before my first outdoor team ride as I knew how to ride a bike.
So I meet with the team in a parking lot and we are discussing the 60km route that included a large hill. Everyone's good to go and we take off! And I promptly fall over within 1 second of trying to get clipped into my bike. Turns out clipping in on an indoor trainer is a lot easier than outdoors!
So with every start and stop, I fell over, because I didn't know what I was doing. Cue the bruises and road rash.
I also didn't recognize how long a 60km ride would take. It sounded long, but it didn't sound like it would be 4 hours long. I used up most of my water washing away dirt out of my road rashes and didn't realize that I would have no where to fill them back up. And I brought 1 gel with me.
As I'm sure you guessed, I bonked about halfway through the ride. Some of my teammates gave me their gels and some water, but I still struggled to make it back to my vehicle. I was so dehydrated and almost felt ill for the rest of that day.
Unfortunately, for years, I struggled with nausea, upset stomach, and running out of energy during triathlon workouts.
*This picture of me in laying the field is me during a century ride as I was so fatigued I needed to stop and lay down*
I just kept doing what my teammates were doing when it came to nutrition and hoping for the best. Some days I'd feel good during practice and other days I didn't. Some days I felt fast, other days I felt so slow. But, I just toughed it through. I would just reassure myself: "It's normal to feel absolutely exhausted after a practice when you were working hard."
Oh if only I knew then, what I know now. I only figured out my nutrition problems once I was almost done my nutrition degree.
I was not getting in all the calories I needed for the level of training I was doing, including when I was a swimmer. Thinking back to what I ate then, I was swimming on fumes. I still saw success, but if I fueled better, I likely would have been even faster.
I also wasn't eating enough carbs before or during my workouts, I was eating too much too close to workouts, and I didn't always eat properly after workouts.
I just didn't know what I was doing when it came to my nutrition. And guess what, most will not, unless they learn how fueling for sport is different than eating healthy.
Only once I learned what to eat, how much, and when, and started paying attention to eating enough, eating the right foods, and eating at the right time, my triathlon performance improved.
I hit a personal best in the sprint distance twice in the same summer. I don't bonk on long rides anymore. I have more energy during the day. And I rarely have nausea during my workouts.
As I mentioned above, when I was about 14 years old, I developed an overuse injury in my rotator cuff. I was out for the season, couldn't compete at Western Canada Games and was overall heartbroken. At that age, I hadn't even heard of strength training yet.
In my last two years of swimming, our swim team was given a strength workout by a personal trainer. And everyone had the same exercises, with the same reps and sets. I remember feeling super excited about this and regularly did it weekly. However, I did not know how to progress it, so I just kept doing the same exercises at the same weights - not knowing any different.
When I started with triathlon, I just copied what I did from my competitive swimming days. I remember strength training before a brick (bike and run) and my legs were absolutely dead. I gave up strength training after that as I didn't want to harm my triathlon training.
A few years later, I injured my knee during an interval run. And my knee bothered me so much that I even used crutches while walking. I had to pull out of my all my races that season.
My physiotherapist thought it was related to my triathlon training schedule and lack of strength training, and so gave me a bunch of exercises to do at home. And I recognized the importance of continuing those even after I was healed. So I reached out to a strength coach who helped me learn how to lift and do triathlon at the same time.
But in hindsight, when I think about my swim strength training, it wasn't tailored to the individual, nor was it progressive. It literally was a one-size-fits all. And even though I have training as a kinesiologist, I struggled train myself. I need that second set of eyes to help me progress and learn how to blend endurance training and strength training.
Once I figured out how to actually train for my sport, which was a combination of the knowledge I learned in my kinesiology degree and the experience I had with that strength coach, I learned how to strength train properly for triathlon. I haven't had another injury since (and hopefully will never have one again).
After I graduated from university, I moved to a small town that did not have a triathlon club to join. So I started training on my own. I downloaded training programs from google and followed it to a T. I figured since I was a swim coach and had my kinesiology degree, that I could figure out how to train myself.
But I struggled.
If I missed a workout, I felt compelled to make it up. And then eventually, I became inconsistent with this training plan as I was overdoing it, so I would stop.
I continued to race, but I wasn't having fun and I wasn't seeing results. I almost quit the sport.
But then, I hired my current triathlon coach. She created a training schedule around my goals and my busy life. She helped me learn how keep a good training/life balance. She has helped me keep my training fun while making me faster. She also let's me know when it's time to pull back and constantly updates my workouts based on how I am feeling.
And I still struggle with this balance, I tend to burnout due to all the things I want to do, but knowing I have a supportive coach helps me do the best I can. She pushes me when I have more balance and pulls back when I need the rest.
So I decided to become a triathlon coach, because of her. So I can help others, who struggle with the balance of work, life, and training (and some burnout), just like me.
I know that I am not the only one who has struggled with nutrition, strength training, and work/life/training balance & burnout
I did not have all the information, knowledge, and support that I have now, so how could I have known any better?
This is why I focus on helping you, my fellow athletes, learn how to train, eat, and lift weights for your sport, so you have fun, and feel and perform your best!