Skip navigation

In December 2003 I quit the sport of triathlon because my body couldn't handle it.  In January 2004, Athletes' Performance took me under their wings and introduced me to movement-based training.  By April 2004 I had the race of my life at the US Olympic Trials.  The rest of the year was a dream.


Before that year, all of my racing seasons had come to close only once my performance had taken a dive, a sure sign that my season was over.  Not the most fun way to end a season.  Alas, that's how it went.


Until 2004.


It was thanks to Athletes' Performance's methodology that integrates all aspects of performance into one complete training program, that I began to truly understand the concept of training with a purpose.  Completely gone were the moments of misery and exhaustion, the disregard for sleep and recovery and the lack of confidence in my training and racing.


I have learned so many things over the years.  I've gotten to experience first hand, with my own body, what many only get to read about in scientific studies.  One particular example comes to mind.  I was reminded of it after reading yet another twitter from a professional triathlete that mentioned: "It's simple.  Train more and you'll go faster." This certainly has truth to it.  However, assuming he means swim/bike/run more miles and minutes, then one major drawback is: there's no insurance policy against injuries, which can kill anyone's season, including top pros who have their career and major $$ on the line. A few examples, all from this past season: Terenzo Bozzone, Paula Findlay, Michael Raelert.  The key here is, although volume works, it's not the only, nor the most efficient, and in my opinion, not the best, way to go about it.


Another mentioned to me this summer, in preparation for a triathlon that included a 40-45 minute climb on the bike:  "You need to ride 2.5-3 hours consistently to prepare for that climb."  Wait what?  Why wouldn't I just do what it takes to ride 40 minutes faster and faster?  My power output over a 2.5-3+ hour ride would never train my body to generate the amount of force required to maximize my power potential over a 40-minute climb.  That's like saying you could squat with 100lbs for 3 hours and that would prepare you to squat with 300lbs for 40 minutes. Really?  On the contrary, the opposite is what works quite well.  If you train to handle 10 x 300lb squats it makes 30 squats with only 100lbs easy.  Seems simple to me. No doubt, before I started movement-based training I was riding a lot, and I was fast on the bike, but I was also often on the verge of injury.  Training wasn't always fun, and it didn't always make sense.


Here's the story that comes to mind...

In 2004, I had a stellar year.  Unlike previous years I was still fresh as ever come November, so on a whim I decided to tack on one final race:  Half-Ironman Mexico.  It would be my first race at that distance. I considered it more like a vacation with a race at the end as it was in beautiful Huatulco, Mexico, and the race organizers were going to cover our accomodations and food all week.  All we had to do was get ourselves down there.


Greg Welch had some great advice for me, which included not changing much from my current Olympic distance training load, including doing nothing longer than 2.5 hour bike rides.


I found myself at Athletes' Performance prior to the race, doing their typical training schedule which includes 4 days per week of 90 minutes of movement, 90 minutes of strength and 30-40 minutes of cardio system development (usually consisting of intervals on the bike or treadmill.)  When it came time for an ESD workout on the bike one day, I remember asking them if, due to this longer race I had coming up, they would keep me on the bike a little longer: 60 minutes total instead of 30 or 40.  I suggested I could warm up for 10 minutes instead of 5 and warm down for 5 minutes instead of 2. I asked if they could increase my interval work a just a bit: instead of 20 minutes total maybe 30-40 minutes.  Metabolic Specialist Paul Robbins nodded his head and off I went.  At some point in the workout I was completely crushing it, my heart, lungs, legs, everything felt like it was about to burst and I remember asking how long it had been.  The answer I got:  6 minutes [of work.] When the workout was over I'd done a total of 9 minutes of work in a handful of intervals.  I was never happier to get off that bike.  They didn't have to tell me, I knew it:  I was better.  Once my heartrate came down I wasn't miserable, exhausted, unable to move, as was often the case after a hard group ride.  I was fresh and confident in my work.  It was obvious that my effort caused a positive change on a cellular level.  Tomorrow I would be able to do more work.  It was consistent workouts like that which inspired one of my favorite quotes: "Today's 100% is tomorrow's 99."


It was a fantastic lesson and one I've never forgotten. I like to create change fast.  Sure I may have adapted over miles and miles, weeks and months, and gotten stronger, but I prefer to make those adaptations in the least amount of time.  Another key factor:  time efficient workouts like that allow for plenty of time to work on movement efficiency, strength and recovery to get ready to do it all again. 


The result?


In the race I got off the bike with a 25 minute lead over the other pro women and easily won my first attempt at the 70.3 distance. A short race report is here.


I was sold.


A perfect end to a perfect season. And a perfect beginning to what's proving to be a fantastic rest of my life in endurance performance.


Enjoy the effort.  Challenge your 100% daily.


Go get after it in 2012!!

1,435 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, cycling, triathlon, endurance, jessi_stensland

It wasn't hard to come up with this year's list.  The smarter the world is getting in the world of human performance, the more options that are being created to facilitate all the right stuff! More options has made for quite a long list. Enjoy!





Before hydration, nutrition and movement strategies should come great sleep strategies. My favorite definition: "The suspension of consciousness when the powers of the body are restored."


Gear to go for: The Zeo Sleep Manager



What gets measured gets improved.  Think of it as a power meter for your  recovery.   Like a power meter for the bike, the tool itself it won't make you sleep more or better, but by having quantitative data to measure, track and analyze, you can get to know more about your sleep habits and implement strategies to make quantitative improvements in your sleep and ultimately your performance.



I first heard about the Zeo Sleep Manager from Dr. Allen Lim who was using it as a training tool with the riders he was working with.  He spoke about how on  any given day, the squad might have an A, B or C ride (differing in  distance and intensity.) Which ride the riders were allowed to do on a particular day was dependent on their quality of sleep the night before as indicated by their Zeo Sleep Score.   Something else he mentioned that stood out: if one gets one more hour  of sleep per day in the week before a race, they will perform better in the race.   How great is that.  Sleep to perform better? I love learning things like this.


Zeo Sleep Manager has both a bedside unit (above) and the new mobile version (below right.) On the left is a sample of a graph you'll get every morning of your sleep patterns along with an overall sleep score.  My PR is 155! I love sleep.








Work IT | Happy, strong feet!

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering + a work of art. - Leo da Vinci

So true IF you let them be themselves.


"Phalangeal Freedom + Phalangeal Fitness = Phalangeal Fun"

...says Mark Verstegen of Athletes' Performance.


Gear to go for: Vibram 5 Finger Shoes


Forget about running in them for a moment.  Forget about fashion and think function. There are so many  things your foot, all of it, would love to do with you:  walk, strength train, skip, hike.  There are numerous muscles of the foot and they want to be loved and put to work.  Most shoes force the foot into an unnatural shape (similar to a cast.)  They can limit mobility of the certain joints necessary for natural motion and they often soften the forces the foot has to withstand during activities thereby allowing some muscles to weaken and others to have to compensate, often unhappily.  Just like bigger muscles you can see and feel like glutes, quads, biceps and triceps, the muscles of the foot must be strengthed gradually to handle increased loads.  Depending on your level of phalangeal fitness, Vibram Five Fingers may be an even better option than simply going barefoot as they also help spread the toes.


I'm amazed I have seen only one, ONE, other person doing their movement/strength training in my local gym in Five Fingers.  Running shoes, cycling shoes, casual shoes more the norm.  Let's move it!


Your feet are a huge part of your performance.  You wouldn't wear mitts when swinging a bat, club or racket would you?  Have fun with them this year.



Get IT | Smooth, supple muscles.

How?  By hydrating, eating right, massaging tight tissues and activating, strengthening and stabilizing other muscles.


Gear to go for:  Self-Massage Tools




Self-massage tools should be just that: tools. Not crutches. Trigger Point Performance has lead the way with their tools and concurrent education.  I go no where without my GRID, Quadballer and Massage Ball.


A new kid on the block that I immediately put to use and is now a permanent addition to my gear bag is the Myorope.  Although I maintain my movement so well I rarely need to spend much time with the tools, they are an important part of my pre-covery and recovery strategies.



Move IT | Whenever, wherever.

Wherever you are, be there.

Gear to go for:  Gaiam's Travel Yoga Mat


Why I love it: It takes up virtually no space.  Great for adding to a gear bag so you don't have an additional item to carry.  Also perfect for the frequent traveler who doesn't mind others turning their heads while he or she indulges in some pre-flight movement preparation (or post-flight when waiting for a ride while everyone else is in line at Dunkin' Donuts OR when one misses a flight and has to spend a night in the airport in which case it pairs well with the TP Therapy GRID as a head rest.)



Reduce and Reuse IT | For yum on the run.

Gear to go for:  To-Go Ware RePEat Utensil Set


I have saved the lives of more plastic forks, spoons, knives and even chopsticks than I can count since I started carrying these with me.  Not only great for the environment but for convenience as well.  They are incredibly handy, wash easily and are just plain bamboo cool.




Create IT | Au Natural Beauty

If you wouldn't want to eat it, why would want to smear it on your face?"

...says Supermodel Sunny Griffin in this video from The Cool Vegetarian.

Gear to go for:  Organic Body Care Recipes

Organic Body Care Recipes


Stephanie Tourles offers a better solution to  everyone frustrated with  the endless cycle of expensive, synthetic,  famous-name cosmetics that  often fall short of expectations. With Organic Body Care Recipes you  can take control of beauty treatments  with homemade products that use  safe, nourishing ingredients to pamper  the body and soothe the senses. Click on the book to read more about  Organic Body Care Recipes.



Prepare IT | Athlete Food Fast

"Skills in the kitchen, rather than skills on the bike,  were such a limiting factor for so many of the athletes I was working  with.” - Biju Thomas

Gear to go for: The Feed Zone by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas



I'm a huge fan of Biju and Allen's work.


Get a glimpse of their genius in the videos below:


Dr. Allen Lim's Beet Juice


Dr. Allen Lim's Rice Cakes





Get After IT | Be great. Train great. Race great.

Get after it with...

A week of individualized performance training + nutrition with Jessi


A week of training at Athletes' Performance in PHX, Dallas, LA or Gulf Breeze


A race entry


A mountain bike skills clinic


A Functional Movement Screen


A massage






Jessi Stensland | Elite Multisport Athlete | MovementU

1,809 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, nutrition, endurance, performance, multisport, holiday, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, functional_training, movement, self-massage

Yesterday I twittered:


"Killer  wrkout @ gym incl cardio system developmnt on treadmil. HR in 190s.  Hadnt committed 2 that n a while. Felt gr8! #bustinguphomeostasis."


kristmjo replied:


@JessiStensland what is cardio system development? Sounds awesome...


I  tried my best to respond in 140 characters but it was impossible to nail  the scope of it so I decided a blog post, even if brief, was a good  idea.


"Energy System Development (ESD) is the cardiovascular component of Core Performance training programs" says I tend to call it Cardio  System Development in public because it gives people a better idea of  what I am referring to.  In the rest of this post I will refer to it as  ESD.


There is a comprehensive article on the Core Performance website here and I recommend the read.  For the purpose of this post I will relate  ESD, its relevance and application, specifically to endurance  performance.


Think  of it this way. Cardio capacity (including cardio strength, endurance  and power) is only ONE component of swim, bike and run performance.   Other components include: muscular strength, stability, joint mobility,  flexibility, elasticity, nutrition, sleep and mindset to name a few  (major ones.)  In purposeful performance training then, the idea would  be to maximize your body's ability to perform each and every one of  those elements and then coordinate them into a movement pattern that is  your sport.  For example: the ability to stabilize the spine in the  neutral zone and maintain pelvic neutral requires core, or PILLAR,  strength and stability.  Every minute of life, save for sleep maybe,  requires it (to stay free of chronic pain and to be able to perform any  action you want.)  Every individual movement, including the incredibly  dynamic action of running (which is simply a series of coordinated  movements) requires spinal stabilization and strength in order to be  properly performed, let alone produce power when and as needed.   Training your ability to do that, as many people have experience who've  done some sort of core training, is easier maximized by doing movements  that focus specifically on that element of performance, allowing us to  bring that strength and stability and posture to our daily life and  sport.  Said another way, its hard to work on, and certainly near  impossible to maximize, core strength while running, no matter how hard  you try.


Cardio capacity can be considered in much the same way.


Swim,  bike and run are all very different movements, though all requiring the  same strong spinal stabilization and strength.  Similarly they also  require similar cardio strength, cardio endurance and cardio power.  The  only major difference between sports is the dynamic movements required  to do that activity.  Additionally, it is also important that one's  cardio capacity is able to withstand, and complement, the demands of the  leg speeds, leg power and core power that each sport requires.


If you  only ever do swim, bike and run training for the sake of putting in  miles and minutes as many endurance programs do, without regard to the  precision and efficiency of each element going into the performance, it  is quite impossible to maximize each element they require in order to  reach true performance potential.  For example, you can get much better  elastic qualities of the muscles in specific plyometric movements (squat  jumps, hops, bounds and particular running drills, for example) than  you will in just running.  Training muscles and movements to be elastic  as a component of a training program is key to being able to bring that  elastic component to running. Ideally, one would then train their  movements in order to be able to also control that elasticity where/when  and as needed throughout a dynamic action such as running.


Similarly,  our cardio system needs to be maximized.  VERY VERY often I'm finding  now, athletes training for endurance are far from maximizing their  cardio system development.  They tend to hover around that threshold and  never bust through it.  Busting through that threshold (think sprint  interval training) - serves to INCREASE one's anaerobic threshold (AT)  thereby allowing an athlete to do more work at the same effort.  Sure  one's threshold will increase somewhat over time with some basic  endurance training and increased fitness level, but not often pushed to  its maximum potential. Simply stated when you go harder, over your  threshold, especially WAY over your threshold, your muscles are  screaming for more oxygen carrying blood and your body WILL respond to  that request immediately.  Muscles will develop to  be able handle those  demands, and over time it won't be so "hard" for you to get the  required blood flow and oxygen to those muscles.  Your body will soon be  able to do it quicker and more efficiently.


Think  of it this way.  Wouldn't you rather your heart beat at 180bpm than  160bpm for the same amount of effort...getting that much more blood and  oxygen transported to your muscles helping them do more work?  Energy  system development aims to do just that with purpose-driven sprint  interval training:  bust through that threshold often, thereby  INCREASING IT, and maximizing your performance potential.  Similar to  the elasticity example mentioned above, in which you may end up with  more elasticity than is needed for a sport or distance, you can then  choose how much of it you use instead of never having enough. The same  goes for cardio capacity.  If you increase your threshold to 180bpm from  160bpm (I say this because that is what I did in 2004 over a 3 week  period,) running at 160bpm feels quite a lot easier.  That is where  sprint interval training with the purpose of increasing cardio capacity  and anaerobic threshold can make a positive impact during a longer  endurance race, say a half marathon or marathon distance.  Incorporating  this type of training has the potential to play a major role in  maximizing efficiency and overall performance.


In a  lecture I attended last week, a study was referenced in which it was  found that 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produces biochemical  changes in the muscle equivalent to 10.5 hours of endurance training,  when looking at the markers related to endurance performance.  I  experienced the immediate and positive impact that purpose-driven  cardio system training can have when i was introduced to it within  the Core Perforamance methodology back in 2004 while training for the  Olympic Trials in triathlon.


Consequently  doing this type of training also allowed me to have much more time to  work on my strength, movement, recovery, things that most endurance  athletes don't think they have time for since they spend all the time  they have swimming, cycling and running many minutes and miles, often  with little purpose other than because that's what their training  program said and that's what everyone else is doing.


Side note:  ESD also involves download periods of recovery sessions as well.


There are any number of types of methods, intervals, times, etc. that can be used in cardio system development.


Yesterday my set was simply:


3 x [ 4 x (1min @ 10mph + 1min @ 6mph) ]


I  chose 10mph hoping I'd be able to hold that for all of the 1 minute  intervals, and I was.  My heartrate was getting up in to my "red" zone:   185-192bpm.   ESD has only 3 zones:  easy, hard, hardest. Red =  hardest.  I was recovering down to 155bpm during the 1 minute recovery  at 6mph.  I was way over my threshold on those 1 minute intervals.  My  goal is to be able to run 10mph at threshold as my race pace (5-10km.)   In other words: my goal is to be able to do the same amount of work for  much less effort.  A few more weeks of consistent ESD and that'll be no  problem.


Here's another example of ESD which I did on a client that gives some more insight into the power of  pushing through the 'threshold' of mind and body when it comes to  maximizing cardio capacity in endurance performance.


One  final note.  Notice in that twitter mentioned above I finished with the  phrase:  busting up homeostasis.  That I quoted from Nick Winkelman  during his brilliant lecture on periodization last week at Athletes' Performance's Phase 4 Mentorship. He mentioned, quite emphatically, that a goal of performance training is to bust up homeostasis.


According to Wikipedia, homeostasis is from Greek: ὅμοιος, hómoios, "similar"; and στάσις, stásis, "standing still".


Busting  up homeostasis therefore means to me the opposite of staying the same.   Creating change.  In performance training that would mean making an  improvement. I have seen DAILY improvements in my training, in one  element or another and often more than one at a time. I aim for daily  improvements in my strength, stability, coordination and cardio capacity  to name a few.  In that sense then, my threshold of today is higher  than my threshold of yesterday. Said another way: today's 100% is  tomorrow's 99, which means I can, and will, go harder and do more work  for my 100% effort than I did the day before.  It's a simple concept  that I hope will be more widespread in mainstream endurance training  programming sooner than later.

Much more where that came from, but there you go.


Go bust up homeostasis!!

2,631 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, endurance, performance, cardio, jessi_stensland, stensland

I'd heard about it years ago...but now I've got my own and I'm loving it.  Have you stand up paddleboarded yet?


For the record, I'm not a surfer and have  never done any paddling.  I have always been a swimmer - sans equipment -  in the water. I lived 12 years by the ocean in San Diego and the most I  did was bodysurf for my triathlon training a few times. I will say I do love bodysurfing.


Stand up paddling caught my attention immediately when I first heard about it. It seems that from the moment it was born it was cool.  Over the years I've hopped on a board once or twice but in April I got my own. The Surftech Laird 11'6" as you can see to the  left.


There have been times when I've SUP'd in the ocean, fought the waves, had to fight for my balance - and then settle in and enjoy being surrounded by the entire ocean while just standing there.  Paddling hard for a few strokes, easy a for few  strokes. Watching the stingrays and sand sharks underneath me.  Getting to cruise over, and appreciate, the beautiful flowing kelp beds, without having to swim through them.  All while the sun's setting...


There have been other times when we had a few boards and did short little impromptu races between two of us at a time around a nearby bouy. THAT was fun.  Competitive little buggers we  all are.


In June at the Teva Mountain Games I was AMAZED to see people on their SUPs in the raging river, making it look easy to balance, just cruising along.  There they held a surf cross competition 2 on 2, like the snowboard cross in the  Olympic Games.  Wild!  That is something I can imagine doing - once I  get my skillz down.


I've seen Greg Welch surfing waves with it.  And I've seen people using the unstable surface to challenge their stability and strength by doing overhead squats, planks, among other things, including yoga! What a view for a core workout.


Of course there's  always the long slow distance you can put on it too.  Friends of mine go  out for hours at a time.




It's a perfect piece of equipment that combines the best of a both  worlds.  For one its a total body workout that challenges body awareness, balance, coordination, stability and strength all of which come into play big time in swim, bike and run power production.  Great power transfer from the paddle to the more ways than one.


For another, being out on the water, away from cars, computers and all the other craziness, simply feeds the soul.  It's peaceful, relaxing, social if you want it to be, serene and re-energizing.


Choose your own adventure.


Yesterday I took the board out with a couple of friends, Ryann Fraser and my roommate Morgan.  It was Morgan's first time on an SUP.  She was a  champ!  Take a peek inside our evening at the Boulder Reservoir during  sunset in the video below.  LOVIN' IT - THANKS SURFTECH SUP for inspiring new adventures!






3,320 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: strength, multisport, up, paddle, stand

Last weekend I raced XTERRA Portland, an off-road triathlon.  It was a day I'll never forget.


It was a gorgeous morning at Hagg Lake.  Bright blue skies, beautiful scenery, great energy.  A glorious day for the race.


Already warm by 9am, it promised to get warmer. The lake was the perfect temperature for a swim sans wetsuit, so I went au natural.   Although I love my Xterra Wetsuit, there was no need for it that day.  This pic tells all:





The lake swim was pristine and the bike course was a blast!  Mostly lush tree-covered single track, you could tell a lot of work had been done to clear the way on the trail for us.  There were sections that felt like we were racing through the Amazon.  It  was perfect.  Well, the course was perfect, whereas I definitely  made a  few mental notes where my mountain bike skills were lacking,  specifically on a few of  the steep little climbs, a few of which I had  to jump off and walk up.  I've been slacking on my gym work, and my  power was down.  On a positive note however, I was stoked with how I  handled the ruts on the trail. I'd crashed more than once on similar  terrain last year and they haven't gotten the best of me since,  thankfully!  Side note:  I absolutely LOVE mountain biking!!  I think I  would live on my mountain bike these days if I could haha!


I wasn't quite sure what place I was in during the race.  These days I'm more focused on the fun and my own performance on the course than where anyone else is.  By the time we hit the run it was hot but I felt pretty good and was just loving being out there.  I hadn't seen another girl on the course since early in the bike when Heather passed me.  At this point I was just focused on getting myself to the finish as fast as I could.


6a00d8354d091969e20133f33347bf970b-800wi.jpg  6a00d8354d091969e20133f333483c970b-300wi.jpg


The run course was a lollipop with two loops.  As I finished the second loop, volunteers were there to direct me toward the finish.  They said, "You can catch her!" and added, "She wasn't looking too good running up the hill [ahead.]" I didn't think twice as I was feeling the wrath of 2.5+ hrs out there already and just wanted to make it up the hill in the heat myself.  From there the course ran up a short hill in a tall grass field, as I reached the top where it curved around to the left I could see someone in the distance just over the grass, that looked like they were stopped on the course and bent over at the waist, most likely with hands on their knees.  I thought, "Wow, maybe she really wasn't feeling too good," and kept an eye on her, fully expecting to see her pop up and move forward toward the finish.  However next thing I knew I couldn't see her at all.  I looped around on the trail, reaching her within 10 seconds or so, and found her lying on the ground very close to unconscious...




I grabbed her hand and/or chin and asked her her name and she faintly replied, "Heather."  Her eyes were not focused on anything, her body, including her hand, was dead weight. I continued to talk to her but got no clear responses.  I debated whether to run for help or yell for help.  I couldn't leave, so I yelled, "HELP!!" hoping the aid station down the hill would hear me.  They weren't far but they wouldn't have been able to see me. I yelled to the next athlete running up the hill hoping he could transfer the message to the aid station, he wasn't hearing me.  Then I saw the race director, Rob Jackson, pull up in his truck on the road above us. I started to yell to the same athlete to get his attention.  I could tell there was some discussion, but then Rob kept walking with a big Gatorade container on his shoulder, toward the aid station, not toward us. I yelled to the athlete (I'd never yelled that much, nor for help, in my life!) that it was an emergency and to get Rob and himself here NOW.  This was all a matter of seconds I'd like to think.  They both ran over.  Rob then immediately went for help while I stayed with Heather, talking to her, hoping to maintain some level of awareness even if it looked like she had none.  I kept asking her to squeeze my hand, but got no response.  If she was letting out any sound it was more like a constant moan.  Athletes continued to come by, check on the situation, then head toward the finish which was only about a half mile away.  Rob returned with two others and ice packs.  We placed them in all the key places: under arms, crotch, head.  The three guys then carried her up toward the truck.  Knowing there was nothing I could do at that moment, I ran toward the finish.


At the finish I grabbed something to drink and chatted for a minute with Karen Oppenheimer who ended up crossing the finish line first.  I saw Rob and went over to make sure he knew he could put me to work as needed.  He directed me up toward where Heather was, getting ready to transport her to the hospital.  A small group of us continued to do what we could to care for her.  While others were checking her vitals I just kept talking to her, in the outside chance that would help her brain to latch onto something, and keep working.  Everyone stayed amazingly calm, knowing we were doing all we could do at that moment.  We stayed focused on her only signs of life:  checking to make sure she still had a pulse and whether she was breathing or not.  It was a far cry from how much life was in her just minutes before racing along the course.  Hard to recall now that I know Heather and how great she's doing, but I definitely remember moments where the thought of losing her seemed very real.  She was out.  I had never experienced anything like it in my 13 years in triathlon and it was hard to imagine her springing back to life from the state she was at that moment.


The ambulance arrived and Rob directed me to go with Heather to the hospital, knowing Heather was at the race alone and from out of town.  Still with race kit and race number on, I jumped in.  Over the course of a few hours at the hospital, as her body temp dropped to normal and she was rehydrated, it was amazing to see her come back to life.  When I could I kept talking to her.  Her eyes were open but unable to focus at first.  She could not talk for a long time.  Then, if you can imagine, slowly but surely she continued to increase her function.  Little nod, a little smile.  I had her husband Dave on the cell phone, giving him the play by play and getting info from him to the hospital staff about Heather.  When we knew Heather could hear what we were saying, but still couldn't move or speak, I put the phone up to her ear so Dave could talk to her and she had tears streaming down her face.  All great signs!!  My favorite moment was when I asked her to look at me.  I was standing to the side of the hospital bed.  "Heather look at me."  I repeated it again. She had yet to connect brain to motor function. She very slowly, millimeter by millimeter turned her eyes, and her head just a bit, and finally locked into my eyes, probably followed by a slight smile.  Yeah!!!  She continued to make small improvements over the next hour or two.  The next best moment for me was when she all of a sudden was Heather again.  Still lying on the bed, on her side, hands under her head cozy, she looked at me and said, "Who are you?" and I finally got to meet her!  Needless to say we had lots to talk about, including our mutual great friend, XTERRA Pro/Ambassador Brandyn Roark Gray, who we soon realized was the reason each of us were inspired to get into XTERRA racing in the first place.


Here's the one photo I have of the two of us as we were leaving the hospital later that day:






It was very apparent to me that my reaction and response on that day was due to a few key things.  One, I like to race, hard.  I'm super competitive with myself.  I like to take risks.  I like to experience new things, learn and improve.  But at the root of it all, is an appreciation and sheer joy of every minute I'm blessed to be able to live.  Not only live, but doing so healthy, happy and fit enough to do anything I want to do.   I was eating up every minute of that race, the sights, sounds, how I felt, where I knew I wanted to improve my bike skills, the fresh air, the volunteers' smiles and cheers.  Getting to the finish line is no more or less important than any one of those moments, and I couldn't have asked for more than I'd already gotten on that day.  At that point in the race, it was a whole new moment.  Nothing that came before or might come after it meant anything at that point.  Who's to say I was even going to get to the finish line?  Heather sure thought she was.  It was all about that moment.  By the grace of God I was still able to finish the race.  Bonus!


Two, after meeting with Rob Jackson, the race director, the day before the race and learning about his inspiration for putting the race on, I saw a bigger picture.  That he wasn't a full-time race director but simply wanted to bring this event to Portland to give back to the community.  That he had marketed and managed logistics for the race, including clearing trails for us to ride and run on and for the community to enjoy post-race.  That he didn't have a huge crew and was struggling to find volunteers for the event the next day (which ended up coming in droves after all.  Thank you!!!)  All of this lent itself to me knowing, in that instant that I came upon Heather, that I had to react, to help, without hesitation.  It was impossible not to.  I knew there was not going to be someone else coming along to the rescue immediately.  I saw the big picture, or the birds-eye view, versus the worms-eye view as my Aussie roommate likes to say.  It's a beautiful thing.


I'm stoked Heather is doing great, recovering well.  I spoke to her yesterday and we're already talking about where we might race together next for a rematch!  I look forward to getting back to Portland for another race and seeing what other adventures are in store.


A big thanks to XTERRA for inspiring life, nature, adventures, and the best of the mind, body and spirit.



4,863 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: triathlon, endurance, racing, triathlete, xterra, off-road, jessi_stensland, stensland, multisports

Venturing Off-Road

Posted by Jessi Stensland Apr 2, 2010

I would  have considered myself an off-road virgin…until last year.  For 10 years  I’d been racing triathlon on the road with the odd trail running race  mixed in. It was about two years ago that I started to get curious about  off-road multisport, went to watch a race and then borrowed a mountain  bike and did the 2007 XTERRA World Championships in Maui.  Still, 2008  passed by, and it wasn’t until January 2009 that I got my own mountain  bike, hopped into an extreme trail running race, did a 12-hour MTB race  on a 4-person team, and finally did an awesome off-road sprint triathlon  in a pristine park just outside of the craziness of Los Angeles, CA,  that I was fully hooked, almost immediately to the point of no return  (to the road!) More importantly, I’ve been inspired to inspire others to  venture with me and enliven their typical multisport experiences.


I  raced off-road more than I trained off-road in the beginning.  I  quickly realized I had to seek out new people and places for these new  adventures and in doing so, I ended up finding a whole new world, and I  love that I have so many more years to enjoy it!


I  continue to be amazed by the endless options I now have to enjoy  training, racing and challenge myself as a person and an athlete.  In  July last year I raced an on-road sprint triathlon near the ocean in  Carlsbad, CA, the following weekend I was up in the mountains in Big  Bear, CA racing an off-road duathlon and after that I did Muddy Buddy  Boulder with family on our vacation! In August I did the King of the  Rockies mountain bike race in Winterpark, CO and the SkirtChaser 5k in  Denver the same evening.  And in September I did an 8 mile trail run  called, Race to the Top of Mt. Baldy, just outside of Los Angeles, CA,  all uphill, with 4000’ of climbing up to the summit at 10000’.  The  terrain and views were absolutely heavenly and super hard all that the  same time.  I had no idea what I was in for, and I loved it!  That was  followed up that same month by an off-road duathlon (run-MTB-run) in  Comfort, TX and an on-road sprint triathlon in Connecticut for charity.  I’m having a blast meeting all types of people who love to do what I do  and seeing new parts of this beautiful planet we live on.


One  key thing that made my transition to off-road so easy and allows me to  be so diverse in my activities, is my performance training.  Before  sport-specfic training like swim, bike, run, I focus on training my body  to be athletic, powerful, injury resistant and therefore capable of  doing whatever my mind asks it to do.  This gives me the confidence in  myself and my body to jump into new challenges with two feet and without  worry of injury.  My key workouts (3-4 times per week for 60-90  minutes) include a joint focus on all the elements the body needs to get  the job done.  These include mobility, flexibility, stability,  strength, elasticity and cardio capacity followed up with sport-specific  drills for proper mechanics and movement efficiency.  Doing these  workouts makes me a better swimmer, cyclist and runner.  So with the  rest of the time I have, I go out an have a blast in my training any  which way I want. It all works together.  A body that moves well, is  more capable of coordinating movements in new sports, like mountain  biking and trail running for example.  Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t  made learning mountain bike skills a piece of cake!  I’ve taken quite a  few spills, but my body has handled it well and my progress has been  fast and fun.  The best part is my training on the trails, which tends  to include much more climbing, has transferred greatly to my power ON  the road.  It’s a win-win situation.


Props to the race  organizers committed to putting on these off-road races.  They put a lot  of passion, sweat and time into putting them on and often don’t see the  numbers of participants that their on-road attract.  I’m on a mission  to help them flourish and continue to be able to offer them!


Stay  tuned for more experiences, both on and off-road this year, along with  more of what I’ve learned and continue to learn.  If you haven’t gone  off-road yet, hope you’ll join me!

3,889 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: triathlon, performance, multisport, off-road, jessi_stensland

For a while now I've been seeing asymmetries and imbalances in my own body and everyone elses as well, both on a macro and micro scale, almost to a point where I wish I could shut it off at times.  It has come with the body awareness I've been honing and training with since 2004.  The photos below show the change I've seen in my body as a result of my functional performance training I began in 2004.  Since then I have not had a single chronic injury and my times have dropped significantly.  Coincidence, I think not.  The photo on the left is from the 1999 ITU World Championships in Montreal, Canada.  I ran a 39:30 10K, won the silver medal in my age-group and was 5th amateur overall.  The photo on the right is from a triathlon in 2005.  I ran 37:00 for my 10K off the bike.




I've also been, from time to time, looking at elite running race photos and putting "bets" on who won the race based solely on the degree of asymmetry.  My guesses have been right 100% of the time.


Here is a photo from one of the most riveting and memorable race finishes from the sport of triathlon this year.  You may have seen it already.  Six of the best runners on the planet in the sport of triathlon vying for one of the world's largest prize purses in the sport this past June.


Can you guess who won the race below, if you don't already know?



It's been said before, I'll say it again.  Find cause and effect where others find coincidence.

Look closer.



6a00d8354d091969e201287640b836970c-500wi.jpg athlete running in the straightest line (linearly and laterally), Simon Whitfield of Canada, won.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Nor do I believe it is a coincidence that Kahlefeldt (AUS) was second. Gemmell (NZL) made a comment on the photo about that being the last time he loses by a bird's pecker (or some similar kiwi colloquialism.)  Kris - I'm curious to know what you're working on to close that gap...I know you can! is, of course, one thing to point out what is wrong and another thing to point out why its wrong and offer solid solutions to correct it.  Dr. Joe Torg has been considered a top authority on running injuries as the co-author of the book, The Running Athlete, the definitive radiographic analysis of every conceivable running injury.  He can tell you, with utmost precision what part of the body is injured.  He is also quoted as telling Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, who wanted to run longer than 2-3 miles at a time without pain that, "The body is not designed for that kind of abuse." [Excerpts from Born To Run by McDougall.]


Times are changing.  Be a part of it!!  Form and function are taking the spotlight.  Injuries are not something to cope with but to avoid with specific actionable steps.   There are elements to performance that many athletes have yet to take into consideration in their efforts, greatly minimizing their ability to tap into their true performance potential.


Whether for injury resistance or performance, the same principles apply. But you've gotta understand them and apply them day to day for yourself.  Eliminate the guess work and implement a strategic, time efficient, performance maximizing plan and you'll be able to replace unnecessary injuries and unnecessary pain with fun long lasting memories for a really long time.

MovementU was created for this purpose.


Move well!!


6,963 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, triathlon, endurance, racing, running_form, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, functional_training, multisports, performace

The other day I twittered this...

"Had client on treadmill @7mph for 1min.  Said it felt like 9 out of 10 difficulty.  End of 18min workout he's @10mph :15sec on :15sec off!  Possible!"

I thought it was worth a bit more explanation, especially after Jeff White inquired about the following on Facebook, "What adjustments do you attribute that kind of improvement?"

Here's the scoop.


Earlier today I had a one-on-one session with one of the participants from last weekend's MovementU here in Arizona.  I like to call these sessions performance consulting.  I enjoy them.  A lot.  They are tailored to the needs/wants of that individual person, and depending on the open-mindedness/curiosity/knowledge of the individual will also include some degree of learning "what you don't know you don't know." Today's was a two-hour interactive learn-by-doing kind of session in the gym.  It started off with someMovement Prep, then a rundown of key functional strength exercises includingdouble-leg front squats and single-leg balance squats, RDLs, rotational rowand anti-rotational chops and lifts along with some key TRX Suspension Training movements like the low back row and the single-leg chest press.


Then we headed for some Energy System Development (cardio) on the treadmill...and that's where it got really good.


The client:  40-year old male, tall, lean, athlete-back-in-the-day, new to running.


My plan for him was based on where I've started my own pre-season training in the past:


3 sets of 3 x [1min hard + 1min off] with an extra minute between sets.
Total of 9min of effort within a 20min period.  No sweat, right?


First I took him through a 7-8 min warm-up at about 5.5-6mph where I threw out one cue at a time to focus on and interspersed those with over-exaggeration drills (focus on one leg, then the other for example.) I also had him switch back and forth between his 'old' form and a stronger/taller 'new' form for about 15 seconds at a time.  He was more than warmed up by the end.


Then after a brief rest period we started the main set.  He did not know what speed he should start at so I took a stab at 7mph to start.  Here's how it went.


7mph for 1 min.  1 min off.

[Perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 was a 7-8 (somewhat hard to hard.)]


7mph for 1 min.  1 min off. 


[Perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 was a very out of breath, doubled over 9.]


Not a good sign for him making it thru another minute at that speed so I modified INCREASING the speed.  Yes, you read it right, BUT...I decreased the length of the interval and increased the recovery period.


7.5mph for 30sec.  1 min off.


7.5mph for 30sec.  1 min off.


End of first set.  1 min break.


Second set...


7mph for 1min + 1min off. 


Watching him it hit me.  It was so apparent...and I told him so:  "7.0mph. That is LAME." He looked at me funny through the sweat that was dripping off his forehead into his eyes.  I continued "and you'll realize it.  Soon."  Little did I know I was going to make him realize it in the next 10 min.  But I had an inkling, and it went like this:


I got on the treadmill next to him.  Him: a fit-looking, tall, healthy dude, only running at 9min mile pace or so and for only 1 minute feeling like it was a 9 on a scale of 10 of difficulty.  No doubt it was, but I wanted more work done, for that same effort.

I put my treadmill at 10mph (6min/mi.)  We started the next interval together.  Him at 7mph, me at 10mph.  Without trying (at least I wasn't trying) our cadence was exactly the same stride for stride.  I would've loved to see this on video from the side.  All I could do is look down at his treadmill and see the logo on his tread coming around a lot slower than mine, but still our strides were in sync.  The minute finished no problem.  I hadn't even broken a sweat (which I was kinda stoked about not knowing where my fitness is at the moment, but that's not important here...) He did the interval fine.


He had one more minute of work left in that set. I asked him if he wanted to do another minute at the same speed or go higher speed for the :30 intervals again.  He gave a thumbs up.  Speed.


The 3rd minute of the 2nd set went like this:

8.0mph for :30 + ONLY 30sec OFF.


[Getting back to a 1:1 ratio of work to rest. Good.]


8.0mph for :30 + 30sec off.


1 min break.


The third set is where it got fun.  At this point, he was working his butt off, and I loved it.  For him it was that beautiful love/hate relationship (more or less is what I think I got from him.)


He admitted during this little break two things:


1.  He wouldn't have put the treadmill over 6mph.

2.  He rarely broke a sweat when he was running.

At the moment he was sweating, red in the face, breathing harder after that one minute of rest than he would've been during his entire run the way he was used to doing it.  His heart was working like crazy.  Awesome!


Then came the 3rd set.


He himself adjusted the speed for the first 2 intervals.


It looked like this:


1min @ 8.5mph + 1min off


1min @ 9.0mph + 1min off


He was WORKED.  For all intents and purposes DONE.  He had one more minute of work left to do.  So what did I do?


Jacked the treadmill up to 10mph and decreased the interval time.  Kept the work to rest ratio the same though.  I wanted any little leg speed he had in him even if only for 15 sec.


He finished his last minute of work this way:


4 x [15sec @ 10mph + 15sec off]


!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Then I was satisfied. He was REALLY done. : )


Only 9 minutes of effort.  So much benefit. Pushing the cardio system to work over and above the anaerobic threshold causes an improvement, an increase in that anaerobic threshold.  The result?  He'll be able to do more work at the same effort next time OR do the same work (speed) will feel easier than it did the week before.  Leg speed got worked.  The core HAD to activate. He HAD to take control over it to keep his legs under him.  The harder I asked him to go, the harder he had to activate his core just to keep his legs under him.  Tightening things up.  Getting more out of his same effort.  Awesome.


So to answer Jeff's original question:


Was it mental?  Was it physical?  I'd say it was a little bit of both.  The mind is capable when given a purpose.  15 seconds is much easier to focus on and push through the effort than 1 minute.  If I ever think my mind or my body can't handle the interval, i'll shorten it and eek out my last bit of energy that way rather than slowing down to accommodate my mind/body.  I only gave subtle running form cues to the athlete during the workout.  Just by him having to try to keep his legs under him to achieve that speed, was causing him to run more biomechanically correct and efficient.  He wouldn't have been able to go that fast if he hadn't. So there's something to be said about working on mechanics, thinking through the process, but combining that with simply challenging the body to move the way it was born to just as important in the performance process.


Redefine your 100%.  You can change it.  Daily.   You've just gotta push your limits.  Be curious.  Go where you haven't gone before!


More to come.


Move well!

5,328 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, triathlon, endurance, performance, jessi_stensland, movementu

Introducing MovementU

Posted by Jessi Stensland Oct 31, 2009

Created to combat mediocre mechanics that more often than not lead to chronic injuries or at the very least prevent athletes from reaching their true performance potential, MovementU aims to enhance the understanding of the body and what it requires to perform injury-free, energy efficiently and powerfully in life and in sport.





I was inspired to create the aptly named MovementU after seeing a need in the world of human performance.

“Mediocre movement has become epidemic, and even worse, acceptable.  Not coincidentally so has poor health, sub-par performance standards and chronic pain and injury in life and in sport. It became obvious to me that the problem was not the availability of solutions or the motivation to achieve.  Instead, it was in the inability to choose and/or implement the proper and most efficient day to day solutions for optimal health and sports performance, due to a lack of a basic level of knowledge about the body and what it requires to, quite literally, run.


MovementU’s goal?  Motivation through education. The U stands for university and a U-turn back to basics of human form and function.


It is important for people to realize that their health and performance is in their own hands.  It’s not about spending more time, but about spending your time efficiently.  Take right now for example. Stand or sit just a little stronger and taller with better posture.  It takes no more time to do that than to slouch.  If you don’t relate your inability to maintain proper posture directly to your day-to-day health and sports performance outcomes including injuries and finishing times, you don’t know enough about the body.  It’s not rocket science, but it can be as powerful.  And once you get it, you get it for life.


MovementU provides a practical and interactive education-based resource consisting of a website and workshops focused on communicating to athletes and non-athletes alike the foundational principles about the body and what it requires to perform to its potential in health as well as training and racing.  MovementU is not a training program, methodology or system.   It aims to make simple scientific principles of biomechanics and physiology relevant, relatable and retainable.  As one participant put it, MovementU “gets to the point of the point.”


It’s first workshop:  Swim Bike Run: Movement Efficiency and Performance is being held across the US this fall in seven cities at top performance training centers such as Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, AZ.  It is a full day interactive hands-on experience that discusses the roles and relationships of performance elements such as mobility, stability and strength as well as how they are directly related to one’s ability to move efficiently and powerfully in the sports of swimming, cycling and running.  It is designed to benefit all levels of coaches, trainers and athletes, from beginners wanting to start off on the right foot to seasoned athletes looking to avoid injuries or get an extra edge in their performance.


“We all left in awe,” says Keith Cook of Solis Performance in New Jersey who had brought a group of his athletes to MovementU in New Jersey. “We were taught how to go back in time and re-think.  We were provided the tools to re-train our bodies to perform efficiently and injury-free.  It was eye-opening.”


Upcoming dates and locations:


November 7, 2009 - Lake Forest, CA

November 8, 2009 - Vista, CA

November 14, 2009 - Phoenix, AZ

December 5, 2009 - Dallas, TX

December 6, 2009 - Austin, TX


I attribute my knowledge, understanding and ability to communicate performance to a few things.  Certainly my BS in Exercise Science from George Washington University didn't hurt but moreso I attribute it to my own inherent drive and curiousity to continue to understand my own body and push my limits of performance.  This ultimately lead me to Core Performance creator Mark Verstegen in 2004.  Since then I have worked extensively with his team to eliminate my movement inefficiencies in order to stay injury-free and performing powerfully.  It has given me a whole new perspective on my performance potential and that is what I'm driven to empower others with through MovementU.


USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and the American Council on Exercise have approved the course for continuing education credits.  A number of additional courses with a variety of focuses will be available in 2010.


For more information and details on the upcoming workshops, please visit the website at or contact me directly at


Come join us and prepare to perform happily, healthfully and to your potential!!


3,204 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, performance, racing, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, functional_training, movement_prep, multisports
Just arrived in Kona, Hawaii with the team at!  We're here covering the 2009 Ironman World Championships all week long.  It's my seventh time being in Kona for the event, third time doing video, and it never gets old.  We're going behind the scenes once again to capture the color, culture and craziness that is Ironman Hawaii.  Fashion trends (compression socks), food habits (Lava Java), downtime (very little), parties (schmoozing and showing off stuff), outlandishly outfitted race bikes, Ironman tattoos and on and on.


You can find it all on the IRONBLOG!  Tune in daily to keep up with our crew...we're gonna be going non-stop!


Keep you posted.

4,537 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: video, running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, ironman, endurance, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, ironman_hawaii

What a flippin' blast!  It's called California Multisport.  Friends of mine have set out to bring some new endurance event adventures to endurance athletes in So Cal.  After experiencing it myself I can tell ya, I'm on a mission to recruit (and inspire!) ya'll to come out and join me...mix things up from time to time...both on and off the road...with these (and other) excellent endurance experiences.



This one in the series was up in the mountains at Big Bear Lake which is an outdoor adventure playground just under a two hour drive from Los Angeles and San Diego.  The race start was a relaxing 11am...which makes it easy to get to the race from LA or SD on the same day.  Many thanks to Paul and Karen of Team Sole and the heart and soul of California Multisport who have opened their home up to me with open arms anytime I want to come play (and train my butt off) up in Big Bear. 


Also check out Open Air Big Bear for additional events throughout the year including snowshoe 5k/10k, mountain biking, multisport, paddling and a marathon.




It was a 9k trail run / 20k mountain bike / 4k trail run.


Big Bear sits at 7000ft altitude.  It might sound daunting, coming from sea level, to do a race at that  altitude. Luckily I'd spent a weekend up there just a few weeks before with some killer training sessions and found that I couldn't really tell where the challenge was coming from: the altitude, the efforts on the climbs, etc. It was just one big great challenge and I didn't feel like I necessarily 'felt' the altitude.


After a relaxing morning with good nutrition, I got to the race start with more than enough time to enjoy the music, do some great movement prep and get ready to race.


I started the race thinking "keep it easy." I've learned the hard way that its extremely easy to go too hard too soon at the start of running races.  I needed it to feel as effortless as possible for as long as possible.  Pretty quickly I found myself passing by all but 2 men in front of me, and kept asking myself, "Are you really going easy or does it just SEEM easy since its still the first mile?"  There's a big difference.  I settled into a pace that I felt good about, running my own race, not worrying about who was ahead or behind.  However, pretty quickly we hit the climb and that was the end of easy.  It was a steady uphill that took about 30 minute to reach the top.  I was happy to see the top AND the gorgeous Pacific Coast Trail that we then got to run on to decend all the way down to the finish.  I thrive on combining footwork, agility and speed to maneuver as efficiently as possible on the trail.  My speed seemed to get the best of me at one point however (on wide, flat section of the trail??) and I quickly found myself diving toward the ground.  Slammed my right knee and hip, and must've rolled a bit too...seeing as how dirty I was coming into transition.  Oh well.  Go fast, take chances.  Got right back up and forgot about it in a couple steps and made my way back to transition.  57 minutes...a LONG 9km!


Once again my speedy transitions helped out.  I came into T1 in third place, 30 seconds down from 2nd pIace, and left transition in second place (albeit ever so briefly!) Love that!


The bike was pretty straight forward.  There were 2 long climbs over the 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I got into  a rhythm and did my best to relax every bit of my body that I didn't need to get me up the hill, including my neck, shoulders and face.  I tried to maintain my posture and keep the pedals turning over smoothly.  It seemed to get hard at the end to maintain...all I wanted to do was round my back over and curl into a ball...but I did my best!  A few times I had to remind myself that I'd just ran hard for an hour prior to this so it was ok to feel not quite as flash as I would have had I just jumped on the MTB fresh.  I also kept reminding myself that everyone else was probably feeling the same way...I wasn't out there alone!  I pretty much rode solo the entire way.  I kept wondering when the killer Big Bear local mountain bikers would come flying by me, but...apparently I'd put enough time on them in the run that I never got to see them.  In the

last few minutes decending back to transition, adventure racer extraordinaire Addy Goodvibes blew by me.  Thought I might be able to re-pass him in the run...but no chance! 


In T2, the volunteers and Karen herself were awesome.  I was kind of confused when they told me I had to keep my helmet on for the run...but I went with it, and quickly forgot it was on.  I was trying too hard to pick up my knees and put one foot in front of another.  I was pretty fried and it never really got any easier.  Hitting the finish line, as usual, was awesome.  Those last 20 meters or so, as I've mentioned before are always the best!  This time though...there was a twist!  Sometime between our start and finish, ropes had been placed on the finishline scaffolding.  Just when I thought I was done...


We had to jimmy up a knotted rope to the top of the scaffolding, climb over and make our way down a giant net to the official finish.  HOW MUCH FUN IS THAT??!!  I was thankful for my upper body and core strength which made the challenge more fun than anything.  It proved to be quite a feat for some people...yet in the end everyone agreed it was such an awesome accomplishment to top off an already epic day! 


NOTE:  See photos worth 1000 words HERE.


In the end I ended up 1st among the women and 4th overall.  Got to pop my first bottle of champagne on the podium!  I did alright if I do say so less than 25 people got soaked haha.  And they hooked me up with, among other very first altimiter watch.  The first altimiter that has been made to fit a women's wrist:  The Highgear Axio Mini.  Adventure racing here I come?!




As I mentioned, I hope you'll keep an eye out for these off-the-beaten path type races...and join us for the fun!


Wanna race??

3,500 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: triathlon, mountain_biking, duathlon, mtb, off-road, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, multisports

Here are three statements I've heard over the years, from all levels of athletes, that have made me cringe.  I've been thankful to have known differently and have always wanted others to know the same, whether they are looking to set a personal best, dealing with injury, or just believe they "can't run anymore."  There's a good chance I would not be running today, certainly to this level, let alone racing, if the following were true.


1. Injuries are inevitable and/or unavoidable and/or just a part of the sport.


2. If you want to run faster, run more and run faster.


3. Running is basically a technique-free sport.




1. Injuries are inevitable?


Change that to: Injuries are avoidable. By taking responsibility for your actions, your body and your movements and committing some of your training time to creating injury resistance within your body, you can avoid chronic injury 100% and minimize your chances of acute injuries as well with increased body awareness, coordination and quickness of movement.


2. If you want to run faster run faster?


If you want to run faster, more often than not you'll benefit most from learning how you can be more efficient with your efforts every stride. Less efficiency = more energy leaking. Running farther = even more energy leaking, more pounding on the body, and greater chance of injury. Running faster can force the body into somewhat better running mechanics naturally, however it is not the cure all for inefficiencies in your running and will only get you so much faster and who knows for how long.


3. Running is technique-free?


Running is highly technical. At least efficient, injury resistant and fun running! Much like swimming, running is heavily driven by body position, mechanics, technique and efficient power production along the ground. Just as simply moving your arms and your legs around in the water does not constitute swimming (as it pertains to the sport,) the same goes for running. Understanding even the most basic running mechanics and being deliberate with movements during running is key to more efficient, injury resistant and, i'll say it again, FUN, running.


Think about it...then spread the word! : )

3,993 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, performance, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland

The Carlsbad Triathlon is a 1K / 25K / 5K.


Turns out my race was all about the bike......and the transitions.  I was stoked to finally see that those hard core efforts on the mountain bike actually do translate to the road!  As usual I had no expectations going into the race.  I just planned on giving it my all and seeing how my fitness level was faring in racing.  I was surprised.  I love surprises!


The quick version is this:


My swim and run were solid.  I could tell my fitness level is at a place it hasn’t been in a long time.  My bike felt insanely strong in many ways (read on for more.)  My transitions were super clean and therefore fast (free speed!)  I came off the bike in first place (more like tied for first place) and ended up finishing second to Kate Major…one cool chick and my great friend.


The longer (more fun) version is this:


I love this race!  Come to think of it, it was the first race I ever raced in the ‘Pro’ division. That was back in 1999.  I would race it every year and even won it the last time I raced it back in 2005.  It was great to be back.  It’s a beautiful course with an ocean swim and both the ride and run along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Familiar faces both on the course and on the sidelines cheering always make a local race a mustdo.


*New chill pre-race routine.*


The race started at 8am.  Typically I would plan to arrive 90 minutes prior to the race, giving me a good 60 minutes to prepare transition, warm-up and get down to the start.  This day I had a different plan.  I got to transition at 6:00 a.m., two hours before the start, so I could grab a great spot in transition while it was still quiet, drop my gear to save my spot, and still have plenty of time to pedal my bike up the coast about a mile or so to Starbucks, grab a double espresso and relax for a bit.  Ran into a friend of mine who happened to be there (who was surprised to see me there!) who’s husband was doing the race.  She pointed out the fact that I seemed so relaxed…and I was…there IS such a thing as the able-to-chill-triathlete!  Thank goodness I’ve found out how.  I love it.  After that I hit the bathroom, said a quick good-bye, then headed back toward transition.  Along the way I found a quiet spot to do my movement preparation for about 20 minutes.  I got back to transition by 7:25am, 30+ minutes before the start with more than enough time to take my pre-race nutrition, dial in my transition area, chat it up a bit with some friends, put my wetsuit on, and head down to the water for a quick swim before the start.  Caught a GREAT wave in to shore from my warm-up and was hoping I would be as lucky in the race.




It was my favorite kind of start:  a long run in the sand to the ocean.   It spreads the field out a bit so if you’re good at it and get ahead on the run into the water, then dolphin strong through the surf, you’ll have a nice clear view of the buoy ahead, instead of having to maneuver in and around lots of arms, legs or feet!  I felt great from the gun and had a quick start.  There were a lot of athletes in that first wave, including not only the pros, but relays, 30-34 age-group men and firefighters.  Because of that, things got a bit messy around the first buoy but then spread out once we hit the open water and swam parallel to shore for most of the 1km.  I felt better and better as the swim went on.  Usually a sign that I could’ve used more of a warm-up.  Next time I’ll remember.


I wasn’t lucky enough to catch a wave into the finish.  No problem.  There was a long run from the ocean, up the beach, and up and back through transition.  I had a super quick transition.  This is what goes through my mind:


“Pull wetsuit down to ankles. Sunglasses on.  Helmet on.  Wetsuit off one foot.  Wetsuit off the other foot. Grab bike and go.”


Kate and I left transition together…I’d made up good time but had no time to think about it.   There was a short steep climb directly out of transition and I was hoping that my decision to keep my shoes on my pedals wasn’t going to prove to be more challenging than I thought.  It ended up being the right decision.  I had no problem getting up the hill with my feet on top of my shoes.  Once we were out on the open road, slightly decending, I got my feet into the shoes without losing any ground to the other athletes.  Then started pedaling my heart out!




Out on the bike I immediately felt good.  This was confirmed by the fact that those in front of me weren’t getting any further ahead.  Hmmmm I thought.  Interesting.  I kept that effort going.  It felt like it was as hard as I could go in the TT position and still felt greawt.  As we hit the small hills, I only felt stronger.  It was at that point that I knew that my mountain biking efforts were paying off on the road.  It makes all the sense in the world, but I had yet to see or feel it directly.  In mountain biking, there are times I’ve been climbing straight up for 30-40 minutes powering through the pedals at a high threshold just to get the bike up the hill.  Certainly a small roller on the coast highway was going to be a piece of cake!  I also noticed that I was keeping my cadence really high naturally.  It felt super smooth to keep the pedals turning over probably 90-100 rpms.  My TT position felt great.  I like to say that because of my body awareness, functional performance training, and movement efficiency, my body is TT-position ready all the time.  I don’t have to train in that position to be  comfortable in it, because I have the mobility through my hips, spine and shoulders, and the power, as always, through my glutes.  That all added up to an amazing feeling out there that day.  A few of us, including Kate and I rode pretty steadily together the whole 25km swapping places here and there.  Once again, if anything, I only felt stronger by the end.  I was aware that I was able to sustain a really high effort, the kind where you know you feel like you’re actually racing and not just covering the distance from point A to point B.  In the back of my mind I was curious to know how I was going to feel on the run, and even thought for a second whether I should back off a bit, but I remembered that I had told the ActiveX Triathlon Training group just yesterday, “Don’t hold back on the bike!” so I took it to heart for myself.  At this point I knew the bike would be my strength that day since I haven’t been running as much as riding.  I decided it was best to go as hard as I could and just see what happened.  We all came off the bike side by side…




In my mind T2 goes like this:


“Helmet off. Shoe. Shoe. Grab visor/racebelt. Run.”


I had another lightning fast transition and headed out onto the run in first place.  I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel ‘flash’ (as I like to say.)   I knew I would get to the finish line as fast as I could that day by focusing on my running form, in order to cover the distance as efficiently and evenly paced as possible.  It was more about getting from point A to B than actually racing it in this case.  THAT I knew immediately was something I wanted to commit to working on as soon as the race was over.  Intervals and more running drills, here I come!


It was great to see that my fitness level is at a place it hasn’t been in years and that my hard core (long and painful) efforts on the mountain bike (that, as you know, I’m loving) really are translating to both my overall fitness and my power through the pedals on the road bike, even in the TT position.   I love the saying


“Do what you love.  Love what you do.”


It really has paid off for me so far…so I’ll keep at it!


And I’ll say it to you too:


Do what you love and love what you do!

3,214 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: triathlon, racing, triathlete, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland

4th of July Adventures

Posted by Jessi Stensland Jul 8, 2009

I love doing new things and this weekend was full of them!  I knew I'd be in for an epic weekend with the gang I was hanging with.  It didn't disappoint.  AND I'm happy to say I'm all in one piece as I sit here on Sunday evening looking back on the weekend. 


Learned a lot. Worked out a lot.  Ate a lot.   Survived the challenge. Loved every minute.


Here's how it went.


Headed up to Big Bear, a great little mountain town that's just a 2+ hr drive from San Diego.  I joined a couple people from Intense Cycles and the three of us, along with off-road racer Slater Fletcher and his wife Monique, stayed with none other than uber adventure racer, Big Bear local and super host, Team Sole's Paul Romero.  All of us were looking forward to a weekend full of everything and anything outdoor adventure. Have to mention that Paul's other half, super Karen Lundgren, is off in Sweden competing in the epic 1100km adventure race, Explore Sweden.  Her team, Team Sole Herkules, is currently 3 days into the race and have slept only  8 hours.  Part of the course so far has included a 300km MTB.  Unreal.  Then there's Paul's son, 12-year old Jordan Romero, who is on a quest to climb the Seven Summits of the world, the tallest mountain on each continent. He's climbed FIVE so far.  Coolest kid.




We went straight to Snow Summit Ski Resort.  Paid $20 to take ski lift up and ride the trails down over and over for a few hours.  Less work, more play!  Mom was happy to know that I used a full-face helmet and knee and elbow pads.  I was in a little over my head at times, but never I'm-gonna-die type stuff.  I was on a new bike: Intense had brought me a demo bike to use that was more suited for downhill...heavier and more inches of travel (bigger shocks.)  As usual, I got more and more comfortable as the day went on.  Sweet part of the day was the cafe at the top of the mountain where we all stopped to eat. Delectable tri-tip and pulled pork sandwiches in the sunshine. Heavenly. I made it through the day with only a couple cuts and scrapes which I was thankful for.  In the end I was thinking that I DID miss the climbing.  That somehow downhills are a lot sweeter to me if I've worked HARD to earn them. Good feeling.


After that we chilled a bit then Paul's core workout coach came over and put us thru a killer 45 min session.  The kind that you love to hate...


Night finished with BBQ under the stars and late dinner at the Himalayan.  Awesome Indian and Nepalese food in downtown Big Bear. They know Paul well, and treated us like part of the family. Special.




Saturday started with a paddle on the lake, and go figure, it didn't end up as a cruisey paddle, but a full on race paddle lesson.  Thanks to my functional training and body awareness, I took to the pointers fast.  Which just meant when he cued me to do something I could do it.  Being smooth at it came a bit later in the lesson.  When you do it right, using your core and hips/glutes, not your arms, its effortless. I couldn't hold onto that form for long, but I knew with more practice I'd be able to.


The rest of the weekend was all MTB. It was a ton of climbing and fun, fast descents. My climbing position, according to the crew is great. I feel super powerful climbing. Downhill with speed is another story. Again, I was treated to many, many tips to help me get more natural going downhill, like getting lower over the front of the handle bars to lower my center of gravity...among other things. Not easy, but I'll be working on it. Here are a few shots. Awesome awesome awesome.

It was a weekend I'll never forget.


Next up is the Carlsbad Triathlon, one of San Diego's gems.  I'm hoping that all this riding will transfer over to the road!!  This week I'll be back in San Diego gearing up for that...and watching the Tour, of course. GO GARMIN!!! Good stuff.

2,462 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, jessi_stensland, paddling

Performance POV // Four Fundamental Movements


Here are four movements that I consider fundamental to injury resistance and performance that I have recently witnessed athletes unable to do.  Can you?


1.    Back bend

2.    Single leg balance[Single leg balance|]

3.    Squat jump

4.    90/90 stretch




I ran with a local running group not too long ago.  After the run I was taking them through some functional stretching.  One thing I’ve come to like to throw into my routine, which I’ve borrowed from the sun salutation in Ashtanga Yoga, is the back bend.  The sun salutation starts standing and the first movement is to put your arms straight overhead and reach backward, creating a fluid bend in your back, your whole back that is: upper (cervical), middle (thoracic) and/or lower (lumbar). 


Watching the runners attempt a backbend was painful to watch.  The majority of them, were standing, with hands on their hips, and their back bend was barely anything more than a simple tilt back of the head at the neck though it looked like they were really trying, and possibly even feeling, like they were doing a back bend.


Ideally the vertebrae will all be moving freely and you can achieve a fluid curve from your hips through to your head. It’s common to have decreased mobility through a certain section of the spine, especially if not actively practiced.  That said, it is also easy to maintain a healthy, mobile spine, by regularly doing some back flexion and extension while on the floor on your hands and knees, similar to a cat stretch, for example. In yoga, the cobra and downward dog, among others, are great options as well.


Can you do a proper back bend?







One day a friend of mine, 2:13 marathoner, finally gave in to my continuous chatter about “core stuff” as he called it, and let me take him through a couple basic principles and movements.  We didn’t get far.


I asked him to balance on one leg:  standing with one foot on the floor and the other raised at the hip with the knee bent at 90 degrees and ankles dorsiflexed (pulled up) as in running. 


He couldn’t.  He tried and tried.


Finally he gave up and said, “What does it matter?  I can run a 2:20 marathon out the door, right now.”


Simple answer.  Number one:  You have no guarantee that you’ll stay injury free to even get to the start line or finish the race.  That’s no fun!  Balance, stability, and all the rest are a big part of an injury resistant body.  It’s completely possible to achieve that for yourself.  The bonus is, the training that helps with injury resistance is the same training that makes you more efficient and therefore more powerful as an athlete.  They go hand in hand.  So answer number two is:  You could be running 2:20 with less effort OR running faster with the same effort. 


Win-win-win situation!


Can you?  Not only balance, but keep an eye on your posture and alignment of your

shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.  Are they symmetrical? Tilted?



As importantly, the next step necessary for efficient performance, would be doing a proper one-leg balance squat.  One that is functional, in control, and with your body weight properly dispersed from your head to your toes.


Finally, mastering efficient and stable one leg elastic exercises, like the single-leg linear box hop is key to overall injury resistance and performance, especially in ground-reaction type sports like running. 




The other day my cousin, just prior to shipping out to start his Air Force Special Tactics Officer training for the next two years, took me through my very first full kettle bell workout.   He was a great instructor.  He taught me the moves and the principles behind them.  It was a great workout.  Just after we finished, I was thinking about how, if I was to think about this workout from a Performance POV it was obvious that the major thing that was missing to make this a complete workout was some elasticity.  We had incorporated some flexibility, mobility, strength, stability and even some cardio, but nothing elastic. I mentioned this to him and he was game for doing some.  Squat jumps[Squat jumps|] are a great way to get a quick set of elastic movement into a workout and keep that system fired up for you. 


My cousin is incredibly strong, smart and athletic.  We had just done upwards of 100 kettle bell two-arm swings and yet he could not coordinate a squat jump.  I was surprised, but not really.  Nothing surprises me anymore!  The movement, although seemingly simple, requires triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles.  When done properly, the power and coordination comes primarily from the hips and glutes not from the legs.  It should be initiated through the hips and followed through by coordinating the extension of the knees and ankles to do the movement properly with the least amount of effort and the most power.  Typically people think of their legs when they go to perform a movement like this, however it’s much harder and less powerful trying to control the entire body with the legs than it is the legs with the body. 




This came up because I had overheard a triathlete asking a local triathlon coach about how to rotate better in the water while swimming.  After she got some advice on drills to do in the water, I asked her to come over and do a 90/90 stretch which is a great way to see how much rotation you have in the spine under a bit of a load (similar to rotating from the hips and then pulling in the water.)  She had none.  No kidding.  Yes, the spine could rotate, so she had mobility, but when asked to maintain some pressure at her knees and shoulders, there was zero rotational stability and strength. 


Remember it’s the body that is doing the sport.  Proper technique can only be achieved with a body that’s capable of performing the proper technique and this, more often than not can and should be achieved on land regardless of sport.  You may feel what you think is rotation, but rotating your whole body from side to side is not what you’re looking for.  Rotating through the spine will help you swim more efficiently.





Go move well!!




7,525 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: endurance, jessi_stensland, functional_training
1 2 Previous Next