MELSAYS PODCAST – EP. 10 – Kelsey Serwa

Thrilled to have already reached the 10th podcast mark!

My guest for this 10th episode is Kelsey Serwa. She is a Canadian freestyle skier that just recently won, a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics, in ski cross. This is the British Columbia native’s 3rd Olympic games and 2nd Olympic medal, she had won silver at the 2014 Sochi games. I got to speak to her a couple of weeks ago, just a few hours after landing in Vancouver, post-Olympics. So without further a due, here’s Kelsey Serwa.

The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.

MELSAYS PODCAST – EP. 5 – Keltie Hansen

The fifth MELSAYS PODCAST episode is now live!

My guest for this episode is Keltie Hansen. She is a Canadian freestyle skier who made her Olympic debut at Sochi in 2014, where ski halfpipe was introduced for the very first time. She placed 13th at her first games. The Edmonton native now resides in Squamish, British Columbia and welcomed me into her home for a little chat. She is fresh off a weekend of competing at the Mammoth Grand Prix in California. I hope you’ll enjoy our chat!

The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.

Shout out to Columbia for their help setting this up!

5 Questions With: Rosie MacLennan

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Photo: The Canadian Press

It was with great enthusiasm that I followed the Rio Summer Olympics a few months ago. Team Canada did such an exceptional job not only representing the country but also showing their talents to the rest of the world. It was such a proud moment to see young Canadian athletes top the podium in so many different disciplines. Seeing Rosie MacLennan top the podium in trampoline for the second time in a row, was incredibly inspiring to watch. I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions at the Toronto Biosteel Women’s Training Day a few weeks back. Hope you’ll enjoy my 5 Questions With: Rosie MacLennan.

1) What drew you to the sport of trampoline?

When I was a kid, I tried a ton of different sports. My parents wanted to make sure we were really active. Then when my older siblings switched from gymnastics to trampoline I tagged along. It was their favorite part of gymnastics and I got hooked pretty quickly.

2) What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome thus far in your career and how were you able to overcome it?

My biggest challenge would have probably been the concussion I got last summer and the uncertainty that came with it. It’s not like a broken bone that takes 6 weeks and then you’re back. So it actually drew out until about 3 weeks before the World Championships and I didn’t know if I would be able to compete at Worlds and that’s our Olympic qualification. So just with that anxiety and then even going back and having issues with spatial awareness and just trying to figure all of that out, was probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced before. 

I had a really great support system in my family, my boyfriend and my friends. I also had a really great team of people surrounding me health-wise so they were making sure that I was exploring every possible thing to help. But I think just that dream and that drive because I love the sport, I think it also allowed me to reconnect with that love of sport because at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was to get back on that trampoline and jump, regardless of what that meant for the Olympics. 

3) You are the first woman ever to win back to back gold medals in trampoline at the Olympic games and the first Canadian ever to defend their olympic title in an individual sport a the summer Olympics, what do these achievements mean to you? What goals do you want to achieve next?

It means the world and to me. It really represents the journey and everyone that has helped me get there. It really was a process and I think my favorite part of the whole experience was the day before the competition, just being in that room with the 16 other girls and training under the Olympic rings. That moment was so special. As for now, I just started training again so I will definitely go for another season but I don’t know beyond that. There are some rule changes that I want to explore and what that means but I want to get back into it.

4) What’s your favorite place to travel to and why?

I love competing in Switzerland, partly because I’ve done well there and partly because it’s a beautiful country. We compete in the mountains so it’s really hard to wake up in a bad mood when you wake up with such an incredible view. The other thing is that with the altitude we actually jump higher because there’s less air resistance so I like that.

5) I know you work with a lot with a lot of children and always want to inspire the next generation. What kind of message do you want to share with them?

I think it’s important because I want to empower them to explore different opportunities and explore something they’re really passionate about and connect them to something in sport and health specifically because it’s a journey. I’m really passionate about health and activity and if you can inspire that in kids at a young age, then you can hopefully inspire a healthy active lifestyle. 

For more information on Biosteel, go here.

5 Questions With: Larisa Yurkiw

Team Larisa

From Canadian World Cup alpine ski racer to motivator and public speaker, Larisa Yurkiw is a force to be reckoned with. The 28-year-old athlete from Ontario has accomplished a lot in her lifetime already, from partaking in the 2014 Sochi Olympics to also being on four World Cup podiums. She recently announced her retirement from professional skiing after her most successful year of competition. I had the chance to chat with her about her career thus far and also what’s next for her.

1) What first got you interested in downhill skiing and when did you realize that this was something you could pursue more seriously?

I have two older brothers I chased around the ski hill from a young age.  The norm gets thrown out the window  so I was fairly fearless.  I did my first race was I was 4 and the passion grew with the intensity.
 

2) 2016 has been a great competing year for you but you recently announced your retirement after 10 years in the competitive circuit. Why was this the right time for you to hang up your skis?

Health has the final say.  I had my 5th knee surgery in May and I felt it was a decision between racing 20 more international races or skiing with my kids one day.  I was becoming more successful and finished my career ranked 3rd in the world so I no longer had unfinished business.  It was that hunger that drove me for so long so I knew it was time to find the same drive in a different direction.

3) How has the transition from athlete to being an entrepreneur been going? What are some of your career goals moving forward?

I love this new life.  I have found a career that gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush still, motivational speaking, and I continue to find challenges for myself.  I took time off initially but realized quickly that I’m meant to have both a structure and a serious set of goals.
 

4) Can you talk to us about Team Larisa and if you will be continuing to pursue this in the future?

Team Larisa was the name of my team.  I was skiing for Canada independently but, by the end, the Team was made up of thousands of Canadians and Europeans, both skiers and non-skiers.  I will continue to promote bravery and share the power of vulnerability and resilience with the story of Team Larisa wherever I can.  It became so much more than ski racing for me so if I can use it as a vehicle to help young and old alike to just get a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable, then Team Larisa has successfully lived on.
 
5) What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and how has it helped you as an athlete and in life today? 

Advice came from so many but most consistently, to keep on keeping on.  The setbacks were the most consistent event throughout my journey so learning to fight on and get creative with my resilience allowed me to ultimately be world class in my sport.  Without a constant fight and high self-belief, the very first obstacle would’ve bounced me in a completely different direction.  “They tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Mexican Proverb.

5 Questions With: Brianne Theisen-Eaton

Brianne Theisen-Eaton (2)Prior to hearing about Brianne Theisen-Eaton‘s story I had never heard of a heptathlete before. A heptathlon is a track and field combined events contest made up of seven events. The events are as follows: Day 1 (in order): 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m. Day 2: the long jump, javelin and 800m. Brianne is a Canadian heptathlete who will be competing at this summer’s Rio 2016 Olympics. She also competed at the London 2012 Olympics, won a silver medal at the 2013 & 2015 World Championships and was the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in 2014, just to name a few of her many inspiring achievements. For this summer’s games, she partnered up with Crest Canada as one of their ambassadors for their new 3D White line so that she can #SmileThrough this summer’s Olympics. She took a few minutes out of her insanely busy pre-Olympic schedule to answer a few questions about her journey thus far.

1) What first got you interested in track and field? Do you remember when you decided to become a heptathlete?

I liked all sports to tried track for the first time and fell in love with it. I decided to try the heptathlon the summer between grade 9 and 10.

2) What does your weekly training regimen as a heptathlete consist of?

During the week we train our hardest on Monday, Wednesday and Friday which covers technical events and running. Then on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we make things a bit easier by preparing for the throwing events and lifting. I finally get to take a break on Sundays, which are my only days off.

3) How has working with brands like Crest helped with your training and career thus far?

I use Crest everyday. I drink a ton of coffee and my guilty pleasure is candy, so it fits perfectly into my life, keeping my teeth white and healthy. Crest has helped to boost my confidence when I’m competing. I am happy to have Crest as part of the story and journey as an athlete.

4) What are some of your favourite places that you’ve had the opportunity to travel to and why?

I love Austria. Food is great and the fans are awesome. A couple of my favourite vacation places are Rome and Dubai.

5) What are your goals for this summer’s Olympics in Rio?

Go out there and do the best I can in every event.

For more information about Brianne and her campaign with Crest Canada, go here.

5 Questions With: Sarah Wells

G_20160318_Winners_Shot03_SWEAT_0493_R1_CMYK LargeSarah Wells is a Canadian Olympic hurdler from Toronto who will be representing the country at this summer’s Olympic games in Brazil. Sarah is an inspiring young athlete who hasn’t let injury or obstacles deter her from realizing her dreams. After a stress fracture in 2011, she tattooed the word “Believe” on her wrist as a reminder that she could still achieve her goal of becoming an Olympian. Low and behold, with much determination and perseverance she made her Olympic debut in London in 2012. Last year, she also took home the silver and bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

This tattoo has inspired a collection that she will be launching in collaboration with WINNERS on June 1st. Her strong self-belief should be an inspiration to all of us. I hope you’ll enjoy the interview below.

1) What first got you interested in hurdles? When did you know that this would be something you wanted to pursue?

I was fortunate to have a high school teacher suggest I try hurdles. Under his coaching and guidance I fell in love with hurdles and hoped to become world-class one day. I really enjoyed the small sense of accomplishment of getting over the hurdles all the way to the finish line—kind of like life.

2) What does your weekly training routine look like? What are some of your favorite workouts to do while training?

My training day consists of 5 hours of training: A warm-up, reaction time drills, hurdle drills, interval training, circuit work, explosive medicine ball tosses, weight training, and stretching. My favourite would have to be the painful interval training because once you’re finished you know you’ve bettered yourself.

3) You took part in the 2012 London Olympics, what did that experience teach you as an athlete?

One thing learned for certain is that Olympic athletes aren’t superheroes. Like me, many have gone through challenges; I saw great success but heartbreak, too. I learned that facing and overcoming obstacles happens to everyone.

4) In addition to being an athlete you are also a motivational speaker. Why is it important for you to promote sports in youth?

I love public speaking to younger people because for me, I saw sport as a vehicle for so many opportunities and I want to encourage the younger generation to pursue physical activity as a way to find self-confidence, a sense of self, see the world, and learn important life lessons.

5) You will be participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to bettering myself. The last Olympics I finished as a semi-finalist. This time I hope to make the Olympic final and put myself in the position to run for a medal.

Check out Sarah Wells’ new athletic wear collection in collaboration with WINNERS in stores next week!

FANFIT

fullsizeFANFIT, Canada’s Olympic Fitness Challenge will be taking place in Toronto for the first time on Saturday April 30th at the University of Toronto’s Gold Ring Centre. This multi-station fitness challenge is open to everyone and will allow every participant to not only compete against peers but also against some of the country’s top athletes.

FANFIT not only connects participants to Canada’s top-level athletes but also helps Canadian Olympians get the financial support they need to train more effectively in preview of competitions. The Canadian Olympic Foundation is the official charitable benefactor of this challenge, 30% of the registration price from each participant is donated to the charity. The Canadian Olympic Foundation’s goal is to support not only current but also future Olympians in Canada. The foundation provides support, profile and financial backing for athletes.

I’m excited to have the chance to take part in this amazing fitness challenge. FANFIT originated in Halifax three years ago and is now coming to Toronto next month for the very first time. Having been a fan of the Olympics ever since I was a kid, this will give me the opportunity to compete against some of the athletes I most look up to.

The challenge is broken into 5 stations that will test strength and endurance. The stations are: the rowing machine, the shuttle run (20 metre beep test), the agility test (pro agility combine), the vertical jump and the plank.

FullSizeRender (99)fullsize2 2The 5 minute plank progression station will be a hard one. 1st minute – feet wide, 2nd minute – feet shoulder width, 3rd minute – feet together, 4th & 5th minutes – alternating 10 second foot raises.

It’s pretty neat to think that potentially, I will be going toe to toe and participating in these stations at the same time as top Canadian athletes. This will be a huge motivator for me and will definitely push me to give it my best effort. Though I have been training hard this past year and a half to really increase my fitness level, I’m sure this experience will also be very humbling.

FullSizeRender (97)FullSizeRender (100)FullSizeRender (98)FullSizeRender (96)FullSizeRender (95)I remember doing the beep test in high school and I never excelled in it. I’m hoping my recent speed run training will help!

There is an impressive roster of Olympic athletes who have already signed up to be a part of FANFIT in Toronto and two of these athletes are gymnast Katrina Cameron, who participated in the 2012 London Olympics and half-pipe snowboarder Katie Tsuyuki, who represented Canada at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Katie GPWhy did you want to participate in FANFIT?

Katie: I want to participate in the FANFIT challenge because it’s a great cause. Raising money for the Canadian Olympic Foundation is needed and appreciated by all who have Olympic dreams. I don’t make enough money as an athlete to donate dollars, so I am happy to donate my time to support the foundation. I am also interested in the people it will draw out. I bet a lot of people are shy to go up against Olympians. I imagine there are a bunch of cross fitters who aren’t. It will be an interesting day. 

Katrina: Being fit has always been such a fundamental and important part of my lifestyle and I want to encourage and motivate others to be fit as well. I’ve always excelled in my sport and am very good at what I do, but I thought it would be fun to get out of my comfort zone and try to do other activities that I’m not used to doing (ex. Rowing, or running…these are three of the stations that I will be partaking in during FANFIT). For me FANFIT won’t be about winning or being the best, rather it will be about getting active, pushing myself, and having fun doing it!

What do you think will be your toughest station to accomplish?

Katie: I think the toughest station is a toss up between the row and the shuttle run. Considering a halfpipe run is over in a minute, I don’t train for much over that time of work. Running shuttles takes a while and the row, although it’s only 2 minutes, feels like forever. I am positive I will accomplish them, but I doubt I will enjoy much of it.  

Katrina: I think for me I will struggle with both the 1000m row and the vertical jump test. I’ve never done rowing before so I will definitely struggle with that! I’ve always been extremely flexible and have relied on my flexibility to help me excel in my sport, but the vertical jump station requires a lot of strength and a big burst of it within seconds so that might be difficult.

11745737_10153596631417384_7880059036777986310_nWhat are you most looking forward to at the event?

Katie: I am most looking forward to meeting the people and hearing their stories, this is always a highlight for me. From Olympians, to aspiring athletes, to the people who train for life, there are lots of reasons why we are interested in sport. It’s the common denominator between us all so there is much to talk about and learn from each other at the event.   

Katrina: I’m looking forward to meeting new people. I’m an extrovert and love socializing and making friends, so I’ll definitely have a fun time at an event like FANFIT! I’m also looking forward to watching the athletic and active individuals that will be partaking in this event because they’ll be pushing their limits and I find that to be very inspiring and motivating.

12189532_1708264526058323_5178864574500814116_nIf you’re interested in seeing how you measure up against Canada’s top-level athletes or if you just want to come out and have a great time amongst family, friends and meet amazing people, make sure you sign up for this year’s FANFIT challenge on April 30th at the Gold Ring Centre in Toronto. Get $10 off your registration when you sign up using the following promo code: FANFIT10.

Until then… I will keep working on my plank!

What I’m wearing: Adidas Pure Boost X Women’s Running Shoes (get them here), Industry Active black floral bra (get it here), Industry Active black floral performance legging (get it here), Garmin Fenix 3 watch (get it here).

Photos by: @Offner

5 Questions With: Spencer O’Brien

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Photo credit:  Peter Maxwell Morning

As a kid, I always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games. How special must it be to represent your country and compete against the top athletes in the world? Spencer O’Brien made her Olympic debut last year in Sochi, Russia where she represented Canada in the slopestyle discipline and placed 12th overall. Watching her compete at both the Olympics and also the Winter X Games, I’ve always been impressed by her calm and laid back attitude. She always seemed like such a positive and cool competitor. Last weekend, I had the privilege of meeting and working out with Spencer during the Nike Women 15k race weekend in Toronto. I must say, she is just as amazing in person! Spencer will be heading to the Southern Hemisphere to resume training later this summer. Her next goal: learning a 1080, 3 full rotations! Couldn’t be more stoked that she took a few minutes to chat with me last weekend. Hope you’ll enjoy my 5 Questions With Spencer O’Brien:

1) What first got you into snowboarding?

I’m from Vancouver Island originally so we grew up in a town that’s close to Mount Washington, which is the only resort on the island. We just started skiing as a family, so it was something to do with my family on the weekends. I eventually had the choice to continue skiing or start snowboarding, so I followed in my sister’s footsteps and took up snowboarding. 

2) How much have you seen the sport evolve and grow since you started snowboarding? How much has the sport changed for women?

It’s been so incredible. There’s been so much evolution in women in sports in general in the last ten or fifteen years but to have been in such a young sport like snowboarding with such different dynamics than a traditional sport, it’s been incredible to see that progression. It’s an entirely different world from when I started and to see the women coming up now who are just pushing it so hard, it’s really incredible. It keeps me so interested in my sport because there’s always something new to try or something new to progress towards. I know wherever I take the sport, it’s going to get taken so much further by the women after me. That’s a really exciting thing.

3) There are so many incredible Canadian female snowboarders and skiers competing in slopestyle and halfpipe, how does that push you as an athlete?

It’s so cool, especially in these action sports where there aren’t as many women participating yet, you really find liaisons in other sports. So I’m really close to a lot of the female skiers and I find so much inspiration in what they’re doing. They’re maybe not doing the exact same sport as me but their goals are the same. They want to progress the sport and want to take it as far as they can. It’s definitely nice being a Canadian athlete and having so many women to look up to. 

4) You went to your first Olympics in Sochi last year. You’re currently training to hopefully head back to the Olympics in South Korea in 2018. What do you want to do differently this time around?

The Sochi games were definitely trying for me, it didn’t go my way. It was such a unique experience. You do so much prep for it, trying to prepare for your first games but there’s really nothing like it. I learned so much from that experience and I feel a lot stronger for it. I’m really looking forward to just relaxing a little bit more in Korea and making it my own. I think just not looking to everyone else’s expectations as much and just doing it on my own terms. I’m really excited at a second shot at the games so hopefully I’m going to be representing Canada there. 

5) Through snowboarding, you’ve had the chance to travel the world, what are some of the most memorable places you’ve visited thus far?

Japan was incredible, I loved snowboarding in Japan. The people and the culture there are so wonderful. I’m a really big fan of Europe. The Swiss Alps are some of my favorite places to ride. But also at home in Canada, I love Whistler. I’m such a BC girl, it’s always closest to my heart. 

 

5 Questions With: Sheila Reid

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of getting trained at NTC by Canadian Olympian Sheila Reid. Sheila is a track and field athlete and a professional runner that participated in the 2012 London Olympics. She is currently training for next year’s Olympics in Rio and also this year’s Pan Am Games in Toronto. She was in town for the announcement of Nike Women‘s upcoming 15k race happening in Toronto on June 14th (In case you didn’t already know, those interested in participating in the race will be able to sign up on March 9th!). Training with Sheila was incredibly inspiring to say the least. Getting to spend time and talking with an athlete of that level was very enriching. I’m looking forward to following her next running achievements. Hope you’ll get inspired by this week’s 5 Questions with Sheila Reid:

1) What first got you interested in running? Do you remember your first race and how it went?

The first race I can remember was in grade 4- that was the first year we were allowed to participate in sports at school outside of gym class, so I joined the cross country team. I came in second and everyone from my school was really proud of me. I remember being really confused by that because I wanted to win. The team didn’t train at all, and the only requirement was signed consent from a parent to compete. So from the start, for me, it was all about racing; how far could I push my body on any given day? By the end of elementary school I was a champion.

2) You are currently training with the Oregon Track Club Elite, what does your training regimen look like? How has training in the US helped you as an athlete?

My training regimen consists of running, cross training, and weight training. I run every day (twice a day 4x/week), lift weights 2x per week, and some days I will supplement my training with cardio work in the pool or on an ElliptiGo machine. Specific race preparation happens during interval workouts; these are running sessions I do twice a week to work on pace-specific training. I decided to go to America for school to compete in the NCAA system because I felt that the high level of competition would force me to compete at that same level. I’ve remained there based on many of the connections I made while at university. 

3) You took part in the 2012 London Olympics and placed 28th in the 5000 meters, how did that experience change you as an athlete?

Like after any competition, you go back to the drawing board with your team and assess where you can improve. After this particular instance, I felt more energized than ever to be more calculated with my training and listen to my body during each session. I decided quickly that London wouldn’t be my last race and was vocal that I was ready to give running my all for myself, my teammates and my coaches. 

4) What advice would you give to people who are just getting into running?

If you’re just starting your running journey, my advice would be to create a routine and find a positive community that will push you. Even if you set a goal to run 15 minutes a day without stopping, you will be surprised by the improvement and momentum that can spring from something as small but routine as that. From there, build your goals by attainable bite sizes. The best way to find inspiration to keep moving is by surrounding yourself with positivity and community. By committing and finding a strong community like a Nike+ run club, you will push yourself faster and further, and the people around you will help you go beyond your limits. 

5) You’ll be taking part in the Nike Women’s 15k Race happening in Toronto on June 14th as well as this year’s Pan Am Games in Toronto. What are your career plans for the next couple of years?

My training program is largely focused on going faster. I’m constantly focusing on developing my fast twitch muscles and pushing my cardio abilities to keep me at my peak speed for a longer duration of every race. In my training over the next couple of years, I’ll be aiming to improve my speed with the long term goal of competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics. I’m fortunate enough to have some amazing competitions and checkpoints along the way, including the Pan Am Games in 2015 in Toronto, and the 2015 Track & Field World Championships in Beijing in August.