She’s an Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champion of long distance running. She’s an active ambassador, runs her own business, has a career in Physiotherapy AND has a gloriously down to Earth aura. What else is there to say really? Don’t worry- I found stuff. Here is Jess Trengove’s story.
I caught up with Jess for a coffee and a chat recently. There was no paparazzi, no dais and no crowd cheering her to the finish line. It was just us on a Wednesday, before she started a Professional Development day at her Physio workplace.
You might wonder how it all started? (the career, not the coffee).
Jess grew up in Naracoorte with her sport-inspired family. Weekends would include a kick of the footy with her brother and Dad, a family tennis game or bike rides. This is all including her netball, athletics and cross country running commitments. Her parents are STILL sporty and while they aren’t runners, the healthy lifestyle is nevertheless appreciated.
She acknowledges the efforts of her Naracoorte Primary School Deputy Principal- who valued the children’s participation in cross country running through the pine forests nearby. This was her introduction to the sport. She looked up to those slightly older than her and aspired to be like them.
She said “without that, I probably would never have realised that competing for your state or you country could have been a possibility.”
At 21 Jess made the decision to run. While she loved the sport of netball and she was good at it, she saw future opportunities available through running. She was a little worried that it would be a lonely sport but now relishes in her squad training mates’ company, values the camaraderie and has JUST discovered podcasts! ( I know, right?)
Adam Didyk became her coach and friend, and still is today. Cross country and 10km runs were the beginning of what has turned Jess into a national hero.
In year 10, Jess went to boarding school at Annesley College here in Adelaide and started to think about her academic path. Both medicine and vet science were avenues she considered with an obvious admiration for medicine and biomechanics. Studying physio at UniSA won out though and what initially kept Jess in the course was the support and fun she had with her uni friends.
Jess graduated around the same time her running career was taking off. Being a physio allowed her to shuffle travel and work commitments. A very understanding boss Scott Smith from Flex Rehabilitation Clinic Physio http://flexclinic.com.au afforded Jess the time to pursue running achievements and keep working.
Jess’ focus as a physio is now based around functional movement.
She said “we don’t just treat the injury but we’re looking more at injury prevention. We want to get the whole body working effectively.”
She currently works at Physio Smart https://physiosmart.com.au
where the “goal is to reduce your pain, find the source of the problem and prevent ongoing issues.” , in accordance with Jess’ ethos.
In the future she would like to get more involved with women’s physio, enabling them to continue being active while also starting a family. At the moment she finds it a ‘hazy space’ without recorded knowledge of how to exercise well AND be pregnant.
As always, we should learn from those who have marched before us. To anyone starting out in becoming a physiotherapist, here is Jess’ advice.
1- Just coming out of uni is “a really crucial time. The initial path you choose dictates how long you want to stay in the profession.” She explains how important it is to find a work place where your employer and the people around you have a culture in which learning is supported. There should be time made to “soak up what you’ve seen for the day.” and learn from it. Even if you end up in a job which is not ideal, express your interest to learn and evolve early on. Stick to your values and morals.
2-“Believe in yourself”. Emerging from uni into the workforce can be daunting and unknown but Jess suggests that you know a lot more than you think, even when surrounded by experienced others. Let yourself shine.
3- “Look after your own body.” . Be aware of the workplace ergonomics and your posture. Make sure you are leading by example and utilising postural studies learnt at uni. Otherwise “it will catch up with you eventually.”
I asked Jess about challenges she has faced so far in her life. Most of us would expect her to talk about personal injuries or emotional roller coasters within the running field. But no.
For her, the most challenging time she has had is when her brother injured himself during his football career. He was drafted to Melbourne Football Club at 18, had a Rising Star nomination and was named Co-Captain at 21. He was ‘booming’.
Unfortunately he acquired a navicular (a bone in the foot) fracture and had two years of not playing the sport he loves. He had surgery for the insertion of screws and a bone graft and it looked like he might never play again.
Jess and her family really struggled through this time, with no control over the process nor the outcome. It was her brother’s dream to be an AFL player and this was no longer such a given reality. It was hard for Jess to see her brother with an unknown future.
Challenging times for Jess involve injuries. In the lead up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Olympic Games she experienced stress fractures in the second metatarsal ( bone in the foot) which led her to more time in the gym cross training rather than pounding the pavement. She said it was difficult and frustrating but when she found herself feeling sorry and sore, she drew on her brother’s experience and felt her’s pale in comparison. His persistence and strength spurred her on to thinking positively and with perspective.
We talked about the challenging stages of a race (well not me, but her) and I think it’s Jess’ ‘no nonsense’ approach and unrelenting grit that’s helped her to be so successful. She said that at the end of a race it can be necessary to ‘dumb it down’ and keep things simple. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and use both internal and external images to keep you going. It might be something in the crowd or imagining her training mate in front of her, but keep it simple.
You can read more on Jess’ blog https://www.jessicatrengove.com.au
While Jess is an inspirational hero for so many Australians, she has her own idols who inspire her. Benita Willis (running champion), Rachael Sporn (basketball), Susie O’Neill (swimming) and Steve Moneghetti (running champion) are all Jess’ heroes and they each provide her with inspiration and gracious steps to follow.
Also inspiring to Jess are the younger runners within her squad https://www.facebook.com/TeamTempo/
They have persisted to have their breakthrough performances now. Jess “just loves the way they have approached it”. She says coach Adam Didyk “will have a number of athletes at Olympic level in the years going forward”.
Getting all deep and meaningful, I asked Jess what one thing she would like to change about the world.
Nature loving Jess says the amount of plastic in the world really makes her feel sick. Whether it be Thailand, Australia, Bali or Europe, the stuff is everywhere and if she could really change it she would.
This process has begun with the new packaging for her online business Rundies being biodegradable soon.
Designed by athletes for athletes and run by Jess, her brother Jack and her partner Dylan, this range is a ‘fun side project’. What they’d like to get out of it is “support for athletes who aren’t yet at the point of getting sponsorship”.
At the end of our chat, I didn’t just see an Olympic running champion, who we claim as ‘our own’ here in South Australia.
I now see an intelligent , humble and driven woman who loves to reflect on her experiences and has gorgeous, strong ties with her family. She values enormous support from her running tribe, has a passion for her sport and the world around her and she focusses on the good. She’s a runner, a sister, a daughter, a friend and an ambassador. She’s positive, hard-working, ever-learning and thoughtful. She is Jess.
Her valuable lesson (thanks to brother Jack),
“Focus on what you can do in this moment on this day- to make you better for tomorrow.”
Many thanks for your time Jess! I wish you luck in all you do.
PS- If you would like to book Jess to speak at your school or work place please go to https://www.jessicatrengove.com.au
PPS- Now that Jess has discovered ‘the podcast’ , feel free to make suggestions in the comments for Jess’ next run 😉