Jeannelle Scheper-- an Olympic Tale
Occupation: University of South Carolina Track and Field Graduate Assistant and Olympian 2016
Growing up primarily in St. Lucia, Jeannelle played a lot of sports. Her parents put her in every sport: swimming, tennis, table tennis, track and field. It was at age 13 when she got into track and field that she found her passion. Soon after, at age 16, she was scouted by the University of South Carolina, in the US. Once she found out that she could travel around the world and represent her country, it was solidified. Track and Field was her sport.
Food for Fitness:
After moving to the US alone at age 16, and gaining the Freshman 15, I knew I needed to concentrate more on my diet. Cutting meat from my diet was one of the best decisions for me. It really pushed me towards learning more about what I put on my body and in my body, and how much that matters. As a professional athlete, my body is what earns me my living, so ultimately I have to care about what goes in it and what goes on it, and how I represent myself through those products. I say I’m ‘vegan-ish’ because I’m still a college student and eating out in the south; cheese, butter, and cream are in almost everything. However, cutting out dairy provided the biggest difference in my performance. I found that I bounce back faster. Dealing with a lot of high impact exercise I’m always at risk of inflammation, so cutting out dairy has really helped with that.
"You get so much more out of it than you put into it."
I got into sports at a young age, I’ve been active my whole life, but I still have those days where I don’t want to get out of bed. But, being physically active and working out is not as hard as you think. A little bit goes a long way. People think they have to make a huge commitment to a gym membership, or go to the gym five times a week. But, there are so many things you can do at home by yourself in a short amount of time. Even just going for a walk; walking is so good for you. My point is it’s a lot simpler than you think it is. The second thing is once you get started it’s addicting. It’s fun. You get so much more out of it than you put into it. You feel better and then you want to do it all the time. Taking the first step and getting into it is the hardest part.
Even as a professional athlete I still have those days where I’m not feeling my best, or don’t want to hit the gym. But, thinking about the 2016 Olympic games motivates me. It didn’t go how I wanted it to due to my injuries. So, I think about the next Olympics in Tokyo. If I’m lying in bed and I don’t feel like getting up, I’ll just think about my competitors outrunning me or getting a great workout in, and then I remind myself: I have a responsibility to myself and to my sport. Those two things really help me. Being surrounded by world class athletes in Rio and thinking how they were the 1% of the 1%, is incredibly motivating. Being a top athlete is literally what I’ve been working for my whole life. Even though I didn’t do as well as I hoped, it was an unforgettable experience.
"During that time, I really learned to appreciate having a healthy body and figuring out how to stay healthy."
Athletes vs. Olympians:
Having gone to the Olympics and been surrounded by elite athletes, I’d say the biggest difference between athletes and Olympians is: Olympians eat, sleep, and breathe what they do. Every decision they make everyday has some bearing on their profession as an athlete. There are some things they have to sacrifice. Whereas an athlete can make decisions to take a day off, or go to a destination wedding, for example. Once I got injured, I realized that I needed to find another focus that wasn’t track. Watching from the sidelines was very difficult. During that time, I really learned to appreciate having a healthy body and figuring out how to stay healthy. I also learned that keeping focused on one singular aspect of your life all the time can drive you crazy. After recovering, I definitely have an appreciation and respect for what my body can do. Respecting when my body is in it’s best shape and when my body is tired.
Women’s Empowerment and Social Norms:
Speaking of bodies, everyone in my sport is hyper focused on how they look--within track and field it’s ok to be strong. However, outside of the sport and fitness industry, I think it’s really important for the images on social media of women to be different from the social ‘norm’. Social media is what’s common for young people now. It’s the place we need to start seeing strong women, women doing things like lifting, running, being an Olympian. Even within my sport there’s a gender bias and some things are assumed. It’s important to present different images.Young girls need to see that being strong and having muscles is normal. That you don’t have to have a stereotypical feminine body. In my sport you get complimented on your abs. I wish the value of strength would become more of a norm and go outside of the track and field community.
"I wish the value of strength would become more of a norm and go outside of the track and field community."
I feel womens' bodies get attacked a lot and are under constant scrutiny. Women are encouraged to constantly scrutinize their bodies and how they look. But the most important thing is how you feel and what you put in your body. To find what movement makes you feel the best and just have the ultimate respect for this one body that you have. Love it, cherish it, watch what you put on it. Making it your best and putting things in it that make you feel your best. That’s one reason I love being involved with FRÉ. FRÉ is one of the biggest and most important avenues for me right now. It’s exciting and different, and there isn’t really anything else like it right now.
If you’d like to read more about the journey Jeannelle went through after getting injured read here.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Work out attire: Tight or Loose?
- If I’m going for a run: Loose. If I’m going to lift: Tight.
Favorite “cheat meal”?
- Olympic Clean’s
- Tempo Runs
Music or no music during a workout?
- If I’m going for a long run, yes.
Skincare tip(s) you swear by?
What excites you most about working out?
- The feeling at the end that you’ve conquered the workout.
What’s your favorite aspect of being a professional athlete?
- I love having full control over my day and getting to do my workout as part of my job.
What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received in your life?
- Have compassion for yourself.
What advice would you offer to your 16-year-old self?
- Don’t take yourself so seriously.
What is one thing that’s going to save humanity?
- Sustainable Development
Lastly, what comes to mind when you think of FRE?
- A lot of things, I’ll just say ultimate care for your skin and the planet.