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People of Body&Fit: Jiske Wessels

At Body&Fit, we know that being fit means something different to everyone. That’s why we’re always looking for new and inspiring stories from our community. For this edition of People of Body&Fit, we got together with Jiske Wessels. Jiske is a business consultant, mom of two, and a passionate runner.  After putting her journey as an athlete on hold at age 16, Jiske rediscovered her passion for running later in life and came back stronger than ever. Today, she shares her story with us, discussing how she keeps herself motivated, the role of nutrition and the importance of community. 

Body&Fit: When did you get into running? Was it something you have always been passionate about?  

Jiske: I come from a big family that’s always been super active. Even now, my parents are in their 70s and they still run and play tennis. So, I was also sporty from an early age. My sisters and I all did track and field. I did it from age 6 to 16 and I was good at it — especially at running. To be honest, I felt like it came to me quite naturally and I didn’t even have to work hard in order to succeed.  

Body&Fit: Why did you stop when you were 16? 

Jiske: When I became a teenager, my priorities started to shift. I started going out, dating etc., so it became harder and harder to dedicate much time to sports. I started playing basketball, which I enjoyed more as I had lots of friends on my team, and it was a lot more social than track and field. So, in the end I decided to quit. Looking back, I’m a bit like, “Jiske, why did you do that?”, but when you’re young, you have other things on your mind and it can be hard to realise your talent. When you grow older, the motivation and passion to get back into it just isn’t there anymore. 

Body&Fit: Of course, so how did you get back into running? 

Jiske: This actually only happened last year. I randomly was challenged to participate in a 10k and I figured why not. At this time, I maybe went to the gym 2 or 3 times a week, but I wasn’t conditioned at all. I remember the night before the race, I had some drinks and before leaving the house, I quickly ate a banana and had a Red Bull. I was really laughing at the idea of competing on my way there but once I was at the race and I stood at the starting line, everything changed. 

Body&Fit: It felt good to be back on the tracks. 

Jiske: Yes! All of a sudden, I felt the passion reignite. Once the race started, I just ran and ran and ran. I started feeling super excited and all I wanted was to win. That didn’t happen, but I did get 4th, which was still crazy given that I didn’t really train for the race.  

That’s when I knew that I wanted to take running more serious again. I quickly became super ambitious and started challenging myself to get better and better. That’s also when I got more active on Instagram and began sharing my running journey there. 

Body&Fit: You only recently started running again but a lot has happened already! What accomplishment are you most proud of in your journey? 

Jiske: The most beautiful event recently was the 1/4 marathon CPC Loop in The Hague. I won that race and it felt incredible. I was beyond happy. The race was definitely tough, but I kept telling myself that I was not going to give up. That day I really realised that you can do much more than you think if you just put your mind to it. Another big one for me was the 1/4 marathon in Rotterdam with over 14k participants. I came 5th there and beat my personal best. 

Body&Fit: These are some big accomplishments! Surely, it must get tough sometimes. Do you want to tell us about an obstacle you faced on your journey and how you overcame it? 

Jiske: This whole year was definitely challenging for me. I would say it was the hardest, but also the best. The thing is, when you set your mind to do something and follow a passion, there will always be people that talk down on you. Especially when you are a mum, people often expect you to stay at home with your children, and they look at you weird for dedicating time to your own passions. For many, it’s hard to understand that as a mum, you can also have your own passions and goals and that it doesn’t take anything away from your role as a mother. Many people questioned me, but I always knew that I could be both a great mom and a great runner. 

One big thing I overcame is related to my nutrition. As a kid, I started having issues with my stomach. I went to several doctors, but I never got an answer and the pain persisted. As I got older, I learnt that I’m actually allergic to gluten. Finally, it all made sense and I understood where my stomach aches were coming from. I was able to change my nutrition, and a few weeks without gluten already worked wonders for me. I felt so good.  

Body&Fit: You mentioned you ran your first race back with the power of one banana and a red bull. What role does nutrition play for you nowadays? 

Jiske: Yes, that definitely changed. I realised how important proper nutrition is, especially before a run. In fact, nutrition can be an absolute game changer when it comes to performing at a high level. It’s important to understand what your body needs personally. As a runner, I need to eat differently than a bodybuilder, for example.  

I always make sure to get enough protein. Now, my favourite is Whey Perfection banana. I literally put it into everything. People keep telling me I’m addicted! I also like to use BF10 Pre-workout. It really gives me the boost I need before a run. 

Actually, in relation to nutrition and my gluten intolerance, a big inspiration to me was the tennis player Novak Djokovic. He wrote a book called Serve to Win in which he talks about how changing his nutrition and living gluten free completely transformed his health and performance.  

Body&Fit: Who else motivates you? 

Jiske: I met this runner Björn Koreman — a great marathon runner who also became really good at an older age. I had some talks with him that were inspiring for me. I have to say, the running community as a whole is so inspirational. I find at races, most people are not so competitive, but actually very supportive of each other. I love that and it really motivates me. 

Body&Fit: What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting into running? 

Jiske: The most important thing is to set goals for yourself. And don’t be afraid to aim high. If you set the bar too low, it’ll be too easy. You have to stop thinking of reasons why you can’t do it and be willing to get uncomfortable. Also, you don’t need any fancy gear or anything to get active. Just grab your running shoes and go. Just start and stay consistent. And don’t do it for others, just do it for yourself.  

Also, like I said, running has a great community and it is essential to find like-minded people. At the #FINDYOURFIT event, for example, I met a fellow runner, Suci. She’s also a mom, so we were able to relate to each other. These kinds of connections are so important. I’m also always open to having people DM me on Instagram for any advice! 

Body&Fit: So great that made a connection at the event. We have to ask. What does being or feeling fit mean to you?  

Jiske: When hearing the word fit, most people think of a fit body, but to me, being fit starts in your mind. The right mind-set and willpower is essential. To become fit, you sometimes have to be willing to get uncomfortable. You might feel unbalanced for a bit but once you make it through it, you will come out stronger. Sometimes, you need to feel pain and push through it to be your best, fittest self – both mentally and physically. 

Body&Fit: What is the next big goal you’re currently working towards? 

Jiske: I want to the best I can be. Right now, I run a 10k in 36.52. So, for this year, I want to get under 36 minutes. For me that really is a big goal, because in running, 1 minute really makes a huge difference. To get there, I have to focus. I think you can manifest your goals and it’s also good to fail. You learn from failure. I can be very hard on myself and have high standards for myself, but I love the challenge. I know that I can train better. I can have more focus. I want to win… many races.  

And for that we wish Jiske the best of luck. You can follow Jiske’s journey on Instagram. Don’t forget to follow us, too, at @bodyandfit_official to be the first to know about more People of Body&Fit stories, alongside daily inspiration, healthy recipes and workout ideas to help you stay on track of your own unique goals. Everything you need to #FINDYOURFIT is right here at Body&Fit