You’d think that two Olympic medals, four world championship titles and a record-tying five overall FIS World Cup Crystal Globe titles for freestyle skiing would be enough for anyone to move on to some well-deserved rest, but not Jenn Heil. Since retiring from competition in 2011, she hasn’t slowed down at all, and the new challenges she has taken on are exciting in a different way.
“As a winter athlete, I was always chasing snow,” says Jenn. “I was never in one place for more than three weeks, which made going to school very challenging. So when I retired I knew I wanted to get my degree.” Which is exactly what she did… a degree in Business strategy from McGill University, and then it was time for yet another adventure… the birth to her first son one month after graduation.
How do her latest accomplishments compare to her days of being an Olympic athlete?
“Being a mom is the hardest job by far! I thought I was being pushed as an athlete and then I had kids. You have to be a role model all the time and be the best you can be during all the chaos.” That’s a bold statement considering Jenn used to train with the Montreal Canadiens’ strength coach alongside Alex Bilodeau. The two would push each other to the limit, which she doesn’t exactly shy away from today either, still finding time to push her workout limits with friends and family whether it’s through biking, surfing or chasing her kids around.
Family and sport have always gone hand in hand in Jenn’s world, ever since she hit the slopes with her dad as a kid.
“My dad is a total ski fanatic! We always had to be the first ones on the mountain and the last ones off. I fell in love with the sport with my dad and my family. I was a very active kid and felt the most free when I was moving, so I basically did every sport I could.”
Soon after she discovered her love for freestyle skiing, Jenn picked up a copy of the Sports Illustrated Olympic preview issue and was inspired to take her passion for competition to the next level. As an Olympic athlete, Jenn learned that anything can happen and you have to be prepared without compromise and live with no regrets. That includes eating chocolate on a daily basis, as well as tuning into her body’s needs, which are always changing. She never counts calories or follows a diet.
“Nutrition is always the cornerstone of everything I make. I love to make meals, but I hate it at the same time. Sometimes I am trying to be easier on myself and use a slow cooker and freeze my meals so I have things when I need it.” Perhaps that’s why Luvo made sense to her when she discovered it in the freezer section while shopping for her favorite wholesome and convenient options. Chicken Chile Verde quickly became a new favorite.
What about when it comes to picky little eaters? It turns out Jenn’s little ones aren’t so picky, and eat whatever mom gives them because they knows it will help make them grow big and strong. “My kid loves roe on sushi. He loves the way it pops in his mouth. He doesn’t know what it is yet so we will see!”
Throughout her experience raising a family and taking on new challenges, Jenn has continued to believe in the power of sport and its positive impact on individuals and the greater community. Now, she is on the leadership team at B2Ten – a foundation that she co-founded which provides training and support for elite amateur athletes and invests in the development of Canada’s coaches and service providers with a goal of developing a legacy of enhanced sport, play and wellbeing. The foundation’s work has resulted in a long list of World Cup, World Championship and Olympic medals for Canada.
“After I missed winning an Olympic medal by 1/100th of a point in my first Olympic Games I decided I needed to take a different approach in my preparation. It cost $80k per year, and with no sponsors and limited funds, my community rallied around me and a bunch of business leaders made personal donations with no tax receipts. They just did it for the good of the community and for me. I experienced extreme generosity that changed the entire trajectory of my life.”
In addition to her work with B2Ten, Jenn is also involved with Because I’m a Girl, a charity that works to improve the lives of girls and women around the world. Through this work, she is able to share her experience and understands how a little investment can change a girl’s life as well as others around her. It’s important for Jenn to share that opportunity, and she even has future plans to do a documentary on girls in sport. “They are half as likely to be involved and twice as likely to drop out. That’s a terrible stat and there are repercussions in society in general, but specifically, health.”
With each new endeavour, Jenn keeps what she learned in the Olympics close to her heart.
“I learned early on that it is all about perspective every day. You have the ability to overcome your fear and that can have a tremendous impact.”
Did you enjoy this post? Stay in the know with more nutrition tips, and exclusive promo offers — join our newsletter.