Meet Jennifer Woltjen, she is a certified running coach and personal trainer with over 20 years of running experience. Jennifer has 7 ultra-marathon finishes as well as 8 marathon finishes, including the NYC Marathon and she has met the qualifying standards for the Boston Marathon 3 times including coming up in 2021. She is also a passionate and accomplished cross-country skier and has participated in a number of cross-country ski races with medal performances. Learn more about Jennifer below and how her love for Odlo lead to her becoming a brand ambassador!
When you are traveling and away from home for extended periods of time (for competition, training, etc) what meal do you crave the most?
Absolutely, it’s breakfast. Breakfast is a time I can sit down and actually relax, make sure I have enough food in my system, have several cups of coffee and plan the day out in my mind what I’m going to do. Most places I’ve traveled to have the same type of breakfast so you can get a pretty good breakfast anywhere. I will tell you; I’ve been to Finland or Russia or it might have been Norway where they serve fish and I’m not a fish eater at breakfast. But generally, breakfast is my best meal, I usually have this huge bowl of homemade granola, yogurt, and fruit with coffee. Absolutely starts the day right.
If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner who would they be?
Well, that is quite a question right now because of the pandemic. It’s kind of hard to have people over for dinner right now and you know I don’t like to sit at a meal for very long, so I’d rather go out and do something with people that I admire whether it’s skiing or running or whatever. So, if I was going to spend time with somebody, I would maybe like to go cross-country skiing with Jesse Diggins, she’s one of my idols and heroes. And maybe go running with Joan Benoit-Samuelson who I met last year or just going out running on the trails with friends where we can safely social-distance with each other and really get to know each other and do something active.
How do you relax? Do you have any favourite hobbies that help you wind-down?
That is a great question because I hardly ever relax. I am always on the go doing stuff so this summer because of the pandemic I actually bought myself my own canoe so I could go paddling. I wanted something that was light weight and I guess that’s my getaway, I’ll grab the canoe and I’ll go paddling, nobody is around and it’s quiet and peaceful. That’s what I like to do when I want to relax. Most of my hobbies revolve around sports, watching sports, participating in athletic events so that’s really how I relax and let out all that stress.
How have things changed for you and your training during this pandemic?
It’s been quite a year! I’m also a running coach so at the beginning of the year, or end of last year, all my runners had so many great goals for this year like what races they wanted to do, and we set up training plans for them, and I had my own goals too, and then everything fell apart in April and May when we realized this pandemic was going to impact almost everything, and it did. So, we had to revamp and establish new goals and what really helped us this year was I had a lot of runners sign up for virtual running events which were really neat in the beginning like in April, May, June, and July, they really kept them going but after a while they sort of got tired of these virtual events and they really wanted to be with other people, and I don’t blame them. There have been some events that are coming around now, very small events that I have participated in and my runners have participated in, but they’re very small. What they usually do is they have corrals so you start out at a certain points and you stay away from other people. So, this year really as a running coach I’ve been taking on more of a role as a mental health counselor to help my athletes re-establish their goals and try to answer the “what are you going to do now?” questions while there is so much unknown even through next year.
What do you love most about Odlo?
I love the clothing because it is well-made, quality, it lasts forever, and it’s beautiful.
What is your favorite product? Why?
The Odlo Aegis 2.5 Hardshell Jacket. This is a lightweight jacket that I can throw in my pack when I’m out running or hiking or whatever and I think it only weighs about 2 oz. It keeps me pretty much dry, I wouldn’t say it’s completely waterproof because it is so lightweight, but it dries easily and its good for rain and humidity. We get a lot of humidity where I live in upstate New York, it’s very humid here, but when I have this jacket layered with a couple of other things it keeps me really dry. The color is really beautiful too! This is one of my favorites, but I have a lot of favorite products!
How long have you been working with Odlo? How did that relationship start?
4 years ago, my husband and I participated in the Engadin cross-country ski marathon in Switzerland where there’s about 12,000 skiers, it’s a huge event. That was my introduction to Odlo because we went over there and Odlo is a major supporter of the Engadin Ski Marathon, so I was introduced to their clothing at that event. While I was there, I also bought my first Odlo shirt and I love it because it’s a layering piece which is what they’re known for, it’s stretchy, it fits right, it dries out really quickly, and it doesn’t stink up. Since then, every time we went back to Europe, I tried to find more Odlo stuff because it was so difficult to find at the time in the United States. Over the last couple of years, I’ve always been looking for Odlo clothing to buy online in the US because I bought some ski pants before and I wanted to buy more. Finally, I saw that Odlo was on Twitter so I decided to contact the guy on Twitter, and that’s how it all started. I contacted him on Twitter and said, “do you guys need an ambassador?” I just threw it out to him! I’d never been an ambassador before, I had no idea what I was doing, I said “I’m one of your biggest fans here in the US!” and that’s how it all started.
What is the best advice you can give to younger athletes or aspiring distance runners?
I would say to keep at it. Don’t give up, even if you have set backs or you don’t have a good day, take them as learning experiences and move on, learn something from it. Every time I do a race and something happens that doesn’t go the way I want it to go I say, “well, this is what I have learned from that, move on.” The other thing I would recommend is get a mentor, have a couple mentors you can lean on that can guide you, especially in these times.
Do you have any tips for finding motivation to push through tough days?
I am a highly motivated person, but I do have those days where I don’t want to get up, or I don’t want to get out, or my body is sore. What I usually try to do is I have overall goals that keep me motivated. The other thing is if I’m having a hard time getting out and doing a workout I just say, “I’m going to go out and I’m going to run for 20 minutes and see how I feel” and usually when I do that I keep going. One of my best lines I like to throw out to people is, “one run can change your day.” It makes me feel a lot better. If I can do my workouts in the morning it makes the rest of the day feel a lot better.
Have you learned any travelling tips or tricks through your experiences?
Absolutely, I’m famous for lists! Lists for everything! Lists for packing, lists for ski races, lists for running races, lists for regular vacation, lists for what I need to do or what I’m going to do for workout. I’m a list person. I used to put all my lists down on paper and now I have them in Excel spreadsheets, so I can go in there and tweak them and I can give them out to my runners. I’m actually working on a list right now for UltraRunning so I can make sure it’s pertaining to a longer race since they can be 8 or 10 hours.
How do you prepare for your event? Do you have any tips for handling the stress or performance anxiety?
Most of the time when you go to an event, you’re either well prepared for it or I like to tell my runners they want to be slightly under-trained; you don’t want to be over-trained. Depending on what your goal is for the event what I usually do is take the day as it comes, if something doesn’t go right then move on, and I always like to say have a plan B. Also, get good at solving problems, so when problems come up you have possible solutions you can come up with on the spot. Become a good problem solver.
How do you cope with adversity in your sport? Whether it’s a bad day, bad weather, equipment failure, cancelled event, etc?
Same thing- become a good problem solver and have a plan B. Learn from it. This year with the pandemic you kind of just have to go with the flow, this is the way it is and we don’t really have any control over it. So, manage what you can control and if you can’t control it then move on and just concentrate on what you can do and learn from it.
What is your least favorite type of music?
Do you snore?
What did you eat for breakfast?
What is your favorite movie?
Probably a running movie that is inspirational, but I can't think of any off the top of my head
Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee, but I do drink tea
What is your favorite season?
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Would you go to a movie alone?
Window or aisle seat?
Favorite ice cream flavor?
(ed. note: interview has been edited for length and clarity)