For most, going to the gym is a welcome break.
An hour to forget about work and blow off steam.
But for Jeane Lassen it’s a full-time job.
With a makeshift lifting platform tucked in a corner at Better Bodies Crosstraining Centre, the Olympic hopeful is a nearly permanent fixture, working out six days a week.
Last Thursday morning was no exception, as Lassen and her coach, Mirek Korkowski, ran through a “light” or recovery workout.
Slowly, methodically increasing weight, lifting, resting, repeat — it’s not the most stimulating way to spend your days — but for Lassen, it’s the means to an end.
“It’s good when it’s going well, but when it’s not, you’ve got to keep the long-term goals in mind,” said Lassen, in between sets. “The feeling of competition is amazing.”
Lassen’s coach nodded in agreement.
“You do all this work, for a few seconds of competition — but it’s worth it,” said Korkowski.
The Winnipeg-based coach, (who lifted for Poland and missed his Olympic shot at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics because of the Cold War boycott) came on board recently, to help ease the burden that Lassen has carried by herself for some time.
Lassen was creating her own program, which includes training and rest schedules, travel and competition, and nutrition.
“All my time outside the gym was spent planning, analyzing,” she said. “It’s hard to be objective about your own training… I don’t want to burn myself out doing all this work.”
After her gold-medal performance at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Lassen felt pressure to get a coach.
And now, with the Beijing Olympics just over a year away, Lassen is in the home stretch for a goal she’s been chasing for over a decade.
A pair of objective eyes, and some fine-tuning to her program are Korkowski’s main tasks during the week and a half he’ll spend in Whitehorse.
It might seem an odd choice to return to the Yukon in the run-up to the Olympics, but Lassen said the community support system she has here is worth any inconveniences, like the distance between her and Korkowski.
Previously, Lassen was based in Montreal, training with several other national team members in a strong club system there.
Recently, however, she said there was really no advantage for her to stay in Montreal.
“It’s tough to find a professional coach, even there… I was succeeding despite my situation.”
Leaving behind the anonymity of big-city life was a concern for her though.
“It’s scary, everyone knows what I’m doing here, but I think of the best case scenario and it’s awesome.”
Lassen said she didn’t just want to represent Canada at the Olympics, but Yukon as well.
She’s hoping Yukon will get behind her for the next year as well.
Better Bodies is donating the training space, and Golden Hill Ventures has stepped up as a sponsor. Other local businesses like M&M’s meats and Yukon Travel help out with in-kind donations.
Local trainer Lisa Vowk has joined her team, acting as another set of eyes and while Korkowski directs the training from Winnipeg.
Even though she is a carded athlete, meaning she gets federal funding to train and compete, Lassen is pinching pennies to realize her Olympic goal. She’s hoping to get sponsors to help cover costs like dental and massage therapy.
“I’m not trying to save or invest — I’m just trying to avoid debt,” she said.
Coming up next for Lassen is the Pan-Am Games in Rio de Janeiro starting July 13. After that, she’ll head to the US Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs with Korkowski, to do some fine-tuning and analysis.
Key for Lassen is to stay healthy for the final Olympic trials in May 2008.
In the meantime, she’ll let Korkowski call the shots while she does the heavy lifting.
“I guess I’m a bit of a control freak — I’ll have to give up a bit of that,” she said with a laugh, as the pair slid more weight onto the bar.
“But it’s those extra kilos that make a world champion.”