BY STEPHANIE FLOWERS
PHOTOGRAPHS FROM JOCELYN SMITH-CORNMAN
I burst into Salúd Juicery on a frigid February afternoon, flustered, and fifteen minutes late for my sit-down with Jocelyn Smith-Cornman. She was relaxing against the wall in her gray Lululemon top, sipping her “Berry Glad to Meet You” juice without a stitch of makeup on, her cheeks naturally pink. She looked alive with life.
Perhaps that’s because she is.
Smith-Cornman is an Ironman. I like to call her the Iron[wo]man.
The Ironman is a 140.6-mile triathlon broken down into a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon. Smith-Cornman has eight — count them, eight — Ironman competitions under her belt. In fact, she has competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii three times. And, let’s not forget the five marathons and countless half-Ironmans and triathlons she has also tackled. She plans to take her Ironman total into the double digits before year’s end by competing in races in Texas, N.J., Fla., and Mexico. Why? Smith-Cornman says, “why not?”
After being forced to take nearly a year off due to injury in 2013, she tore an ab muscle and was practically immobile for months. In 2014, Smith-Cornman has decided to amp things up, doubling her usual twice-a-year racing schedule.
“I chose to do four Ironman races this year because I tend to have strength in longer distances,” she says. “I am a very aerobic person, so the longer the distance, the better!”
Although she will be competing solo, the 34-year-old New Brighton Health and Physical Education teacher is prepping alongside an army of coaches and supporters. In addition to her triathlon coach, Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems, Smith-Cornman has also been working alongside Frank Velasquez, ATC, CSCS*R; and Aimee Slattery, MS, PT, of VESLA 360 Sports Performance & Physical Therapy (formerly REV Sports), to get her body in the best physical condition possible. In fact, Smith-Cornman strength trained with Velasquez — former Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates — when she prepared for an Ironman competition in Cozumel last December after rehabbing with Slattery for several months.
“Cozumel was so emotional,” Smith-Cornman says. “I had just come back from my injury, and I only had 11 weeks of training, but I had to prove it to myself that I could it.”
Well, she proved it — and then some, finishing 14th at Cozumel, crediting her finish to her functional strength training with Velasquez and Slattery. “They said, ‘We will get you there,’ and they did,” she notes.
Smith-Cornman knew without a doubt that she would train with Velasquez when she decided to undertake her 2014 racing schedule.
“Jocelyn told me her race schedule for 2014, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy,’” says Velasquez. “But she’s a coach’s dream. She has the attitude, the intensity, and she’s nothing but smiles.”
While she was training Smith-Cornman, Velasquez designed a program that not only strengthens, but that stabilizes and protects as well. For instance, by having Smith-Cornman perform his Medicine Ball Wall routine — an advanced, three-dimensional core training technique — Velasquez is strengthening her core while protecting her lumbar spine and improving her pelvic stabilization all at once. The same can be said for his Prone Dumbbell Row, which works the core, scapula area, and shoulder stability, as well as the upper body; and the Romanian Dead Lift, a more advanced exercise that concentrates on the hamstring and the glute region.
“Endurance athletes don’t always focus on [strength training], and it can really benefit their craft,” Velasquez says. “Not only does it make you stronger, but when done correctly, it enhances performance, improves durability, and counterbalances the work done on the road, on the bike, and in the pool.”
That trifecta is exactly what Smith-Cornman is going to rely on as she begins her 2014 racing season in a few weeks, racing towards the finish line in what she refers to as “the most rewarding experience you will ever have.”
For Smith-Cornman, these races are more than just a physical test. For the last five years, she and her husband, Jeremy, have been racing to raise money for BallouSkies — a charity founded by her friend, Ty Ballou, that raises awareness and money for muscular dystrophy. Ballou started the foundation in honor of his oldest son, Ryan, who was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disorder that affects all muscles within the body.
“I am very blessed to have a very good heart and muscles, and when I was injured and feeling bad about myself, it was Ryan who kept me positive,” Smith-Cornman credits. “It’s great to be a part of something, to create a difference in people’s lives, and to help find a cure.”
To learn more about Jocelyn Smith-Cornman, follow her training at jocelyncornman.blogspot.com.