Meet Coach Heleen: Triathlon Addict, Mountain Lover and World ExplorerNov 09, 2022
In this series, we are individually presenting each one of the coaches on the Live better, not perfect team. You can find the whole team on our About page. Today we’ll introduce coach Heleen, a Triathlon Addict, Mountain Lover and World Explorer.
What does Heleen bring to the Table?
As becoming a professional triathlete by accident, Heleen discovered firsthand that there is much more possible in life than she believed. Heleen her passion has always been being active, enjoying nature and overall health. After her sports career, she decided to focus her life on helping other people as well to improve their health, fitness and happiness. She holds several certifications in health-related topics and coaching.
Heleen’s mission is to unlock people’s full potential by helping them to become aware of who they are and how they can create a more passionate, powerful and purposeful life. Having experienced it herself during her coach training program with iPEC, she believes that most answers are within us. We just need to unlock it.
Credentials and Achievements
Heleen grew up on a farm in a little town in the Netherlands. Being outdoors has always been very important to her. She cycled daily around 24 km during her school time and it was something she really enjoyed. She believes that this was actually the foundation for her triathlon career. It made her strong and resilient: coping with the weather conditions, tiredness, a flat tire or whatsoever. She has been involved in quite some sports during her adolescence but all on a recreational level like volleyball, table tennis, tennis and speed skating.
It was during her university time (chemical engineering) that she discovered the triathlon. Her prominent achievements during her career as a professional triathlete are Ironman Champion Arizona 2008, 9th World Championship Hawaii 2010, European Champion Long distance 2014 and 5x Dutch champion. You can find out more here.
Heleen is 48 years old and since retiring from professional sports has dedicated a lot of her time to becoming a professional in health and exercise coaching. She is currently a lifestyle coach, a personal trainer with ACE, a fitness and spinning instructor, a sports and exercise nutrition coach with Precision nutrition and an Ironman Certified coach. A year ago she decided to focus more on coaching in general and started the Coach training program with iPEC.
Heleen was not always a health and sports coach. Let’s find out.
When Heleen finished school in the Netherlands, she didn’t know yet what to do with the rest of her life. Her perception of success from her surroundings was going to university (because she could learn well) getting a job and hopefully creating a family.
She took a year abroad as an exchange student to give it a little more thought. When she came back she decided to study chemical engineering, even though she didn’t know yet what to exactly get out of it.
It was during this time that she met her husband Rob and came into contact with the triathlon.
The Turnaround Point
After working as a chemical engineer for almost 7 years Heleen qualified for and participated in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. She surprised herself by finishing 13th overall in the professional women's field. To this date, she had combined her work with her sport on a high level for almost 4 years now. Now was the time to make a decision and she chose to give her professional sports career a try. Without support from her husband, she would have never made this leap. It was one of the best decisions in her life and 7 amazing years followed.
Triathlon has become her passion and lifestyle.
The one thing Heleen learned from her time as an athlete is that a good balance in life is essential to perform at your best. Let’s have a look at the different areas of balance.
Work-life balance. For Heleen it is very important to find the right balance between work, family, training, catching up with friends etc. This balance is different for each individual. She has personally experienced that when this balance is off, she feels very unhappy.
Balance in training or work and recovery. To perform at your best you have to put quite some work in. If it’s a high training load or a high workload, we need the recovery part. If we skip this we will get overtrained or burnt out. On the other hand, when you focus too much on the recovery part you will not challenge yourself. The consequence is that you won’t grow and might in the end perform less or not at all. This is something Heleen experienced several times during her sports career. Putting too much stress on her body and not recovering well enough resulted in different stress fractures. Now she knows how to listen to her body and take a rest day when needed.
Balance in exercise variation. As a triathlete you have to train in 3 different sports: swimming, biking and running. This stimulates already different muscle groups within the body and all have a big impact on our cardiovascular system. But if you lack for example a strong core you have to compensate with other parts of the body which can lead to a bad posture. Or if you lack mobility it can be very hard to perform a certain movement correctly. So a good balance between strength training, mobility training and cardiovascular training is very important.
Balance in different food types. Heleen believes having a good variety and balance in different food types (which can be different for each individual) is the basis for a healthy life.
For Heleen, it’s not always easy to find the right balance. Having lived in 4 different countries over the last 11 years she is always in search of finding her balance again. But it is something she is passionate about and helping other people find their balance and perform at their best is what she loves to do.
To support us with the quest for a healthy balance (which changes continuously over time) is our model the Live better, not perfect Wellbeing Triangle.
Mottos She Lives By
We present a couple of mottos that Heleen lives by. Mottos are a useful tool, which can help in difficult situations to make the right decisions. They can almost serve as a compass to stay on track and true to one's values.
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you”
To grow as a person you need to go out of your comfort zone. Heleen compares this with the term super-compensation in sports. When you do a hard training session and recover well from it the body will return to a state that is slightly better than before. This motto gives Heleen courage in everything she does because personal growth is of great value to her.
“Each moment describes who you are, and gives you the opportunity to decide if that’s who you want to be”
Let this motto sink in and see what it means to you...
“ Keep it simple”
Our lives are becoming increasingly complex and finding ways to untangle them can feel unrealistic and difficult!
As Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Simple living is about streamlining and clearing the clutter from your life. A simpler lifestyle can give us less stress and afford us more freedom. It’s not always easy but being aware of it and taking action in that moment will get you one step closer.
Other More or Less Interesting Stuff About Heleen
In this section, we give some more details about areas that go beyond our typical health and well-being topics. We believe this helps to learn more about other interests of our coaches and the person they are.
Growing up in the “flat lands” Heleen didn’t see a mountain before the age of 20. She didn’t know what she missed till 5 years ago when she moved to Switzerland in the middle of the Alps. It was here that her love for the Swiss mountains started. The thought of it alone gives her the feeling of freedom and happiness.
Experiencing “Expat life”
Since 2011 Heleen has lived in 5 different countries. For the first 36 years of her life she lived in the Netherlands (just spending one year abroad as an exchange student in Massachusetts, USA). In 2011 her husband Rob got the opportunity to work abroad. The journey started in France. In 2015 they moved to Wisconsin, USA followed by Switzerland in 2017. A year ago in 2021, they moved to their current location: Scotland.
Having lived in and experienced different cultures and climates and making new friends all over the world is something Heleen really appreciates. Although it is not always easy to build up a new life again in a new country, the new opportunities she gets and sees every time she moves still overrule this. Every experience is an opportunity for growth!
Get In Touch
The best way to get in touch with Heleen is to ping her on Instagram @heleendehooge. She’s always eager to have fruitful discussions about any of the topics covered in this article.
Do you also want to strive for optimal well-being? Then discover our awesome community of individuals aiming to Live better, not perfect.
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