62. GENEVIEVE GREGSON- Tokyo Olympics Heartache a True Blessing

Today on the show I chat with one of Australia’s most accomplished middle-distance women of all time, a 3-time Olympic finalist and Australian record holder, Genevieve Gregson.

The last time you saw Genevieve she suffered a ruptured Achilles in the Tokyo Olympics Steeplechase final.

But if you think that’s the end of her career you’d be wrong.

Genevieve is no stranger to injury and the rehab process and has certainly proven that she has the strength and will to do everything to come back fitter, stronger and even more determined.

But her current journey is one she is experiencing for the first time. 35 weeks pregnant at the time of recording, she shares the excitement of becoming a mother, what that means as an elite athlete and all the considerations that come with starting a family, juggling training, sponsorship contracts and life.

Gen shares what life was like growing up, the pivotal moments she has her parents to thank for and what she hopes to adopt when she becomes a mother.

We also talk about coping with injury and setbacks, dive into exactly what happened leading up to the Tokyo Olympics final and of course her comeback campaign for the Paris Olympics.

She’s an incredible athlete and an even more incredible woman, this conversation is sure to inspire you, enjoy this episode with Genevieve Gregson.

Jackie 0:34
Hello, and welcome to the body’s build better podcast. I’m your host, Jackie Tann. And it is so good to have you here today. This podcast is all about human performance, whether that’s sports performance, or showing up at your best every single day. I chat with athletes, coaches, health experts and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We explore the body’s incredible ability to heal, adapt and evolve, so you can crush limitations. Reconnect your body and mind and discover your extraordinary potential. And today on the show, I chat with one of Australia’s most accomplished middle distance women of all time, a three time Olympic finalist and Australian record holder, Genevieve Gregson. The last time you saw Genevieve she suffered a ruptured Achilles and the Tokyo Olympics steeplechase final, but if you think that’s the end of her career, you would be wrong. Genevieve is no stranger to injury and the rehab process and has certainly proven that she has the strength and will to do everything to come back fitter, stronger and even more determined. But her current journey is one she’s experiencing for the first time 35 weeks pregnant at the time of recording. She shares the excitement of becoming a mother. What that means as an elite athlete and all the considerations that come with starting a family juggling training, sponsorship contracts and life. Gen shares what life was like growing up, the pivotal moments she has had her parents to thank for and what she hopes to adopt when she becomes a mother. We also talk about coping with injury and setbacks, [and] dive into exactly what happened leading up to the Tokyo Olympics final. And of course, her comeback campaign for the Paris Olympics. She’s an incredible athlete and even more incredible woman. This conversation is short to inspire you. Enjoy this episode with Genevieve Gregson.

Genevieve And Her Accomplishments So Far

Jackie 2:45
Genevieve, thank you so much for chatting with me today. Welcome to the Bodies Built Better podcast.

Genevieve 2:50
Well, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for fitting me in.

Jackie 2:53
Oh, Thank you. I appreciate it. I’m excited. You are I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but you are described as one of Australia’s most accomplished middle distance a women of all time, and you have an Australian record. And you’re a three time Olympic finalist. When you hear that, like looking back over your career or the highs and lows. How do you feel when you hear that?

Genevieve 3:19
I mean, it’s very flattering, obviously, because you make it sound like I feel like I’ve You make it sound like I’ve done more than I feel like I have done really? Yeah, I think it’s just more the mentality that athletes have. We’re always feeling like we need to achieve more than we have, you know, goals are continuously met and then reset. But you know, I am very proud of myself. I do believe I’ve done a lot in my career. But like I said, there’s still so much more I want to do. So hopefully I can keep adding to that list of credentials. And yeah, not not hang up the shoes yet.

Her Healthy Upbringing With Supportive Parents

Jackie 3:55
I’m sure you will. And what I find interesting is a listen to a few of your interviews now. And your mentality obviously is such a healthy one. And you’re currently pregnant with your first child. And I’m so interested to hear about your upbringing, because I feel like when I hear it, it’s like completely foreign. And I’m sure people could can relate with that. But I find it so interesting and how your parents have played a huge part in your career. Can you tell us about your upbringing?

Genevieve 4:32
Yeah, I mean, growing up I obviously didn’t think that it was strange at the time probably till I got a little bit older. But I just had a big family. I have three brothers and we’re all a year apart. So I think from the get go, we were always going to be a very active and and while bunch of kids. We lived on a farm and they’ve done 120 acres just inland from the Gold Coast. So again, just in that type of culture of always playing outside running around, we hate each other to kick to entertain ourselves. And my dad is Yeah, just a sports fanatic. He you know loves loved from the day we could walk having us at the pool, whether it was him swimming in us all in like a little Pigpen on the side of the pool, like sitting there crawling around right up until, you know taking us a little A’s and we were just always in sport, I don’t remember it ever being another way. And I think that ingrained in us whether we were competitive or not, you know, I do have, I’d say two brothers out of the three that aren’t super competitive. And then the other to me and my, one of my brothers, we are just competitive, wired, sort of, you know, everything turns into a competition. But I think we’re, it was strange with us and people listening to this podcast might be like, Oh, my gosh, you guys is my dad, he’s a pharmacist. And you know, he always has been for as long as I can remember. And health was very important. So I did grow up, eating very healthy and eating a lot of red meat, we lived on a wagyu farm. We had every vitamin under the sun that is required for a healthy diet. We had wheatgrass, we had beetroot juice, celery juice, characters, Ginger mixed in with all of it, anything that my dad read about and thought that was really healthy and good for your immune system, we were doing. So having your friends over and see you have wheatgrass in the morning is pretty embarrassing. And we hated it. You know, this wasn’t something we did willingly. But my dad just, yeah, it really encouraged a healthy diet to give us every chance to be good at whatever we wanted to do. Because we were all passionate about sport. And I think that’s going to be something that’s hard for me to take with a child on the way like do I take it to that extreme and feed my baby lazy juices, because, you know, you had mentioned Ryan was brought up very different to me, my husband, he had more relaxed upbringing, where if you were driven, it was all intrinsic. And you decided what sort of diet you wanted as an athlete, you know, he essentially is self made, he had a mum that was very driven to make sure that he had all the opportunities he needed to become an athlete, but it all came from him wanting to eat healthy and do the right training and turn up to the rat races. So he has the mentality that, you know, fill the fridge with chocolate and lollies and chips. And if they want them, they can have them if not, that’s good. It’s, you know, [it] teaches them self discipline. But you know, I’m coming from a no sugar diet, you know, yeah, healthy drink juices. So that’s something we’ll have to compromise with. But, you know, we both turned out to be very good athletes, and it just shows there are so many methods of parenting, and there’s no one strict way that that is the answer.

What Does Her Husband Say?

Jackie 7:57
Yeah, that’s it. And I’ve listened to a lot of your interviews, and you’ve said that Ryan has said that he thinks you’ve been given more energy for some reason, do you would you could you relate that back to your upbringing and all of that, you know, good, healthy, nutritious food and juice that–

Genevieve 8:21
Yeah, definitely. I–another thing Ryan says about me other than the fact that he thinks I have, like, we prepare is how much energy I have in a day. But he says like my immune system, my, my whole life while he’s known me, you know, I don’t get sick. It’s we couldn’t I mean, before COVID came around, I have had COVID but before COVID come around, I honestly we couldn’t pick a time where they were we remember me having a cold or a flu or, you know, a headache even you know, I just I don’t get sick and that is something that I’m proud of, I guess but it also it just shows I do have a strong immune system and that can be genetic as well. It’s not necessarily you know, just because I ate really healthy growing up. I think growing up on a farm you know, it is very, there is a lot of research out there that a lot of Australia’s really good athletes grew up in country Australia, so sometimes that can come into play. But again, I think there’s so many variables to know if that’s the answer. But Ryan, yeah, he thinks that I’m an alien because I think I just sleep well I get really rested in the night so when I wake up I have so much energy to burn that I’m probably really annoying when you know he wants to have a midday nap and I’m like no we need to go have a house or do something to you know burn energy. So yeah, again, hopefully that comes as a you know, asset when I have a child because there won’t be any of that extra energy to burn. I think we’ll be burning it throughout the night. But yeah, Yeah, he he’s we’re definitely polar opposites in a lot of different areas.

Briefly Surviving COVID

Jackie 10:05
We will have to know, how did you go with COVID?

Genevieve 10:08
Yeah, I didn’t think I had it because I again, it was so mild, I was fully training. It was back in early January, again, I was running every day I was coming off my Achilles surgery, I was pregnant. And yeah, I was felt great until I kind of for a few days had a bit of asthma, I normally get a smile when I get a virus as a kid I always had that. They kind of always paired together. And that was the only thing I really noticed, I–for about three or four days, I remember saying to Ryan, oh, it’s so strange. Every time I go for a run, like, I find it harder to breathe, I definitely have asthma, and I didn’t want to take mental and because I was pregnant. So I just kind of, you know, took it easy for a few days. But it wasn’t until a RAP test showed that I was positive. And I call my doctor like my sports doctor. And he goes, Yeah, that’s that sounds like COVID If you had asthma strangely for a few days, because it is a respiratory virus. So I, you know, other than that, I was fine. I felt just rundown for three or four days, but you know, I seem to get rid of it pretty well. And yeah, bounce back. Yeah. Side effects since, so hopefully that I don’t do that again.

Looking Back On Her Relationship With Her Parents

Jackie 11:23
Yeah, yeah. When, when you do look back on everything that your parents did? Can you pick parts where you go? Actually, that was a really good thing they did I really want to do that. You know, for my child.

Genevieve 11:39
Yeah. Oh, so much. My parents were, I would say they were strict. I was scared of them. But not in a bad way. You know, they’re not belting me,

Jackie 11:48
totally, terrible people, they I can relate, I’ll just say my dad,

Genevieve 11:53
Discipline, and you had to earn everything, like my mum, you know, had it in her head that we had to all play the piano, which meant half an hour practice morning, half, half an hour practice at night, and there was four kids. So that meant our day started about 5am with slots of 30 minutes, you know, just rotating us through before school and you couldn’t go to a friend’s house unless you’ve got your practice out of the way. Or if they had a piano, you had to be doing it at their house. Like we did have crazy routine and schedule, that in this day and age, I look back and think like, “Well, that was back in the day where things were strict.” But you know, even just going to the movies, like, it wasn’t as simple as me being like, Oh, Mom, I want to go to the movies with my friends. You know, she would say, Well, have you cleaned your room have you is the house in good order and stuff like that. So my parents were strict, but in a way that I think taught us a lot. You know, we were never given anything for free. We had to work for everything we wanted. And we’re I think I would like to take a leaf out of their book was with sport. They gave it you know, when we were really young, they gave us every opportunity to be good. I think when you’re really young, you don’t always know what’s best for you. And they just made sure that they could take us to everything we needed to go they could you know pay for a uniform if I made the state team. They were pushy, when at times when they thought we probably were just being lazy and would have preferred to go to a party or you know, a holiday than go training. And I think the biggest thing that my parents did that actually made my career what it was, was I was offered a scholarship to America to study and essentially be a professional athlete, you know, you, you get a degree and you race all in at the same time, which is really hard for 18 year olds, but I was given an amazing opportunity in Florida. I didn’t want to go. I said to them, I’m not going. I told the people offering me the scholarship, no, like I passed off all the offers, and I applied to university in Queensland. And my parents just wouldn’t have a bar of it. They’re like, we’re not letting you miss this. We know you love running, we know you’re talented, you can get a free degree like all your brothers are paying for university. And so they said for the first year, you have to try it. So they sent me over there, they came over with me and set me up because I knew I was so anxious about leaving home. And they just kind of put me, sternly put me in my place and said, try it for a year you’re only 18. If you hate it in a year’s time, and you can confidently look us in the eye and say this is not for you. You can come home and do whatever you want to do. But we’re not letting you pass this without trying. And I mean, I ended up loving it. It did take me a long time. But I ended up loving it, having a great college experience, and getting a free degree. And at the end of those four years of college I qualified for my first Olympic Games. And I mean the rest is history. And it’s just scary to think in that sliding door moment if my parents have you know, felt bad that I was so upset because when I say I didn’t want to go, like I didn’t want I got I ran away from home one day, I was like, “You can’t make me!” Like you can’t put me on that plane. Like I was adamant that that wasn’t for me. And even when they dropped me off in America, I cried for weeks straight. I was like, Skyping them every day, telling them I hated it. And then I needed to come home. And mum at times was heartbroken. She said so many times she said, Ask my dad, like, “Are you sure we should be doing this?” This is the right thing. Like, she’s devastated. But they persist in and I just think like, that is such an amazing like to know when, when is too much. And when you do need to push them. I think that’s something that is really hard for a parent and I don’t know if I’ll be as good as it is. I’m, I’m probably a bit more of a softy. Like, because I’m just comparing how I am with, like, animals. Yeah, I just Parenting is hard. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, you know, there is a lot of trial and error. But you also got to trust your instincts. If you think there’s an opportunity for your child, and it’s worth pushing them a little bit, you know, I believe that you should be a bit of a pushy parent.

Jackie 16:02
Yeah, I mean, especially if they see and know how talented you are. And you know, what you are made of when, when you were offered that like what was? What was the driving know, behind it? Were you scared of leaving home? Was that it? Or did you did you fall out of love with running? Like, what was–

Genevieve 16:24
I think it ended up being a series of things. But it all stemmed from me being scared of leaving home, being from such a close knit family of three brothers. You know, we had a lovely home life, or your mum had dinner on the table every night, we you know, did family holidays, we were close with our grandparents, like I just came from a bubble of very protected sort of environment, you know, I had a great school I loved my schooling is, you know, they made a big deal with me and my running, I think it was just a safe environment for me. And I was scared of change and really venturing out into the real world and kind of leaving home at 18. You know, back in the day it wouldn’t have seemed bad but at the time for me, I just felt like I wasn’t an adult, I wasn’t grown up and to then go live on my own. It was scary. And then that made me think maybe I don’t want to run, if running makes me have to leave home and, and be away from my family and be upset all the time. Maybe that’s not for me. And so then there was like that period of six months before college where I started to question whether I even wanted to run or not. And when I got to America, I was still really unhappy for like the next six months, I was you know, looking at the team of girls. And there were a few girls on the team that I thought were, like, too thin. And that kind of scared me. I was like this is not the environment I want to be in, this is a bit toxic. And it just, it was a snowball of me being scared at the start and then turning everything into a negative like even saying things like, “I don’t want to make friends with Americans. I don’t want to be in America. I don’t want to live here. I want to live in Australia.” It was just me kind of not really finding any positives in a situation. And in making my own environment toxic and cool. I accepted that being there was the best thing for me. And then I mean, like overnight, I loved it and started running really well and had such a great few years.

Jackie 18:27
We–you say overnight, but was there something that turned it around for you? Like just a flip of the switch? Yeah.

Genevieve 18:35
It wasn’t–Yeah, it was not overnight, I think a few things happen. So if I got dropped off in August 2008 was when I started at college, that’s when the the year starts. I was running well believe it or not like I was really sad. I didn’t have any friends and I was you know, Skyping home a lot. But my running was very stable. And I was kind of finding peace in that running was the only thing bringing me a constant, like happiness. So training was good and racing was good. But come December I came home again, to see my family for Christmas. And that reset me kind of set me back again because I saw everyone and I had to go to the airport again and say goodbye and cry and just you know, kind of like rip the band aid off all over again. But then it was about nine days after the New Year. In 2009 My parents got a very, like, blindsiding divorce, they separated. And for me at the time and all us kids it just, it felt like it came out of nowhere. Obviously divorces don’t come out of nowhere. There’s plenty of context. But yeah, for me being so far away from home and hearing that my family home back in Brisbane was separating and the house was being sold and my mum and brothers were moving out and so on. I think I felt like I’d taken a step back. And here I am in America, I’m not helpful. I’m not useful. Like my mom’s upset. I’m not, you know, like, what am I doing here? That, you know, resonated with me really badly for a while. And again, running was the only thing I could say at that time that was going well, I just kept running well, I must have just kind of been channeling, you know, stress and anxiety. And it wasn’t until my mum came over to visit me just to reassure me that, you know, she was fine, everyone was fine, everything’s gonna be okay. It’s just going to be different. I’d say probably by the time May rolled around, I just, once I felt like everything was okay, at home, there was nothing I could do by being there. I just thought, you know, I need to embrace that. What I have here is, is special, and I’m a good runner. And I have an opportunity here. And yeah, I’d say from May to June, my running took elite. And I made nationals as a freshman, which was a big deal at the time, in the 5000 metres. And I think that is just what it was just like, an answer. For me. It’s, you know, when, when all else fails, and you feel like your sky is falling, and you always have running if you want it, and I thought running is what I love. That’s what I do. And that’ll be the thing that I keep constant when things aren’t going well. And I just thought I’ll stick it out and see how I go for another year. And I just kept loving it. I stopped coming home. This summer, like, summertime would roll around, Mum’s like, “when are you coming home” and I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna stay.” Or my family came, used to just come and visit me after a while. And yeah, it’s crazy how it’s just all mindset. Nothing, nothing became more comfortable. In Florida. It’s not like people started being nicer to me, or, you know, anything changed externally. It was just, I think mentally I’d put a wall up. And once I accepted that, you know, you can’t control things out of your control. I just yeah, really turn that switch and start to progress in all areas of life, school, running, happiness, just everything.

Preparing For Life With Baby

Jackie 22:10
Yeah, amazing. And speaking of control, when the little one does come along, I know you’d like to have a plan and some structure. Do you? Do you sort of look ahead and go, I’ll make sure I save time for this. And this here and there? Like, are you sort of able to plan at the moment what life could look like with baby?

Genevieve 22:35
Yeah, I’ve tried to–I think the thing where it first all starts is trying to make, like, a birth plan, something that Ryan and I haven’t really sat down and given a whole lot of time, which we should soon because I’ve been birthing territory. But I think that’s what I’ll probably find the hardest is letting go of the reins a little bit. And being on his schedule. You know, babies don’t choose when to have restless nights and be difficult if they’re unhappy. So what I’ve tried to do is just have a rough idea of what I want to achieve in say, my career in the next year, and how that’s how I think that’s gonna look. And then when the baby comes, it’ll just be about trying to find some sort of routine. So we’ve gone and done little things like we’ve set up a home gym, you know, we have a treadmill, we have an elliptical and a bike, because reality is, you know, I can’t go off to the gym like I did this morning for three hours, you know, that doesn’t happen anymore. So we’ve tried to set up things so that home is the home base, it’s the office, you know, we set up our online business so that Ryan is always here working. You know, I can be in the office when he’s nursing the baby. It’s just all going to be structured around us always being home. And it’s a big reason why we moved back to Queensland, that’s where my family is. And my mum lives around the corner. So she’s, you know, more than willing to be very hands on and helpful. But like you said, the hardest part will be, I can’t have my, you know, Monday to Friday, very strict routine that keeps me in order. It’s going to have to be a little loose and it’s around the baby’s schedule. But again, I think people forget how flexible and adaptive athletes are. I mean, we spend our career having to change plans and expect the unexpected. So I do think that I’ll take it in my stride and it won’t be as scary as some people make it out to be.

You can find Genevieve on Instagram at @gregsonrunning. Listen to our past episodes of the Bodies Built Better Podcast for more athletic insights!

Where to find Genevieve:

Instagram: @gengen_lacaze

Website: www.gregsonrunning.com.au

Instagram: @gregsonrunning

Follow @jackietann_rmt and @bodiesbuiltbetter on Instagram

Got questions, comments, or feedback? Get in touch via the above social media handles.

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