Karen Furneaux is a 3-Time Olympian and 2-Time World Champion and winner of over 50 International Medals over her 20-year professional sprint kayaking career. Karen is the founder of I Promise Performance, Inc. and speaks with audiences in the Atlantic Provinces and abroad about the connection between health, mindset and performance. In the summer of 2016, Karen was a member of CBC’s Olympic Broadcast Team in Rio.
Her formal training includes a Masters of Science Degree from Dalhousie University in Kinesiology, with specialization in Sport Psychology. She holds multiple certifications, and has undergone extensive Team and Leadership training through Cornell University and is a licensed HeartMath provider to help her clients build resilience and stress management skills.
Karen has most recently been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame and has been named as one of the top 15 most successful athletes (11th) in Nova Scotia sport history. Karen is most passionate about engaging and empowering youth, donating her time with the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame – Education Program. She has most recently created a mentorship and empowerment group for girls aged 12-18 called ‘Strong Beauty’ which helps young girls with self-confidence, positive body image, positive lifestyle habits and managing times of transition.
What made you get into Kayaking?
I started kayaking when I was 12 years old at the Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverley, Nova Scotia. I grew up on the lakes of Waverley and learned how to swim at Cheema and eventually, I was interested in kayaking. I loved the feeling of being on the water and using my body to power the boat to go faster.
What adversity have you had to overcome as athlete?
Adversity: Injuries- 2 lumbar disk hernias and 3 rib stress fractures. Accepting that injuries were part of the journey and learning from my injuries and becoming more innovative in creating new ways to train effectively and efficiently was always what got me through those tough times. I was also always one of the smallest competitors on the world cup circuit- but that made me mighty.
How often do you currently train and for how long?
I am now retired from my professional kayaking career (2012) so now my training happens for a much shorter period of my day. I love movement, so try to incorporate a mid-day hike or walk. I have a regular weekday gym workout. I have always felt strongest in the gym and I love how my body and mind feel after a good workout. I work with a trainer to bring new movements into my programming. I am more focused now on being healthy, strong and well in my workouts so I don’t focus too much on any specific length of time.
When and why did you start I Promise Performance?
I started I Promise Performance in 2010 as a means to help people improve their overall health, performance and presence at work. I love working with construction companies to raise awareness around mindfulness, movement, meal and snack choices, sleep and self-care. As one of my services to clients, I bring high quality food and snacks to my as an alternative to high sugar, low nutrient options that would be the go-to. My favourite work is the keynote and workshop speaking that I get to do on Leadership, Performance and Resilience through transition. And of course, there is my program for young women, Strong Beauty. I have a book launching in February 2018 called: “Strong Beauty: Honouring the Champion Within”
What is unique about your companies approach to fitness?
The I Promise Performance approach to fitness is to create a lifestyle habit and practice it everyday. It is about small, manageable changes, not necessarily the huge leap to improve performance.
What are some key pieces of advice would you give athletes wanting to avoid injury?
Key pieces of advice to avoid injury- it is all in the activation and the warm-up. I believe in doing pre-habilitation exercises as opposed to the Re-habilitation, post injury. It is the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Spend the time in your warm up and be warm and ready for your workout. Activate the chain and the muscle groups that will be the primary focus for the workout and don’t be shy to grab a roller or a ball during a workout as well. Cool down for me is body rolling and foam rolling. I am also a huge fan of flotation therapy (bathing in Epsom salts) and make it a monthly practice.
What is your #1 fitness tip?
#1 Fitness tip: Be present to what you are doing. Pay attention and be immersed in the experience of what your body can do! Be grateful everyday and eat mindfully. Sleep! I can’t emphasize sleep enough. Sleep is the X factor.
Want to get in touch with Karen and learn more about her and her journey? She certainly is big on social media!
Youtube: Karen Furneaux