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Instagram is where we discover the latest and greatest, from yummy recipes to chic activewear to sick workouts. Usually accounts have 1 of the 3, so it’s rare and exciting to come across people that cover all three. Enter, @jamiegrimstad aka Little J. She’s a rising freshman at Columbia University set to do cross country—so clearly she knows a thing or two about how to get a killer stride. Since we aren’t such avid runners (and honestly have a tough time breaking 3 miles), we sat down with Little J to get the scoop on where to begin:

How did you get into running? I am actually fairly new to running believe it or not. I always ran with my dad as a child (here and there, though, nothing serious) but it wasn’t until my Freshman year that I began running competitively on a team….

What are the challenges that you face as a runner? There are two main components to running: the physical and the mental. For me, the mental is one of the most challenging parts; however, it is the side to running that can separate you from being a “good” runner to being a “great” runner. During a race, repeat workout, or long run, it is really up to you to decide how hard you want to push, how competitive you want to be and how much discomfort you want to feel. This is why my coaches push me to train outside of my comfort zone—so that i get used to feeling uncomfortable in a sense. While this has been hard for me at some points during my running career, there always comes a time when the pace that used to feel uncomfortable becomes easier and more manageable. Whenever this happens, I know that I am doing something right!

What are your top 5 tips for people who want to get into running but are intimidated by the process?

  1. Get some cool gear: I’m a big believer that if you feel like you look good, you will not only be more motivated to go on a run or workout, but you will push yourself harder.
  2. Do some research: After my Freshman year of high school, I decided that I wanted to get serious about this sport. I spent hours reading up on nutrition and training plans online until I found something that I felt like would get me in shape for my Sophomore season of cross country. I found a training plan on runnersworld.com and followed it exactly, which resulted in me dropping my times by 2 minutes from the previous year!
  3. Find a running buddy: There’s nothing better than having a friend to run alongside of you— whether they are a regular runner or just starting out. One of my friends recently decided that she wanted to start running and even though I run with her at a much slower pace, I have helped her improve so much, which is an amazing feeling. Yes, going on long runs alone are good sometimes (especially for thinking) but I promise, it is very rare that a runner will turn down the opportunity to hit the trails or track with someone else.
  4. Read running magazines: I know it sounds weird, but seeing people in running magazines, reading their stories, and learning more about the sport always gets me motivated and/or improve upon what I am already doing training wise. (My favorites: Runner’s World, Fitness Mag, Women’s Health + Running Times - for High School running)
  5. Just go for it! I know that this is easier said than done, but running is one of those sports that you just have to go for. Do not get me wrong, you do not have to run miles and miles on your first stab at it - rather, start small. Even if you run for 10 minutes the first time, the next time run for 15.

What are your nutrition tips for runners? The nutrition part of running is a little bit tricky, and really takes a lot of trial and error. By now, I have figured out what foods do not sit great with me pre/post workout; however, what affects me poorly could work great for someone else.

Pre-workout in the morning, I normally turn to a banana and peanut butter to get my protein/carbs that will keep me energized.

For lunch, a salad with a variety of veggies and a serving of protein — whether it be grilled chicken, shrimp, or fish.

A light dinner works best for me and normally consists of grilled veggies / meat or something similar to lunch. (My general rule is to have a colorful plate with at least one source of protein per meal.)

For snacking, I recommend dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, or some type of smoothie.

Most importantly, I drink water all day. It is crucial for a runner to be hydrated - especially during these hot, summer months.

What are your recovery tips? As a competitive athlete, my biggest fear is getting injured, which is why one of the most important things to do is to allow your body to recover properly after a workout.

Everyday, I use a handheld roller to massage my leg muscles. I do this pre-run and post-run to eliminate lactic acid build up and to prevent any discomfort during my workout. I do a dynamic workout pre-run to get warm and always cool down with at least 10 minutes of light jogging followed by static stretching.

Right after a workout, I also re-hydrate my body with water or Zico Coconut Water (the chocolate flavor is best); however, a lot of people will drink chocolate milk to replenish themselves.

Lastly, I recommend taking a steam at least twice a week to stretch out your body (also, super relaxing) and icing your body after longer runs.

One final injury tip: I always, always, always have two pairs of the same running shoe at a time. I rotate my shoes everyday, which not only keeps the shoes in-tact for longer, but helps to prevent any lower leg injury that could come from over-worn sneakers.

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Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos, Greece