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Pro Runner Jen Rhines's Tips For Epic Runs

This Marathoner Gives Young Runners Her Top Tips For Epic Runs

We joined forces with adidas and pro marathoner Jen Rhines to give a girls cross country team the tools they need to reach their running potential.
Jen Rhines can attest to the commitment it takes to be an elite athlete — both in strength of body and of mind. The three-time Olympian not only represented the USA at the Sydney, Athens, and Beijing Games, but also set two US Masters' records after the age of 40. She began running at age 12 on her junior high track team and will be 45 this year: that’s over three decades spent hitting the pavement. So how does she maintain the health of her body and mind with an eye toward longevity? It all comes down to four main pillars: flexibility, hydration, nutrition, and mindset.

Now, Jen is motivating the next generation to reach their full potential, on and off the trail. She recently took to the bluffs overlooking Santa Monica Beach alongside the young women of the Pacifica Christian Sea Wolves Cross Country Team — read on to find out all the empowering insights Jen shared with the group, as well as her favorite stretches and moves to help any runner recover.
For Jen, flexibility is the key to unlocking faster run times and maintaining a healthy body in general. "Focus on active stretching prerun, passive stretching postrun, and plan to attend a yoga class once a week," she said. She stresses the importance of those warmup exercises, especially on days when you plan to run fast. “Even when you’re planning a hard day, don’t be afraid to start easy and work into the faster pace,” she said. “Give your body a little time to warm up!”

Her favorite way to warm up includes doing dynamic exercises (aka stretches that require movement) such as leg swings, bodyweight squats, and lunges. “Static stretching, where you do longer holds of each stretch, is better to save for after your run,” she said.

Even though Jen is a professional runner, she still has those days when it feels tough to get motivated. When she's feeling lazy, she says she reflects back on why she committed to a training plan in the first place and why it’s important to her, and then she tries to return to that motivation. “Some days my motivation is to clear my head and be with my own thoughts,” she said. “Other times I look forward to meeting up with a group and chatting the whole run. The most important thing is to stop making excuses and stop procrastinating — just go and take that first step!”

It also helps to remember how much better you typically feel postexercise: “It makes pushing through that lazy feeling totally worth it!” she said.

How you treat your body postrun is just as important — proper recovery between workouts helps ensure that your bones, joints, and muscles will live to see many more runs to come! “A postrun stretch, good hydration, and nutrition will all help you recover faster,” Jen said. “If you have the ability to fit in bodywork, cryotherapy, or a float-tank session, these modalities will help you recover faster too.”

In terms of postrun stretches that Jen swears by, focus on the quads, hamstrings, and glutes — the major muscle groups that tend to get tight in runners. “Two other areas that I think are important to pay attention to are your feet and chest muscles,” she said. “Your feet do a lot of work when you’re running and it’s very common for them to get tight, which can lead to injury. The same goes for your chest muscles. You breathe hard when you’re running and many people tend to roll their shoulders forward, so loosening up the chest is important, and it will make your breathing feel easier.”

To further protect your feet and joints from injury, choose a shoe like the adidas Ultraboost 19, which has 20% more Boost — AKA a more cushioned midsole that compresses when you touch down and instantly bounces back when you take off, allowing for better shock absorption and super high energy return.
Building that training schedule can be a little daunting, especially if you’re new to the running world. However, Jen says it all just comes down to showing up for yourself. “Honor the commitment that you made to yourself, or on behalf of someone or something that’s close to your heart,” she said, also mentioning it’s important to create a balance within your training plan.

Other elements of your plan that don’t include the actual running — but are just as crucial — are paying attention to smart nutrition and proper hydration. Jen emphasizes that starting with 8 to 16 oz. of water right when you wake up, and continuing to drink water throughout the day (8 oz., eight times per day), will make a huge difference in how you feel across the board. Stick to a meal plan that includes fruits and veggies galore (“You always want your meals to be colorful!” Jen said) and high-quality protein, and doesn’t include processed food.

Perhaps the most important — and often the most overlooked — part of maintaining a healthy body is treating your mind with care. Mindset is everything; “If you don’t follow a meditation practice, then take five minutes a day to focus on your breathing,” Jen said. “Just follow your breath. Whenever you are feeling stressed, take a moment to just breathe. It’s that simple.”

And what about when those inevitable feelings of self-doubt (“I’m not fast enough/talented enough,” “I can’t maintain this training plan,”) begin to creep in? Jen said, “Pushing outside of your comfort zone is never easy, but it is exciting! There’s a huge sense of satisfaction in taking a risk, even when you don’t achieve your immediate goal.” Remember that everything is an opportunity for you to learn and grow. “There will always be value in what you learn, and you can take this experience to the next race, or towards the next big goal,” she said. "Stay in the moment, don’t get ahead of yourself. Positive thoughts and actions will keep you moving forward towards your goal."
Even if you’ve always seen yourself as a solo runner, or if running is a personal moment where you can put your headphones in and let your mind drift, running can open up a great community that offers a sense of comradery and support. “Running buddies” can be people you actually run with or people who you meet up with postrun to decompress. “My favorite way to wind down from a run is to do some light stretching while chatting with friends,” Jen said.

That community can also play a bigger role in your life overall. “If you’re feeling down and your belief in yourself is wavering, ask yourself the question, 'Who needs my help today?'” Jen said. “This can be help with a run, a workout, or something completely unrelated to athletics. Helping someone else can shift your focus and alter the negative path that you’re heading down. This establishes a pattern of people helping each other when we need it the most.”

When it comes down to it, Jen wants the next generation of women runners to remember to take their struggles with a grain of salt. “If you are human you are going to make mistakes, but it doesn’t define you as a person,” she said. “Acknowledge them, let them go, and move on. Make the adjustments to the things that you need to work on, and ask for help when you need it!”

But most of all: don’t sweat the small stuff and just have fun! “Whether you’re running for your high school or college, it’s something that won’t go on forever,” Jen said. “Now is the time to enjoy it!”

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Credits: Photography: Laura Austin; Art Direction: Samara Grossman; Production: Andi Nash; Models: Jen Rhines, Pacifica Christian Sea Wolves Cross Country Team