I am so excited for this post! I reached out to Jenny after we had shared some tweets back and forth about running related things, and she agreed to do an interview through email for my readers!
For those of you who may not know Jenny Simpson, here’s a quick bio from her website:
Two-time Olympian Jenny (Barringer) Simpson has returned to CU to train with Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs and will serve as a volunteer assistant with the Buffs for her second year.
Simpson won the 2011 IAAF World Championship in the 1,500, winning in 4:05.40 to become the first American since another former Buff, Mary Decker Slaney, won in 1983. In 2013, she narrowly missed defending her world title as she finished second overall.
Here’s a great pic from that World Championship race:
I had met her in 2012 after the 5th Avenue Mile…she is so nice and down to earth!
This past year, she won the 5th Avenue Mile in around 4:18 I believe…Can I be that fast?
Okay, without further ado, here is her interview:
What race/s are you currently training for? Do you have a goal race in sight?
I’m currently training for the outdoor season. Most of my season will consist of Diamond League races which is the highest level competition circuit for professionals. I can’t wait to get started! I’m really focusing on trying to lower some of my PRs this year. After all these years, I am still looking for ways to improve and get a little bit faster.
How many miles per week are you currently running?
The winter is when I do the bulk of my mileage. I’m not racing on the weekends yet and I’m building up a solid aerobic foundation before the intense track sessions begin. So I’m running about 70 miles per week right now.
What would you say is the most important thing for recovery? (stretching, foam rolling, icing, etc.)
What does your daily nutrition look like? Do you count calories to make sure you’re eating enough given how much you train?
I don’t count calories and I don’t follow a specific or strict diet. I do make decisions about my meals and food in order to maximize nutrition but at the foundation, this can be as simple as choosing an orange for a snack instead of Oreos. We all know the basics of what food will fuel us and often those foods are excellent at filling us! My basic recipe is to eat when I’m hungry, choose good foods, cook for myself as often as I can, and at the end of the day, end on a sweet note.
How often do you strength train? Could you give us insight as to how many sets and reps you typically do? Is it with heavier weight or lighter weight? Total body or mostly focused on core work?
I am in the weight room two times a week and most of the work I do in there is body weight, lower reps. There are certainly some weighted exercises but they’re not high weight. The emphasis for me in the weight room is to supplement and strengthen my running. That means a focus on injury prevention, range of motion, flexibility, and balance.
Favorite core exercises?
I don’t think you can beat planks! They are the perfect core workout in my opinion because everyone can start out at their own level of difficulty and advance from there. The important thing to remember is that your body only adapts when it’s being challenged. So if you can hold a front plank for five minutes, congratulations but now you need to change it up so it’s more challenging. Try side planks, single leg planks, or add some weight, and always remember to have perfect form. No cheating
What advice would you give to someone who has been running for a few years (and does speed work/hill work etc.) and wants to get faster?
First, I would warn them that I don’t coach people, so my advice is worth what they’re paying for it! But from my own experience I would first advise someone stuck in a rut to either join a running group or get together with a coach. Motivation and guidance has been such a huge key to my success and even meeting people for runs can be such a fun lift during the week and I’m always getting good ideas from my training partners and coaches. It’s also useful to have people to push you on days that you need to challenge yourself and people to slow you down and chat with on recovery days. Half of the fun in running is the social side!
What was your worst injury/how long were you out/ how did you deal with it?
I’ve struggled with stress reactions in my femur. I’m not sure why that seems to by my weak link but I sat out my Freshman indoor season in college because of it and in 2010 ended my first professional season early because of the same issue. I have found that the best way to deal with a major injury is to own it and immediately work on getting 100% healthy. I could have limped on in “training through my injury” in both cases but as a college runner and pro, I was surrounded by wise people who encouraged me to put my heath first. Due to that wisdom and not dragging out the attempt to train while injured, in both cases I bounced back quickly and more successfully. My Freshman outdoor season, five months after my injury, I won my first NCAA championship in the steeplechase and 2011 I won the World Championships in South Korea.
Going along with that, do you cross train to avoid injury? Or only cross train if you’re injured?
I don’t cross train on a regular basis. Mostly that’s because I train full time and when I’m not running, I’m recovering. I think cross training can be an excellent supplement though and I wouldn’t advise others to rule it out. I have just found a good running/recovery balance for my own career that doesn’t incorporate the bike or pool.
How do you motivate yourself on days where you really don’t feel like running?
This happens more than you would think. I absolutely love to race and I live for the days that I’m in great shape and I head out on a sunny day and everything in the universe feels right. But those kinds of days are special. On a day when I’m sore from the previous workout, have a busy day ahead, and the weather is lousy, I need motivation like everyone else! The easiest way for me to get out the door is meeting my teammates. If we wake up to snow its a guarantee my teammate’s phones are gonna ring with me on the other end! My other solid motivation is just feeling accountable to the team of people that support my running career and the blessing that I get to race for a living! There are so many people that support me that never get the spotlight. I owe it to my them to muster up a few hours of training even on lousy days.
In a race, do you have any mantras that you go to when your legs and lungs are getting tired? How do you fight through the pain?
Especially when I’m deep into a race and I start to doubt I always think to myself “you’ve come so far, don’t throw out that hard work now!” Every race you invest so much throughout the whole distance. You never know what could happen and why throw away 4000 meters of work when you only have 1000 meters to go! Just keep pressing and see what happens!
Favorite post-race meal?
The first thing in sight! haha. I’m fortunate that I’m not a picky eater. When I finish a race it is often not about wanting a lot of food or specific food, it is about getting to a meal as soon as possible! If I could have anything though, I would probably go for mexican (but again, maybe that’s because they bring out tortilla chips right away!)
Do you get black toenails?
This winter has been a bear and so I’ve had to wear snow cleats on my shoes. They’re kind of tight and they have given me so many back toenails! Pedicures are a must. But usually, no, I don’t get black toenails. If you do, consider trying a half size larger shoe or going to your local running store to get a professional shoe fitting. You might be able to end those black toenails and try a lighter spring shade of nail polish at your next pedicure!
I can’t believe I got to chat with a professional runner, and I’m even more excited to share it with all of you!
What questions would you want to ask an elite runner?
Do you do any of the things Jenny talks about?
If you could interview any athlete, who would it be?
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