This is the seventh feature in a series of guest posts featuring many women from the Strong Runner Chicks community. Here at Strong Runner Chicks we welcome individuals of all walks of life. To highlight this we asked our individuals in the SRC community to send us Days in their Lives.
Jenna Klynstra is a 22 year-old, fifth-year senior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. She is a psychology major, statistics minor and will be starting physical therapy school int Pheonix, AZ this summer!! Jenna specializes in the 5k and 10k, where she is All-Conference in both events. Her PR in the 5k is 17:17, but is looking to break 17 this weekend!
Jenna has big running goals moving forward. She is planning on running the Charlevoix Marathon this summer after graduation! Jenna grew up on a horse farm with her mom, dad, younger brother and sister. She loves to travel and has been to most of the National Parks! Jenna admits that she is a coffee and peanut butter addict, HUGE Harry Potter fan, and loves Jesus.
Welcome to the SRC family Jenna!
My running journey started when I was just old enough to walk. My mom would enter me in the kids’ fun runs at all the road races she did, and I would walk around after the race with a cool new dress-length shirt with edgy ‘90s graphics, along with a shiny finisher’s ribbon. Something about this experience must have been pretty thrilling, since I decided to join the cross country team in 8th grade, which brings me to where I am today: a fifth year senior on the track and cross country teams for Grand Valley State University, a NCAA DII school in Michigan. Running has been a rollercoaster for me, especially because of the eating disorders I struggled with in high school and in college. This is my comeback year in many ways, and I am finding I am stronger than ever before because of what I’ve overcome!
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have morning practice at 7:30am. I usually wake up at 6:30, so I can feed myself (usually some whole grain toast with honey), and feed my child (my kitten, Zooey!). Then, my friend Madi and I drive to practice and jam out to some T Swift. At practice, we get a good lift in and do some core. After that, I get a 4 mile run in outside in the cold Michigan air.
The next part of the day is crucial. I walk from the Indoor Track to Starbucks and get a $1 refill in my coffee mug. It is safe to say that I am addicted to caffeine, and my day would not be able to proceed without it. From there, I trek to the library and find a comfy spot to eat my overnight oats and drink my coffee while I study (or get distracted by social media).
I only have classes on Tuesday/Thursday this semester, as I am graduating this Spring. The first is the capstone for my psychology degree, and the second is neuropsychology. They both happen to be back to back in the same classroom. At some point during these classes (usually between 11:30 and 12), I eat lunch. My stomach is still pretty sensitive from struggling with eating disorders for so long, so I have to be careful with what I eat before a workout. My go-to right now is a PB and J, pretzels, and a banana. I can’t do much besides simple carbs, but my stomach is getting stronger all the time, so hopefully I’ll be eating more exciting lunches in the future!
After class, I power-walk across campus to make it to practice at 2:30. Today, is a hill workout, which is definitely the worst kind (in my opinion), but I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?! After our run, we do a lot of mobility, stretching, and other “little things” to stay healthy. We are also really fortunate to have a snack station in the turf building, so we can get chocolate milk and other snacks in immediately after working out. I also usually stop by the athletic training room to get rolled out and stretch some more.
When practice is finally over, I go home, take a shower, and make dinner. I try and make new meals here and there, but my favorite is honey-glazed salmon, sweet potato wedges, and a salad. At this point in the day, I’m usually pretty brain-dead, so I treat myself to an episode (or 3 haha) of Grey’s Anatomy while I eat dinner. After that, I study for a couple hours in my room or sometimes hit up the library again. I usually have a snack, too, which is usually popcorn or banana “Nice” cream, since I’m lactose intolerant. Finally, I get ready for bed and will either read a bit for fun, or listen to a podcast (Strong Runner Chicks!). It doesn’t take much for me to fall asleep, as I’m training at 70 miles a week right now. I really train well when I can get close to 9 hours of sleep, so I’ve been embracing the early bedtime thing lately.
I’ve really seen a lot of improvement in the past few months with running, and I really attribute it to truly taking care of my body. You can’t neglect sleep, nutrition, hydration, and all the “little” things, and expect to feel good with a high training load. It’s bittersweet to have finally realized how to take care of myself, since I probably would have had a lot more success (and happiness) in my earlier years as a high school and collegiate runner.
My eating disorder in high school began when I started getting interested in nutrition and healthy eating. I soon became addicted to food, calorie-counting, and weighing myself. I couldn’t go a day without pre-portioning my snacks, stepping on the scale, or body-checking in the mirror. It was a full on obsession. At the same time, however, I grew considerably faster, and was PRing by minutes. No one noticed that I was now a shrunken version of myself. I think we were all just focused on the excitement of the times, places, and wins in my races and workouts. I dabbled with restriction/anorexia for a little less than a year, but then the inevitable happened. I discovered the bingeing and purging of bulimia that could get rid of the excruciating hunger I was feeling, but keep my weight down. This was honestly harder for me to go through than anorexia. The shame of eating those behaviors put me into the worst depressive state I could imagine.
My mom finally took notice of my crazy mood swings as well as the food missing from the kitchen. She forced me into treatment, and I hated it. I got “better” just to get out of treatment. I finished my junior and senior year with better physical health, but with barely any mental change. I somehow kept getting faster through all of this, and was recruited to GVSU to run. I loved college running, and the new college environment was a great help to me! However, at the end of my junior year, my dad was diagnosed with Leukemia for a third time. This traumatic event (and the stress of applying to grad schools) crushed the wall of happiness I had built up at college. My eating disorder (that I don’t think I had ever fully recovered from) came back with a vengeance. I was in denial for a while, but I depleted myself to the point where I soon found myself skipping class to sleep the day away, and was passing out in practice. I finally asked for help, and even put myself into a treatment program. I dropped out of school in 2016 to work on healing myself. It was the most difficult and humbling thing I’ve ever done, but it was worth it. While not perfect, I can confidently say that my relationship with food and my body is healthy, and I am really enjoying life! If anyone wants to talk about eating disorders, fueling, or anything at all, I’d love to use my experience to help others!!
To connect with Jenna:
Facebook: Jenna Klynstra