Q&A - Boulder Runner Jenny DeSouchet - Life, Sports Injuries, and Beating Usain Bolt

Jenny DeSouchet is a lifelong runner and former CU Buff Cross Country/Track athlete interested in using her experiences to help other runners stay healthy. She writes about injury prevention, strength training and the psychological side of running on her blog, http://www.ptrunnergirl.com/.

Why running?
Well, I've been running, in addition to other sports, since 2nd grade. I always found myself loving the running portion of basketball, softball, soccer etc. way more than the ball-handling stuff, so I started competing in middle school. I learned to love track and field in high school and have had a passion for it ever since. 

Worst injury?
Bi-lateral labral tears that required surgery and some months off of running during college. 

Do you understand why you get injured, or do injuries just happen?
I've had a cycle of injuries after my hip surgeries in college, probably caused by a combination of my genetics, training load and frequency, and ultimately doing more mileage/competing at higher distances than my body is truly intended for. I have natural speed at distances from 200m-800m, but because I was able to jump up and perform relatively well in longer races like 5k/6k cross country, I have always pushed/been urged to train more miles than I think my body can really handle. I ran about 35 mpw in high school and performed well, then in college pretty quickly jumped up to 50-60 mpw in a matter of a few months. My body, in a lot of different ways, was just not prepared. 

What's your cross training regiment look like when you're injured?
Well! It used to be that when I was injured, I would do some form of cardio for a very long time per day. For example, I went through a phase of spin biking for 90 min-3 hours a day when I had a tendinitis injury for a few months. This was not helpful and probably a waste of time. 

Now, I know that I don't have a huge problem getting my aerobic fitness back, I am focusing on building strength. I currently have an injury that I could cross train through like I've done in the past, but instead I'm focusing on getting in the weight room and gaining the strength that I've never really had. I think this is going to help my running/any other activities in the long run. 

What type of physical therapy do you do, and what's that process been like?
Generally, I see Jeff or Kristin when I have an injury that I've run into a wall with trying to treat on my own. In this case, we'll do something like dry needling or another modality and they'll give me exercises to do at home. The PT that I try to do consistently on my own is hip mobility, ankle stability, and dynamic flexibility. I am way too flexible (especially around my joints) and so I stay away from much static stretching. 

What are your training goals?
Currently, I'm just trying to get strong and be healthy. I've stepped away from competitive running and don't see myself training seriously for awhile. I am taking the time to build a better running body, in the gym, rather than with training. 

Will you run when you're 70?
Maybe! It would be miraculous if my 70 yr old self was healthier than my 23 yr old self. I'd love to run as long as physically possible. Maybe I'll have hip replacements by then and won't feel a thing. 

What's the worst part of PT?
Getting started with doing my PT exercises. It's always something that kind of weighs on my mind as another thing I have to do, but once I actually start it, it's easy and enjoyable to know you're doing something that is beneficial. 

What's the best part of PT?
Going for a run/training and not having pain anymore. Or, after getting dry needling and miraculously getting off the table without the pain you came in with. 

How can athletes stay healthy?
The most important things I can tell athletes to do to stay healthy is:

1) Train less than you are capable of. It's better to be less fit and healthy than be super fit and overtrained. Just because you can run with a faster group, or more miles, does not mean you should. 

2) Don't rush. Set long term goals, but set tiny short term goals that can help you get there safely and without overdoing it. 

3) Do only the training that YOU think is right for your body and don't be afraid to speak up to your coach (or yourself) when you think there is something wrong.(That doesn't mean not doing hill repeats because they suck, it means choosing not to do hill repeats when you have a nagging injury or because you know your body needs an easy day). 

Are the little things, in your experience, like stretching, sleep and diet really that important? Or does it have to do with recognizing your training limits?
Yes. Both. I think recognizing your training limits trumps everything when it comes to staying healthy, but I also know that the little things like stretching, sleeping and diet do add up. Probably sleeping more than anything else, especially because diet is so individualized and dependent on your particular training. 

What type of recovery do you do?
Right now since I have a full time job, it's somewhat difficult to get in as much recovery time as I used to in college. I try to foam roll and do my PT exercises, eat healthy and lots of protein, and get enough sleep. In college, I did a lot more foam rolling, ice baths, sitting in the normatec, and begging for massages from the trainers. 

What's the best recovery food out there?
Hmm... my college self probably would have said something like pancakes with a lot of carbs, but now I realize how extremely important protein is. And, like, mentally, a good recovery good should be extremely delicious. I think probably a burger would be a really good recovery food, but I probably would opt for chickpea pasta (high in protein, delicious) with beef or chicken and a big bowl of greens (I'm a veggie lover). 

What's your worst running experience?
I once broke my shin in an 800m race. I didn't even run fast. Haha. 

Best?
Running NCAA cross country in college with my team. 

Hardest track & field distance?
300m hurdles. Actually, probably the steeplechase but I've never tried it. I did do the 300m hurdles in high school and it was insanely hard so I can imagine that clearing hurdles during a 3000 would be about 10x harder. 

At what distance do you think you could beat Usain Bolt? My guess is anything over 1200m is going to be a close race.
Haha. I don't think I could beat him at anything less than a 5k. He's tough! (You heard it here, Jen can beat Bolt in a 5k).

If you could be a professional at any other sport, which sport would you choose and why?
Bodybuilding!! Haha. You can tell I'm getting into weightlifting! But I think that bodybuilding is awesome because it's all about self-improvement and growth (physically and mentally). Like running, you push yourself in training (lifting) to see improvements and have to really dial in on both the scientific and mental aspect of the sport.