Going the Distance
Talking the benefits of long distance running with LA’s Kristen Kuzemko.
We’ve got running on the mind – and with running, comes training, endurance and maintaining wellness while pushing your body to new limits. To inspire our training as we ramp up for SeaWheeze this August, we connected with Kristen Kuzemko: a full-time marketing professional who doubles as a full-time athlete.
With thousands of miles under her belt, Kuzemko is well-versed in staying motivated while also staying in tune with her body. As a Toronto native who recently moved to sunny Los Angeles, she’s an expert on adjusting to new environments and fostering community through her love of sport.
Discover Kristen’s tips on how to keep motivation, wellness and spirits high, even when temperatures and stress reach new highs. (Hint: she shares an innovative way to use Peppermint Halo!)
Life of sport
What makes you an athlete?
I’ve always been an active person. Growing up, I used to ski-race and played multiple team sports, but never considered myself a true athlete until I found running. I signed up for my first half marathon on a whim after only a week of training and from that first race on, I was hooked. The constant challenge and the unpredictability that you have to fight through with every long run are inspiring to me.
How does running make you feel?
Running, in particular, can be as much a mental outlet as it is a physical one. When you are pounding the pavement it can be a soulful experience that leaves you alone with your thoughts or lets you forget them all together. The run can be a powerful tool that can empower and inspire and I have used it for so many things in my life.
I think participating in any sport brings out the purest form of who you are. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t even really matter what your capabilities are – you’re working towards a personal goal. When you’re out on the track or out on the race course, you’re going all out. It might not be pretty, but I think it’s beautiful when you’re in your rawest, purest form.
What challenges have you faced?
Being a runner and an athlete is a constant battle of ups and downs. One particularly memorable valley in my career was in 2010 when I was signed up to run the NYC Marathon and then I got hit by a car. I was taken away from running and activity for a little over a year. To go from running almost every day for two years to not being able to be active at all affected me mentally. It showed me that running was an escape for me and gave me time to think and gain more clarity.
How important is recovery?
Having to come back from the accident proved to me how important sport is in my life, plus how crucial it is to take recovery seriously – both when facing a major injury and also in daily training. Listen to your body, first and foremost, and be prepared to say no if you have to. Tune in to what your body is saying so you know when to push and when to hold back.
How does the weather impact your training?
Listening to my body became important when I moved to LA. The good weather year-round in Southern California allows athletes to be more active, but that can also be a challenge.
Last year, I took part in The Speed Project: a run that spans from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The temperature in the desert was like nothing I’ve experienced. It gets difficult to find ways to keep cool while you’re running. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with extra gear, so we got creative with Peppermint Halo and it really paid off.
During those crazy-hot days, we’d soak cheesecloths in Peppermint Halo Headache Remedy. We then froze them and kept the packs on our bodies to bring down our core temperatures. It changed my performance to have that kind of cooling relief in the desert’s 100 degree weather.
Thinking bigger picture
What keeps you going through all the miles?
Finding ways to marry sport with philanthropy has become my greatest motivator. When I was getting back into running after the car accident in 2010, I joined a charity team to raise money for prostate cancer. My grandfather had recently been diagnosed so the cause was close to my heart. Every year since then, I’ve run or cycled for a charity that benefits cancer.
I try to find ways to run for a purpose rather than just running for the sake of running. I run because I can, so why not run for those who can’t?
How does sport create community?
Sport translates across the entire globe. When you find someone who likes running, regardless of how well you know them, you connect. You open up during runs, you share things you wouldn’t share over a drink. When I moved away from my friends, family and social life in Toronto, finding a running and wellness community in LA was essential to my well being. When you surround yourself with people who challenge you physically as well as mentally, you feel capable of unearthing the best version of yourself.