“Running exposes you, it pushes you, and it challenges you.”
Geena Gall is an Olympic American mid-distance runner who ran for the University of Michigan, and now is a Brooks running sponsored athlete. Gall’s achievements include back to back NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800m in 2008 and 2009, as well as representing the USA at the 2014 IAAF World Relay Championships, the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the 800m and 4x800m relay. Gall was a a ten-time NCAA All-American, ten-time Big Ten Champion, owning two Big Ten 800m records and two DMR records and numerous U of M school records, and at Grand Blanc High School, she was a three-time national champion.*
Geena and I actually attended the same high school and college together, and it’s been really fun watching her journey the past 14 years. I had the chance to chat with her this past week, get the inside scoop on what her life as a professional runner looks like, and get some training tips to share with FitnessRXwomen!
FitRX: Hi Geena! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me! It seems like not so long ago that we were in high school together, and you were just starting to try out this track thing. You’ve accomplished so much since then… Congrats! What have been some of your favorite moments in your running career?
Geena: Wow! That’s tough because I’ve had a lot of amazing moments throughout my track and field career (15 years to be exact!). I definitely put making the 2012 Olympic team at the top of the list because that was my childhood dream. I remember watching the 96’ Olympics and being glued to the television, watching our American athletes walk into the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies and telling myself that I wanted to do that one day! And in 2012, I did it!
FitRX: You always just look like you are in incredible shape! What does your typical week of training look like?
Geena: Working out and running has become a part of my lifestyle since high school. I like to switch up my training every now and to challenge myself. I do a lot of body weight exercises, push-ups and pull-ups, and HIIT (high intensity interval training) to shock my body and get strong.
Leading up to the 2012 Olympic Trials, I used a training app by Nike, called “Nike Training Club”, which has hundreds of different HIIT workouts for free! Additionally, I like to do some Olympic lifts to stay explosive and strong on the track. I do these supplementary lifts 2-3x a week. I run every day, every week. It is something I like to do to feel good and feel free.
Running is therapeutic and serves as a great exercise that my body and mind have become addicted to. While most people hate running, I love it! Running exposes you, it pushes you, and it challenges you.
FitRX: I love the Nike Training App! That’s so cool that you used it for your Olympic training. What types of things do you do to help your body recover from the intense workouts and training regime?
Geena: Stretching, fueling right after you workout or run, massages, and sleep are the most beneficial to getting faster and staying healthy in this sport. I have been a professional track athlete for several years and I’ve seen various methods of recovery and how much important it is to your training.
My four “recovery” tools are: my TriggerPoint Therapy roller, my lacrosse ball, Normatec Boots, and an cold tub to ice my legs after a hard track session. If I don’t have access to these things, I always stretch on my yoga mat and rest on my back and put my legs up against a wall for 10 minutes.
These recovery methods help flush your legs of lactic acid and stretches your muscles, ligaments, and joints. If I can, I always take a mid-day nap for at least an hour, in addition to sleeping for 8-9 hours a night. Getting adequate food and sleep every day will help your body recover the most!
FitRX: I’ll have to try putting my legs up against the wall — that one sounds like it would work well. You mentioned adequate food — I’m sure your nutrition is also an important factor for training and recovering. Do you follow any type of specific meal plan? What does your typical day of food look like?
Geena: Nutrition is huge in an athlete’s overall training. Most people think we go on diets or all have a nutritionist, but in reality we eat a lot of good food! Because we train so often and compete more than the average human, our body needs fuel to run and to recover. I don’t have a specific meal plan, but I do eat healthy foods and drink a lot of water! Protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit are a big part of my “diet” and everyday.
Typical Day for Geena:
Non-workout days: “..egg breakfast sandwich with a bagel, some chicken sausage or turkey bacon (I try and eat lean protein options and stay away from pork), and some berries. I will only have one cup of coffee in the morning to jump start my day.”
On workout days: “I don’t like to eat too heavy. I typically eat one banana, a piece of toast, English muffin, or a ½ cup of grits with peanut butter, plus a cup of water.”
“…protein bar or shake, lots of water, and a salad or sandwich.
“Sometimes after workouts, I don’t have an appetite, but I know that this is the most crucial time to eat food for proper recovery. Nutritionists tell you to eat 30min-1 hour after a hard workout.”
“Throughout the day, I snack on healthy nuts, fruit, string cheese, or rice cakes/tortilla chips.”
I typically eat a chicken stir-fry with rice and veggies or fish tacos.
“I love to eat and I know that my body thanks me when I do.”
FitRX: Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that you use in your weekly meals? If so, do you mind sharing the recipe?
Geena: My fish tacos are the bomb! I’ve had a lot visiting Southern California and remember a time in my life when I thought that was the grossest meal. But, my taste in food has changed and I definitely love to be creative and eat food from various cultures.
I get tilapia from Trader Joes, their corn tortillas, some green or red cabbage, an avocado, lime, light mayo, and Tapatio. I either grill the fish or bread it in flour and fry it, I will fry the tortillas and make them crispy and more pliable to hold the fish and slaw. Then I make a mix of light mayo, lime juice, and tapatio and combine the green or red cabbage in it as the slaw to put on top of the fish with some avocado. And voila that’s it! It is such an easy meal, yet very tasty and healthy at the same time!
FitRX: Sounds super yummy…. Back to training — you have a great set of abs! My husband ran track in college, so I have heard you track athletes have some crazy-intense core workout sessions! What is one of the best ab workouts you use? How often do you train your abs/core per week?
Geena: Running in general makes your abs a lot more tight and defined, but definitely doing core work after a hard track session or run will help tone up your mid-section. My go to core exercises are side planks, toe touches, single leg V-ups, and a front plank with a knee crunch to the opposite elbow. If you go on the NTC app, they have lots of different core exercise routines that will make anybody’s core sore!
FitRX: Thanks for sharing! You’ve also had a few setbacks in the past couple of years, but I love that I still see your posts that you are training hard and have new goals ahead. What is your takeaway from those setbacks? What inspires you to keep going?
Geena: Setbacks and hard times are what make you tougher and mentally stronger. They are the makings of a true champion. Life is all about ups and downs and how you respond to them. I am the type of person that won’t let something stop me from achieving my dreams! I use it as motivation. My family and my competitive athlete inside of me keep inspiring me to go for the gold!
FitRX: What are your current goals for your training?
Geena: I definitely want to keep running and competing, but I think my goals are to go from the track to the roads. I have had a lot of success on the track over the years, now I want to pursue running road races and possible be one of the best road milers in the country!
FitRX: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Geena: To be passionate and fall in love with the process of training (or your career). There are so many times where you want to give up or not do a run or workout because you’re tired or sore. To be the best, you need to embrace all aspects of training and this lifestyle! One must first put in the countless hours of work, blood, sweat, and tears in order to be rewarded and achieve success. Success isn’t given, it is rewarded.
FitRX: I love that. For those of us who run in the non-professional circuit but are looking to improve our race times, what would be your best piece(s) of running advice?
Geena: Get a training partner or running buddy to help you in your training. I had my best years of running when I was training with someone just as good or better than I was! I give a lot of credit to those women and some men who helped push me to be my best!
FitRX: That is a great tip! Do you have a motto you live by?
Geena: Goal setting in sports is huge! So my motto that I live by is to “Dream big!” When I was 9 years old, I watched the Olympics and wanted to be an Olympian one day. That was a big dream and goal of mine, one that many people thought was unattainable. But, that dream motivated me to work hard and run fast. “Dream big” is something I’ve said to hundreds of young athletes and runners. Anything is possible with hard work, discipline, and time…the best thing your dreams and goals can do is to motivate and inspire you on a daily basis!
FitRX: Thank you so much Geena! Best wishes in your future running endeavors!
For more on Geena: