By Mackenzie Farkus
How do you balance school, work, and athletics?
Honestly, time management and organization are key for me. In addition to being a student athlete, I’m also an RA on campus and it can be really challenging to make both my demanding RA schedule and cross-country schedule work—especially during the peak of our season. In order to balance everything, I really try and use my time wisely and stay on top of my schedule as best as I can. This includes getting up at 6:30 a.m. to train, studying in the morning before class, getting big projects and RA responsibilities done while on RA duty at night, and especially communicating with my coaches, bosses, and supervisors at all times—especially when there is a conflict. Additionally, making enough time for self-care is really important to me, as well as staying on top of my nutrition in order to keep me energized and prevent me from getting sick.
Why do you enjoy running cross country?
I enjoy running cross-country because it allows me to combine my love for both running and being on a team in one. Interestingly, I didn’t even really start running cross-country until my junior year of high school, when a few of my friends and I started a team at our small, all-girls school.
Before that, I was just playing sports like basketball and softball and would go out for long runs after practice ended… people thought I was crazy! After my junior year, though, I decided to commit to cross-country and I loved everything about it — especially being part of a team that finally shared the same passion for running as I did. At Simmons, it’s the same thing. I love being part of such a supportive and genuine group of runners that not only loves running as a hobby, but also as a competitive sport and that will push each other to be better, while also being your closest friend.
What does an average day look like for you?
Oh gosh… my days are crazy! I’m currently in my off season of cross-country, so recently I’ve been waking around 6:30-7 a.m. and have been heading out for a long run or to the gym to cross-train. Then I usually refuel with a big smoothie or bowl of oatmeal in my dorm and get organized for a long day of classes, packing healthy snacks and responding to some RA emails. Most of my afternoons are spent on academic campus, either in class or hitting the books. I’m very dedicated to my academics and often spend between six to eight hours a day studying or doing homework.
At night, I’m either at work over at Beth Israel, or doing something RA-related (I’m either on RA duty, have a program, or have open office hours in my dorm). After that, the rest of my night is spent studying and when I can, doing yoga or meditating for some self-care.
How do you typically prepare for races and marathons?
For the most part, the only things I really do differently before a race or marathon are by making sure I’m increasing my water intake significantly four to five days before the race and decreasing my fiber intake a day or two before the race. I eat a primarily plant-based diet, and with that comes A LOT of fiber, which can be really tough on the GI, causing cramps. In addition to slight changes in my diet, I also always try and get an easy “shake-out” run in the day before a race to make sure my legs are loose and ready for the next day!
What do you find different about competing at Division I Division III?
The main difference I notice is the time commitment required for Division I, as well as the intensity of the program. When I was running Division I, we’d easily spend five to six hours a day training, having team meetings, and attending mandatory study hall sessions.
While the structure was good, it took up nearly all of my time and I barely even had time to go to class/do school work — it didn’t seem reasonable for a college student! Similarly, the Division I program I was in was very intense. We always had two practices a day and everyone was required to be in the same practice clothes every day—same shirt, shorts, shoes etc.
At the Division III level, the structure and competition are still there, however there is definitely less of a time commitment and more of an emphasis on being part of a team and competing as one. While we always push each other to be better, we’re also all very flexible and are willing to make adjustments to our training schedule as needed. Personally, I’ve found that competing at the Division III level is a much healthier and more enjoyable commitment—especially for busy college students in rigorous academic programs.
How has your experience running cross country helped you with your Nutrition and Dietetics major?
Being an athlete in general makes me a lot more aware of the foods I’m putting in my body and how they are going to impact my performance. I’ve always been very interested in nutrition and I’ve really enjoyed being able to apply what I learn in the classroom to my everyday life and especially my sport.
Simply knowing how carbohydrates, proteins, and fat are metabolized in the body, and learning about the different energy systems and what foods can help fuel performance best is extremely useful. Likewise, being an athlete and a Nutrition major has really gotten me interested in Sports Nutrition and I am currently working towards becoming a community-based Registered Dietitian, hopefully working with the military or athletes!