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Katie Rainsberger
Photo by Thorne

All-American Katie Rainsberger Shares Her Journey to Athletic Success and the Importance of Physical and Mental Health

When it comes to physical health, Katie Rainsberger is the poster child. A long distance runner and 13x All-American, Katie is working towards her 2024 Olympic debut. Her most recent endeavor is Thorne’s “Better Health” campaign, which showcases the importance of health and nutrition for all people — athlete or not. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Katie about her own road to athletic success and the importance of balancing both physical and mental wellness in order to achieve a state of Better Health.

Her Campus: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you started your athletic career?

Katie Rainsberger: I grew up playing all sorts of sports — my mom was a professional athlete and my dad played college football and they kind of threw me into everything. At the time I was a really good soccer player and that was my passion — my email was “Katiethesoccergirl”. I got to middle school and my parents were like “You have to play one sport every season.” In the fall I was hoping to play soccer, but my school didn’t offer it so and I decided to run cross country to stay in shape for spring soccer and I ended up winning my first cross country race and being like “Hey, that was kind of fun.”

For the next few years I would say soccer remained the priority and I started to fall into love with running. I’d always been around the sport because my mom ran, but I just thought I was going to be a soccer player. My sophomore year of high school I got invited to this big meet and got to go down to sea level and it was so fun — I ran 4:40 and realized I could go to college for this and I can do this, so that was kind of a turning point. I just ran my senior year and I set three national high school records that year and was like “Oh yeah. This is it.”

HC: Thats amazing! I ran cross country in high school too but I wasn’t as good as you!

KR: Another reason I loved cross country so much was because it was such a team sport and you’d go out for runs every day and it was a social thing as well. You’re out there going for a run and talking and it’s a social part of your day. Right now, it’s the best part of my day. I get to hang out and talk with my friends for an hour. I love that aspect.

HC: How do you balance both your physical and mental health while training?

KR: It’s super difficult because I find that they’re not separate entities and if one is off kilter then the whole system is a bit off. I’m focused on maintaining both physical health in terms of getting enough sleep and nutrition and filling in the gaps — that’s where Thorne comes in, they really help with that. The mental health wellbeing is being able to separate your self worth as a human being from your success on the track. For me, being able to distinguish between those two things has really helped in terms of the pressure and prioritizing my mental health as a human being and not being so stressed and nervous about outcome oriented things like place and finish.

HC: What does “Better Health” mean to you?

KR: I think Better Health is something that is achievable for everyone and it’s a goal worth having because it does mean better overall health and wellbeing. What that means for me could be different than what that means for you. I think that’s such a unique part of the campaign, that Thorne meets people where they’re at. It’s accessible and relatable for everybody because there’s always things that you see in yourself that you want to improve and I think that Better Health is a way of achieving those things. 

HC: What products do you rely on for pre and post workout success?

KR: I just want to preface by saying that what works for me isn’t what works for everyone. Thorne has these really cool at-home tests and I would recommend making sure your plan is individualized. Thorne does a really good job at educating individuals on what they might be deficient in or might need more of and that sort of thing. For me personally I find that the Multi-Vitamin Elite — there’s an A.M. and a P.M. — does a really good job of filling in some of those deficiencies of minerals and vitamins and is increasing my overall energy level. In the morning I take probiotics. With distance running in particular there’s some not so glamorous aspects of morning runs, so the probiotic has been really helpful for that. Right after I work out, especially when it’s hot in the summer, I’m not hungry right away, but I know that there’s an important recovery window in which you should probably get food or fuel right after so the Amino Complex is good right after my run and then I also do the Whey Protein that I put in my smoothies and it’s been really good. I really like the chocolate whey, I make smoothies with that all the time, especially with coffee. At night, I’m up at a high altitude and sometimes it’s a little bit harder to sleep up here because my iron is low so I’m taking the iron supplement and also magnesium and melatonin to help with sleep and recovery. 

HC: What are your biggest motivators while working towards the 2024 Olympics?

KR: That’s a hard question because right now I’m watching the Olympics and I’m so motivated because I’m seeing these really cool and inspiring performances from all sorts of events. It’s really easy to feel motivated right now just because there are so many inspirational things going on, but in general I would say that I’m pretty self-driven and I’m pretty highly motivated in everything I do. It’s not just sports, I like doing well in school and being a good roommate and I find that I’m a high level of driven personality — I’d say I probably get that from both of my parents.

Motivation wise, my mom was fourth at the Olympic trials a couple of times, so in the back of my mind there’s always this “It would be really cool to make an Olympic team for her.” It’s hard to balance those two things, being self-driven and motivated but also knowing that the sport and what I achieve on the field is bigger than me. If I could give back to the community and share my story and just help one person get into high school cross country or find their love for running, then it would be worth it. 

HC: Is there anything elseI didn’t touch on that you’d like to share a little bit about?

KR: Recently there’s been a lot of talk about Simone Biles and mental health and I know Michael Phelps has spoken out about it and Alexi Pappas has spoken about it. Alexi Pappas actually gives a really good analogy on mental health that I think might be worth sharing. She talks about how when you’re physically hurt or injured you go to a doctor and you get treatment for it. If you have a fracture or a tendon hurt your doctor will give you stitches or ice and that’s how you treat a physical injury. There’s a lot of talk about mental health, but it’s easier to conceptualize when you think of it as a scratch on the brain. When you think about it that way, if you have a scratch on your brain then maybe you need rest or maybe you need to work it out and talk to someone. Just because it’s not visible on the outside doesn’t mean that it’s not there. When you think about mental health in that way you realize “ why aren’t we getting help?” or “why isn’t there better access to mental health resources and counselors?”

“Just because it’s not visible on the outside doesn’t mean that it’s not there”

Katie Rainsberger

I was recently asked what mental health resources people should reach out to and I didn’t know the answer. The fact that I didn’t know the answer was surprising because I consider myself well versed in the topic, but I couldn’t provide a resource for mental health and wellbeing. That, to me, screams that this needs to be talked about more and a bit more widespread. It’s a good time and opportunity to speak out about it. Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka speaking about it shows athletes and everyone that you can be strong and still need a break. You could be the best athlete in the world and still need to ask for help. I think it’s really cool and brave that they’re speaking out about it.

Carli is a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City studying Fashion Business Management and is the style section editor for Her Campus. After being a national style writer for Her Campus, she launched Her Campus FIT and acts as a Campus Correspondent. A born and raised Jersey Girl, she is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. In her spare time she loves running, jamming to Taylor Swift, and tracking down the best burgers. Find her on Instagram @carliannescloset.
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