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Utah athlete finds joy in running despite canceled races this year

By Aley Davis, KSL TV | Posted - Dec. 12, 2020 at 7:47 p.m.


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OREM — Finding ways to exercise during the pandemic without the same resources as before has proven to be a difficult task for some. One Utah athlete has found renewed purpose in her training despite canceled races.

Even though 41-year-old Melody Jensen is slow to admit it, she's lightning fast!

"If I had to run a mile, and you were timing me, I think I could probably hit a 5:30," she said humbly.

Jensen says there is a lot to love about running, including the way it makes her feel.

"Definitely the endorphins that are released when I run, I love it," Jensen said. "It just definitely helps me relieve my stress … makes me feel calm and relaxed and happy."

She ran track for BYU before getting married and having four boys. "At BYU, it was really just an honor to be on the team. When I ran at BYU, they were national cross country champions," she said. Jensen ran the first season women were allowed to compete in the steeplechase event.

Racing has always been a big priority. She won the Deseret News 10K in 2016.

"I would usually race one to two races a month," Jensen said. Then COVID-19 hit.

"One by one, they all got taken away," she said.

Despite her disappointment, Jensen continued running. "(I) just kind of started running for fun and with my heart," she said. "I found a new joy in running."

She started trail running for the first time and even trained to run a 37-mile loop in the Tetons last summer. "It showed me a new aspect of running that I wouldn't have done before," she said.

Jensen is committed and still puts down 50 miles a week. "One thing COVID has shown me is that I don't need a race to help me love running," she explained.

Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Jake Veigel, a sports medicine physician, recognizes how challenging this year has been.

"The pandemic is stressful," he said, which is why he urges people to exercise often. "It can definitely be not just rejuvenating for your body, but it can rejuvenate your spirit and your soul as well and just get you in a better mood."

"You're just out there doing something that's good for you and helps you feel good about yourself and helps you work out the problems that you're dealing with in your head," Veigel added.

He says it's important to be flexible and learn to work out indoors.

"We live in Utah. The weather — it's not going to be perfect all year and sometimes you just have to do that," Veigel said.

Jensen is avoiding the gym during the pandemic. "I just feel more comfortable and safer in my home doing my routine," she explained.

She says cross-training is still important to her. "The added strength keeps me from getting injured," Jensen said.

She also encourages her boys to stay active. "My 9-year-old son Liam made a goal this year that he wanted to be faster," she said, and noted that he is now officially faster than her.

No matter how you choose to get moving, Jensen encourages people to just start. "Whether it's going for a walk, or even just playing an active game with your kids," she suggested.

Veigel says exercising consistently is important. "We do recommend 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week," he said. "But really, I tell patients the best exercise for them is the exercise they love."

Jensen echoes Veigel's message. She says you have to have a desire. "What I found over the years is that you just have to find what you love," she said. "Obviously, not everyone loves running. A lot of people just find it laboring and hard, but that's OK. Just find something else."

During the pandemic, Jensen has learned: "You can't rely on something else to make you happy or to keep your training. You have to do it for you."

For those interested in finding ways to exercise at home, check out Intermountain Healthcare's On-Demand workout resources and virtual LiVe Well Classes, like yoga, cardio, and strength training, which you can stream from the comfort of your own home.

Photos

Aley Davis

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