Kayla Jeter 1% Better Each Day

Lifestyle and wellness coach Kayla Jeter works each day to become the better version of herself both mentally and physically. Kayla has been inspiration to many runners in the community with her positivity her smile and most of all her willingness to help others become the best version of themselves. This month Mid Strike has the pleasure to speak with Kayla Jeter as she teaches us how to be come better by simply doing it "better.every.damn.day".

MSM: Usually we start these questions with an intro but as I sit here typing out these questions there’s one constant that I’ve noticed with you. If I had to put it into one word it would be Joy. We’ll get into the deeper questions later but what gives you so much joy when it comes to running? 

KJ: Growing up playing volleyball and eventually playing professionally, running was always used as a form of punishment when our team under performed – it’s actually a pretty toxic frame for conditioning, if you ask me, but my relationship has since changed to gratitude. Every time I lace up my shoes it is an opportunity to be thankful for the ability to hit the pavement and see what my body is capable of achieving. 

MSM: Your personality seems to be very outgoing. One that inspires many to become the best version of themselves or as you would say “live 1% better every damn day”. As we all know life can throw many curveballs but you seem like the type they easily adjust to and one that can essentially make the best of any situation. What are some daily mantras that you live by that keeps you on track to attacking the day with much positivity?

KJ: I am fully receiving this compliment of being outgoing as those that really know me know I am actually quite the introvert; which I suppose makes me an extroverted introvert. I am very much fueled by the people that surround me and my community, in real life and virtual, which brings out my “outgoing” personality. 

My adaptability is the product of navigating my fair share of “curve balls” throughout my life and as I’ve grown to better understand the gift of each life lesson, a few mantras I live by are;

“I don’t have to, I get to.”

“Always do your best.”

“Keep going.”

“Make them proud.” 

And of course, “1% better every.damn.day”

MSM: All of our run journeys are very specific to things that we tend to go through in life. We all have our reasons for running. What was your reason and when did you know that this was indeed a focus that you wanted to make into a lifestyle?

KJ: The first time I went for a casual run was in high school; my mom and I had gotten in a really big argument and I had a lot of pent up frustration and anger – running is the only thing I could think of to calm down and create space in my mind. It was years until I revisited running as a space to explore new environments while playing professional volleyball in Finland and it wasn’t until I created my 100MilesofSummer challenge in 2017 that running began to shift into a lifestyle - from May 1 to August 31st walk, jog, run 100 miles. The challenge was a way for me to explore my new home of Chicago and to encourage others to get outside and check out their neighborhoods by foot – what I feel is the most intimate way to get to know a neighborhood's people and personality. What started with 12 people sprinting like hell to finish first, including myself which only perpetuated my toxic run “go hard or go home” relationship, grew yearly and really exploded during the 2020 lockdown to over 500+ walkers, joggers and runners across the US hitting the pavement for a mental & physical escape from all 2020 brought with it. From there, the challenge has expanded to 2,000 participants of all paces & faces worldwide using walking, jogging and running as a catalyst to better overall health. To be honest, I tried to shake the challenge in 2019 when I was in Cleveland caring for my dying mother. I didn’t have the capacity to show up for the community the way I had in previous years and was met by everyone holding me up through the toughest period in my life thus far. 

Running isn’t just a physical activity for me, it’s become a source of escape, strength and togetherness. 

MSM: One of my struggles early on as a runner was connecting with runners that looked like me and understood our struggles that we've been fighting for, for generations. Essentially this led me to stop running for months. What were your feelings early on as a runner and how did you work through them to stay consistent? 

KJ: In comparison to some of the OGs I run with, Run With The Winners Club in Cleveland and 7onSunday’s in Chicago, my run journey is really still in its infancy. Although 100MilesofSummer has been around for 5 years, once the calendar turned to September 1st I would transition once back to my familiar space of being a performance athlete. It wasn’t until last year that run started taking priority and honestly, up until my first track workout three weeks ago I considered myself a runner at the level I’m surrounded by in Chicago. I suppose the mentality my dad, who competed at the highest level as a football player as a NFL Defensive End for the Giants, Patriots, and Rams, instilled in me of being the best in whatever I do set the bar high as it relates to claiming the title of a “runner”. Down to my DNA, I’m an athlete and running was something I would dip my toe in but transitioning my training has been SO FUN to explore and unlocked a side of my athleticism I didn’t know existed. 

MSM: Our team here at Mid Strike are adamant about proper representation in our running community. It’s frustrating that Black people in the running industry aren’t given the same opportunity as our counterparts. We essentially need to create our own seat at the table. It’s already hard for black people in general but The Black women are the most disrespected women in this country and have to fight even harder to obtain goals. What you’re doing daily is changing the narrative and opportunities not only for yourself but others in the running community. Do you still find yourself having to constantly prove yourself that you can be and are worth the seat at the table?

KJ: Oof. First, YES to all of the above. The need for representation is dire for several reasons of which I aim to address, shift and empower on the daily; running is not exclusively white, running is not exclusively thin, running is not exclusively fast, running is not exclusively in privileged neighborhoods. Running IS for every body, for all paces, for all faces, for all experiences, in all spaces and is a very powerful catalyst for wellbeing – especially in the Black community. In my experience as an athlete and a health coach, everyone can relate to the momentum you gain when you start working out or running regularly that then pours over to other parts of your life. You make sure you’re drinking enough water, eating well, getting sleep, fostering healthy relationships – the initial goal of “working out” or “running” is a powerful springboard to prioritizing yourself. Something Black people and especially Black women do not do and thus, have higher accounts of chronic disease, killer stress and earlier deaths. 

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