Two years ago, Jana Kramer pushed the redirect button on her career. The actress, best known for roles on “One Tree Hill” and the new “90210,” decided to leave the small screen for the music studio and make a country album.
Within a year, she’d scored Top New Female Artist at the Country Music Awards, and her debut single, “Why Ya Wanna,” climbed to No. 3 on Billboard’s “Best of 2012: Country Songs” chart.
Luckily, Kramer says she has a simple sanity-saving tool that keeps her steady during crazy times.
“Running is my therapy,” says Kramer, 30, who lives in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s the time when I let the thoughts come in and then release them.”
Kramer first started running as a kid growing up in Michigan—her dad ran track when he was young, and she followed in his footsteps, competing as a high school student.
But it wasn’t until she moved to Los Angeles that the sport took on a deeper meaning. As a 19-year-old living in a big city solo, she found solace during 6-mile daily runs through Runyon Canyon near the Hollywood sign.
In 2011, she registered for the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. She says she didn’t get to train as much as she wanted, but toed the line on race day anyway, surprising herself with a 2:48 finish.
“I never thought I could do it, which is part of why I wanted to,” Kramer says. “I just relied on the energy of everyone around me and the music stations to keep going.”
In the days following the race, Kramer says she was sore—“I was in an Epsom-salt bath daily for two weeks”—but psyched. “We were all out there together trying to be healthy and trying to attain some sort of internal goal.”
The singer says she’d like to tackle another long-distance race in the future. “It helps me stop playing mind games and doubting myself,” Kramer says. “It’s about proving I can go farther than I thought I could. It’s a pretty good metaphor for anything in life.”
Motivation Station: Jana’s Top Tips
I have to prepare to eat well when I go on the road. If I don’t, I end up eating fried chicken every night. I make sure I have healthy snacks, like rice cakes with peanut butter and banana on top. I also bring some veggie burgers and a little grill where I can cook them.
I don’t get upset with myself if have something that isn’t great. I just make a point to pick something healthier the next day.
If I’m out on the trails, I like running with no music at all. If I’m on a treadmill and having a rough time, I listen to Eminem’s “Till I Collapse” over and over.
I have such a love-hate relationship with running. The first 15 minutes, I hate it. I have to tell myself, “You’re fine. You can do this.” After I get past that first 15 minutes, though, I feel like I can run forever.