Healthy Halloween Hacks

Halloween is a fun time of year for both kids and grownups. But with fun comes temptation, looming all around us in cute candy wrappings, beckoning us to have just.one.more.treat…You can certainly still enjoy the holiday without sabotaging your fitness and health goals. By allowing yourself a couple of small treats or finding healthier alternatives, you can lower your chances of a binge session later on.

Here are some of my best Halloween hacks:

1) Check the nutrition information before you indulge. Most nutritional information is based on more than one mini-sized bag. Read the label, know how much you are consuming, and if needed, divide your bags into serving sizes to help with portion control.

2) Choose dark chocolate over white. Dark is your healthiest option when it comes to candy and believe it or not, white chocolate is the unhealthiest option. Why? First, it does basically nothing for cravings. Secondly, white chocolate is packed with extra sugar and added fat from the extra milk products used to give it its white coloring.

3) Need a healthy party treat idea? How about Spiders On A Log! Spread any type of nut butter on some celery sticks and then press in 2 dark chocolate chips. The spider “legs” can be created with melted dark chocolate in a piping bag or you can use dark brown sprinkles.

4) Are you carving a few pumpkins this year? Don’t waste the seeds! They can be roasted in the oven with a little sprinkle of salt and pepper and make a tasty and nutritious snack.  You can also save some to throw into your morning smoothie for a little dose of healthy fat to keep you full longer.

Another thing to keep in mind if you’re having a party or trick or treaters is that the growing epidemic of potentially deadly food allergies is becoming more and more common in both children and adults. You can offer your trick or treaters stickers, stamps, bouncy balls or other small toys or crafts instead of candy.

You may notice teal pumpkins on some doorsteps in the area this year and that means that the household is participating in The Teal Pumpkin Project. This project is aimed at raising awareness of food allergies and making the Halloween season inclusive for all. Participating houses pledge to have non-food treats available for trick-or-treaters so that food allergy kids can still participate in the trick-or-treat tradition.

However it is you may be celebrating, I hope you have a happy and healthy Halloween! Feel free to share your own tips and hacks below.

This post was originally shared on TAPInto Morristown in 2017 and has since been updated.

xo,

Julia

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Falling back into a routine of fitness and health

After the laid-back demeanor of summer, most of us are ready to get back into a end-of-year routine. Kids have been back at school for a month or two and Summer Fridays are long over. The weather in our area is still a little wishy-washy, but we know Halloween is around the corner, making the grand entrance for the other fall and winter holidays that follow suit.

selective focus photography of vegetable shake on brown wood board

Photo by Alisha Mishra on Pexels.com

For many of us, fall relates to detoxing. It’s almost  like we want to do a quick cleanse before we start the overindulging once again in a few weeks. Cleansing can be a great way to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, but they’re not healthy for more than a week or two and people are left wondering what else to do. My advise is that if you choose to do a short program like a juice cleanse, have a plan for what you will do once it’s over.

Find some healthy crock pot recipes, experiment with new in-season veggies, or find some healthy local take-out options for the inevitable busy days. These are much better alternatives than trying to constantly restrict yourself and risk falling short on your health and fitness goals.

I just sent an email out to my newsletter subscribers talking about some of the things I would like to focus on this fall. Some are simple, like investing in a few new pieces for my wardrobe, others are a bit more complicated (for me), like updating my home décor (I’m so indecisive with that stuff!) and working on my online services.

The truth is that it’s a great time of year to reestablish your goals and look at your progress. There’s no need to wait until the New Year to start doing this. Take a look at what you accomplished up until now, see where you’re falling short, and work towards what you can still improve.

A few other tips I’d love to share with you are:

  1. Walk more! Explore your neighborhood or local park.
  2. Try a new workout class.
  3. Meal prep for healthier lunches.
  4. Replace one of your glasses of wine with seltzer.
two woman lifting dumbbells

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

So, what will you choose as the leaves and temperatures drop? Will you look for opportunities to take care of yourself, mind, body and spirit? Or will you sleep in every day and skip your workouts, eat all the foods and hibernate until January?

Comment and let me know if you use any of my tips!

Marathons: I don’t always love them but I keep going back for more

Running for 26.2 miles is not for the faint of heart. It takes consistency, dedication and determination, and a small amount of crazy, to put in the work week after week, anywhere from 12 to sometimes 20 weeks. I’m counting down the days to my 5th marathon which had me thinking about a few things…

Why I keep coming back for more marathons...

First of all, I have a runfession to make. I don’t love training for marathons. Whaaat?!!

I don’t. I really like running but I don’t love it all the time. Some runs are awesome, while other runs I need to really force myself to finish. It’s the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a tough (physically or mentally) training run and the pride from getting my finisher’s medal after crossing the finish line that keep me going back for more.

Us marathoners know we can’t just show up and fake it. We have to put in the work to have the best performance possible. Setting a new personal record and feeling good throughout the entire run is an amazing feeling that makes all the hard work worth it.

Many people turn to long distance running because it makes them a better person, a better wife, a better mom, a better friend, by allowing them to clear their mind of stress and “head noise.”

It gives us mamas some “Me Time” to daydream. Some people may choose to binge watch Netflix; others, we choose to lace up our sneakers and run.

I don’t do it to be “skinny.” I have actually gained a few pounds training for this marathon. Sure, running helps keep me in shape, but if my goal was to just be fit I could simply do 20-minute workouts every day and be fine. Long distance running digs into other areas of my wellness I just can’t get from a lifting session.

My 4th marathon, the NJ Marathon. April 2018.

Let’s discuss my training a bit.

Avoid injury and crosstrain.

My first goal is always to show up healthy to the start line of the marathon. I want to avoid injury as much as possible and it’s my main goal with any clients I train as well. I build up mileage progressively and cross-train by doing strength training about 2 days a week. It’s really important to not give up strength training, but to modify it so you are doing movements that are the most beneficial to running. Examples are single-leg squats and side planks. I’m such a strong believer in the philosophy that in order to be a better runner, you need to be a stronger and more mobile runner, that I have made it my duty to help runners, and any type of endurance athlete, get fitter to run better.

Run a short race to test your speed and to “practice” racing.

It doesn’t have to be a half marathon; even a 5K can help you gauge how fit you are and give you a better idea of what your goal time should be. It gives you a chance to practice controlling the nerves and also you can practice some of your nutrition.

Run twice a day.

I don’t mean multiple crazy longs run that you’re breaking up into two. Doing 2 runs a day is an option if you only have time for 4 miles in the morning and then maybe you can do 4 more on your lunch break. I wouldn’t break up a speed session, but if it’s a day that calls for 8 easy miles, I believe it’s fine to do this. If the long runs are also fatiguing you or you’re injury prone, I would recommend breaking those up too. Perhaps you do 10 miles in the morning and the rest of the long run in the afternoon. The most important factor of the long run is time spent on your feet, so the accumulated fatigue will still present itself if you do it this way.

Work on your mental fitness.

I have completed long runs in 90+ degree weather. I have completed long runs by myself. I have done many boring runs on the treadmill. I occasionally get comments such as, “I can’t believe you do that!” Well, my response is always, “I have to do what I have to do!”. The reality is that by doing things that are not so exciting, you build your mental toughness and it will pay off tremendously come race day.

Follow along on Instagram to see how I make out at the Steamtown Marathon this Sunday. I missed the Boston cut-off by a couple of minutes even though I broke my qualifying time of 3:35. I’m ready for a no-long distance winter and hope to work on half marathons (funny I don’t consider 13 miles long distance anymore!) until I decide to go for another 26.2 next year.

In the meantime, I’ll be participating in a virtual stroller race- so check that out on Instagram too.

What is the one thing that you struggle with most when training for a race?

If you enjoyed this blog post and feel that it might help someone, I would appreciate if you shared it.

xo,

Julia

How to set up a simple, functional home gym

Whether you are a busy mom or a college athlete who needs to train at home, having your own equipment can make getting your exercise in very convenient. With a little bit of creativity and planning, you can design an exercise area in your home that doesn’t get in the way of your life and that doesn’t cost a fortune.

The first thing is to decide where to set up your workout area, especially if you don’t have a specific room assigned for it or a large space in your basement or garage. Perhaps you’ll be dedicating a corner in your family room to your Sweat Space. If you are in the market for new couches for a room, think in favor of something that slides easily across the floor when you need to clear the area for exercise.

You can store your equipment in a trunk so that everything is out of sight and out of everyone’s way when not in use.  You can also put up shelves on a wall to store light stuff on, like mats, light dumbbells or jump ropes.

If you have a garage or basement, you may have more options for what to get for your space. You may even want to invest in a couple of machines depending on what you prefer. Runners may want to get a treadmill and cyclists a stationary bike.

Home gym tips

A yoga or Pilates mat is a must in your home workout area.

My top 4 simple, affordable, must -have exercise equipment/tools are:

Mat – yoga ones tend to be very thin so I’d recommend a Pilates one which will be more comfortable.

Weights – 2 pairs are ideal- one that you are able to do many reps with, one that is more of a struggle.

Resistance bands – they barely take up room and help give you a great workout.

Music – whether you have a TV nearby that you could turn on, or a portable speaker to play music, the atmosphere will help motivate you.

A few other great tools to have are a jump rope (which is great for travel), a kettlebell, core sliders and a balance board.

A motivational sign or two hanging on a wall that you can glance at when you’re feeling less than motivated doesn’t hurt either.

magic is in you quote

Don’t forget a motivational sign to keep you focused.

If you would like to take your training above and beyond, you can contact me for my 6-week Fastinista Fit Program to get leaner and stronger from the comfort of your home. Use the form below or email me at juliamorel@yahoo.com.

How I Trained To Qualify For The Boston Marathon

After being extremely pleased with my performance at the Lehigh Valley Marathon last fall, I decided to set the bar higher and chase a Boston qualifying time this year. When the idea first came into my mind last fall, I thought, “Maybe I’ll do a spring marathon to keep building up my speed and endurance and hopefully BQ in a fall race.” Then with the passing weeks and months and growing determination, my thoughts changed to, “What if I just try to BQ in the spring?…” And so I decided to pursue the latter, because the competitor in me simply could not wait until later in the year.

That’s when I started diligently reading as much as I could about how to qualify. I researched different training plans and read articles upon articles related to my goal. I knew training throught the winter would be very tough for me. I am a South American girl after all. I knew a lot of my miles would have to be done on my treadmill, but I decided to be a Treadmill Warrior not a Treadmill Worrier. If I wanted to succeed with my goal, that is what I had to do.

After finishing my 4th marathon, the N.J. Marathon

Although I continued running after Lehigh, it wasn’t until late January that I decided I would really go for it and signed up for the New Jersey Marathon. I was all in. I invested in a training plan that gave me detailed workouts and paces to shoot for. Being a coach myself, I decided to use it as a guide and changed things up as needed. For example, I did not do the total mileage that the plan asked me to do. There was just no way I could run 60 miles a week. I just don’t have the time for it. My mileage peaked at close to 50, but for the most part it was in the mid 40s. If a goal pace run felt too hard, I eased back. I allowed myself to take it easy and I didn’t push more than I had to. I think that’s a mistake I see a lot of runners do, they run fast and hard all the time. In order to reach the physiological changes that your body needs for maximum performance, it’s not necessary to empty your tank all the time.

All smiles after seeing my family at mile 15!

I ran 6 days a week which seemed like a lot at first until it became part of my routine. During the week it was usually 4-6 mile runs, 2 days of easy runs, 1 tempo run or goal pace run or Vo2 max run, a few hill repeats, and 1 long run. I did four 20 milers, which I believe gave me the mental toughness on race day of, “Hey, you did this a few times already. You got this.” Would I recommend it to everyone? Absolutely not. It was an experiment for me. It worked for this training period but it may not always be the case.

I cross-trained and lifted weights at least 2 days a week, right after a run, with core work about 3 days a week. Since figuring out that my right side is definitely my weaker side, I made sure to strength it to become more balanced. Movements such as single-leg squats, single-leg deadlifts and side planks became part of my routine. I also worked on balance by incorporating my Strongboard into my workouts.

I got treated at Santiago Chiropractic towards the end of my training. I do admit that I started after feeling some tightness on my right vastus lateralis. The issue quickly went away, but then my left gastrocnemius started aching. I was fortunate to be able to make it through the marathon with no aches at all.

Getting treated at Santiago Chiropractic Associates.

I suffer from gastrointestinal issues, so I knew I would also need to do some research and experimenting in that area. I had a tough experience during Lehigh and I definitely did not want to sideline my goals with something I could control. I had been using Honey Stingers for a couple of years but the gummies were not very convenient during races. I decided to switch to gels and opted for the Acai Pomegranate flavor. I consumed a gel packet every 3 miles during the race and that worked out perfectly. I stayed well hydrated by drinking water at almost every water station.

With all the biomechanics studying and research I’ve done over the past 7 months, I switched from my Nike Pegasus to minimalist shoes. These type of shoes encourage natural foot splay, foot flexes and lessen ground contact for improved running performance. Minimalist shoes can help improve proprioception by activating the small muscles in the ankle, heel and feet. I don’t recommend anyone just jump in and start running long in these type of shoes, but if you start out with shorter runs and slowly increase them, you can learn to appreciate what they can do for your running.

These are the main tips I can give someone and they were some of the major changes I made in my training. If you have specific questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment or to email me and I’d be happy to help you!

I did not stay at a hotel the night before, mostly because I wanted to eat dinner at home and sleep in my own bed. My mom drove with me early that Sunday morning and even thought there was a slight back up entering the parking lot to the racetrack, we were able to get a spot easily.

The marathon itself was a really great experience. I actually did not study the course map too well because I thought there was going to be more boardwalk running, but most of the course was actually on the streets. It started at the Monmouth Racetrack, went north to Monmouth Park, then right through Long Branch and down to Asbury Park where we turned around and headed back up to finish in Long Branch.

There was a bit of a bottleneck after crossing the start line but after that first half mile, it got better. My favorite parts of the course were Monmouth Park, where some local residents pumped music from their loudspeakers and hung out on their front lawns with motivational signs, early on that Sunday morning to cheer us on. The energy in Long Branch was also infectious. Again, lots of signs, and cheerful faces either waiting to see their loved ones run by or perhaps just being out there to support strangers. There were lots of miles were there were no spectators, but since I was so focused on just running my race, it didn’t affect me too much. I do recall a young male spectator who held up a sign around mile 16 that said, “Touch here for power!” and I made sure to give it a tap!

The last mile will always be memorable because it was when I kicked into second gear somehow, hoping to leave everything on that course, on that boardwalk. I was so sure that I did not get into Boston at that point, but I decided to finish as strong and as fast as I could. And I sure did. I was warned about the headwinds that can plague the coast, but I was so focused on getting to the Finish Line that the winds never bothered me.

I would definitely recommend this race and since it is mostly flat, it would be a good one for either a new marathoner or someone chasing a Boston Qualifier. I did not make it to the expo and had a fellow running club member pick up my bib, so I cannot comment on how that was. The long sleeve t-shirt was nice although I would have preferred a tech material to cotton.

Having the support of my husband, my son and my mom out on the course was the cherry on top to a wonderful race. I do wish I had dialed back my pace a bit in the first few miles (and around miles 15-19), so that is definitely something I will keep in mind for my next marathon!

I’m so proud of the hard work I put in to accomplish my first Boston Qualifier marathon. Most importantly, I’m proud I got it in my home state!

Some of my cheerleaders.My Why!

Have you run the NJ Half or Full Marathon and if so, what did you think of it? Would you run it again?

I got my BQ in my home state! I got my BQ in my home state!

~Julia

How I came to appreciate biomechanical assessments

Muscle and joint pain is an increasingly common problem experienced by athletes, both novice and professionals. I’ve had my share of injuries in the past decade, although luckily nothing too serious. I had some foot pain a few years ago when I was training for a half marathon and had to take about 2 weeks off from running and pretty much “self-healed.”

Then, I suffered from iliotiobial band syndrome (ITB) while training for the New York marathon in 2014 and took several days off and went to see a physical therapist for some relief. Looking back, bad shoes and a weak right ankle led to these issues and I’ve since learned so much more to help me in the long run…
When I met Dr Santiago last Fall, I learned that he was one of the first chiropractors to be chosen as a member of the US Olympic Team Medical Staff for the Games of the XXV Olympiad in Barcelona, Spain, and he was an All American collegiate and professional soccer player, so I knew that helping athletes would be of high importance to me when joining his practice.

Biomechanics Evaluation

Performing an assessment on Santiago Chiropractic Associates’ patient, Valerie Goldberg.

That being said, I wanted to set myself apart from other fitness professionals so that we could offer the best care to the patients at his office.
I’ve always been the type of person who likes to focus on the fundamentals. When I was a CrossFit trainer, I would always tell my athletes that I cared more about their form than how fast they finished a workout or how heavy they lifted. I would make sure they spent enough time working on their mobility and that they understood why we were doing certain movements. Similary, now that I’m a biomechanist with a focus on functional and corrective exercise, I remind my clients that mobility and simple exercises are essential to helping them move better and remain as pain free as possible.
Gait analysis is a data-driven way of assessing performance and physical condition of athletes.

The proper system should be able to identify any muscular deficiencies and measure tolerance to various workloads, help in developing customized training and rehabilitation based on the test results, and create a database so that re-assessments can be done to periodically check the athlete’s progress.

What we use at Santiago Chiropractic is OptoGait and OptoJump, both systems by Microgate, an Italian company.
I love being able to help local athletes  (especially runners) detect mechanical inefficiencies and asymmetries between both legs, therefore helping them prevent injuries or assisting them in an injury recovery plan.
You may wonder what the benefits of these assessments are.
Biomechanical evaluations help understand how we move and identify any imbalances in the body like leg length discrepancies, muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, pelvic asymmetries, core dysfunctions etc that may be causing or contributing to symptoms.

We are all unique and asymmetrical and that is ok to an extent.

However, we may have learned postural bad habits and thus developed compensations that can be injuries waiting to happen!
Combining science with experience I’m able to help my clients understand their whole kinetic chain and assist them on a journey towards  pain free movement and better enjoyment of their sport.


In the past few months, I’ve dedicated myself more to my own balance and mobility and that has greatly shown up in my running. I was able to get an awesome marathon PR last September (3:44), a half marathon PR in October (1:41), and just this past Saturday, I got a PR in my local St Paddy’s 5K as well (21:39).

I have better awareness that my right side is my weaker side and I take the time to work more on strengthening it.
As you can see, it’s very important to be aware of potential issues before you get sidelined by an injury. Perhaps you’re an athlete yourself or have a child who is.

If you are local to the Lake Hiawatha are, I’d love to have a brief chat with you to answer any questions and see if my services could be beneficial to you.

Can strength training help you become a better runner?

In order to be a well-rounded runner, strength training should be part of your arsenal just like speed work and hills. Some of the benefits include maintaining lean muscle mass, minimizing muscle imbalances and increasing core strength.
Besides your typical dumbbells, you can also incorporate kettlebells into your workouts. They help increase cardiovascular health without putting too much strain on your muscles. The explosive, quick movement that’s required during kettlebell training boosts your heart rate, strengthening cardiovascular health while increasing muscle strength, posture and core.

Post run strength training

Another plus of strength training, especially if you’re looking to lose weight or change your aesthetics, is that it helps burn fat hours after your workout. It’s very important to be aware of your form at all times during exercise. This will increase the exercise’s effectiveness and safety. One of the best tips I give my clients is to visualize the muscles that are doing the work as you perform each exercise to really understand the purpose of the movement and get more out of it.

Single-leg movements are a crucial addition to your routine as they clear up mobility and imbalances between each side of your body. Training your body to move in different planes of motion can help reduce injuries and increase running performance.

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Strength training sessions don’t need to last long. Fifteen minutes of doing the right exercises can be enough. If you feel that lack of time is your issue, think of which runs you can reduce to incorporate more strength. For example, combine a run with a strength training workout by doing a 30 minute run and a 20 minute strength training session instead of your usual 50 minute run. Instead of a 30 minute run, do sprints for 15-20 minutes and then do a strength workout.

Do your best to mix in strength 2 times a week. Give it a few weeks and notice how you feel. Trust me, it will make a big difference! In order to be a stronger and less injured runner, you need to put in more than just miles. Besides picking up some weights on a consistent basis, it’s also imperative that you prioritize rest and sleep, as well as proper nutrition and stretching.

Below is a great workout to do on your cross-training day or to do after a short run.

20 minute strength workout

What is your favorite strength training movement? I currently like squats and bicep curls 💪🏼

Let me know if you try the workout above! Have a great day 🙂

Julia

Recovering after Running Season and Recap

The hard work for the year is done for some of us long distance runners as we take a break from long runs and tough speed work and settle into more leisurely runs or shorter races. Although recovery is a major part of any exercise program, in order to improve, it’s important to not stop doing what you’re doing completely. You may have had a training plan for your half or full marathon, but they don’t come with a post-race plan usually, unless you also worked with a coach. I will share some of my own personal tips that I’ve myself followed or taught my running coaching clients, to guide you the days, weeks and even months after your race.

Immediately following a race, it’s important to focus on refueling your tank.  I know I usually can’t eat right away, but a drink with electrolytes like Gatorade or beer will usually help settle my stomach and then I’m usually ready to eat within 30 minutes.  It’s very crucial to get your fluid and sodium intake after a long, tough run. Your stomach might be queasy but once you’re able to, have a small snack until you’re ready to handle a meal consisting of protein and carbohydrates. The night after a race, you may want to try an ice bath and focus on getting quality sleep. If it was a hilly race, you may even need a day off from work the following day.

A few days after your marathon, you can indulge in a massage.  I got a massage at Spavia of Greater Morristown a few days after the Lehigh Valley Marathon. With a massage you can experience decreased tension and tightness, realign muscle fibers, and release any adhesions between tissues. And of course, it just feels good and you deserve it! At Spavia, you get a comfy spa robe and sandals and a neck pillow for relaxing in the retreat room while your masseuse comes to get you. You can make a selection of the type of music you’d like to be played as well as the lotion of your preference. I left feeling rejuvenated, pampered and with relaxed muscles…and highly recommend making an appointment if you’re in the area. I look forward to checking out some of their other services like their Vita-C Radiance facial (a hydrating skincare treatment because my skin tends to get very dry in the cold months!) as well as the Nourishing Antioxidant Wrap.

During the few weeks after a marathon or half marathon, it is essential to keep your mileage and your heart rate low. By giving your body a chance to fully and deeply recover, you can be on the road to faster results in your upcoming events. Also, it’s important to give your mind a break from the focus of training, so that when your body is indeed ready to run hard again, you will have the mental energy to make it happen. Listen to your body and once you feel well rested, you may continue back to your normal running routine.

Don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments! Download all your race photos, share them on social media or print out your favorites- you can even make a photo album if it’s too hard to choose just one! Regardless of your time, revel in the fact that you crossed a finish line! If there are no races in your future, keep running but don’t concern yourself too much with pace or even distance.

This running season continues for some of us with shorter races like Turkey Trots and Santa Runs. Some of my running clients have been following  a 5-week Fit to Run program and we’re considering doing another group race together after Thanksgiving. It’s been amazing watching them improve each week as they’ve gotten fitter, leaner and faster. When they signed up for the program, they were treated with special discounts from a few local places including Spavia, Athleta of Morristown and Verrilli’s Bakery and Pizzeria and I’m sure they’re thinking about treating themselves soon after all their hard work.

A few weeks ago, I became a Certified Revo2lution Running Coach, a certification created by running expert and 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Dr. Jason Karp. This program was super helpful in providing specific workouts to increase VO₂max, raise the lactate threshold, and improve running economy. This comprehensive certification, which I did online, comprised of the following 8 manuals: Running Physiology, Running Technique, Running Training, Running Workouts, Running Injuries, Running for Weight Loss, Running Programs in Gyms, and REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ Group Treadmill Class.

I’m full of newfound knowledge and I’m ready to help you with your 2018 running goals, whether it’s your first race or you’re looking to improve your current level, reach out so we can see if we work together!

Happy Sunday,

Julia

A Quick and Efficient Interval Workout

While I love distance running and have done a few marathons, I strongly believe that short, high intensity workouts can majorly boost fitness while saving you tons of time for others things on your to-do list. In an ideal world, I’d say try doing a combination of both— slow, steady workouts and short, high intensity ones. If you only have time for one, then the latter is what you’ll want to focus on for faster results.

Recent research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that short bouts of exercise shaved inches off the hips and waistline as well as helped lower blood pressure.  When the heart rate is elevated, it causes levels of testosterone to rise, promoting weight loss, muscle mass and high energy levels.

Interval training, especially if weights or resistance are added, is a terrific way to burn fat and calories, hours after your workout is finished.  I like to create Circuit Interval Workouts for my Fastinista FitSquad on Fridays, where they will do at least 3 rounds of 40 seconds of intense movement followed by 20 seconds of rest and then a 1 minute rest in between rounds.

Here is a recent workout I created using the 40 on/20 off format:

  • Mountain climbers
  • Rows
  • Burpees
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Sprints
  • Leg lifts
  • Dips

The beauty of this type of workout is that it takes 23 minutes and you don’t need a lot of equipment. Some of it requires only your own bodyweight,  but you are working your entire body, maximizing your caloric and fat burn.

You can use dumbbells for the Row and Swings (if you don’t have a kettlebell), and the dips can be done on a couch, chair or steps. If you are in the market for a versatile and fun piece of equipment, you’ll want to check out the Lebert Equalizer® . What I love about it is that the design is simple (they’re like taller parallettes), they can be easily moved, they’re light and don’t take up too much room. Each bar weighs 8 pounds and can hold up to 400 pounds. I love that I can do more of the gymnastics movements that I loved about CrossFit.

I would recommend using them for the mountain climbers, rows, and dips! You can even use them for burpees: grip one while in plank position, clean it and press as you jump up and enjoy a little extra strength movement. I already have my eye on a couple other of their fun toys to make my FitCampers’ -as well as my own- workouts more fun! 😉 I’m all about making fitness FUN!

I’m an affiliate for Lebert Fitness which means I have an awesome coupon code for $20 OFF to share with my readers: LFI20. The wonderful thing is that you can use it on any of their workouts tools listed below, not just the my particular Equalizer®.

  • Lebert Fitness Equalizer® YELLOW, PINK or Lime
  • Lebert Fitness Equalizer® XL – Black/Chrome
  • Lebert SRT Barbell
  • Lebert Buddy Systems.
  • The coupon code can now also be used on the Lebert Parallettes Chrome and the new Natalie Jill Series Rose Gold Equalizers (the one I have!)

By using my link for your purchase, you are helping support this blog which I appreciate very much!

Have an awesome and healthy day,

Julia

Lehigh Valley Marathon Recap

Training for this marathon was an incredible experience as a Mother Runner. I really feel like it helped me bond with Frankie in a special way. I love the fact that now he asks to go for a run in the stroller. It helped us connect while he learned more about a sport that Mommy loves. And bonus for him, he got to spend time outside experiencing all  that Mother Nature brings- maybe even a brief bear encounter.

About 2 weeks after I finished the Superhero Half in May, I started contemplating signing up for a full marathon. I figured that since training for 13.1 had gone so well, I could push myself to attempt training for 26.2 while raising a toddler.  Some days it was really hard. I was tired. I was cranky. And some days Frankie was. But I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t miss any runs. I had to modify the mileage sometimes, but otherwise I was able to complete the training plan I had created for myself (based on Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan). I will blog more about my training in a future post.

When I shared my goals with one of my mommy running friends, she mentioned she was doing the Lehigh Valley Marathon in PA and that I should consider doing it too. This small marathon with a descending course that starts in Allentown and ends in Easton is actually the second fastest marathon in the country, helping many runners qualify for Boston each year.  Since it’s less than 2 hours away from me, I thought it would be a convenient one to do.  I didn’t really know what sort of goal to give myself. The last time I ran a full, it was NYC in 2014 where I was recovering from ITB and had to deal with crazy wind on race day. I gave myself a range of 3:50-3:45 after feeling really great with the outcome of some of my long runs. Fast forward to late August and two weeks before the marathon, and the weather looked very promising. I told myself that that was my green light to try to run my best marathon and break 3:45. If I could do that then maybe I could start thinking about “chasing Boston” in the near future.

I booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Allentown and they were kind enough to give me a discount in exchange for my honest review on my blog. The location was great as it was less than 15 minutes away from the start, which took place at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. My mom and Frankie were with us so we got a room with two Queen beds and requested a portable crib for Frankie. The room was clean and spacious enough for a quick one night stay for all of us.

Packet pick-up took place in Bethlehem at the Arts Quest Center, across from the SteelStacks. What an awesome place!  It used to be the old Bethlehem Steel plant and now is an event venue. It was so beautiful and just something completely unique. We arrived around 3pm and got my bib and swagbag and then walked around the old plant and took some photos. Then we headed to the hotel to check in. Once we arrived there, Frankie, my mom and I stayed in and rested. Frank decided to go out and explore a bit. He texted me saying he found a beer festival just a few blocks away. Definitely a fun thing to run into for my supportive spectator! I was a little sad that I couldn’t enjoy the festival but I was happy he had something fun to do!

We ventured out in the cool evening to find a place to eat and decided to check out an Italian place a few blocks away. It’s been a tradition for my past two marathons that I order gnocchi the night before, so that’s what I did. We finished dinner and headed back to the hotel to let Frankie run around in the lobby a bit before bedtime.  Unfortunately I did not sleep very well due to nerves (and Frankie being up late).

I woke up the next morning around 5am and got ready. The fridge didn’t seem to keep my food very cold, which I think led to some issues later. I brought a peanut butter sandwich and a smoothie and had those along with a cup of coffee.  I pinned my bib on, put my shoes on and left around 6:15 and was dropped off by Frank who said he’d see me at the half-way point with my mom and Frankie.

I waited around until the official start took place at 7:10am. I ran into another one of my running friends and we wished each other good luck. My Garmin decided to do a restart just as I needed to hit Start so it was off by 2 minutes. The first few miles had some big downhills and I tried to keep myself at a comfortable pace. It was very picturesque, with a cute covered bridge within the first 2 miles. I actually caught up to my friend and we ended up running most of the race together, until around mile 20 when I had to hold back.

I was feeling really great the first few miles, but I think it was around mile 8 that I started getting side stitches- which I never get! I ignored them and tried to keep focusing on running and the beautiful scenery.  We got to mile 12 and saw my family but my side stitches were pretty strong at this point. My stomach was hurting pretty badly and I thought maybe I should stop and try to use the bathroom. I told myself that I would try to keep going a couple more miles to see if the pain went away. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I had been hydrating the days before and was drinking water at every water station during the race. I was taking my salt tabs and my Honey Stingers like I had practiced. I immediately remembered the fridge was not very cold. Maybe that was it? Oh great, I thought. I have perfect running conditions, I trained so diligently and now I may not beat my goal. Maybe I’ll just try to break 4 hours, I thought.

I kept struggling through the next few miles but it was really nice to see my family again a few miles later. A few times I was tempted to run off into the woods, but I told myself, “You are tough. You are strong. You can push through this.”  So then we got to Mile 20. And it was rough. Really rough. We ran past a tiny abandoned cottage that looked like it should be in a fairytale.Then all of a sudden, I see Frank beaming at me and holding a sign that Frankie had made, “Go Julia! Frankie is napping but he sends artwork!” It was the perfect thing to hear and see to give me a little jolt of energy. At this point my friend was feeling great so he took off and I hung back. I knew I couldn’t speed up but I told myself that I would force myself to maintain my current pace. I got to mile 21, then mile 22, then mile 23, then mile 24. I was soo close. I really could do it. I looked at the time. “Wow, I really could get under 3:45 maybe,” I thought. Then it was mile 25 and it seemed to last forever. There was a windy right turn that we had to make just before the Finish Line. I was afraid to look at the time on the clock but I did anyway. It said 3:42-something which meant it was really 3:44-something since my watch was off by 2 minutes. My stomach was hurting so badly and I could feel so much tension in my face but I charged through the last yard, caught sight of my family cheering me on on the sidelines, and sprinted across the finish line with a pained look on my face. I looked at my watch and wasn’t sure if I did or didn’t break 3:45.

My legs were so cramped up at this point that I couldn’t even bend down to sit and rest. Frank found me and helped me down but it wasn’t long til I had to visit the porta-potty.  I wasn’t hungry or thirsty but I knew I needed some electrolytes. My father-in-law got me a beer and magically that brought me back to life a little bit. Frank looked up my time on the athlete tracking site and told me that it was 3:44:49- I had pulled it off!  We then headed to 3rd and Ferry Fish Market for a celebratory lunch where I enjoyed a much needed burger and beers. Bonus that they offered 10% off to the marathoners.

Overall it was a really nice Marathon- it’s small, scenic, with plenty of shade and well-organized. The fact that it benefits people with disabilities is also a big plus.

My quads were very beat up from all the downhill running and the miles done on a tow path. I rested for 4 days and then slowly started working out and running again. I have a 10K this Sunday and a Half Marathon on the 21st. I’m really hoping for new PRs in these distances too. I’ll keep you posted!

Xo,

Julia