Tapering for my first Spring Marathon

Here I am, three days away from my 4th marathon, the very first spring marathon I’ll be doing. This training period was so different from the past three, but that’s not surprising. Each of the past three were all different in their own way as well.

The first two, Philadelphia and New York were done before I became a mom and while I was doing CrossFit hardcore. My mileage probably peaked at the mid to high 30s. I was in great shape, but mixing the two was tough and I was always exhausted.

My third marathon was the Lehigh Valley Marathon and it was the first one I trained for as a mom. Many of my runs were done while pushing Frankie on the stroller, which became (for the most part) a fun thing for us to do together. My mileage went up to the low 40s and I got a sub 4-hour (3:44) marathon. Up until then, I was only thinking of trying after I turned 35 where I’d gain an extra five minutes to my qualifying time. Running friends started to put the bug in my ear about trying for Boston…and so I decided to embark on my mission to qualify.  This is what crazy runner friends do their friends!

My qualifying time at this time is 3:35 but in order to be able to actually have entry I would need to run a sub 3:30 marathon. Ideally I would like to do this before expanding my family. And so this marathon will be my first attempt!

This marathon is different because it was my first time training during the winter. And you all know what a winter we’ve had! I became a Treadmill Warrior and learned to embrace the fact that most of my runs would be done on the hamster wheel. If I was serious about completing a spring race, it’s what I had to do…unless of course I wanted to get up at 5am to run and that was not happening. Mama needs her sleep.

For this marathon, I used a more advanced training plan, which I of course modified to my Mom Life. I did four long runs of 20 miles, and diligently did speed work, VO2 max workouts (which I learned all about in my ReVo2lution Running certification) and tempo runs. I even did some hill repeats, although where I live you simply can’t avoid hills so they probably weren’t necessary. But variety is important so overall I’m happy with all the runs I got in. I kept my easy runs easy and tried to push the pace during intervals. My mileage went up to the upper 40s.

I remained ache free until the last couple weeks. I’m currently suffering with an achy left gastrocnemius which I’ve been icing and treating at Santiago Chiropractic. It feels fine once I warm up so I’m confident that it will hold up during the race. I will focus on giving it lots of TLC after Sunday.

This last taper week started with a sports massage and reflexology on Sunday at the Short Hills Hilton Hotel spa, eforea. It was actually a Mother’s Day gift I had from Frank from last year (oops) and took my mom with me to spend some quality Mother-Daughter time.  The services we had were ok, but the overall customer service was very disappointing. From no one being around to lead us to the upstairs lounge area, to terrible coffee, no snacks and a 45-minute wait to have your food delivered, I would be very unlikely to ever go back there.

Monday was a rest day, Tuesday was an easy three miler with four 30-second accelerations at half marathon pace. Yesterday was another three miles mostly at half marathon pace and today and Friday will be rest days. I was supposed to do another easy run but I’d rather get the rest for my calf. Saturday I’ll do a 2-3 mile easy shakeout run.

Since I decided not to run today, I’ll just be focusing on mobility, some light core work (on my Strongboard, of course) and stretching.

I did go out for a short little walk with my handsome best buddy. Last fall, during my taper, he had croup, and this time around he has an ear infection. Should it blame it on the taper crazies?? He’s luckily doing much better and was back to being his energetic, silly self again today.

I’m also drafting up ideas for another Running Workshop will which take place next month. If you’re local (and even if you’re not), send me your email so I can keep you posted on all the details.

Frankie is down for his nap as I write this and my babysitter will be here shortly so that I can go get a much needed pedicure. I’m sipping on a green matcha latte, compliments of Vital Proteins. I love their collagen powders and was so happy they sent me the matcha, as I’ve been meaning to try it. I love that it is packed with antioxidants, helps the metabolism and calms your mind and body…just what I need right now!

So the plan for the weekend is to drive down early on Sunday. Another member of my Amazing Feet Club will be picking up my bib for me (if all goes well), which will give both the hubby and I a chance to make it to Frankie’s little multi-sports camp.

Make sure you follow me on Instagram to see more about the weekend! I’ll be sure to do post-race recap with more details on my training once I give my body and mind some rest!

Have a great day,

Julia

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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

Marathon Taper Week: What I’ll be Focusing On

I’ve heard plently of talk about the “dreaded marathon taper” during the past few years of training for marathons. In my case, it is not dread at all. On the contrary, it’s a much needed point in my training. Since last week, I’ve been so ready for the decrease in miles and intensity. My body and mind have put in the work, and I’m feeling ready to rest for the big day.

Trek for Trafficking 5K 2014

After all, I’ve worked super hard to get to this point. I never missed a single run, maybe a few miles, but the actual runs were always done. I’ve woken up super early on weekends, I’ve put in hundreds of miles pushing a toddler in a stroller, I’ve endured runs in the heat and humidity, I’ve done my speed work, I’ve put in the time to cross train, I’ve given up some Sunday mornings with my family and some late night outs with friends.  All this for one day? Or is it really just for one day? If you learn to look at more than just the time at the finish line, but the actual journey, all that you must learn to overcome to get to the START line and all the work you must put in to help you move along, step by step or stride by stride, to get to the finish, it’s all worth being proud of.

Having a time goal (and a Plan B and Plan C) is awesome, and I’m all about setting goals, but one shouldn’t be too hard on oneself if you fall slightly short. I know the hard training I’ve put in cannot simply be measured in how fast I cross my finish line next Sunday.

This week I’m focusing on rest and active recovery. This weekend was a bit tough in getting in my last “long run” due to Frankie being very sick with croup. I got about 7 miles in but that was good enough. On Labor Day, I coached my Fastinista FitCamp and then went for a short run (just under 3 miles as one last pace test). On Tuesday, I did an easy 3 miler with Frankie; on Wednesday I did 3.5 miles marking my last “real” run for the week, with a short 2 mile shakeout on Saturday. I’m planning on doing a lot of stretching, foam rolling and some core moves and walking on Thursday and Friday and that’s it.

Snuggles with my training buddy!

As far as nutrition, I’m planning on upping my carb intake starting today. I usually have a smoothie for breakfast but going forward I will also add a small piece of toast to have with my coffee. Lunch will be sandwiches or salads, and dinners will include healthy protein with gluten-free pasta, quinoa, couscous or sweet potatoes. Or maybe more corn since we have plenty of it right now!

My favorite breakfast

Carrots, zucchini, mango, turmeric, ginger and About Time protein powder.

I will have to take it easy with my alcohol intake as well. As much as I love a glass of wine or beer a few times a week, I need to watch the sugar which tends to hurt my stomach on long runs. That being said, I will certainly need to treat myself to my new favorite Owl’s Brew Classic Tequila, perhaps tomorrow night. You may have seen I recently discovered Owl’s Brew and their brew/tea blends. I tried their 3 beer types and my favorites are the Wicked Watermelon and Summer Blonde- they have slight hints of fruit and botanicals but still taste a bit like a beer. Among the mixers, I have tried “The Classic” craft cocktail mixer which I paired with tequila.  It is soo good! Brewed with English breakfast tea and lemon peel with lemon and lime, it is like a mild margarita. I highly recommend it for my tequila drinkers, although you really can mix it with vodka, whiskey, gin or beer as well. Thanks Owl’s Brew for sending me these goodies to try out! I still have the “White and Vine” and “Pink & Black” mixers left to try at my next get-together.

Owl's Brew mixers

So my little cocktail tomorrow night will be a celebration of my START line. Lehigh Valley Marathon, I’m ready to don that bib and conquer your course!

Make sure to follow my instagram to see how the rest of the week goes and I’m sure I’ll be sharing about my marathon experience sometime next week!

Xo,

Julia

Must-Try End of Summer Grilling Recipes

My clients often ask me about what the types of food they should be eating. Once you build a rapport with your clients and give them results, it’s not surprising that they want you to guide them in other areas of their wellness. Following restrictive diets or having to measure each and every ounce of food you consume is not sustainable. I’m a big believer in teaching moderation while still getting people the results they’re looking for.  My online clients as well as some of my local ones rely on me for meal ideas and I LOVE sharing with them recipes that are simple and made with mostly all natural ingredients and condiments. Like the ones below!

Summertime means lots of grilling at the Hickman House. Even though my hubby is the Grillmaster of the house, I’m usually the one finding or creating the recipes and doing the prep work. I love finding easy, healthy yet flavor-packed meals that can be easily modified. To my luck, I came across Madison Park Foods, a local brand of seasonings and rubs and, after a quick look at their website, I knew I had to try them out. I have partnered with them to create the recipes below. As always, all opinions are my own.

The first recipe here is a Bloody Mary encrusted chicken with sweet corn on the cob. Frank loooves Bloody Marys (the spicier the better) so I was excited to create a meal using this lovely red rub that could work double duty. Please note that both of these recipes make about 3-4 servings.

Bloody Mary-Encrusted Chicken with Sweet Corn on the Cob

Bloody Mary Encrusted Chicken with Sweet Corn on the Cob

Ingredients

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Instructions

  1. Drizzle olive oil on chicken breasts, then season generously with Madison Park Foods Bloody Mary seasoning. Cover and place in fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat grill on high, 5 minutes. Once hot, carefully use tongs to rub an oiled paper towel over grates to clean and ensure no food residue or dirt.
  3. Using long tongs, place chicken breasts on grill and cook, covered on high, 3 minutes. Flip breasts and continue cooking on high, 3 more minutes.
  4. Reduce grill heat to low and flip chicken again. Place ears of corn on grill. Cover and continue cooking, 3 minutes more. Flip chicken again and cook 3 more minutes on low.
  5. To serve, remove chicken and corn to plate. Squeeze lime juice on chicken.

We served this with a Greek-style salad made with spinach, cucumber, tomatoes and olives; inspired by a salad my friend Nisha brought over for dinner recently. I drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of salt on it, but I would even do a sweeter dressing to offset the spiciness of the Bloody Mary rub. And we rimmed our tequila glasses with it as well.

To my delight, Madison Park Foods also has a Chimichurri rub that I knew right away I would try on my next asado. Before I even tasted it, I loved looking at the colors in the tub. This versatile mix has garlic, onion, salt, red bell pepper and parsley and cilantro as some of its ingredients. Don’t be shy to try Chimichurri on other types of meat though; we love it on white fish too!

Beef Sirloin Asado with Chimichurri

Beef Sirloin Asado with Chimichurri

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

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Instructions:

  1. Season both sides of steak with 1 teaspoon of Dos Gauchos mix and let sit for 1 hour.
  2. Prepare the grill on high heat. Mix olive oil and remaining Dos Gauchos mix and grill the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, turning steaks 1/4 turn after 1 1/2 minutes to form crisscross grill marks, if desired.
  3. Transfer steaks to cutting board; let rest 5 minutes before serving.

We served the asado with a side of store-bought French fries (can be substituted with sweet potato fries or forgone altogether) which we also threw on the grill. You can certainly brush your steak with a little more olive oil but we chose to take it easy as we were having not-so-healthy fries as our side. We did do a chopped salad made with cabbage, romaine lettuce, some kale, green onions, carrots and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and used a sweet onion dressing over it.

Both of these recipes are simple and perfect to make for these last summer grilling days with the all natural seasonings from Madison Park Foods. I can’t wait to try more of their products soon!

Xo,

Julia

Cape May Summer Memories

We just got back from a few days down in Cape May, NJ. This was our second trip this summer with the previous one being back in June. I had a lot going on with my online training and FitCamp and didn’t get a chance to blog about the first trip so I will talk a little bit about both now.

Our getaway in June came in at a great time, giving us the opportunity to treat my Mom to a little road trip with us (although all her help with Frankie really was a treat to US), celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary and a mini birthday celebration for me as well. We stayed at my sister-in-law’s house that is just a short walk to the Cape May Cove making it easy to get to and from the beach with little Frankie. As a fact, everything is pretty walkable in this charming little resort town.

Our first night, the 4 of us had dinner at The Rusty Nail where I ordered a delicious lobster roll with a side salad, naturally. Frank and I indulged in a couple of dark and stormy drinks and we enjoyed the live music playing in the background. Eventually my mom took Frankie back to the house for bedtime while Frank and I took a drive out to Sunset Beach to take in the views.

All of us at The Rusty Nail


Beautiful sunset!

Aperitifs at The Ebbett Room

Fun at Congress Hall

Heartbreaker smile


Cape May Zoo

 

The following day, we headed down to the beach for some fun in the sun and then Frank and I had a fancy date night at the Washington Inn while my mom and Frankie enjoyed some yummy local takeout. Great spot for a more upscale night out – we had great service too.

The 3rd day we had another beach day and then ventured to Congress Hall in the afternoon.  They were hosting their Carnival On The Lawn event- face painting, balloon animals, games for kids and parents of all ages, including a mini train ride. Frankie had the time of his life running around the lawn while the 3 of us took turns chasing him around. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a relaxing, lazy night later on, did not end without a little scare. Frankie woke up about an hour after falling asleep, crying hysterically. Thinking he was potentially sick, we decided to not take any chances and took him to the ER 20 minutes away. All ended up being well but I was so glad my mom was with us. The Dr believed it was some discomfort caused by gas but it was one of those things we’ll never know for sure. Our boy was back to his usual happy self the next morning and we were able to quickly pack up our things and head back home.

I was able to keep up with my marathon training schedule and do some running while down there. I did a 6 mile run to the Cape May Lighthouse with Frank on Saturday and a long run consisting of 2.5 miles with my mom, 6 miles with Frank and a couple more on my own on Sunday.

Our latest trip last week was unique in that we had 2 family members from Seattle also there. They are here for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary party next weekend. This time we stayed in a motel just 2 blocks from my sister in law’s house and one block from the beach. The staff was very friendly and our room was kept very clean. I was nervous about sharing a room with Frankie but he did great about sleeping in his portable crib- he slept for 12 hours every night!

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The quiet street where The South Winds was located.


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The South Winds Motel


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Walking on the beach with Daddy

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My absolutely handsome boys

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Leading me on more adventures


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And the kid ran away with the spoon…

Our first night there, we decided on take-out from The Rusty Nail –once again I got the lobster roll and salad combo. Frank also got the fish tacos he so much enjoyed the previous time. The 2nd night there, we did our traditional date night at 410 Bank Street while our nephews babysat Frankie after his bedtime. I can’t even tell you what else is on the menu because my eyes instantly search for their Voodoo Shrimp, which I have gotten now every single time I’ve been there. I think it’s been 4 or 5 times now. It might be time to try to recreate it at home soon! The new thing we noticed this year is that they now carry Cape May wine. We opted for their chardonnay which was delicious! After sharing a scrumptious bread pudding dessert, we settled up and walked back to our Motel, taking the time to walk by Congress Hall and the night scene.

The 3rd night was the big family dinner at the Merion Inn, home to the oldest bar in NJ. everything on their menu will make you drool. I got the sea scallops with jasmine rice and vegetables. A bottle of 2016 Argentinian Malbec Rose by Altavista was shared with my mother in law and sister in law.  This historic restaurant was fantastic for our large party and our waitress was lovely with Frankie. Speaking of whom, he had a small taste of chocolate (perhaps only his 2nd time ever) and we now understand what parents refer to a “sugar rush”- we took him out of his stroller during our post-dinner passeggiata and he took off like a little bird freed from a cage! It was so cute and funny and people walking on the promenade couldn’t help but smile as he ran by them.

One of the most memorable parts about the trip was how much he enjoyed his big cousin Emmy’s company. He’s at the stage where he calls every kid (and sometimes adults) “the baby” so he kept referring to her as that. Endless hours were spent coloring with chalk on the sidewalk- and maybe even the front steps too. Oops. He has nearly perfected making circles, which are “bubbles” and he even learned to color them in.

My marathon training once again continued- 6.7 miles on Saturday and 11+ on Sunday. Since my sister in law does a lot of running when they’re down there, she took me on a couple of routes I probably wouldn’t have done on my own, which was great.

We enjoyed all the great things that Cape May brings: fun times together, delicious cuisine (umm hello Jersey Shore seafood!) and the carefree, simple life that the beach brings.

We look forward to more adventures down at Exit 0 again soon! I can’t believe how much more we did with Frankie this year compared to last year’s trip. He’s growing so fast!

Does your family do a beach vacation every year? If so, where?

Xo,

Julia

5 Tips for Exercising in the Heat

July tends to bring super hot temperatures here in North Jersey and if you’re training for a marathon that means having to be outside often in scorching, humid conditions. I have had some tough runs in the heat but made it through them by training smart and drinking plenty of water. Whether you have a long distance event in the books or are doing an outdoor workout class, here are some tips to help you survive the heat.


1.) Hydrate… a lot.  Drinking before or after is not always sufficient. When temperatures are high, it’s best to also hydrate during your sweat session. I recommend carrying water with you so you can reach for it easily. I wear a hydration belt on my long runs but if you’re a class-taker or gym-goer here’s a stainless steel bottle (only $15!) to bring along with you. It’s also important to replenish electrolytes, so a post-workout sports drink is essential for that. I like Nuun Active tablets. They have pretty clean ingredients and the flavors are not too overpowering.

2) Wear light-colored, sweat-wicking clothing. Save the dark colors for fall and winter and pull out your white tank tops and grey shorts. Avoid cotton as it will just stick to you, weigh you down and possibly even irritate your skin. I love MPG Sport for their affordable and cute tank tops for women. There are also times when you just have to workout in your sports bra, and you know what? That’s totally fine! There are some really cute ones at MPG too.

3) Keep It Brief. There will be times when you will need to cut it short or split up your runs or workouts. I usually have to do 2 runs- one in the mornings with Frankie while it’s still not too hot out and another one on the treadmill while he’s napping. It can get done- you just have to be flexible.

Stroller running around town

4) Wear sunscreen! Make sure you protect your skin, even on cloudy days. I always keep a bottle of sunscreen in the garage by the running stroller. Wear a hat or visor and try to stay in shady areas.

Running in shady part of Patriot’s Path

5) Take a cold shower. Although I usually do this after a workout, some people will also do it right before. It may also help wake you up if you have a super early morning wake up call.

Train smart and enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Working out in hot conditions definitely helps toughen up my mental game, so take away what you can from the tough workouts. They’ll make you a better athlete!

Today I did my long run, I have a few chores around the house, then we’ll be visiting my best friend and her family for a BBQ and kiddie play time, and then I’ll be back home finalizing some workouts for my first week of Small Group Training Classes which I’m SO SO excited about!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

xo,

Julia

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