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

Advertisements

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 thatโ€™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 exerciseโ€™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.

placeholder://
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 ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿผ

Let me know if you try the workout above! Have a great day ๐Ÿ™‚

Julia

My Biggest Takeaways of the 2016 Rio Olympics

Seeing the perseverance, passion and sportsmanship that the Olympic Games bring out truly move me and inspire to keep doing all I do. Not just at the gym but in life too.

The event itself is so exciting, to see athletes from many different countries come together to show us their greatest gifts and strengths. There was even a refugee team of 10 people. There were so many memorable moments, but to me, it wasn’t just about the winners of medals. There were many lessons to be learned from some of the Olympians. Here are some of my favorites:

Sure, it’s amazing that Michael Phelps has 28 gold medals. But did you know that he won 0 at the 2000 Summer Olympics? What if he had given up?

Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino helping each other finish the women’s 5000 Meters after tripping over each other. What if they had just ignored each other? They wouldn’t have created a new bond and friendship.

What about when British sprinter, Derek Redmond’s hamstring snapped on him. He waved away the stretcher, and continued limping towards the finish. His father then ran onto the track, past security, and took his son’s arms to help him finish. Sometimes we have one goal and then something devastating happens so we readjust our goals. Giving up isn’t an option. Those who love will be there to help you through.

Allyson Felix was expected to win the 400 Meters. Instead she had to settle for silver, as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas literally dove for gold. In this case, Miller showed she wanted so badly to achieve this goal and went above and beyond to reach it.

Sarah Robles won the US’s first weightlifting medal since 2000. She’s happy to shed more light on the sport especially to inspire other women of size. She’s also Mexican-American and looking to inspire other Latinos. 

I love the Final Five, especially Simone Biles. That girl is tiny but fierce! But what about the older gymnasts, like 41-year-old Oksana Chusovitina? She could’ve retired. Instead she chose to stand alongside gymnasts half her age. “I’m alive. I’m well. Then it means everything is ok,” she said.

What were some of your favorite, inspiring  moments? 

6 tips to help you enjoy running

I’ve been a runner for a long time though I only started calling myself one about 5 years ago when I started training for my first half marathon. I thought if I didn’t run several times a week, year-around, and wasn’t doing high mileage, I wasn’t a “real” runner. I was mistaken.

Running the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge last year when I was about 9 weeks pregnant.

Whether you run a little or run a lot, you’re a runner…or you can become one.

 I remember training for my first half marathon and feeling so daunted by the training plan I followed. But it got easier. What was the secret? I just stuck with it. There were days when I was too tired or too sore or something came up and I missed my run– but that was ok. I allowed myself breaks here and there. I just knew I had to “bring it” next time.

Last summer I held a 4-week running clinic with some of my CrossFitters and other non-members to coach them into finishing a 5K- the first 5K for several of them. I hope to be able to carve some time out to do another clinic this Spring or Summer. 

In the meantime, I’m sharing my tips on making running feel a little easier- maybe even a little more enjoyable…so that you get out there and stick with it ๐Ÿ™‚

  
1) Stay positive: 

If you tell yourself you hate running, running might hate you back. Just kidding. But seriously. If you can run 400 meters, you can run a mile. If you can run a mile, you can run a 5K, etc. 

Believe it and you will do it. 

2) It’s OK to walk!:

This is important because I know some people feel like if you are not running the whole time, then it doesn’t count. Wrong. There is no such rule. And actually walking is great because it allows you to use different muscles and give a break to the muscles you use when you’re running. When you walk you may feel it more in your glutes, whereas when you’re running, you may feel it more in your quads and hamstrings. 

I had my runners last year do run/walk combos to get them ready for the 5K. All of them beat their goals of finishing under a specific time. For example, I had them walk 5 minutes, then run 10 minutes, and so on until they were walking for a shorter amount of time or distance and running for a longer amount of time or distance. Start slow and build up your endurance.

In the first marathon I ran, I incorporated walk breaks and ended up finishing in 4:02, feeling like I could’ve kept going!

3) Breathe:

Many of my CrossFit trainees ask me about this and it’s actually what inspired me to write this post. How you breathe makes a huge difference in how you feel about not only running but any type of exercise that brings your heart rate up. 

The first thing is to make sure you’re taking big yoga-type breaths through your mouth, breathing from your diaphragm or belly rather than just your chest. You need as much oxygen as possible so make sure you take BIG breaths.

You may want to try following a 2:2 pattern where you inhale for 2 steps, exhale for 2 steps. The ratio can vary from person to person depending on speed (in fact, I’ve read about a 3:2 ratio in a running magazine) but it can give you something to pay attention to as you run to make sure you’re breathing correctly. You can find more info on these ratios on http://www.competitor.com and http://www.active.com. 

Just remember to relax and your body will know what to do. 

4) Practice Good Form:

As with any exercise, like CrossFit for example, the better your form, the more you will get out of it and the more you will prevent injuring yourself. When running, stay light on your feet, land toe to mid foot (not your heels!), and keep your chest up.  Keep your shoulders down and pull your navel towards your spine just like you would in CrossFit.

5) Wear the Right Shoes:

Don’t run in 5 year old sneakers! Go to a running store and have one of their trained staff help you find the right shoes for you. Once you find ones that work, stick with them. 

6) Listen to Music:

Play tunes that inspire you and get you revved up. You may find yourself running faster without even realizing it ๐Ÿ™‚

One last secret I want to share is that I don’t always love running. My husband says the same thing. We love the feeling we get after a run. That sense of accomplishment. But sometimes the run itself sucks! Haha

I hope this post was helpful in getting you started with running ๐Ÿ™‚ I could probably go into more detail on some of these topics so let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Or if anyone has any additional tips they’d like to share, please do so! 

Thank you for reading,

~Julia

  

Running happyย 

I had back-to-back running days this weekend and loved it. I didn’t get a chance to do my once a week run last weekend so I was glad I was able to get these in. 

Saturday I did the same 5K loop I had done the past 2 times and shaved 2 minutes off my previous time (which was 30 minutes). I’m finally starting to feel like my old running self! 

   
I finished the run by doing a few sprints up and down my driveway. And can we just say how cute these leggings are? I got them from my local Athleta store recently.   
Later that afternoon, I did another workout:

1 round of

15 burpees

1 power clean (65#)

5 front squats (65#)

20 double unders

3 pull ups

3 toes to bar

Then, rounds 2-4 I did 15 deadlifts instead of the clean/squat movement. 

On Sunday, the hubby and I were supposed to go to CrossFit but overslept (thanks, daylight savings time!) so we went on a quick 25-minute run instead. The legs were feeling tired but I managed to make it through without any stopping ๐Ÿ™‚

Today is my mom’s birthday, so there will be some indulging and I’ll probably take a rest day. 

Happy Monday to all! ๐Ÿ˜€

Back at the (CrossFit) Box

Sunday marked my official first day back at CrossFit. Although I had been doing home WODs for several weeks already, this was my first time back at the gym, seeing some of my fellow Crossfitters, hearing about some of their recent accomplishments and goals. Many of them are currently doing the Open, with Week 3 coming up tomorrow. 

I had hoped that I’d be ready to also be taking part in the competition but I’m allowing myself time to rest and having faith that sooner than later I’ll catch up again. 

CrossFit Open 15.5

   
My first WOD on Sunday was a 12 AMRAP of:

8 Sumo Deadlift High-pulls (55#)

6 Ring rows

4 Over the bar burpees

I finished 7 rounds and started on the 8th, completing the SDHPs, ring rows and 2 of the burpees.

I’m hoping to make it to the gym twice a week but I’ll be happy to at least go on Sundays with my husband while my mom watches the baby. 

I finished my Sara Haley challenges on Saturday but hope to continue incorporating some of the movements when I work out at home.

Stay active! Xo

Running Comeback and Booty Challenge

It’s been getting quite difficult finding the time to post, but I wanted to do a quick update on my current status…starting the post on Monday night while Frankie is sleeping and I’m enjoying a margarita because it’s #nationalmargaritaday so this mama had a few minutes to spare. By the way, seems like everyday is “national something day!” 

  
On Saturday, I went on my first run since late July. The weather here in North NJ was just beautiful, with some sun and temps in the 50s. My hubby took me on his usual route through a trail by our house which included a couple of hilly spots. Although I had to slow down a few times to walk briefly, I felt great the whole time. Though my legs felt a bit heavy and rusty, my breathing seemed ok. It really is amazing how the human body works and that I was able to maintain a decent pace after months of no running. In case you’re wondering, we did a 5K distance in 30:32. Far off from my best time of 22:38 but I’ll take it! 

I’m also doing a 14-day “booty challenge.” It’s another one of Sara Haley’s fitness challenges which I’ve talked about before. If you’d like to check it out, go to http://www.sarahaley.com- you can download the workouts for free. The “hydrant kick” and “tail wag” are my favorite moves. I decided to combine this booty challenge with my own version of the last 2 weeks of her “no crunches” challenge and so far it’s been a great daily workout. Today that included  3 rounds of a 1 minute plank, 30 second alternating single leg plank, 30 plank jacks and 30 alternating “pigeon and planks.”Feeling the burn in the abs and booty already and I’m only on day 4 ๐Ÿ™‚

  
So the CrossFit Open begins this Thursday and I’m feeling so nostalgic that I won’t be able to kill it like I did last year (well, for me). I’m not even sure yet if I’ll be doing it at my box. It’s difficult to commit when you have an 8-week old! 

For more frequent updates, you can see my Instagram page @juliafastinista

Stay healthy! Xoxo

Back on the Barbell

I had my postnatal OB appointment on Friday and got the “official” green light to resume my workouts…so what did I the next day? Went down to my basement to do a barbell WOD, of course!

Although I had been carefully doing a few light workouts here and there, including the “no crunches challenge”I had previously posted about, now I have the confidence to increase my intensity and weights a little bit more.

With The CrossFit Open just a few weeks away, I’m feeling like I’ll definitely be ready to do the workouts, although I will have to scale back.

So yesterday I warmed up by doing a few stretches and double unders followed by…

4 rounds of:

30 jumping jacks

10 barbell thrusters (45#)

20 deadlifts (45#)

The 4th round was super tough! I was feeling those thrusters! Although the DLs were very light, the higher reps still got my lower body going…my butt is especially feeling a bit sore today ๐Ÿ™‚

I finished off the workout by doing some shoulder work with my small 5# plates- just 2 rounds of 12 shoulder raises, 10 lateral raises, and 10 strict presses.

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day! We’re staying in and cuddling all day and then Frank and I are watching The Walking Dead ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Sunday!

WODing at 32 Weeks

It’s been great to be able to workout a bit more now that I’m back to “normal.” I made it to CrossFit twice this week and plan on going tomorrow as well. Very curious to see how far into my pregnancy I’ll be able to keep at it. Hopefully at least through the end of this month! 

This was Wednesday’s WOD:

20 minute AMRAP of-

10 power cleans w/15# DB

20 wall slams (10# ball)

200 meter row

I finished 5 rounds and 5 power cleans.

   
   

  
This morning I coached class which featured a fun little ladder of toes to bar, box jumps and dips. I miss doing toes to bar! 

Have a nice Saturday!

๐Ÿ’•

I’m stent-free!

You may have read my past posts and already know about how I had a stent put in my ureter after a scary kidney infection while I was 19 weeks pregnant. It has been painful and uncomfortable and my OB and the urologist finally gave me their blessing to have it removed, which I did yesterday. It was supposed to stay in until post-partum, but it only got worse as baby started pushing (and kicking) down on my bladder more and more. I can’t wait to feel more normal again within the next day or so.

 I’m just feeling so thankful to my husband and mom especially who have been super awesome over the past (almost) 3 months. Other family members and friends have been great too. I had to work from home, and even then I hardly left my couch. I’m really looking forward to going out for walks around my new neighborhood and enjoying the beautiful autumn weather. Maybe I’ll even be able to run a little bit too. 

Rest has definitely been a priority the past week, which is fine. The body needs rest! Stay tuned to see how I do and the workouts I do going forward ๐Ÿ™‚

Xoxo

Julia