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

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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

Self Care Tips for SAH Moms of Tots

Having a little human to run around after, all day long, is exhausting. Being a mom is amazing and ultra-rewarding but many of us fail to carve out a little time to do things that benefit…us. In honor of Mothers Day coming up, here are some of my favorite tips to help you find yourself again 🙂 

Be Thankful. There is always something we can be happy for. Be happy if you have a healthy child. Be happy that your husband has a good job. Be happy that your best friend got a promotion. Be happy that your in laws are taking a nice vacation. Sometimes we have to look outside ourselves and be thankful for what our loved ones are experiencing. 
Have a cozy corner. For me, it’s our oversized couch in the family room, where I’ll plop myself down to read after I’ve put Frankie down for a nap. It can be your front porch, a bench in your backyard, a stoop on your back door. Find a little spot where you can go and have a few minutes to yourself from time to time.

Move more! You knew this was coming 😉 Exercise gives us endorphins. I’ve been loving running with Frankie lately, but if you don’t have a jogging stroller, there’s other things you can do. Find a local exercise studio that has babysitting and being your kid along. Go to the park and do air squats and jumping jacks as you push your child on the swings. Hold plank while you build Lego masterpieces on the floor. 


Pamper yourself. Use products that make you happy. I became a Rodan+Fields consultant a year ago after looking for new anti-aging products. The products are really top notch and do what they’re meant to do. It may be hard to have both a morning and nighttime routine when you’re a tired mom, but there’s always something you can do. Have a mini regimen and stick to it every night. Invest in that great eyecream and moisturizer. Give yourself a mini facial once a month. Buy a pretty lipstick. And always wear sunscreen!


Find a (Mom) Tribe. A mom tribe is obviously ideal because you may all be going through the similar things, but don’t underestimate the benefit of having friends who are in different stages in life. It may be hard to have a social life when the kids are young but there’s other ways to find support. Have your single neighbors over for cocktails. Talk to the elderly lady who you see walking her dog every afternoon. There are people around us who are probably also looking to make new friends.

Unplug. Yes I love social media and think it’s great for keeping us connected to friends and family far away or for making new friends and acquaintances. But don’t forget to connect with the people that are right in front of you. I make it a point to not read emails or messages when I’m playing with Frankie. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook sometimes is hard so I put my phone in another room or leave it charged. Also remember that people usually post their highlights and hardly ever show the backstage to their lives, so be easy on yourself when you see a mom who seems to have it all together. Who knows how long it took her to stage that photo that she shared. 

There are many other things that you can do to have your Me Time. These are just some of my favorite ones! 

Stay healthy mamas,

Julia

Conquering some fears at the Jersey City Challenge 

Last Saturday, I woke up with almost no voice, not quite sure if I was going to be accomplishing what I had signed up for many months prior. I was supposed to do my first obstacle race, the Jersey City Challenge, but I was still getting over a cold and now had lost my voice. The hubby was sure I was going to say we should just chalk it up as a sunk cost, but I told him to give me til after breakfast. And so…I had my coffee and breakfast and said, Let’s do this!

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel during the race. Would I start coughing and have to stop? I decided it was worth it to at least get there and see how far I could go. 

It was a chilly, rainy day as we arrived in Jersey City. We brought a backpack to check in (for $5) with a change of clothes and where we could leave our wallets and phones. That was a nice thing they offered and we didn’t mind spending a few extra dollars for it. The bib pick up was slow- surprisingly there was only one person trying to help everyone. Although they do highly suggest that people pick up their bibs ahead of time, that’s just not posible for some of us non-locals. Hopefully they realize this and make it easier for next time.

I had not intended to do this race for time. I didn’t even wear a watch. However, I knew that chances were high that I’d get stuck behind people in front of me so I made sure to sprint between obstacles to give myself the best workout I could.

The penalty for not completing an obstacle was 30 jumping squats. The obstacles included barricades, cargo nets, walls of different heights, and a pyramid that had to be climbed. There was also a reverse wall and a rope climb. Oh and we had to jump over a cop car and taxi cab. I chose going on top of the cop car- that felt pretty badass.


 Prior to running it, I was fearful that the walls were all going to be super high and that my fear of my heights would get the best of me and I’d had to skip some, but it turned out to not be the case. It must’ve been partly due to the adrenaline that I felt- I got through all just fine and was really proud of myself. I climbed the rope all the way up and rang the bell! I even got half way through the rings which were set up on monkey bars (and so I did my 15 penalty squats). Those were among my top two highlights of the race.


There were also other CrossFit-type obstacles like box jumps, kettlebell swings, sandbag carries, heavy jump ropes and bear crawls. The heavy jump ropes were super hard! There was also a balance beam and I ended up having to get help from the City Challenge Staff because it was super tricky. I think that if I took my time and didn’t rush through it, I could’ve done it a little better. 


So my lack of voice or any other doubts or discomforts didn’t hinder me. Would I do this event again? I think if a group of my friends wanted to do it, I definitely would again. A bonus was that there was no gross mud involved. After all, their motto is, “Think outside the mud!” It’s one of those things that you do for the experience. To test your strength and your fears. To have fun! It was not something I cared to do for time.  I’ll leave that to my running races. 


Xo, 

Julia 

Frankie’s First South America Trip

It’s been over a month since we got back from our trip to Paraguay. It was a way-too-brief visit to my family but an unforgettable trip regardless that filled us with new memories to cherish.

It was our first time taking Frankie on a plane so we were naturally super nervous. Overall, he did great on the way there and did even better on the way back. Funny though, that on our way back home he didn’t have his own seat and slept so much better. On my lap. Sigh.

This was my first time visiting since my Grandmother’s passing just over 2 years ago. I was feeling extremely emotional weeks before the trip. I vowed that I would spend every minute I could with my family. That meant we did not do much exploring and didn’t get to visit friends that lived in other cities.

During these 8 days, our only exercise was a 3 mile run at a park minutes away from my Grandmother’s house. We ate delicious homemade food and decadent desserts EVERY.DAY. We took a siesta almost every day. We had 0 regrets. 

Whenever I return from Paraguay I’m left a little depressed. I feel blue thinking about how far away I am from so many people that love me and whom I love. I feel blue thinking that I may not see some of them the next time I return. It was also great to meet some family members I’ve never met before.

I’m so happy that we were able to make a quick escape and visit this past August. I hope to be able to visit again within the next 2 years.


Do you have family in another country or even another state that you don’t see often? 

Xoxo

First Post-natal WOD

It’s been 2 weeks + 1 day since I gave birth to my little Frankie (have you seen all his cute pictures on my Instagram?!? @juliafastinista) and this mama is ready to start getting back in shape! Although I have done little things here and there before yesterday, like push-ups off my couch, leg extensions and weight-less arm curls, I don’t consider them real workouts yet as I was only testing out what my body could handle. I did, after all, not only have a C-section, but I went through hours of labor and pushing prior to that.

 

LSIT

Doing L pull-ups last year…can’t wait to do these again soon!

So yesterday, while my son was napping, I did 3 rounds of:

20 Deadlifts

16 Bicep Curls

10 Push Presses

16 Side Bends

I used my 8-pound dumbbells as usual…

Ideally, I would love to be ready to do the CrossFit Open WODs next month and kill them, but… I won’t be too hard on myself if I have to do a lot of scaling back.

Please don’t think that just because I’m already working out 2 weeks post-partum, that you should be too. Everyone is different. The last thing you want is to get injured and have a big setback. Please be careful and always, always consult with your doctor first.

I just want to say that staying active has been a huuuge help in helping me bounce back. I fit in my skinny jeans just a week later. Now I’m almost pooch-free…just didn’t have time to take a photo.

Have a happy and healthy day! xoxo

Sweat Pink

Today I received an email notifying me that I’m a Sweat Pink Ambassador. Sweat Pink is a community of inspirational, fitness-oriented women where connections and mutual support can blossom as we each strive to reach goals in health and fitness. I’m super excited! 

So in my last post I mentioned that I was getting ready to go to a cousin’s birthday lunch…well, it turned out to be my surprise baby shower. It was such a fun, memorable day surrounded by some of the women that will definitely be playing a big part in Baby Hicky’s life. All the gifts we got were just so thoughtful and awesome. I had a hard time sleeping Sunday night thinking of how real everything feels. Baby will be here so soon! 

   
 Here’s a quick little at home WOD I’ll be doing tonight:

20 bicep curls

10 lateral raises

20 front squats

30 sec wall sit

30 sec plank 

I might do 4 rounds of this but feel free to do more if you’re feeling up to it 🙂

Happy Hump Day…or should I say #bumpday ?! 

Xoxo,

Julia