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

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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

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
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  • 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

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

There are affiliate links included in this post that I may earn a small percentage from should you choose to make a purchase- at no additional cost to you.

The Importance of Foam Rolling

As my half marathon approaches, I’m decreasing the intensity and length of my runs, and taking it easy with strength workouts as well. The main focus now is on rest and myofascial release massage (foam rolling). 


The roller helps limit soreness and tightness by increasing blood flow and flexibility. It also helps with mobility. Even though most people think of rolling before some workouts and after every workout, it’s also beneficial to roll on a rest day, which is what I’m doing. All this helps in the enjoyment of your training process and your recovery- not to mention injury prevention.

The denser your roller is, the more of an intense stretch/massage you’ll get. For daily use, I’d recommend a regular roller with a soft, even surface (like the blue one I’m using in the photos in this post). A tennis ball also makes a good alternative for a harder, more intense roll. 

Clients often ask me, What should I roll? Gently and slowly glide back and forth on different spots on your body- calves, quads, upper back, glutes, etc, focusing on areas where you feel tightness. 


If you have a specific painful spot, it is most likely due to imbalances in other areas of your body. Rolling directly on that spot won’t do you any good.  You should actually foam roll the peripheral areas. For example if your shoulders are feeling tight, roll your chest. If your knees are achy, roll your hips and calves. 

For a video on how to use a foam roller properly, check out Sarah Fit’s blog

How often do you roll? 

Xo,

Julia

Staying Fit Through the Holidays

None of these are secrets! You have probably heard them before. But are you actually doing them? Here’s how I keep myself in check:

1) Schedule it. I know if I write down my workout, I will get it done. This also goes for anything else I need/want to get done- I write it in my agenda otherwise I forget, forget, forget. My mom brain has gotten worse as Frankie has gotten older.

2) Avoid sitting for too long. Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been proven to be hazardous to our healths. Remember this when watching Christmas movies with your family- get up and stretch occasionally.

3) Drink up! Water that is, not sugary stuff. Many people track their food intake. I say, track your water intake. I have an oversized water bottle that I refill several times a day. I drink at least 1 gallon of water a day.

4) A little bit is better than nothing when it comes to exercise. This is so true now that I’m a mom, especially one who is at home. My “me” time is pretty much non-existent, so I rely on naps to get stuff done around the house or for my R+F biz. Sometimes I do wall sits or push-ups or jump squats while playing with Frankie. Get creative!


5) Indulge a few times, but not the whole Season! We only live once, so go to the Christmas parties but just be smart. If you really want to try the desserts, snack on the lower calorie appetizers and limit your alcoholic drinking.  Tonight I’ll be going to a Cookie Exchange Party and trust me when I say I will be enjoying a few but I also made sure to have a light dinner instead of my usual filling one. 

6) Don’t make a New Year’s resolution to stay in shape- stay in shape ALL YEAR LONG! If you simply can’t get yourself to do all of the above, then it’s time to consider investing in yourself. Find a fitness coach to help you stay motivated and accountable. Find a friend who has similar goals and try to workout together if you can.


Thank you following my blog this year! I wish each and every one of you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season! May 2017 be full of blessings! 

~Julia