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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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

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

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 🙂

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 🙂

Happy Sunday!

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

Nektar Honey Crystals Review

Hi there! Happy Monday 🙂 Today I want to talk about a new product I just discovered. Nektar Naturals makes these honey granules that are pretty “sweet”- pun intended. Not only is it a healthy, gluten-free, GMO free product, but it’s so great and convenient that they’re crystals, so you don’t get the sticky mess that usually comes along with honey. 

  
I love having a slice of gluten-free toast with almond butter and a few drizzles of honey as a snack- but I looooved being able to sprinkle some honey crystals instead. No more honey dripping everywhere! I received a free bottle from Nektar Naturals to review but you can pick one up at Whole Foods, Kings or Shop Rite among other health food stores. Give it a try. They have some great recipes in their website too: http://www.nektarnaturals.com. 

I’m currently 35 weeks- yay! Almost there 🙂 I’ve been feeling great physically, still working out a few days a week doing what I can. Mentally though…I gotta say I have a bad case of “pregnancy brain.” 😁

This was one of my WODs last week. Check it out:

50 ball slams (10# ball)

50 Double-unders

40 box step-ups

40 side bends (15# DB)

30 ring rows 

30 pregnant burpees

20 squat cleans (15# DB)

20 push jerks (DB)

10 single arm snatches (DB)

10 box push ups 

I kept the weights light and kept my focus on form. It was challenging but I felt awesome afterwards. My goal is to workout at least 3 times a week for the next few weeks. And I’m already thinking of possible races to run in the spring 😊

Have a great night, 

Xoxo

Halloween/Marathon Weekend Recap

What a great weekend of nice weather, Halloween workouts, and shopping! I programmed a fun Halloween-themed WOD for Saturday’s class which seemed to be a big hit. I even gave out a prize of some AboutTime protein powder to the best costume. Winners of the 5-minute plank challenge got some awesome pink Sweat Pink shoelaces 🙂

    
This week I’m 32 weeks pregnant which means I’m officially in month 8! My mom and I had a nice time at the mall shopping for Baby Hicky. Pottery Barn Kids was having a 20% off sale so we bought the rest of the items left on my registry. On sale items we got 10% off which is their registry completion discount. This kid made out pretty well!

The hubby and I also enjoyed a nice romantic date night at a local restaurant. I wore this sexy Splendid dress and over the knee Stuart Weitzman boots 😉  
  And it was the 1 year anniversary of my running the NY Marathon! That was truly an amazing experience.  
What did you do for Halloween? Have you run the NY Marathon- or hope to do so one day?

Xo,

Julia