3 key workouts to improve your half or full marathon

Every time I train for a marathon, I am reminded that speed workouts are my favorite.  Yet speed workouts are some of the least helpful in marathon training.  They absolutely still have a role- strengthening VO2 max, but the workouts that have more value for the half or full marathon are long runs, marathon paced runs and tempo runs.

Long runs

Every distance training plan is built around the long runs.  Most of the time the paces should be easy for long runs but advanced runners can build in a few miles at goal race pace.  Harder long runs should be alternated with easy long runs.

What’s an optimal long run pace? Runner’s Connect has a fantastic article on that here.

Race pace runs

It’s not necessary to set a goal time for the first marathon.  But for more experienced runners, you can set a goal time based on other races.  Race calculators like the one from McMillan can help give you an idea of a goal time within your fitness level.

To run a strong marathon or half and hit goal paces, it’s crucial to spend some time running at goal marathon pace.  Makes sense, right?

Race pace miles can be run in the middle of a week day run, starting with just 2 miles and building to 8-12.  Race pace runs will prepare you both mentally and physically to get very familiar with what that pace feels like for race day.

Tempo runs

Tempo runs are a tough workout that include miles run at faster than goal race pace.  Tempo pace is typically between 10k and half marathon race pace, or lactate threshold, and help to make race pace feel easier as well as to push back the point at which lactic acid begins to build too quickly in your muscles.

I shared a few tempo workouts earlier that give a range of workouts, from short 2 mile tempo runs to intervals at tempo pace.

In my current training cycle, I’m trying to get a mix of all three workouts in.  Every week includes a long run where I build for 2-3 weeks and then cut back to a shorter distance.  I typically alternate weeks with race pace workouts or tempo workouts.

As my legs accumulate fatigue from training (like now!) it gets harder to meet those paces, but the workouts are a great indicator of how well prepared you are for race day.

Do you utilize race pace runs, long runs and tempo runs?

Do you have a favorite type of running workout?

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Training recap 6 weeks to go + meal planning

Hey there!

It’s been a travel whirlwind the last few days as I met up with my blogging friend Jessica for a nutrition event Thursday in Massachusetts and then spent Friday-Saturday in PA.  Back to normal today!

Unfortunately the weather was tough- hot and humid in all three states I ran in this week! But I got the miles in and will (hopefully) be stronger for it.

Beach run

Now only 6 weeks to go! I’m starting to feel tired this week and can tell I’m nearing peak training.  My ‘easy’ paces are slower than usual, but I was happy with the one tempo run I got in! The marathon training recap:

Sunday: 4 easy recovery miles (10:00+ ave)

Monday: 8 easy miles (9:03 ave)

Tuesday: 1 hour spin + a few push ups and planks

Wednesday: 10 miles with 8 at marathon pace (9:13, 8:26, 7:41, 7:30, 7:31, 7:31, 7:26, 7:33, 7:26, 7:11)

Thursday: Strength + short elliptical session

Friday: 6 easy along the water in Falmouth, MA (no watch)

Saturday: 15 humid, hilly miles through the country roads of PA (8:49 ave)

Saturday afternoon we met one of my daughter’s good friends and her family for a little PA country tour.  Our city girls didn’t know what to think of the farm, cows, and smells of the country!

Farm trip

Meal Plan

Monday: Empty the fridge stir fry with chicken and rice

Tuesday:   Pulled pork in the crock pot, sauteed swiss chard

Wednesday:  Turkey meatballs with edamame pasta and spinach strawberry salad

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Final family beach day

Saturday: NYC for Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and dinner

 

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Favorite Broadway show?

What signs does your body give you that you’re approaching peak training?

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Lately

Lately….

We’re soaking up the last days of summer.  On the list for these last two weeks: the zoo, splash pads, a trip to grandma’s for Dutch Wonderland, pool days, and then school shopping.

Splash pad

Lately…

More and more of my life is centering around marathon training.  I’m in the thick of it, with just 7 weeks to Steamtown.  I’m planning my weekends around my long runs, trying to get to bed early the nights before hard runs, and my appetite has increased exponentially.  But I’m also getting excited! I have enough training in to know I’ll make it through 26 miles and, fingers crossed, will make it through the rest of training injury free.

marathon training

Lately…

We’ve been celebrating us! Sunday marked 12 years of marriage, 6 with kids and 6 without.  It’s always fun to look back at where life has taken us that we wouldn’t have expected, and look forward to where we see ourselves going.  For now, we’re very content and don’t have any big changes in the works.

anniversary card

Lately…

I’m been so hungry these days!  I’ve been stocking up on new snacks to carry around with me… current favorites are RX bars (I like the dark chocolate sea salt), roast chickpeas, cashews, and Zing bars.  Popcorn, too!

Roast chickpeas

Lately…

I’ve been starting to map out my back-to-school routine… what classes the girls might take, what hours I’ll get my work in, when/if to use a babysitter as baby J has one more full year before preschool and what I’m going to be packing L for lunch every day.  It’s right around the corner!

 

What’s been on your mind lately?

What are some of your favorite snacks to grab on the go?

 

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7 Weeks to Steamtown + Meal Planning

Hi friends!

Another summer weekend is wrapping up.  It’s a special one for us- today is our anniversary…. 12 years! We have a babysitter coming for the afternoon/evening.  Simply getting a break from the dinner/bath/bedtime routine is a treat enough for us! We have a dinner spot reserved and will have to figure out what else we want to do.

Our six year old presented us with her homemade card which included a short “roses are red” poem and lots of hearts and a picture of us. I think that’s the first time she did something like that all on her own, without the prompting of a teacher or help from an adult to spell something.  I’m keeping that one!

So, just 7 weeks to go!! The marathon training recap:

Sunday: off (travel home)

Monday: 8 easy with 5 x 20 second strides

Tuesday: 1 hour spin + a few push ups and planks

Wednesday: 2.5 run, 1 hour spin, 2.25 run

Thursday: Strength (squat and press, upper rows, push ups, walking lunges, kettle bell swings) x 4 plus 5 minutes of core

Friday: 2.25 easy + 5 miles on the AlterG treadmill, alternating 2 minutes at 5:40 pace and 3 minutes at 5:50 pace, with 1 minute recoveries

Saturday: 17 humid, hilly miles with 3 flat in the middle at 7:30, 7:25, 7:25 (most averaged 8:30s)

I used the AlterG because I was still being cautious with the aches I felt last week, but everything feels good this week so I’m ready to get back to a ‘normal’ training week.

Meal Plan

Monday: Inside out Sushi Salad

Tuesday:   Chicken zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday:  Frittata with Swiss chard and peppers

Thursday: Travel (me)

Friday: Travel (family)

Saturday: Homemade pizza

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When does school start up for you?

Have you ever used an Alter G treadmill?

Does energy expenditure have an upper limit?

There is a myth that you can out-exercise a bad diet, and I think most
of us have learned by now that it is not true… even if we live like
it is some days!

It’s ironic that I always seem to be marathon training when I come
across great information confirming the idea that more is NOT better
in terms of exercise.

I came across a few fascinating studies in the last few months that I
wanted to share that shed more light on what is going on in our bodies
as we increase exercise.

First of all, high volume training is one of the key examples we have
that reminds us it is not as simple as calories in and calories out.

One study identified metabolic compensation.  As participants increased their exercise each week and kept their food intake the same, weight loss was very minimal.

But what is more striking is that their metabolism actually slows to
become more efficient, especially if it senses that there is not as much fuel as needed.

So instead of burning 1500 calories on the 15 mile run, our bodies
conserve energy in some of the day-to-day body functions in order to
keep metabolism and calorie burn fairly even.

This is why it is crucial not to under eat when training.  Rather than
weight loss, the body will halt production of key hormones which can
lead to hypothalamic amenorrhea (loss of period), loss of bone density, and other side
effects.

Another interesting study found that people in more active cultures, where they are moving all day gathering wood and cooking meals, do not have a higher energy expenditure than those in more sedentary cultures.

We compared total energy expenditure, measured using doubly labeled water, against physical activity, measured using accelerometry, for a large (n = 332) sample of adults living in five populations [ 9 ]. After adjusting for body size and composition, total energy expenditure was positively correlated with physical activity, but the relationship was markedly stronger over the lower range of physical activity. For subjects in the upper range of physical activity, total energy expenditure plateaued, supporting a Constrained total energy expenditure model.

 

In other words, your body plateaus energy expenditure after a certain amount of exercise.

This is not fully understood but it is likely the body’s way of
protecting itself and ensuring that there is enough energy for other primary
functions.

This also means that we can’t fully blame our sedentary culture for
obesity.  Yes, we need to move every day for health benefits and
mental benefits and disease prevention, but in terms of weight
management, our food choices are the most powerful.

If your goal is weight loss, get in 30 minutes of activity most days of the week,with some high intensity training and a lot of low intensity training.  Focus on the foods you put in your mouth but you can skip the endurance training.

I always feel like a slacker when marathon training is over and my running is less than half of what it used to be, so I love the reminder that my shorter sessions post-marathon are just as effective, and probably more so.

What are your thoughts on the calories in, calories out theory vs. metabolic compensation?

Does this research hold true with your personal experiences of endurance training and nutrition intake?

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5 Risks of Cross Training for Runners

I am still on a high from the Olympics… so many incredible performances! Some of my favorite moments:

  • watching all 3 Americans finish the marathon in the top ten
  • South Africa’s van Nierkerk winning the men’s 400m and setting the new world record!
  • Jamaica’s Usain Bolt nailing first in the 100m and getting his 3rd consecutive gold!
  • Trying to imagine the 1500m pace the women were running … incredible

There were so many more.  Now if only I could go out and run the way these runners make me think I should be able to!

So for all my posts touting the benefits of cross training for runners, I was reminded this week of the risks.  I really do believe that spinning made me a stronger runner, Pilates is beneficial, strength training helped me comeback from injuries and prevent them, and Barre is my current favorite low impact workout.

But on weeks when my running is cut back a bit, I tend to put my excess energy into other workouts that leave me sore, tired and sometimes with new aches and pains.

Last week, I added in a HIIT workout on Thursday on my “cross training” day and it was much higher impact that I anticipated.  We did 30 seconds of high knees probably ten times, plus squat jumps and mountain climbers.  Normally, this is a great way to boost overall fitness but with 800s on Monday and a hard run Wednesday, it left me sore and exhausted.

Friday I slept through my run and did Barre and spin instead.  Saturday I woke up with more tired and sore muscles.  When I tried to run my 14 miler, my shins were aching and I realized I was at risk of injury if I pushed through.  So I rested all weekend.  Thankfully, my run yesterday felt normal again.

5 Risks of cross training for runners

5 Risks of cross training:

  • fatigue muscles too much that it impacts quality training runs
  • too much high intensity can cause strain on tendons and muscles
  • risk of injury
  • risk of over-training
  • missing key running workouts

I think I caught myself in time and backed off before getting injured or over-trained, but it can be a fine line.

I definitely still highly recommend cross training for the variety, training benefits and muscle balance it can provide, but it’s important to be cautious and keep the runs as the focus of the training.

Have you ever done non-running workouts that negatively impacted your running?

What was one of your highlights from the Olympics?

 

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Steamtown Training recap + Meal planning

Hello from the middle of the northeast heat wave!  Other than the pool, we’re trying to stay in the air conditioning this weekend.  It’s the perfect weekend for watching the Olympics!

The heat has made training more challenging. This is the first week that I skipped my long run.  I set my alarm yesterday morning, got out the door at 6:30 am and was hit with the thick humidity.  I started to run and realized how brutal it was going to be and hopped on the bike instead.  I did a spin class and then swam a bit in the pool… not really anything like a long run, but with 20 last week and another 18-20 long run this next week, I feel okay with my easy day.

The recap:

Sunday: off (travel home)

Monday: 7 miles with 8 x 800m (all on the treadmill before the girls woke up)

Tuesday: 45 easy bike +strength

Wednesday: 8 miles, progression run (9:39, 9:06, 8:36, 8:04, 7:41, 7:15, 7:06, 8:14, 8:05)

Thursday: Melissa Bender Boot camp

Friday: 30 easy spin + Barre class

Saturday: skipped long run… 60 minute spin class + swimming

So not a lot of running this week, but on the bright side, I should be well rested going into a tough week of training!

Cross training

The meal plan this week is largely freezer and Costco-based, combined with our CSA share of veggies to use.  Here’s some of what our freezer contains that I want to work with:

  • turkey burgers
  • stir fry frozen veggies
  • tomato sauce
  • mozzarella cheese
  • salmon burgers
  • organic ground beef
  • chicken broth
  • organic chicken thighs

Meal Plan

Monday: Eggplant parmesan

Tuesday:   Grilled veggies and mini burgers

Wednesday:  Ratatouille with Swiss chard and quinoa

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Chicken stir fry over brown rice

Saturday: Anniversary date night!

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How are you managing running workouts in the heat?

Have you ever skipped a long run?

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Life Lessons from Astronauts

This last week was so incredible, it’s really hard to put into words.  When you are surrounded by 6,000 like-minded people who care about helping others feel their best, improve their health and make a difference- it’s powerful!

I loved the science about prenatal health, what we know now about iodine, Vitamin K1 vs K2 and I scribbled so many notes while soaking it all up. But the highlight for sure was hearing from brothers Scott and Mark Kelly, twins and astronauts.

Kelly brothers key note speakers

Scott spent an entire year in space, with the support of Shaklee nutrition, and both brothers have an impressive resume.  But what impressed me the most was how humble they were.

Both shared (with humor) that they were not particularly talented as kids.  They were not the best students, and not particularly focused or driven.  Both struggled when they first trained as pilots, and Mark was asked, “Are you sure this is the right career choice for you?!”

How good you are at the beginning is not a good indicator of how good you could become.

Scott read a book about pilots who became astronauts and decided they sounded a lot like him and that’s where he was headed too.

Tiny steps along the way will help you achieve great things.

Scott shared that despite the take off looking nice and smooth on TV, that is not at all how it feels inside!! They go from zero to 17,000 miles per hour in just 8 minutes!  Going to space used to seem absolutely impossible.

Nothing is impossible with teamwork, and impossible always starts with you.

Mark studied systems inside and out and was selected to fly the M14 – which is when he realized he wasn’t actually very good at flying.

You have to be willing to take risks to see what you’re capable of!

Mark fixed a telescope which gave a powerful perspective on the universe.  It allowed us to discover that there are thousands of galaxies just like ours!! With that information, scientists were able to determine that there are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in planet earth.  Mind blowing, right?

When in the navy, Mark was on the first combat mission after Sadam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  There could see a snake-like stream of bullets coming up at them, and they were missed.  Meanwhile, his partner remained laser focused on the target.

Only focus on what you can control and avoid the noise.

Scott’s year in space was an experiment to understand the effects of space on the human body, with the hope to someday send a person to Mars.  The space shuttle was a hostile environment, with the equivalent radiation exposure of 10 chest x-rays every day for an entire year! (NASA relied on Shaklee vitamins and antioxidants to help protect it’s astronauts).

There have since been ten studies comparing the differences in aging between the brothers.

Coming home from space, Scott came back with the two Russians who were there with him and their spacecraft was less smooth than the US one.  Scott said it felt like you were tossed over the Niagara Falls – absolutely terrifying! But as soon as you realized you weren’t going to die, it was the most fun ever!

Scott said the best thing about being in space was how hard it was.

Great accomplishments are built very slowly, piece by piece, over a long time.  If we can go into space, we can do anything we want to do!

On the many trips out and back, both brothers have noticed startling changes in the environment, including the thinning of the atmosphere and the massive deforestation of the Amazon.

Use your power to make things better.  

There’s so many more nuggets of wisdom that they shared, but I hope this gives you a glimpse of their story, their passion, and how inspiring they are.  They really believe that there is nothing special about either of them- yet because of their determination and inability to quit, look at what they’ve done!

We have more potential and more influence than we realize.  Why not work hard and go for something big and scary?

 

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Marathon training week 10 + Meal Planning

Hello friends!

It was not my intention to take such a long break but I had very few seconds to come up for air over the last 5 days, and blogging did not happen.  But it was an incredible conference! I’ll share a little more on that soon.

Despite the whirlwind few days, I did a pretty good job sticking to my training plan.  My sleep suffered a bit, but I’ll catch up soon.  I also skipped a strength training day.  I’m aiming for 3 this week.

Week ten means that I’ve done more weeks of training than I have to go, that is crazy!! Steamtown is less than 9 weeks away! I’m excited.

The recap:

Sunday: off

Monday: My body was not feeling it! 7 mile run with 4 x 800m at 3:15 ave (instead of 8 x 800 at 3:10 ave- trying again this week)

Tuesday: 45 easy bike + Ignite Strength (felt much better!)

Wednesday: 10 miles with 6.5 at 7:20 ave – a warm morning, but solid tempo effort

Thursday: yoga at conference

Friday: paced my friend in her 32 minute 5k and added 3 more on for 6+ easy miles (10ish then 8:00ish)

Saturday: My first 20 miler of the cycle! (8:30 ave)

The 20 miler in Orlando was a bit of a challenge.  I got up early to beat the heat but it was dark, so I started the first 6 on the resort’s treadmill in the fitness center.  Then I found their 1.5 mile “jogging track” and added a loop to it so it took about 2.5 miles to get around.  I did it until I hit 18 miles but was melting in the sun for those final miles.  So I finished the last two in the air conditioned fitness center, and pushed the pace to 7:20 to finish strong.  Done!

Orlando 20 miler

I ran past this sign approximately 1243 times. I’m bummed I never actually got to see an alligator!

Meal Plan

Monday: Girls night typically means egg sandwiches and fruit

Tuesday:   Salmon cakes and more Swiss chard and tomatoes from the garden

Wednesday:  Quinoa Power Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Grill eggplant, zucchini, pepper and tomato skewers with turkey burgers

Saturday: Much needed date night?

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What’s the most challenging summer run you’ve had so far?

Have you ever seen an alligator?

 

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Affirm yourself with a mantra

Hello friends!

I’ve been home a few days and am planning to head out again.  That’s how summer goes! But I love it.

Over the past week, I had three different conversations with clients about positive thinking and mantras.  All of us can admit that we are not always our own biggest cheerleader, right?

We all have that little voice that wants to pick apart the things we aren’t doing well enough, or the body part that we don’t like, or the faults in our running/parenting/work-life-balance, etc.

This can apply to all aspects of life, but I’m going to focus on running and/or a healthy living journey.

Did you know that whatever that little voice is saying is being absorbed by your mind as truth? Your brain can’t differentiate truth from lies… so those negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Telling yourself that you’ll never get faster, or you’ll never have the willpower to lose those ten pounds or whatever it is becomes your own truth.

One of the most powerful things you can do is rewrite that narrative with a truth you want to live.

Positive thoughts (and words) are powerful!! Rather than letting your subconcisous stream of thinking run the show, take back control of your thoughts by consciously choosing a positive sentence or phrase that you want to believe.  Even if you don’t believe it yet!

Find something that resonates with you, such as….

I am strong and powerful.

My body is beautiful and I am taking good care of it.

I am on my healthy living journey and feeling stronger every day.

I am beautiful just the way I am.

I have the power to choose the best foods to nurture my body- the only body I have to take care of.

I am choosing to honor myself by loving myself.

You can put together any sort of sentence that you like, provided that it affirms you.  Write it down.  Read it when you wake up and when you’re going to sleep.  Take it to your cupboard or by the wall where your Garmin charges.

Start to crowd out the negative flow of thoughts with strong, powerful, positive ones.  And let the positive statement become your self-fulfilling prophecy instead.

It’s such a simple switch -but a very powerful one!

Are you aware of the lies the negative voice throws at you every day?

How are you proactive at affirming yourself and staying positive?