How to use cut back weeks to get stronger

Hi friends! After sharing a bit about my cut back week recently, I had several questions and wanted to address them here.  I’m a big fan of the cut back week!

There are phases in our training when we can push through without consequence, and then there are lines we cross where we can end up injured.  The problem is we can’t see how close we are to that injury line.

Having crossed those lines and learned the hard way in the past, I am now very careful to be proactive with my recovery.

I heard recently that there is no such thing as over-training, only under recovering.  Isn’t that an interesting perspective? It puts the responsibility on me.

As long as I give my body the proper recovery time, I can continue to improve and stay injury free.  When I don’t, aches or pains can crop up and turn into more serious issues.

How can you use cut backs in your training?

You should implement cut back days, cut back weeks and cut back months/seasons or training.

Cut back days are simply adding in those easy days to offset the hard days.  Most coaches believe in a pattern of hard-easy-hard-easy-hard.  Or possibly easy-moderate-hard-easy-hard-easy-moderate… etc.

For cut back weeks, you want to build both intensity and mileage for 2-3 weeks and plan a cut back week on the 3rd or 4th week during which your mileage is slashed by 25-30% and the intensity takes a step back as well.

I will sometimes run all easy for the week.  Other times, I will keep a harder workout but cut back the intensity.  Instead of 5-6 miles at tempo, I might run 2-3.  Or instead of 12 400m repeats, I might do 4-6.

Typically, a cut back month will come after a big goal race, such as a half marathon or marathon.  The first few weeks will focus on recovery and the last week or two would begin slowly building the mileage back again.

Your body is getting stronger in the recovery phase.  It’s where you best absorb all the work you’ve done and heal the microtears and stress to the body so that you can come back stronger.

Do you plan cut back weeks into your training, or do you wait until your body gives you signs of over training?

Do you break your running into seasons over the course of the year?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


Training recap + Meal planning

This has been such an odd week… 60 degrees on Thursday and snowing yesterday! Our plans were cancelled so we did the indoor play area at the mall and then stayed home the rest of the day, making indoor forts, playing in the snow and watching a movie.

I finished my cut back week feeling refreshed.  I slept a LOT this week! I think my body was fighting off the germs that are all around me but thankfully I never got sick.

The recap:

Monday: 1 mile run before teaching spin + I stayed for Barre class

Tuesday: 4.5 easy run and 30 minutes easy spinning

Wednesday: tempo run fail… the loop I wanted to run was so icy! I made it one loop around for 2.5 miles and then finished at home with 20 more minutes on the bike + a 30 minute strength circuit

Thursday: 40 minutes of intervals on the bike + walk with stroller

Friday: 6.2 run with 2 easy, 2 at fast tempo (7:05, 7:01), 2 cool down

Saturday: 45 minute spin, broken up with Cathe Supersets

Hoping to get in a double digit run today and get back on my half training schedule this week!

Meal planning:

Last week I did try two of the recipes from the RW cookbook, and really liked the salmon cups with avocado cream sauce.  For this week:

Sunday: Whole roast chicken + roast potatoes (one of my husband’s recipes so I’m going to put this on the calendar more often!)

Monday: Salmon, roast acorn squash and broccoli

Tuesday: Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach (from cookbook- never made this last week)

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Squash and chickpea curry

Friday: Pasta night

Saturday: My daughter’s 7th birthday party with 10 little girls here… wish us luck!


Do you have a temperature cut off for outdoor running?

What’s one thing you hope to make this week?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!

What I bought at Costco + day in life

Happy Friday!

It’s day 5 of the sugar detox, and there are over 100 (mostly) ladies rising to the challenge! I always get slightly terrified at the idea of giving up sugar but each time it’s a little bit easier… and I love how sweet fresh fruit and even veggies are tasting this week.

I wanted to give you a peek into my day, as it’s been awhile since I shared.  Yesterday my husband’s alarm went off and I opted to go back to sleep.  My daughter came in at 7am and woke me up. It felt amazing- for some reason, I’ve needed extra sleep this week.

She has 30 minutes on her tablet and wanted to use it first thing so I hopped on the spin bike in the basement for a 40 minute interval workout (pausing to start oatmeal, stir oatmeal and scoop oatmeal).  By 8, we were all eating breakfast and I packed a quick lunch for my daughter, got my 2 year old from her crib where she was still playing, changed her, packed a homemade bar for her breakfast and we were out the door.

Oats for the girls, smoothie for me.

We dropped L off at school and then baby J and I continued our walk for another 30-40 minutes since the weather was a gorgeous 50 degrees!

Back at home, I showered and ate a second breakfast while she had her oatmeal and then we got groceries and hit the post office.

She is semi-potty training herself (I am not ready for this yet) and insisted on no diaper today, so I was armed with back up clothes.  But thankfully we made it, with a potty stop at Trader Joes and a lollipop prize.

I like to stay well stocked for easy throw together meals.  Here’s some of my go-to Costco items:

Organic extra virgin olive oil, organic salsa, organic frozen berries, turkey burgers, organic ground turkey, giant mozzerella cheese (that I freeze in 1-2 cup portions), and organic whole chickens.

Canned black beans, Amy’s organic soups, organic applesauce cups, organic diced tomatoes and organic eggs.


Oranges, canned wild salmon, pumpkin, apples, organic raisins, almond flour, and popcorn.

We came home and ate lunch, and I put J down for her nap.

A running/nutrition client came at 12:30 so we could map out a tentative plan for her spring half marathon.  When she left, I did a live video in the sugar detox group sharing the main reasons we crave sugar, and finished some emails until 3, snacking on veggies and hummus and apples with cinnamon (this sugar detox does good things for my snacking habits!)

I woke up J, tossed her in the stroller, and headed down to pick up big sis.  The next two hours were a whirlwind of chores: homework, laundry, emptying and reloading the dish washer and meal prep for dinner.

I ate early with the girls (leftover salmon cakes and roasted veggies for me) and dashed out to a nutrition workshop last night for the evening, getting home just in time for bed!

Where do you get most of your groceries? What bulk items do you like to have on hand?

Sugar detoxers, how are you doing?



How gaining weight made me faster

Hi friends!

As we kick off this new year, it’s normal to be thinking about health goals: exercising more, eating better, losing a few pounds, and whatever else “getting back on track” might mean for you.

And in the running world, we’re always slammed with this idea that losing weight will make you faster.  Yes?

That concept has truth to an extent but it also drives me crazy.  Because when healthy women lose weight, they risk losing their cycle, losing bone density, more injuries and less energy for strong performances.

So I wanted to share the reminder that (in my experience) sometimes gaining weight is what your body needs to get stronger.


I was 10 pounds lighter for the first 5-7 years that I considered myself a runner.  On the left, I was 18 weeks pregnant with my first daughter and running a ten mile race.

While the number on the scale was more “runners body appropriate” than it is now, I was constantly injured.  I dealt with knee pain every time I tried to build mileage to do a marathon.  I had a stress fracture and a stress reaction in my left shin.  And I assumed I was destined to be a low mileage, injury prone runner.

Fast forward to now… although ten pounds heavier, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.  I ran two big prs this past year (ten mile and in the marathon), I’ve had no injuries since pre-pregnancy over 3 years ago, and I feel more confident in my own skin.

Obviously, it’s the type of weight gain that matters: I spent the last 3 years emphasizing strength workouts to get stronger, and repairing and building my body with quality protein, fat and good carbohydrates.

I increased my bone density, increased my mileage, nailed paces I’ve never seen and didn’t worry about tracking weight.  It’s amazingly freeing to ignore the scale!

Interestingly, my clothing size did not change because I was changing body composition- more muscle gained, a little less fat.

So if you’re caught in a cycle of feeling like you should lose weight to look like those skinny elite runners and to get faster, but deal with injuries or simply love to eat, relax! Switch your goal to strong, not skinny and ditch the scale for good.

Have you felt the pressure to lose a few pounds to be a better runner?

Do you check in with the scale, or have you ditched it?




Meal planning from Meals on the Run + Workout Recap

Hi friends!

I hope you’re enjoying a snowy, cozy weekend.  We got several inches yesterday while I was away at a business conference and it was a stressful, long drive home.  Thankfully, the girls had no clue that I was stuck on the roads and had a blast playing in it!

So training… after Sunday’s 5k, I realized this was a very top-heavy week.  I began to get some familiar niggles (is that a word?) that I need a cut back week so I’m taking the weekend and probably most of next week to really back off before picking things up for half training.

Sunday: 10 total (3 warm up, 5k race, 4 cool down)

Monday: 8 easy (9:08 ave)

Tuesday: spin class + quick strength (squat and press, upright row, push ups, mountain climbers and kb swings)

Wednesday: 10 with cruise intervals:  2 warm up (9:18, 8:08), 2 miles at fast tempo (6:58, 6:34), 1 easy (8:09), 1.5 tempo (6:58, 6:45), .5 easy, 1 tempo (6:50), 2 cool down

I felt so good on this run! It was a hilly route too so some miles felt easier than others based on whether I was going more up or more down but I was happy with how consistent my paces were.

Thursday: Off (shin giving me signs it needs recovery so I opted to cut back for the weekend)

Friday: spin class + Barre

Saturday: 45 minute spin

For meal planning this week, I’m trying to work my way through the Runner’s World Meals on the Run. Next on my list is Run Fast, Eat Slow but I have too many other things to try first!

Meal plan:

Sunday: “Eggy” Tofu Scramble and French Toast (Brunch)

Monday: Thai Fish Curry

Tuesday: Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Wednesday: Salmon cups with avocado cream sauce

Thursday: Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: Out

It’s very unlikely that I will actually make all 5 of these recipes this week… so I’ll probably be subbing one with eggs for dinner but we’ll see how it goes!

Do you prefer cookbooks, online recipes or making it up as you go?

Do you have a weak spot that speaks up any time you do a bit too much training?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!


My first 5k of 2017

Thanks for the best wishes (and congrats) on Sunday’s race!

It’s funny how I can get almost more worked up over a 5k than a marathon.  I think because I know it’s going to push me out of my comfort zone and I haven’t been very good about accepting that kind of racing pain lately! I’m working on it.

I felt relatively confident going into this race- I trained specifically for 6:25 pace and felt strong in my workouts.  Race day was perfect: a noon start, beautiful weather in the low 40s with sunshine and a mostly flat course with a bit of wind, but overall, no excuses.

A few days before, Michele and I realized we’d be running the same 5k so it was really fun to run into her before the race and do our 3 mile warm up together.  We kept it nice and easy and then added a few strides.

The race is centered around a small loop in a NJ park.  We started with nearly two loops, then did a short loop outside the park and finished with the third loop.  Pretty straight forward.

At the start, I felt strong.  There was a small incline in the first mile that didn’t feel too bad and mile one came in even faster than I planned at 6:22.  At that point, I was pretty sure this was my day to break 20!

The second time up that incline in mile two I lost pace a little bit and lost a few seconds as I tried to get back into a good rhythm and slow my breathing.  Mile two was 6:37… which was discouraging and meant I had to seriously kick it up for mile 3.

My legs started to feel heavy (maybe the start was too fast?) and I didn’t have any kind of kick for the finish- I just held on as best I could! Mile 3- 6:31 and final .1 6:31.

My watch was 21:19, chip was 21:21.  So close, yet still so far! Those 20 seconds!

Honestly, I was initially disappointed but at the same time knew I gave it all I had for today, and that’s all I can do, so I’m happy with my effort.

As I looked back over the 5ks of this past year, I realized that this was the best 5k since baby J was born so that’s progress!

I also know that my endurance is lacking a bit.  I can run 400s and 800s much faster than goal pace, but I can’t string them together… so I need to work on mile repeats or tempos to build the speed endurance a bit. (Hill repeats, too! The smallest incline messes with me in a 5k!)

I also just need practice at this distance! So I’m looking for another 1-2 to throw into my NYC half training. I am coming for you, sub-20!

First in age group and 4th overall woman and this lovely trophy.  🙂


Did you race on New Year’s Day?

Is there a race goal you feel is within you that you keep missing in races?



Choose one goal

Hi friends! I love this fresh start as we kick off a new year.

As we write out our 2017 intentions, it’s easy to lump together too many goals into one.  I’ve definitely been guilty of this!

We love one stop shops -Starbucks in Target? Yes! Smoothie bar in the gym? Please!

But I think we forget that fitness is not a one stop shop.  If you have a particular goal… get faster, run farther, build muscle, lose body fat, or lose weight… we cannot achieve all of those at one time.

If you want lose weight, now is not the time to train for a marathon.

If you want to build muscle, you don’t want to be running long and slow every weekend.

Your training should change based on your particular goals.  Choose one goal- and then build a plan from there.  Without a goal, how will you know if you’re making progress or moving yourself in the direction you want to go?


What might that plan look like?

To get faster…

Spend a few weeks building a strong base mileage with easy miles and then begin with one (or two) workouts per week.  Choose a goal.  If you want a faster 5k, incorporate one of these workouts each week.

If you want to run a faster distance race, incorporate goal race pace miles into one run each week and occasionally into the long run.

To run farther…

To build for an endurance race, skip the speed work in order to increase weekly mileage by about 10% each week.  Build for three weeks, and then cut the mileage back by 1/3 for a recovery week.  Add a mile or two to a weekly long run on the 3 week build and enjoy the down week.  The recovery time allows your body to adapt and get stronger.

Pick a goal race to give you a timeframe and work backwards from there to plan out your distances.

To build muscle…

Obviously you can’t build muscle if you are running all the time! You must include strength training, which can be with your own body weight or with increasingly heavier weights at least 2-3x per week.  Diet plays a huge role in building muscle as well.  You must be eating adequate protein, with a good balance of carbs and fat.

Have you ever followed a competitive body builder on Instagram? They will gain weight during their muscle building phase to allow their body to build additional muscle, and will then ‘cut’ back down to reduce body fat in a later phase.

To lose weight…

Although some people can lose weight running distances, our bodies quickly adapt to the demands of endurance and most women will struggle to lose weight with high mileage.  Instead, focus on shorter workouts with bursts of higher intensity (sprints or cross training intensity) and incorporate strength training for toning.

A lower training load allows you to regulate your appetite better and dial in your nutrition to reach your weight loss goals.

As I thought through my goals for 2017, I divided them into seasons.  I want to improve speed but I also want to improve endurance and distance, so I will take turns focusing on each with race specific workouts.

Do you need help creating an individualized plan? I have a few nutrition and/or running coaching spots opening up – email me and we can chat!

Do you have a specific goal you’re working toward?

Have you ever had a one stop shop approach to fitness, hoping that your workouts would achieve all the goals? (I definitely have!)

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.











Free Sugar Detox Challenge + Workout Recap

Happy 2017!! Did you make it to midnight? Were you up at 5am with kids who didn’t know it was a late night? Hope it was fun, regardless.

To kick off the new year, I’m excited to offer another sugar detox.  Many of you are joining me for a cleanse the same week, but if that’s too intimidating, cutting out sugar is a great option – and still quite a challenge!!


The rules are really simple… cut out added sugar.  Fruit is allowed, even some dried fruit and things like Larabars.  Just avoid high fructose syrup, sugar and processed foods with added sugars.

Join me by signing up here!

I’ll send a few emails during the week with tips, and we can also share in a private FB group.

So, with Christmas last weekend I have to weeks of workouts to recap- culminating in a 5k today at noon.  Eek! Fingers crossed my legs feel good.  I’ll have the report this week!

Workout recap (2 weeks)

Sunday: 30 minute easy spin

Monday: 7 miles with 6 x 800m at 5k pace (6:21) with 200m recovery;  Barre class

Tuesday: 5 easy (8:45 ave)

Wednesday: 9 miles with 3 easy, 1 at 5k pace (6:27), 2 with rolling hills, 1 easy, 2 @ marathon pace (7:30)

Thursday: 1 hour spin class + Fitful Focus 8 x 8 workout

Friday: 10 miles easy  (9:00 ave) to get the long run in before the holiday weekend + 100 push ups

Saturday: Off – Christmas Eve but we did our family’s “Chrstmas morning” before traveling

Week 2 (this past week, and a bit of a taper)

Sunday: 6.5 hilly run in PA but easy pace (probably 9:15-9:30s)

Monday: 6 miles with 4 x 400m all out and 400m recovery jogs (1:23, 1:22, 1:21, 1:22– paces were 5:40, 5:30, 5:27 and 5:32) … my fastest 400s ever!!


Tuesday: 45 minutes easy spinning

Wednesday: 8 easy, with final two at 7:50 pace

Thursday: 5 easy with 5 x 20 second strides (5:45 pace)

Friday: 4 easy with a client I’m training

Saturday: Off

And that gets us to the 5k today! The noon start makes it a little interesting, but I’m ready to try again for that sub-20!!

I’m also trying to share all of my workouts on Instagram these days.

Have you ever trained specifically for a 5k?

Have you run a race at 12pm or later in the day?

Have you ever done a sugar detox?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!





2016 Year in Review

Hi friends! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend. We had our Christmas at home Saturday morning, and then spent Sunday with my family and Monday with my in-laws.  The girls had a blast with three days of celebrating and cousins to play with at both grandparent homes.

Before we ring in the New Year Saturday night, I’m taking one last look back at 2016.

Rutgers expo with L

The first race of the year, Rutgers Half marathon, was in April.  I was on track to pr until the last mile long incline to the finish.  It was a little too warm for me to race well, but a solid effort.  I tied my pr.

Broad street finish

A few weeks later I ran the Broad Street Run 10 miler in 1:10:34- shaving over a minute off my pr! I was really happy with this race! Despite the rain, everything clicked.



As marathon training kicked off, I threw in the Cranford 4 miler, a solid workout for a hot day!


Verona final push

I ran my first 5k of the year in September, two days after a tough 21 mile run! It was a course pr and confidence booster. Verona 5k, 20:52



I thought maybe my half pr would come crashing down at the Newport Liberty Half in September, but the only thing that crashed was me! That was a tough one. 1:42:26



Another race where everything clicked!! Steamtown Marathon, 3:23:23 (ten minute pr)


Two weeks later my legs hated me as I tried to make them run fast in the Montclair 5k, (20:27.)



NYC came just 4 weeks after Steamtown, so the goal was to have fun.  Check!!    (NYC Marathon, 3:43)



I wrapped up my year of racing by pacing a Girls on the Run kid to 3rd overall and 1st in her age group at the Florham Park 5k! Such a special moment and definitely a highlight of the year.

And now we can flip the calendar in a few days with a fresh start!

What are you most proud of in 2016?

How did you spend the holiday weekend?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.




Running Goals for 2017

I love writing out goals.  I love the anticipation of what is to come and somehow putting it in writing motivates me to work toward making it happen.

As I looked back on my running goals for 2016, I realized I had some big goals! I wanted that 5k pr AND the half pr AND the marathon pr AND… the list goes on.

One of my lessons of 2016 was to focus on one thing at a time.  You can’t get stronger and faster and improve in the marathon and the 5k all at the same time.  Well, that’s not entirely true. Newer runners might be able to as the margin at which you can improve is greater.

Those of us who have been running and training for several years are closer to our plateau and need to really focus on those specific goals one at a time.

That is how I got my marathon pr… I focused on it, trained with race specific workouts and shaved ten minutes off!

So with that in mind, I’m going to break my year into seasons of focus.


My focus for the winter is to maintain a good base and throw some short intervals back in, with a focus on the 5k.  I have one 5k on New Year’s Day and will likely need to throw in 1-2 more but I’d love to improve raw speed and get that sub-20 5k. Goal: 19:45Verona final push


January- March

I’ll quickly transition into half marathon specific training, with an emphasis on longer tempo runs to prepare myself to finally break that half barrier I’ve been stuck at for the last 3-4 races. Half marathon goal: Beat 1:35!  From other races, I know 1:33-1:34 should be within my reach.  By the end of 2017, goal is sub 1:32.



After the March half, I will likely add in a ten mile race and/or another half marathon.  As those races wrap up, my goal will be a short season of rest and recovery! So important.



Early summer is usually about speed again.  I’ll add a few more 5ks to my schedule to keep practicing this painful distance. Goal: 19:30

By late summer, there is a chance I will be ramping up mileage for a fall marathon.

Wait, what? Didn’t I say I’m done with the marathon? I don’t know what is wrong with me but right now that idea of training for another marathon just sounds like SO much fun!!  My husband, of course, is not surprised.  He never bought the whole “I’m done with marathons” thing.  But we’re still discussing it, as I know it requires the whole family on board.



Likely a tune up half marathon and possibly a full marathon.  If I go for it, goal: Beat 3:23.  I think 3:15 is doable with the right training and if all things come together on race day.

Beyond racing, I want to keep running because it’s fun and I really love it!

My non race goals are actually the same as last year:

  • stay strong and injury free (NO injuries this year!! Woohoo!!)
  • do more trail running (with friends)
  • incorporate 1-2 running weekends with friends (hope this works out!)
  • find a few kids races and/or family fun race events

I also want to experiment with an overall higher mileage year round to help build the aerobic engine and make these goals a bit easier to reach.

So that’s the plan! I’m excited to get started!

What’s one of your goals for 2017?

Do you focus on one goal or specific distance at a time?