Can we chat about food guilt for a minute?

Am I the only one who is annoyed by the constant clamor surrounding the holidays and weight gain?

The truth is, as a runner and health-conscious person, my weight matters to me year-round. I’m not obsessed with my weight the way I was in my youth, but I do know that I feel my best and run my best when my weight is where it should be and I’m not eating potato chips straight from the bag on a daily basis.

I don’t obsess about the scale, but I do notice when my clothes no longer fit comfortably. I also notice when I hold on too tightly to the ideals I set up for myself in regard to eating, working out and reaching my running goals.

I care about the quality of the food I eat and how it fuels my body, but when I decide to go for a second slice of pecan pie on Christmas Day or skip a workout in lieu of attending a holiday party, I have zero guilt.

The truth of the matter is, I am a runner with very specific goals. I will eat more food than normal during the holidays. I will probably skip more workouts than normal. And I will probably gain a few pounds—but I don’t care. When the holiday season is over, I’ll get back to my normal routine and with time those extra holiday pounds will melt away.

Letting go of trying to do and be everything is hard in all aspects of my life, but this holiday season I’m letting go of the guilt of having another glass of eggnog.

I’m embracing the season, eating healthy foods when I’m not at a holiday party and already looking ahead to crushing my goals in 2017.

*A version of this post first appeared on Women’s Running.

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Philadelphia Marathon: The Miles Change You

by Jess on November 30, 2016

Two weeks ago, I ran my 10th and slowest marathon to date.

I had a new running partner and friend by my side for the entire 20 weeks of training. Things didn’t go as well as either of us would have liked but, we stayed focused.

My goal going into this training cycle was to get close to my marathon personal record (PR) time or better yet, set a new PR.

I ran easy. I ran fast. I ran long.

I foam rolled. I strength trained. I stretched.

I went to physical therapy. I rested. I trained my brain.

I foam rolled some more.

On paper I did everything right during this training cycle.

Philly Marathon

My outlook on this race changed a week and a half before the race. After putting so much time, thought and heart into training, suddenly the Philly Marathon just didn’t seem so important. The week before the race, I adjusted my goal to something really simple – to run a negative split without any sort of time goal.

It’s possible things went south weeks before this though. After only missing two training runs in the first 17 weeks of training I had to take a dramatic taper. Instead of being confident in my abilities, I was just hoping to be able to make it to the start line without an injury. At this point I was struggling to get my mental act together.

After cheering on everyone who ran the New York City Marathon, I found peace with where I was and how I thought things would go down in Philly. I was excited to run. I was excited about my new goal.

Obviously, things did not go my way in Philly and I’m okay with it. I’m still processing the experience, but I know there are more lessons to be learned.

Running has already taught me that I can do hard things like run the last 12 miles of a marathon on a sprained ankle in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon (read that story here). When I was a kid it showed me that I could feel good about myself and brought me hope when I felt hopeless.

Why I run and what I get from running happens in the day to day. Occasionally that occurs on a single day – race day, but those single days of glory were the result of hundreds and thousands of runs added up over time.

Race day was not a good day, but all of a sudden I don’t care anymore. I’m grateful for the experiences that led me to that day and I’m grateful for the unpredictability of what life throws at me.

As someone once said, “The miles change you.”

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30-minute-running-workoutsWelcome to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!

This year I want to make sure you’re armed with easy to execute running workouts throughout the busy holiday season.

These workouts I’m giving you to try this holiday season only take 30-minutes but are just as effective as longer, less challenging workouts.

They will challenge you, but leave you feeling refreshed and energized for your holiday festivities.

Give these workouts a try between now and December 31st or anytime you only have 30 minutes to run.

run-strong-challenge-workout

need-for-speed-30-minute-run-workout

fartlek- workout

mix-it-up-30-minute-run

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4 Advanced Glute Exercises For Runners

by Jess on November 15, 2016

advanced-glute-exercises-for-runners

Take your standard glute exercises up a notch with these advanced variations.

  1. Reverse lunges with rotation
  2. Bent knee single leg deadlift
  3. Straight leg clamshells
  4. Single leg squat with leg reach

reverse-lunge-with-rotation-left

Reverse Lunge with Rotation: Start standing with both feet together. Step one leg back and bend both knees to 90 degrees. Extend arms straight out in front and rotate towards the front knee. Bring the back leg forward to meet the front leg as you rotate your torso back to center.

bent-knee-single-leg-deadlift

Bent Knee Single Leg Deadlift: Start by standing on one leg. Take a medium-sized bend in your standing leg. Hinging forward at the hips with a flat back, engage your abdominal muscles and reach towards the ground with both hands. Use your abdominal muscles to come back up to a standing position.

straight-leg-clamshells

Straight Leg Clamshells: Lie on your side with your hips stacked and abdominals engaged. Bend both legs towards your chest at 90 degrees. Extend your top leg out in front of you, keeping it inline with the bottom knee. Turn your foot so that your heel points up and your toes are pointed toward the ground. Lift your straight top leg up about 4 inches, then return it to the starting point.

single-leg-squat-with-lateral-leg-reach

Single Leg Squat with Leg Reach: Start by standing on one leg. Bend the standing knee to perform a single leg squat. As you do this, extend the resting leg out to the side of your body with a straight leg. Tap your toes on the ground. Press through the heel on the standing leg to come back up to a fully upright, standing position.

Include all of these exercise in your next strength training workout or incorporate one or two of them. Each exercise (except the clamshells) will not only strengthen your glutes, but will also challenge your stability by firing up all those little stabilizer muscles in your feet and ankles.

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Recipe: Runner’s Recovery Bowl

by Jess on November 3, 2016

*This is a sponsored post written in partnership with Fresh Direct and Health Warrior.

We all want fresh, easy to make meals that are nutritious, don’t take a ton of time to make and can be made in advance. Being in marathon training means you probably don’t have a lot of time to make meals, but also want to make sure you’re eating correctly to recover between runs.

We’re all too familiar with having  a post-run recovery smoothie or smoothie bowl, but what are you eating for lunch at your desk during the week? Making a high-quality nutritious meal for lunch during the week can be just as easy as making a post-run smoothie.

runners-recovery-bowl-recipe

I created this recipe with three things in mind:

  1. It had to be simple to make (very little time spent chopping veggies, quick cook time, little clean-up, etc)
  2. It had to be high in both protein and nutrients.
  3. It could be made once, but eaten for multiple meals throughout the week to simplify healthy eating.

Here’s what I came up with – A Runner’s Recovery Bowl. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

If you live in NYC you can shop all of these ingredients easily from the FoodKick App for same day delivery in select areas in NYC or they are also available on FreshDirect.com for next day delivery.

Recovery Bowl

 

Runner’s Recovery Bowl

Make this for dinner one night this week, then take the leftovers to work all week for a nutritious homemade lunch.

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces diced & peeled sweet potatoes
1 bag Path of Life Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice or 3/4 cup of cooked brown rice and 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
4 garlic cloves minced
1 inch grated fresh ginger
1 bunch lacinato kale de-stemmed and chopped
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1/2 bag Ocean Mist Farms Shredded Brussel Sprouts steamed in bag or 1 cup steamed shredded brussels sprouts
salt to taste

optional: one fried egg per person if served immediately after preparing

Directions: Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add diced potatoes to pan. Cook for approximately 20 minutes and stir frequently. In the meanwhile, steam the brussels sprouts in the microwave, then heat the frozen quinoa and brown rice. After the sweet potatoes are soft add the second tablespoon of olive oil, ginger and garlic. Cook for one minute then add kale. Stir ingredients and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in chick peas and cook for 3 minutes or until chickpeas are warm. Remove from heat. Mix in brussels sprouts, quinoa and brown rice. Add salt to taste.

If serving immediately, top with a fried egg or hot sauce your choice!

If you’re making it for lunches at work, divide mixture up into 4 separate containers.

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3 Mini Band Exercises for Runners

by Jess on November 2, 2016

One of the most important pieces of strength training equipment that every runner should own costs less than an almond milk latte. This inexpensive and easy to travel with essential item can help you build a stronger core.

A mini band is a small, unassuming piece of equipment, but it can be the key to building strength for a strong core and glutes. The band increases the intensity of your core exercises and allows you to take your workouts to the next level without having to go to a gym or buy expensive equipment.

Here are 3 exercises for runners using the mini band that will challenge both your core and glute muscles.

Side Plank with Leg Lifts

side plank with leg lift - mini band

Plank Jacks

Plank Jacks with Mini Band

Forearm Plank with Leg Lifts

Plank Leg Lifts with Mini Band

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Congratulations! After weeks and weeks of sticking to your training schedule and crushing workouts, you have reached Taper Town!

This is a one- to three-week time period near the end of a training plan where the mileage and intensity of your workouts decrease. It is a necessary part of the training process and is as important as speed workouts and long runs. Your body recovers and repairs so that you can run your best on race day.

Now what do I do?

Do I just sit around and wait for race day?
Do I take an extra yoga class in my spare time?
Am I getting sick? I can’t be getting sick.
What the heck is going on in my right calf? Did I get an injury?

Long Training Runs

Taper Town is where all the crazy thoughts live, which is why many runners catch a case of the taper crazies or throw a taper tantrum or two during this time period.

At first it can be exciting to reach the taper, but then something strange happens and your mind begins to play tricks on you. You question everything and might even start to feel sick and lethargic.

Guess what? This is all just a normal part of it! Most runners experience some negative symptoms. If you’ve found yourself in the middle of a taper and are feeling less than great, keep in mind it’s just a part of the process!

Things you might experience during the taper:

  • Questioning everything—Don’t give in to this. Don’t think about what you could have done differently, think about everything you did right during training.
  • Muscle tightness—Your body is recovering from weeks of hard work. Foam roll and stretch daily.
  • Catch a cold—Training is strenuous and can compromise your immune system just a bit. There’s not a lot of research on why this happens. Stay on top of your diet and focus on eating immunity boosting foods and getting sleep.
  • Feeling lethargic—During the middle of the taper you may not feel fresh, fit or recovered from all your training.
  • Grouchiness/Anxiety/Restlessness—You are used to getting a certain amount of exercise in your life. When this changes you won’t be getting as many exercise endorphins as you’re use to or the natural boost running gives you. These three things are a symptom of your lowered activity level.
  • Doubt—You should not be doing more running or working out than your training plan calls for. Trust the process even if you don’t understand it.

If you want to learn how to avoid throwing a taper tantrum then read this.

 

*This post originally appeared on Women’s Running where I blog weekly.

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Run Your First Marathon

While traveling to a race is extremely exciting, it can also be very nerve-wracking. For months before the race you’ve spent your time perfecting your routine of eating, getting dressed and warming up before your long runs. You’ve figured out exactly what to eat the night before the race. You’ve rehearsed everything you need to do during the race in training.

Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t practice is doing all of these things when you are away from home. When traveling for a race, this may mean doing these things in a hotel where you often don’t have a kitchen and are only equipped with a tiny coffee machine and mini-fridge.

However, If you follow this list of do’s and don’ts of traveling to a race, you’ll be prepared for anything.

Do’s Of Traveling

Pack your running shoes in your carry-on luggage.
Wear compression socks.
Bring travel-friendly snacks (think trail mix, nutrition bars and fruit).
Stick to your regular eating habits as much as possible.
Pack any food you may need to eat before the race if it is not easy to find.
Make dinner reservations in advance if it’s a big race—remember, most runners will want pasta!
Make—and follow!—a packing checklist.
Foam roll and stretch before you leave for the airport and again when you check into the hotel.
Bring your own pillow if you aren’t a good sleeper.

Don’ts Of Traveling

Sit still for a long time period while in flight or waiting for your flight.
Eat anything out of the ordinary.
Wing it when it comes to food, transportation or getting to the expo to pick up your bib.
Wait until the last minute to make a hotel reservation.
Panic if you forget something—most likely you can find what you need at the expo or a nearby store.
Skip your pre-race rituals just because you are in a new environment.
Spend too much time exploring the destination on your feet before the race.

Need a packing list for your next race? I’ve got one for you here!

 

* This post first appeared on Women’s Running.

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How to Avoid the Taper Tantrums

by Jess on October 12, 2016

Are you running a race this fall? If yes, keep reading. If you’re not, bookmark this post and comeback to it the next time you’re tapering for a race.

Surviving the taper and handling this time period with grace is sometimes easier than doing the actual peak weeks of training. However, if you plan for the taper as well as you did for the other weeks on your training schedule, you’ll reduce your chances of a throwing a taper tantrum.

I’ll admit it, I’ve thrown one or two more taper tantrums than I’d like to admit.

via GIPHY

What exactly is a taper tantrum? It’s when your mind and body start to freak out about everything you did during training and every little thing about race day.

Being nervous about race day is normal, but don’t let those nerves take control of your thoughts.

Here’s the number one thing I want you to do during your taper this fall:

Train your brain.

I know, you’ve been doing this all summer already. However, now is the time to really take control of those thoughts so that nothing will stop you on race day.

Here are 6 things to do during the taper to train your brain to have a positive mindset:

#1. Make a list of every hard workout you successfully completed during this training period. This list is separate from your training log. Keep it beside your bed or in your bag and refer to it every time you start to doubt your abilities.

#2. Bookmark and read race recaps from the runners that inspire you the most. Only read positive posts and start to block out any negative information.

#3. Write out a list of phrases or words that you will say to yourself during the race when things get tough (and trust me, things always get tough!).

#4. Read two of my favorite articles on being mentally strong.

#5. Meditate or lie in savasana and breathe or say one of your go-to race day mantras over and over again.

#6. Agree to let go of the outcome. Holding too tight of a grip on what may or may not happen when you cross the finish line can be paralyzing. Instead of being focused on the “what ifs,” focus on what you can do right now to reach your goal.

Staying focused on these things will help you avoid the tamper tantrums.

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We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a training cycle and suddenly you have a hiccup in your plans when a minor injury takes you out of the running game for a few weeks. Although running might be on hold for a week or two, you can still maintain your fitness level so that you are able to start back training without missing out on much.

If you have to miss more than a week or two of training mid-training cycle, you may still need to alter your goal or choose a different race. However, if you are sidelined for a week or two you can still maintain your cardiovascular fitness.

What Injured Runners Can Do

Here are some ways to effectively maintain fitness:

Aqua Jogging

If you have access to a pool and the pool is too deep for your feet to touch the ground while your head is above water, purchase an aqua jogging belt to keep you buoyant and upright. Aim to run for time and not for distance.

Cycling

Outdoor cycling is a great way to maintain cardiovascular fitness. As a runner, you may find that your quads fatigue quickly if your legs aren’t adapted to cycling. Riding out of the saddle correlates more to running than riding in the saddle. A good place to start when cycling in place of running is to bike two miles for every 1 mile on your training schedule. You can easily add in intervals on the bike.

Indoor Cycling

If you do not have access to a road bike, then indoor cycling is a great option. The same rules apply to indoor cycling as to outdoor cycling. The only difference is that it is easier to stay out of the saddle during the workout than it is when riding outdoors. Make sure you have enough resistance on your bike so that your legs are in charge of how fast your legs are spinning and avoid using too much momentum.

Elliptical/Arc Trainer

The elliptical and Arc Trainer are great because you are in an upright position similar to running while moving the legs and upper body. The challenge is keeping your heart rate high enough to have a positive training response. Use a heart rate monitor for these workouts and try to stay in a cardiovascular heart rate zone. Spend the same amount of time on the machine as you would while running outdoors. Instead of holding onto the rails of the elliptical, pump your arms in the same motion as you do when running.

Alter G®

If you are fortunate enough to have access to an anti-gravity treadmill then you are in luck! Used by many professional runners when injured, the Alter G can be found at some physical therapy clinics, gyms and sports performance centers. The Alter G treadmill allows you to run at your normal intensity levels, but at only a percentage of your body weight. Work with a PT, run coach or other specialist to design a short term program for staying on track while using the Alter G.

*If you live in NYC, my physical therapist’s office has two Alter G treadmills available for use in Chelsea. Call (212) 486-8573 to sign-up and be sure to tell them I sent you!

If you are a classpass user you may now sign-up for sessions on the Alter G at Finish Line PT! Not a classpass user yet? Use my referral link to sign-up and we will both save $30 off a month of membership.

 

This post first appeared on Women’s Running. Catch my weekly blog posts here.

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