My Top 10 Tips for Training for a Half Marathon

tips-for-running-your-first-half-marathon

A lot of people who have run a couple 5ks and maybe a 10k or two tell me that they have an itch to run their first half marathon, but feel intimidated by the training involved, or don’t know how to get started.

As someone who is currently training for my 10th half, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from lots and lots of training mistakes, and also gain pieces of wisdom from more seasoned runners along the way.

I’ve included some of my best advice below and hope it can help you complete your goal of crossing that finish line with a smile on your face!

Pick a plan.

As with accomplishing any goal, it’s important to figure out a roadmap for how you’ll reach that thing you want so badly. “Just running” each day until your half marathon will not cut it. Having a plan and sticking to it as best as you can will give you a well-rounded training program to help you best prepare for race day.

Increase your mileage slowly.

One of the surest ways to injure yourself and put the kibosh on your training plan is to start out running way too much at the beginning of your training plan. If you’ve never run more than 3 miles at a time, don’t pick a plan that has you running 6-milers during Week 1. Take your time increasing your weekly mileage, and don’t increase it more than about 10% each week.

Vary your runs.

If you’ve selected a good plan, it’ll likely include tempo runs, hill repeats, long runs, and lots of other fun running variations. Again, “just running” everyday will not make you a better runner. But running up hills once a week, doing speedwork at the track another day, and making sure you complete that weekend long run each week will help you become faster and better able to manage longer distances. Just because you can run 5 miles each day, you shouldn’t necessarily do it. Somedays 3 miles at the track working on speed is much more effective for training than a slower, steady 6-miler.

Cross-train.

Cross-train. Cross-train. Cross-train. Lift weights. Do squats and lunges. Strengthen your core. I attribute some of my best half marathons to an increase in resistance training and HIIT workouts sprinkled into my running schedule. I like to throw these things in twice, or if I’m lucky, even three times, each week to round out my training.

Train with a friend.

Hold yourself accountable to waking up for those 6am training runs by training with a friend or joining a half marathon training group. If you’re at all competitive, this is a great motivator, and if you’re on the more chill end of the spectrum, the post-long run brunches will be even more enjoyable with a buddy at your table.

Take rest days.

Half marathon training is taxing on the body. Your body NEEDS to rest on a weekly basis to make sure it can adequately recharge for another week of intense workouts. I know it at first seem challenging to sit back and not run or hit the gym for the day or two, but taking time to rest your legs, do some light yoga, or foam roll will greatly benefit your body on the days you do run.

Experiment with fuel and nutrition.

The last thing you want is to suck into a packet of Gu at mile 10 of your half marathon and immediately throw your stomach into an “I’m going to throw up now, you crazy fool” tizzy. Practice taking mid-run nutrition – like electrolytes and gels, and try to create some consistency around what you eat and drink the night before and the morning before a long run. I always make sure to have lots of water the days before a long run, as well as the morning of. Before a long run I always have a cup of coffee, big banana, and a healthy amount of almond butter. It works for me, but might not work for you, so try things out then stick with what seems to produce good results. Maybe it’s a slice of gluten-free toast, maybe it’s a fruit bowl and half a bagel. And don’t eat anything new or crazy 24 hours before race day. Stick with what your body knows and enjoys.

Study the course.

Are you running a flat course, or one filled with rolling hills? Are you running on a dirt trail, or city streets? What will the temperature be like at that time of year in that area? Study the course early so that you can train accordingly, then make sure you know where hydration and electrolyte stations are before you start your half marathon.

Have fun!

Duh! You paid to run this thing and you will have worked really hard to get your body conditioned to run 13.1 miles. Remember, some races are better than others in terms of results, but you can always enjoy yourself and be content with all you’ve dedicated over the past few months. Smile for the on-course cameras, take in the scenery of where you’re running, feel good that you’ll soon be able to cross a finish line after running 13.1 miles – a very long distance!

 

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup Recipe

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It’s been cold and rainy this winter (well, at least for California), and because of this I’ve found myself reaching for my Dutch oven to cook soups and stews at least two or three times each week.

The one I keep making again and again? It’s this spicy sausage, potato, and kale soup that I fell in love with a couple winters ago. This paleo, gluten-free, and Whole30-approved recipe is hearty, nutritious, and so flavorful, plus it’s easy to make and comes together in about 45 minutes.

I think that adding kale to soup is one of the best ways to enjoy lots of this leafy green, the spice from the Italian sausage goes so nicely with it, and the potatoes make this a filling, well-rounded meal.

And did I mention how delicious it is? Because it is. My boyfriend and I seriously battle over leftovers of this stuff.

Oh, and if you’re not already familiar with the wonderfulness of the Dutch oven, and you also make (or want to make) lots of soups, chilis, braised dishes, and such, I highly recommend adding this thick-walled cooking pot to your cookware collection pronto. Otherwise you can just throw everything together in a regular ol’ soup pot.

SAUSAGE, POTATO, AND KALE SOUP RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ cubes (I use Dutch yellow baby potatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes (omit if you want less spice)
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and, once hot, add the sausage. Break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook until slightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Once browned, remove the sausage and set aside.

Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, less than 1 minute. Re-add the sausage, as well as salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes, potatoes, chicken broth, and the bay leaf, and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf, add in the kale, and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes, until the kale is tender. Season again as needed, serve, and enjoy!

What is Whole30? + Whole30 Meal Plan – Week 1

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There’s a good chance you’ve heard a friend mention Whole30 while they pass up a drink at happy hour, or a coworker talk about the program while munching on a grilled chicken salad in the breakroom.

If you don’t quite know the details of a Whole30, it’s basically a 30-day reset where you eliminate certain foods from your diet like added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, soy, processed foods, and anything not “real.”

Foods to be enjoyed during the month are meat, eggs, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and natural fats. Whenever possible, it’s recommended to opt for sustainable, ethically-treated, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and/or organic fare.

The goal of the Whole30 is to make intentional, mindful food choices, feed your body well, and hopefully shift your emotional relationship with food. It’s NOT a diet.

There’s no calorie counting, portion limits, or weigh-ins. You nourish your body by eating real food when you’re hungry, and that’s about it.

Completing a Whole30 isn’t necessarily a walk in the park. It can be challenging, even for those who tend to eat on the cleaner end of the spectrum. But I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to change their relationship with food for the better. And you’ll learn A LOT while going through the program (check out what I discovered from last year’s Whole30).

Plus, the food you enjoy on a Whole30 doesn’t have to feel limiting or sacrificial. Some of my favorite recipes that I make year-round are Whole30-approved (or can be with simple modifications).

Need a little help getting started? Here’s my Week 1 Whole30 Meal Plan. It includes leftovers and a few repetitive meals, but I find that relying on repeat meals prevents me from wasting time making food decisions and allows me to batch cook, which is a huge timesaver. Keep in mind, I’ll also add in a pre-workout snack if I need one (a banana or apple + almonds is a good go-to).

Week 1 Whole30 Meal Plan


Monday

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs + raw sauerkraut + 1/2 avocado + glass of green juice

Lunch: Chicken and vegetable soup

Dinner: Homemade bolognese sauce with spaghetti squash + roasted broccoli


Tuesday

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs + roasted broccoli + raw sauerkraut

Lunch: Grilled chicken + kale salad

Dinner: Salmon + sauteed kale + roasted sweet potatoes


Wednesday

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs + 1/2 avocado + raw sauerkraut + green juice

Lunch: Leftover chicken and veggie soup

Dinner: Roasted chicken + delicata squash + roasted broccoli


Thursday

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs + roasted broccoli + raw sauerkraut

Lunch: Grilled chicken + roasted potatoes + kale salad

Dinner: Leftover bolognese sauce with spaghetti squash + roasted broccoli


Friday

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs + 1/2 avocado + raw sauerkraut

Lunch: Roasted chicken + leftover veggies + bone broth

Dinner: Burger patties + sauteed onions/mushroom + avocado + kale salad


Saturday

Breakfast: Brussels sprouts with bacon and eggs + green juice

Lunch: Leftover burgers and veggies + bone broth

Dinner: Carnitas + sauteed bell peppers


Sunday

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs + sauteed kale + bone broth

Lunch: Leftover carnitas + sauteed bell peppers

Dinner: Shepherd’s pie (cooked that afternoon with meal prep)

 

 

 

 

New Year, New You – No Way

New Year New You

“New Year, New You.”

This message is being pushed on us from all around this time of year. So many of us hear this and are left feeling guilty for our “sloth-like” and “gluttonous” behavior over the past season. Suddenly those celebratory glasses of champagne enjoyed with friends, cookies baked and joyfully eaten with family, and mornings spent sleeping in and resting rather than hitting the gym are criminal. All of a sudden, our lifestyle choices just aren’t good enough – we’re too lazy, too fat, and in dire need of fixing.

So we write long lists of 20+ new habits we’re going to instantly adopt as soon as January 1st rolls around to shed ourselves of our old, deplorable identities. People who haven’t used their gym membership since last January are vowing to hit the gym six times a week, complete a monthly juice fast, become a super yogi, and finally achieve the body they’ve always wanted – thigh gap and all, of course.

I’m all for working out, eating well, and trying to live a healthy life. However, I also strongly believe that one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to practice self-love and self-acceptance. You don’t need to try to become a new person this year, because who you already are is good enough.

That being said, I’m not averse to setting goals. Participate in the January Whole30 if you want, or sign up for your first marathon, but don’t do it because you think you need to do these things in order to be a person of value. The diet industry and media are constantly trying to sell firm abs and toned triceps as true happiness – that without those things we’re just not enough. It’s just not true.

My goal for this year is be happy with myself right now. We are all enough as is, and we need to stop trying to be someone else. Let’s focus on what makes us special and wonderful right now. Let’s empower each other to practice self-love all year long. Let’s lovingly create goals and intentions that honor our bodies and spirits.

Rather than trying to be a “new you” this year, I urge you to respect where you are at this exact moment and all that you’ve gone through this past season of your life, embrace how it’s shaped you, and live a life that is shaped by love and joy, rather than self-hate.

You don’t need to be a “New You” in 2017. Just be you.

xoxo,

Melissa

Weekly Workouts – Week of October 31st

running lake merritt

I love seeing what other people do for their weekly workouts, so I thought I’d also start sharing my own on a regular basis. My hope is that someone out there finds this useful or motivating. At the very least, it’s a good way to hold myself accountable and track my progress.

Sunday – Ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Los Angeles

Monday – Active rest day (I walked 11.5 miles)

Tuesday – 2-mile jog + foam rolling

Wednesday – 1 hour of BODYPUMP

Thursday – 4-mile run

Friday – 25-minute home HIIT ladder workout (included kettlebell swings, kettlebell sumo squats to high pull, kettlebell bent rows, and burpees, all with a 25-lb kettlebell), followed by some ab exercises

Saturday – 10-mile run + foam rolling

Sunday – Rest day

Overall, I felt positive about what I accomplished this past week. Completing a long run the weekend after a half marathon was a big win for me, since, historically, I haven’t run much at all in the week or two following a 13.1 distance. It feels nice to keep the momentum up.

In addition to this, my Friday HIIT workout was AWESOME. I did 20 kettlebell swings between each rung of the ladder, which kept my heart rate elevated throughout the entire workout, and my whole body was pretty exhausted by the end of it. It’s definitely a fun one!

I’m looking forward to getting in some speedwork this week, as well as several good sessions of resistance training. I’ll let you know how it goes next week!

For now, please enjoy this photo of me standing with a Mario Lopez cutout from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles pre-race expo.

standing with a mario lopez cutout

Happy sweating!

Melissa

Across the Bay 12K Race Review

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 3.54.30 PMYou know that tempo run or track workout you’ve been “meaning to do” for dayssss now, but every other little thing just keeps getting in the way? Yeah, that’s been me with this race recap. But I’ve finally laced up my blogging shoelaces, so to speak, and am here to tell you all about my most recent race – the Across the Bay 12K.

Hosted by Represent Running, this is the second race in the Run the Bay series, the first of which (the San Jose 408K) I ran and wrote about back in March. This race, like the name implies, is a 12K (about 7.5 miles) that starts in Sausalito, spans across the Golden Gate Bridge and along Crissy Field, and ends at Aquatic Park in San Francisco.

The race begins with a big ol’ uphill to get up to the bridge, but it was actually ideal, as it spaced the crowds out. After that, it was pretty flat or downhill until the very end at which there was one final climb up Fort Mason, then a glorious decline that took you straight to the finish line. And best of all, YOU GET TO RUN ACROSS THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!FullSizeRender 2FullSizeRender 3I ran this race with my boyfriend Michel (thanks for being so supportive of my running passion!). Since the race was a point-to-point, there were buses organized to take us from the finish line to the start line. We arrived a bit late, but after a short warm-up and a quick photo we eagerly jumped in with the third wave of runners and crossed the start line.

I have to say, the weather couldn’t have been more beautiful the day of this race. There wasn’t a bit of fog in sight, and a bunch of whales were even spotted right by the bridge (to cheer us on, obviously).FullSizeRender 4Michel and I ran the race together, which was great. With nice weather and someone to talk to and laugh with while you’re running, the course is incredibly enjoyable and the time just flies by. We didn’t run for time, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the experience without being competitive. And take lots of running selfies…IMG_4454 2
After we ran past Crissy Field, along Marina Green, and up that annoying Fort Mason Hill, we descended into Aquatic Park and sprinted to the finish line to be rewarded with 49ers-inspired medals, water, and bags of snacks. And tons of sunshine.
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I truly enjoyed this race and would recommend it to anyone who has completed a 5K or 10K and wants something a little longer in distance before taking on a half marathon. I’m already excited to run it again next year.
Why I Enjoyed the Across the Bay 12K:

  1. I said this already but…you get to run across the Golden Gate Bridge! Even better, you get to run along the side that is normally reserved for bicyclists, so you get a different, refreshing view. This was one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever ran.
  2. The organizer, Represent Running, did a great job of spacing the waves. I was worried there would be some serious bottlenecking on the bridge, but there was none due to 15 minute time differences in corral start times, as well as that big hill at the beginning of the run.
  3. There were tons of photographers along the course – more than I’ve ever seen at a race – and lots of great photo opps.
  4. Finishers received a sweet medal (seen above) and a great Under Armour shirt designed by San Franpsycho.
  5. All of the food items in the finisher’s bag were gluten-free! Oh, and there were free popsicles provided during the post-race festivities.
  6. If you don’t want to run the 12K, there is also a 5K option that keeps you within the San Francisco city limits.
  7. Oh, and how cool is the artwork on the sign below? Little touches like this really show that the organizers tried hard to make this a great experience overall.

Tips for Next Year:

  1. If possible, carpool or get dropped off at the bus loading zone before the race by a non-running friend. We had a semi-challenging time finding parking nearby.
  2. Get there early. We waited a while to get on a bus to shuttle us from the finish line to the start line and missed the beginning of the wave we should have started with.

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To round out the day, Michel and I went to church nearby, then had a decadent picnic of gluten-free beer and sandwiches at Lake Merritt in Oakland while we listened to the Oakland Municipal Band play calypso music. It was perfect.

If you want to check out the next race organized by Represent Running, check out the Let’s Go 510K, which is on October 9th, 2016 in the East Bay.

PLUS, if you’re interested in signing up for it, use REPRESENT2016ML to get 10% off registration.

xoxo,

Melissa

 

Discovering the Mendocino Coast

Sunset over the Mendocino coast

Sometimes you just have to push the pause button on your work life and remember how humbling it is to stare into the vastness of the ocean. Or recognize how extraordinary it is to feel really tiny standing among and being swallowed up by a bunch of gigantic trees.

Fortunately, I was able to enjoy this splendid feeling recently as I celebrated my boyfriend Michel’s birthday with a two-day trip to Mendocino, a tiny, charming coastal town in California about three hours north of San Francisco.

Celebrating Michel's birthday along the Mendocino coast

The drive up to and through Mendocino boasts some of the most beautiful stretch of coastline I’ve seen. If you’re looking to get away from the Bay Area bustle for a day or two for some R&R or quality time with Mother Nature, I couldn’t recommend it more.

There are so many things to do in Mendocino and the nearby area. For the active types, there is hiking, kayaking, and tons of trails to run along, and for the gourmands in the house, there is some truly delicious food available here. Plus, sunsets. Everyone needs to stop moving and just sit on the beach and watch the sunset every now and again.

Here are some of my favorite recommendations for spending a couple days in Mendocino.

Eating breakfast tacos and a burger at Circa '62 restaurant in Mendocino County

Food

We enjoyed breakfast as Circa ’62 at the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek, which is just a few miles south of the town of Mendocino. And when I say “enjoyed,” I mean enjoyed. I had the Mexican tacos, which included pork carnitas, scrambled eggs, caramelized onions and jalapenos, a cherry tomato salsa, and cojita, served with corn tortillas and spicy papas bravas. Michel had the breakfast burger, which is the largest burger I’ve ever seen. And by biggest burger, I mean it was taller than his head. The ingredients were fresh and the flavor was hard to beat.

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