Bikini Body Guide: My Review & Results

I first heard about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in July 2017. My friend who’d had her second child not long before posted on Facebook that she was starting the workout plan to get back into shape, and I was intrigued.

For the longest time, I felt like I was stuck in my postpartum fitness journey and needed something to get me back into gear—a goal, a plan, a commitment. I read the comments on my friend’s post and saw that several other women had experienced great results with BBG.

But I wasn’t ready to go all in just yet. I did plenty of research first, reading various online reviews and looking at lots of before-and-after photos on Instagram. I longed to have an “after” photo, to look and feel more like my old self again. I was sick of stepping on the scale and seeing that the same extra 10 pounds were still there. I was sick of trying on my pre-baby jeans “just in case” and finding that they weren’t even close to slipping over my thighs, let alone buttoning at the waist. I thought back to the hard things I’ve done in my life, like running five marathons and traveling the world alone for three months, and knew it was time to take on something hard again—and that I could succeed. 

I looked through the details of the 12-week plan and felt pretty intimidated. At the time, I couldn’t do a single pushup, let alone all the variations of pushups that the plan calls for in the later weeks.

But the workouts were only 28 minutes long—four blocks of 7-minute efforts. The idea of completing three workouts a week for 12 weeks sounded like a huge effort, but thinking of it as just one 28-minute workout at a time? That felt doable.

I tried the very first workout one evening and thought I was going to die. I think it was the burpees.

But I had no doubt it was an awesome, effective workout. I was sweaty and breathless during, and sore after. I was finally all in.

We went on vacation at the end of July, and then started the plan for real in August, when Evie was 16 months old. Aaron decided to do it with me, which really helped me stay motivated and committed. There were so many times when I wanted to flake on a workout, but didn’t because he was there, ready to go. And I’m sure I coerced him into completing a few of the workouts that he didn’t really want to do, either. We worked out in our home office/gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just like the plan prescribes, after Evie went to sleep for the night. I think I only missed three workouts out of 36, due to illness.

That’s not to say I did all the exercises perfectly. Some exercises were too hard for me to do at all (like triceps dips with legs up on a chair), so I modified them as needed (regular triceps dips with feet on the floor). I certainly did a lot of pushups on my knees. Better to do modified exercises than not do them at all! “Perfect” is the enemy of “good"—and "good” will still get you results.

You can easily do BBG at a gym if you belong to one, or at home like we did with some basic equipment.

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1. Jump rope: I had to buy one, since I hadn’t jumped rope since my school days, but there are so many for $10 or less! This one has great reviews.

2. Free weights: we have this set, and I set them to 10 pounds each. Any weights, like these, will work.

3. Weight bench: an essential for any home gym! This one is a reasonable price. You could also just use a sturdy regular bench or ottoman (you’ll be both lying down and stepping up on it for different exercises).

4. Step: I have this one. Evie loves jumping off it, so it doubles as toddler amusement.

5. Medicine ball: I borrowed an 8-pound ball from a friend to complete the first round of BBG, then got this 15-pound ball for Christmas. It’s almost a little TOO heavy! 10-12 pounds seems like a happy medium.

The guide also calls for a second weight bench (who has an extra one lying around, really?) and a Bosu ball, but I just made do without those. I used a sturdy chair instead of the second bench, and just did the moves that called for a Bosu ball… without a Bosu ball. 🙂

Of course, you also need the Bikini Body Guide itself. Kayla Itsines offers the eBook version for about $50 USD, which I think is totally worth it—especially when you compare that price to 12 weeks of classes at a gym, or 36 sessions with a personal trainer. (It’s worth noting that rather than 36 different workouts, BBG is made up of 18 workouts repeated twice: the workouts in week one are repeated in week three, weeks two and four are the same, etc.).

Of course, you don’t get the inherent motivation that a class or personal trainer provides—that has to come from you. I suggest recruiting a friend or partner to commit to the plan with you so you can keep each other motivated.

Kayla also has an app called Sweat that offers a short free trial, then charges $19.99 per month for continued use. If you want access to a lot more workouts, instructional videos, etc., this may be the route for you. I haven’t tried it myself, as the original BBG plan is more than adequate for my needs.

Back to that: BBG also calls for two to five days per week of low-intensity steady-state cardio, like walking, but I ran two to three times per week when I completed the plan last year. Since I’m currently unable to run, I’m now walking.

There’s also a separate 12-week eating plan ($50), but I had no interest in it. I’ve learned over the years that sticking fairly close to a Paleo way of eating works for me in terms of shedding extra pounds and feeling my best, so last year I did that Monday through Friday and was more lenient (but didn’t go nuts) on the weekends. I also tracked all my food using the free My Fitness Pal app, as I needed help adjusting my portion sizes and snacking habits since I was no longer pregnant or nursing. Two years of “eating for two,” plus several years of training for marathons, had gotten me in the habit of eating quite a bit more than a person should if they’re trying to lose a few pounds.

Tracking my food was certainly eye-opening and key to jumpstarting my weight loss after being stagnant for so long. I was not super-restrictive with calories, though, and always made sure to eat if I was hungry—even if that meant going over my allotted calories for the day.

After 12 weeks of BBG workouts and watching what I ate, I lost 7.5 pounds, gained visible muscle tone and finally fit into my pre-baby jeans! Most importantly, I felt so much stronger and like I was in control of my body again. When I looked in the mirror, I recognized myself—not as the exact same person as I was before I had Evie, but as a person who went through many changes to bring a new little person into the world, and then worked her way back to fitness.

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Finally, I had my “after” photos, and I shared them with the world via Instagram, even though my “after” certainly wasn’t (and will never be) perfect. But I was proud of my progress, and wanted to share it—and maybe inspire others who were thinking about working on their fitness, too. 

A few weeks later, I woke up to a bunch of Instagram notifications and realized Kayla had shared my progress photos on her official account, which had somewhere around 8 million followers at the time. If I was a little nervous to share my photos with a few hundred followers on my account, imagine how I felt when I knew MILLIONS of people would see them! I steeled myself for nasty comments galore. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them were positive, and the only one that wasn’t was just kind of neutral (“I don’t see a difference” or something like that—and someone called that person out, ha!). So, yay for a supportive BBG community!

I was so pumped about my results that I wanted to start BBG all over again, as many people do. Some women I follow on Instagram have done BBG back-to-back for YEARS. But as 2018 rolled around, I realized three days of BBG per week just wasn’t compatible with the amount of running I needed to do to train for the Orcas Island 25K and other races I had on my calendar. For a while, I dropped down to two days of BBG (arms and abs only, to save my legs for running), and then just tried to fit it in whenever I could as I ramped up with marathon training.

Now that I’m sidelined from running, I’m five weeks into another round of BBG and feeling good—definitely getting stronger again! I haven’t been as diligent with healthy eating as I should to see major results, but I’m fine with that since I’m still at a happy weight where I fit comfortably into my clothes. Once things start feeling too tight, then I know I need to pay more attention to my eating. I’ve definitely had to adjust the kinds of things I’m eating and my portion sizes now that I’m not marathon training or running at all. I do miss the food freedom I enjoyed when I just automatically burned everything off thanks to my training schedule! I’m looking forward to that again someday. 🙂

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful if you’ve been thinking about trying BBG! I’m not the greatest at sticking to workout programs, but I think this one is really worthwhile and effective if you give it your best shot. 

P.S. I have no affiliation with BBG, but the links to gym equipment are Amazon affiliate links.

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

The Injury Diaries

When I began training for the Jack & Jill Marathon, I was certain there would be one of three outcomes: I would finish but not PR (maybe); I would PR (probably); I would qualify for Boston (hopefully).

I never once considered a fourth outcome—the one that actually happened—that I would never even make it to the start line.

My training was going so well—better than I ever could have hoped. I was hitting my goal paces, feeling great during speed workouts and long runs, and not having any issues with a much more rigorous training schedule and higher mileage than I’d ever attempted before.

That is, until the end of week 14.

I ended week 13 (one of my peak weeks, with 56 miles of running) feeling awesome and looking forward to the lower mileage of week 14 (just 43 miles). I cranked out a handful of easy runs Monday through Wednesday, then nailed my 9 x 800m speed workout on Thursday. Aiming for 3:30 intervals, I ran them all between 3:21 and 3:29. I felt on top of the world.

Then on Saturday, after an easy 6-mile run, I noticed my hips felt a little tight. We had Hallie and her husband Patrick over for drinks that night, and I asked her about stretches to help relieve the tightness (she’s a personal trainer and fitness instructor). My 12-mile long run on Sunday went fine, but I had the same tight feeling after that one. I started stretching, foam rolling and trying to release my piriformis with a hard ball like crazy.

Week 15 was meant to be my final peak week, ending with my third 20-miler on Sunday. I felt a little off as I began each run that week, but then felt fine after I got warmed up. The hip tightness and a strange feeling of weakness in my left glute plagued me every night. I continued stretching and cursed myself for previously not being more diligent about stretching after every run, and for not doing any hip- or glute-strengthening exercises throughout my training.

We drove up to Whistler, B.C. on Wednesday, the 4th of July. It was a 4.5-hour drive. (I later learned that my injury is exacerbated by long periods of sitting). My run on Thursday did NOT go well, but I thought that was because it was meant to be a tempo run and I accidentally did it on a very hilly trail.

Saturday was supposed to be my final 10-mile run at marathon goal pace (8:00 average). I shook off the weird tight/weak feelings in the first few miles and had a great run nearly on pace for the first four miles or so. The path then turned into rolling hills and I started feeling discomfort in my lower back, just above my left glute. At mile 5, I stopped to stretch. By mile 5.4, I was in a LOT of pain and knew I shouldn’t run another step. 

I was five miles away from our condo, so I called Aaron and asked him to come pick me up. It was raining. I waited inside the vestibule of a grocery store and tried stretching some more. When I realized stretching did nothing to help the pain, I started crying. I didn’t want to believe it, but somehow I knew my race was probably over.

I Googled like crazy to try to figure out what my injury was, and anything I found with symptoms similar to mine came with a recommendation to stop running for 4-6 weeks. The marathon was three weeks away. More tears.

We drove home from Whistler that day, and it was the most uncomfortable car ride of my life (other than the car ride to the hospital to give birth, but that was only about 5 minutes long!). This one took 5+ hours, thanks to the looooong line we had to wait in at the border to get back into the U.S. Sitting felt horrible, so I constantly squirmed around trying to find a better position. Putting a small, hard ball under my left glute felt somewhat better, but still not great.

The next few days were quite painful, especially in the mornings. I was super stiff and tight, and even something as simple as getting into the car brought me to the brink of tears. Bending over to pick up Evie was excruciating. Sitting for any longer than 10-15 minutes was uncomfortable, so I ditched my desk at work and took my laptop into the kitchen so I could work standing up at a tall counter. (I did that every day for a month or so until I finally got a standing desk.)

First I went to my chiropractor to see if he could figure out what was wrong with me, but I quickly realized I needed to see a physical therapist. I had my first appointment on July 11, during which the PT diagnosed hypermobility of my left sacroiliac (SI) joint going into anterior rotation, so that when I run and my left leg extends behind me, it forces my pelvis into an anterior rotation beyond the normal limits of the joint.

He recommended no running for 6-8 weeks and weekly physical therapy (along with daily exercises at home) through August, but he also said that since I’d been injured for a short amount of time (one week), there was a chance the issue could resolve in a short amount of time and I’d be able to run soon. Did that mean running a marathon on July 28 was a good idea? I didn’t know for sure, but probably not. I tried to stay positive and keep an open mind. I had come too far in my training to give up just yet.

My glute and lower back felt better every day as I continued my physical therapy. I was wary to even attempt to run until the day I woke up completely pain-free, in fear of ruining the progress I’d made, so I just walked in the evenings or used the elliptical or adaptive motion trainer in my office gym at lunchtime to try to keep up my fitness.

On July 20, my PT had me do a test run on the treadmill, and I ran ¾ of a mile with no pain. I was very hopeful. But then on July 22—the Sunday before the marathon—I attempted a run outside and didn’t even make it two miles before I felt the familiar ache of my SI joint and knew I should stop.

The funny thing was that I stopped my run right at the finish line of the actual marathon course. I looked at the empty trail that would soon be filled with timing mats, spectators and an announcer shouting out the names of finishers and Boston qualifiers. They would all be there—but not for me.

I let go of my dreams for this race knowing that I had given it my all. I gave it my all in training and I gave it my all in attempted recovery. Whether you make it onto the race course or not, that’s all you can do in a marathon. The rest just is what it is.

I’m tearing up as I write this, even though it’s now September and this all happened more than a month ago. I had hoped to be running again by now. I had hoped to be training for a December marathon by now. But it looks like I have to let go of that one, too, and put in more work before I can set another big goal.

My PT cleared me to run a few miles at a time starting in mid-August, and he gave me some cues to correct my running form and hopefully avoid future injuries. But either I’m doing something wrong or it will take time for my body to adjust because I started feeling pain along the inside of both shins that my PT says is posterior tibial tendonitis.

So now my SI joint feels fine, but here’s this new thing holding me back. I’ve added a new exercise to my PT routine to help with it, and tried to run through it a few times, but now I’m just done. I’m taking time off from running, focusing on walking, continuing physical therapy and doing the Bikini Body Guide over again. I’m planning to work with a running coach on my eventual return.

It’s frustrating to still be sidelined, but it doesn’t feel good trying to force my body to do something it apparently doesn’t want to do, either. I’ll stick with what feels good, which—for now—is not running.

I’m fortunate that I’ve been running since 2010 and am only now dealing with injuries, and I’m thankful that they’re not so bad in the grand scheme of things. I believe pain-free running is ahead for me. I just need more time—and more help—to make it happen.

Thanks for following along and for your encouragement. I still like to see other runners out there killing it. It makes me happy, and gives me hope.

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 13: It’s Getting Real Now

Note: Week 13 was June 18-24. I did not run the marathon on July 28 due to an injury suffered in week 15 of training, but I want to post these training recaps I had written for posterity—this is the last one! Next, I’ll share all about my injury and what I’ve been doing to fix it (spoiler alert: lots of physical therapy). In the meantime, you can get up to speed on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Welcome to peak week two of three! The marathon is FIVE. WEEKS. AWAY. Suddenly it seems so soon. Maybe because I’m suddenly in the middle of these high-mileage weeks that I stared at for so long on my plan, and they feel like they’re going by quickly. Before I know it, I’ll be tapering, then toeing the line.

It’s also nearly time to start getting really disciplined with my nutrition. Usually about a month out from a big race, I stop drinking alcohol, cut out most sweets, focus on eating lots of high-quality protein and veggies, etc. I want to feel like I’ve done everything I can to help my body feel and perform its very best on race day. I wish I were disciplined enough to do this throughout the entire training cycle, but… no. I gotta live! So the final month it is. My last hurrah will be the 4th of July, and then it’s all optimal fueling from there.

MONDAY: 5.3-mile easy run at 9:12 average pace.

It was 84 degrees. The sweat was real.

TUESDAY: 10.5-mile easy run at 9:08 average pace.

Another weeknight 10-miler. (The extra half-mile was me running to Hallie’s house before and then back to my house after!) Thank goodness I had Hallie to share the miles and gross bug encounters with. She got a huge bug in her mouth, and I got little gnats smashed up in both of my eyes. The body count is high on the road to the marathon.

WEDNESDAY: BBG arms & abs, plus 4-mile easy run at 9:13 average pace.

I started the evening with a BBG workout so I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of It after my run, which is what I so often do! I miss the strength I once had from doing BBG three times a week, and it’s so humbling every time I do a workout from week one or two of the program that seemed easy not too long ago; it definitely does not feel easy now!

The Ali on the Run Show featured an interview with BBG creator Kayla Itsines this week, so I listened on my run! It was great to discover that she is super nice and genuine on top of being beautiful, fit and successful. Go have a listen!

THURSDAY: 5.5-mile tempo run at 8:08 average pace.

They can’t all be great runs. This wasn’t a bad run per se, but it wasn’t smooth and effortless like my tempo run two weeks ago. It was… effortful? I ran a 9:12 warmup mile, then 7:52, 7:34, 7:38 and 7:47 with a half-mile cooldown at 9:10 pace. That’s perfectly fine on paper. It just didn’t feel awesome, which left me a little unsettled.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 10-mile marathon goal pace run at 7:56 average pace.

This run eased any worries I had after that tempo. It wasn’t too long ago that I really had to bust my butt to hang in the low 8s for these goal-pace runs, but now I’m finding I can run high 7s without feeling like I’m pushing too hard. I did this run on a fairly flat trail, so I’m excited to see what I can do on the downhill course come race day.

SUNDAY: 21-mile long run at 8:55 average pace.

Thank goodness Hallie and I ran our second 21-miler together—not just because it went by so much faster with a friend to chat with, but because we crossed paths with a bear! Hallie spotted it on the trail ahead and stopped us immediately; I just saw the tail end of it as it slowly ambled into the brush. We waited about five minutes, hoping it would continue on its way away from the trail, then made a bunch of noise to make it known that we were coming through. We continued on slowly (still yelling), and luckily it seemed to be long gone by the time we passed the spot where we had seen it. Phew! That was my first bear sighting, and hopefully my last for a long time.

In other news, Hallie and I both forgot to bring headlamps, so we used the flashlights on our phones to light our way through the tunnel. We won’t make that mistake on race day! The weather throughout our run was cloudless and warm—very different from the rain showers I ran through last time. I have a feeling the weather on race day will be similar, and full sun/heat brings its own challenges. The race starts at 6:30 a.m., and I’m planning to wear my hydration vest so I’ll always have water available, so I’m hoping potentially high temps won’t have too big an impact on my race.

Total weekly mileage: 56.3

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 12: Step Back & Relax

Note: Week 12 was June 11-17. I did not run the marathon due to an injury suffered in week 15 of training, but I want to post these training recaps I had written for posterity. Once I catch up, I’ll share all about my injury and what’s next. In the meantime, you can get up to speed on Instagram @dev.on.running.

After running nearly 56 miles last week, it felt good to have a step-back week where I only ran about 40. My easy runs felt nice, and my two speedy runs went really, really well. I hate to say that my confidence keeps increasing week by week because I feel like that’s asking for something bad to happen (Ed. note: guess I saw it coming!!!), but it’s the truth.

I’ve been so in the groove of marathon training these past three months, so focused on the current week’s training and nothing else, that I haven’t really thought about what I would do after the marathon. Of course, if I’m lucky enough to qualify and register for Boston, I’ll have to start training for that sometime in December. But what would I do until then?

For one thing, I’d like to run some shorter races and update my 5K and 10K PRs. They’re from years and years ago—a whole other life, it feels like—and I’d like to see what I can do with my post-marathon fitness level.

I’d also like to refocus on strength training and possibly complete another 12-week round of Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide. I’ve written a long post about my great experience with it last summer; I just need to fine-tune a couple of parts and add photos to it! I’ll share it soon. I’ve never felt stronger in my life than I did after completing the program, and I’d like to get some of that feeling back. Plus, strength training can only improve my running, so if I can strike a good balance after this marathon, I’ll be in great shape to tackle whichever big goal comes next.

MONDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:42 average pace.

Evie has been asking to run with me, so I happily loaded her up in the stroller for a suuuuper easy post-20-mile run. We chatted, sang “Old MacDonald” and stopped at a playground about three miles in for some playtime. I hadn’t run with Evie in a while, and it’s much nicer now that she’s a little bit older and not constantly taking off her shoes, throwing her water bottle on the ground, etc.!

TUESDAY: 6.2-mile easy run at 9:09 average pace.

WEDNESDAY: 5-mile easy run at 9:03 average pace.

Stephanie and I ran under some pretty dark, threatening clouds, but luckily managed to finish with only a few raindrops on our heads! The skies opened up not long after; love it when we manage to outrun the storm. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I’m sure.

THURSDAY: 8 x 800m speed intervals (7.5 miles total) at 8:36 average pace.

I was all fired up over a landscaping snafu, so this workout went really well! I don’t get angry very often, but when I do, I guess I should run intervals. ☺

Targeting 3:30, I ran 3:27, 3:26, 3:23, 3:28, 3:27, 3:33, 3:28 and 3:28. The one time I didn’t hit 3:30 was when I spaced out and accidentally veered off my intended path. I doubled back once I realized my mistake, but it cost me a few seconds to turn around. No matter! I’m sure I could have hit 3:30 or below if it weren’t for that mistake, and that’s what counts.

This was the first time I actually hit the goal time for (almost) all of my intervals! Usually I hover in the mid to high 3:30s, hitting 3:30 or below just a few times. One big difference this time was that I ran on a straight path through a park vs. my usual round loop around a different park. I switched because my usual park is now host to a lot of summertime activities that make it very crowded and not ideal for running fast. I don’t know if the straight vs. circular path was what made all the difference—I’m sure my angry energy helped, too—but I’ll take it!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 6-mile marathon goal pace run at 7:54 average pace.

I spent the late morning/early afternoon with girlfriends sipping champagne, eating brunch and catching up, so I wasn’t sure how this run would go. It was also hot (low 80s, I think?), and high temps tend to throw me off my game.

Seeking as much shade as possible, I chose a tree-lined out-and-back route that went uphill near the midway point. It was a bit challenging to hold close to 8:00 pace, but not too bad. When I turned around to head back, I realized my next mile was essentially the last mile of the marathon. I tried to run what I thought felt like an 8:00/mile effort; thanks to the downhill, it turned out to be 7:35. Here’s hoping I can summon that sort of speed when I’m running it as mile 26 rather than mile 4!

For the last mile, which was relatively flat (14 feet of elevation loss), I again tried to run 8:00 pace and hit 8:00 on the nose. It felt good to know what my goal pace feels like!

SUNDAY: 12-mile long run at 9:19 average pace.

12 miles seems like nothing compared to last week’s 21, but it felt long since I ran it alone and was just counting down every mile until I could be done. There’s a lot to be said for running with friends. Listening to podcasts helps pass the time, but not as much as actually interacting with other people! This run was slow, steady and uneventful—nothing exciting, but the perfect end to a rejuvenating step-back week.

Total weekly mileage: 40.7

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 11: Now & Then

Note: Week 11 was June 4-10.

I recently remembered that I wrote weekly recaps while training for my first marathon back in 2011, and I pulled up the week 11 post to compare it to the training I just did in week 11 of training for my sixth marathon, seven years later. Here’s what week 11 looked like back in the day:

  • Monday: Strength training
  • Tuesday: 7-mile run
  • Wednesday: 3-mile run + strength training
  • Thursday: Rest (skipped a 4-mile run)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 10-mile run
  • Sunday: Rest

Total weekly mileage: 20

!!!

In comparison, I ran 55.7 miles this week. My long run was 21 miles—farther than I ran in a cumulative week seven years ago.

Okay, maybe that week wasn’t the best example since it included a trip to NYC, where I did a lot of walking and sightseeing rather than running, but still—I skipped a 4-mile run for no good reason?? My long run was only 10 miles??

But here’s another example: My peak week in that 18-week training cycle was week 16, when I didn’t run at all for three days, did a 20-mile long run and ran 40 miles overall.

To be fair, it was my first marathon and I followed a beginner training plan. I was still a new runner, so I didn’t yet have the experience or grit to push through unideal circumstances and make time for every run. And my goal was to run a 4:15 marathon, which I did, down to the minute. So there was nothing wrong at all with my training back then.

But I’ve had this mentality for a long time that I’m a 4:15 marathoner at my core. Prior to getting pregnant, my goal was to gradually chip away at 4:15 to get to sub 4:00, which I did at the Chicago Marathon in 2013 with a 3:59. I never believed I could progress much further than that.

Now I realize I can be any kind of marathoner I want to be if I put in the work. The training I’m doing now is on a whole other level from the training I did back then. I was a 4:15 marathoner because I trained to be a 4:15 marathoner. I’m now training to be a sub-3:35 marathoner. Time will tell if I will be, but I believe it will happen—maybe this time, maybe next time, but it will happen.

MONDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:32 average pace.

I didn’t post on Instagram about this run, but I titled it “Sausage Legs” on Strava, so my legs must have felt heavy and swollen from Sunday’s long run. Ha!

TUESDAY: 10-mile easy run at 9:14 average pace.

10 miles on a weeknight will never not seem like the longest run ever, but I ran with Hallie and that made it totally bearable. What would I do without running buddies?!

WEDNESDAY: 5-mile easy run at 9:05 average pace.

THURSDAY: 5.6-mile tempo run at 7:56 average pace.

I went to bed late every night this week, and it all caught up to me on Thursday; I felt wayyy too tired to do a successful tempo run. I snuggled with Evie in her crib for a few minutes before she went to sleep, and it took all of my willpower to not fall asleep myself! But I got up, got out there and ran my tempo miles in 7:35, 7:35, 7:36 and 7:32. I was amazed that the pace felt manageable and consistent. A major win over the Thursday-night sleepies!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 10-mile easy run at 8:51 average pace.

I ran this one a little fast because (a) I got caught in two downpours and just wanted to get the run over with, and (b) I saw a coyote! It ran out onto the trail, saw me coming, then ran back into the woods, thank goodness. I’m very lucky to live in a beautiful forested/mountainous area, but it’s also home to wild animals who may not like me running through their backyard. The trails I run are frequented by humans and close to suburban neighborhoods, but this was a good reminder that animals are always around and I need to be cautious.

SUNDAY: 21-mile long run at 8:54 average pace.

I run the last 7ish miles of the marathon course all the time, but to get some experience with the earlier part of the course, I had my husband drop me off at the Hyak parking lot (just past Snoqualmie Pass) and started my long run at the actual start line.

The coolest part of the course is right at the beginning: the Snoqualmie Tunnel, which is 2.25 miles long and pitch black. I wore my headlamp (as I will during the race) and braved it alone. It was FREAKY. I really had to concentrate on the little patch of light my headlamp created in front of me and not look around too much or imagine what might be in front of or behind me. I could see how a claustrophobic person would NOT have fun in there because it felt like the darkness was pressing in around my body. But it should be fine on race day, with lots of other runners’ headlamps to brighten things up a bit!

The other notable feature of the course is its gentle downhill pitch. The word “gentle” sounds very nice, but after 20 miles, it doesn’t feel so gentle anymore. I struggled to keep my pace above 9-minute miles even though I was running at about my usual long-run effort, which ranges from 9:15-9:30 pace. So even though my 8:54 average pace seems too fast for a long run, I swear I was taking it easy.

This is great news for race day; it means I won’t have to put in as much effort to keep up my goal pace. I will have to be careful not to go out too fast, though. I’ve made that mistake before and paid the price in the back half of the race. My favorite marathon advice—which leads to success when I actually follow it—is: “It’s a 20-mile warmup for a 6.2-mile race!”

Total weekly mileage: 55.7

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 10: No Vacation from Training

Note: Week 10 was May 29-June 3. Finally all caught up!

My weekly mileage jumped above 50 this week, which may be the most I’ve ever run in a week! My previous marathon training plans were not nearly as aggressive, so I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been nervous about these higher mileage weeks, but so far, so good (knock on wood).

Since many of our birthdays are in April and May, Aaron’s dad Dwight and stepmom Maggie proposed we take a little family vacation to celebrate. We spent a wonderful three-day weekend in Leavenworth—a small Bavarian-themed town just east of the mountains—where we ate delicious meals, strolled around town and spent fun time together in our rented condo. Oh, and I also ran… a lot.

Marathon training doesn’t take a vacation. I ran 9 miles at marathon goal pace on Saturday and 19 easy miles on Sunday. Fortunately, Dwight and Maggie love babysitting and were more than happy to watch Evie while I ran and Aaron rode his bike in the mornings.

I’ve actually run on vacation in Leavenworth before; I did 6-mile and 17-mile runs there while training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in 2013. I already knew where I could go to run long, uninterrupted loops of rural road, and it wasn’t a big deal at all. I’m proud I got it done so I could enjoy spending time with family with a clear conscience—and basically eat whatever I wanted at Leavenworth’s great restaurants, too. ☺

MONDAY: 4.1-mile easy run at 9:11 average pace.

On Memorial Day, I enjoyed a sunny recovery run with Aaron and Evie by my side on the bike. Later, we went to Stephanie and Kevin’s house for a BBQ and lots of fun playtime with their son Connor (who is five months younger than Evie and the object of her obsession) and other neighborhood friends.

TUESDAY: 9-mile easy run at 9:07 average pace.

Nine miles feels like a lot on a weeknight, but running with a friend makes it much more bearable! Hallie and I hit the trail for an easy run in perfect twilight weather.

WEDNESDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:06 average pace.

This run felt like a bit of a struggle, but I guess short, easy runs just feel like that sometimes because they’re boring.

THURSDAY: 7 x 800 speed intervals (7.3 miles total) at 8:44 average pace.

Targeting 3:30, I ran these 800s in: 3:38, 3:40, 3:34, 3:30, 3:27, 3:30 and 3:29. As you can see, the first few intervals weren’t so great, and then I nailed the last four. Here’s what happened:

  • It was raining when I started, so I wore a jacket for my warmup mile and first two intervals. I ditched it once it stopped raining and I felt like I could move so much better.
  • I made an, uhh, urgent bathroom stop after the second interval and felt much better afterward.
  • I started really focusing on my form and pumping my arms. I never looked at my watch.
  • I thought relentlessly positive thoughts (and started to believe them): “Of course I can hit that time! No problem.”
  • I started running my recovery quarter-miles very slowly—like 11:00 pace. By the time I started sprinting again, I had the energy to hit the time I wanted.
  • I pretended that each interval was the last half-mile of the marathon and I had a BQ time in sight and I needed to give it my all to bring it home.

So yeah, never count out a workout that starts out crappy (figuratively and literally). I kept grinding and finished feeling like a badass. I look forward to my next interval run in two weeks (8 x 800) to see if I can do it again!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 9-mile marathon goal pace run at 8:02 average pace.

Despite enjoying several glasses of wine the night before and getting a terrible night of sleep (we tried to share a room with Evie in Leavenworth—big mistake), this run went really well. I started conservatively with an 8:27 warmup mile and then sped up to finish with six sub-8:00 miles and two just a little above 8:00. I’ll never not be amazed to see a mile that starts with a 7 on my watch.

SUNDAY: 19-mile long run at 9:16 average pace.

19 miles is a long damn way to run. Luckily, Aaron let me use his wireless headphones since I forgot to bring mine. I passed the time by listening to the two most recent episodes of the Ali on the Run Show, then some relaxing Gregory Alan Isakov and energizing Taylor Swift. I stopped once at a McDonald’s about halfway through to pee, but other than that, it was steady, uneventful and not even as painful as I expected (other than my knees, which didn’t love three hours of pounding on asphalt when they’re used to soft gravel). Maybe this marathon training thing is working after all!

Total weekly mileage: 52.4

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 9: Turning 31

Note: Week 9 was May 21-28.

This week kicked off with my birthday! I have approximately zero feelings about turning 31. 30 was exciting; 31 was just another Monday.

My birthday falls near the end of a string of birthdays in my family—my brother, Aaron, Evie, my mom and Aaron’s stepmom (plus Mother’s Day is in there, too)—so by the time we get to me, everyone is exhausted and sick of cake.

Plus, after planning and hosting Evie’s birthday party at the end of April, I had no desire to plan anything for myself aside from the usual casual dinners with family. I celebrated my birthday for 30 years and now I’m done. I just want to sleep in and not go to work.

Which is exactly what I did! I took the day off, went for a run, went out for beer and pizza and burgers with Aaron (yes, all in one lunch) and got a massage. It was the perfect birthday, if you ask me. Plus, Hallie and I saw Taylor Swift the following day! I missed one shorter run this week, but I think I made up for it with all the walking and dancing we did at the concert. Oh man, it was exhausting. I’m not 21 anymore!

MONDAY: 9-mile easy run at 8:52 average pace.

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A nice run to kick off 31.

TUESDAY: Rest.

Hallie and I shook it off at the Taylor Swift concert! It was amazing, duh.

WEDNESDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:03 average pace.

I had one too many beers the night before. I did my best.

THURSDAY: 45-minute tempo run (5.6 miles total) at 8:04 average pace.

Despite drinking quite a bit Tuesday night and eating pretty much straight garbage, I felt super strong during this run. I did a 10-minute warmup, 30 minutes at tempo pace (4-ish miles: 7:53, 7:43, 7:39, 7:39) and a 5-minute cooldown. Confidence = boosted.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 8.2-mile easy run at 8:44 average pace.

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I ran with Hallie and it was a bit faster that I’d normally go for an easy run, but I did lots of recovery (legs up the wall, stretching, foam rolling) to get my legs feeling good for Sunday’s long run.

SUNDAY: 17-mile long run at 9:08 average pace.

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We got the whole marathon crew together—Kelli, Hallie and me—and ran 8.5 miles up the marathon course, then 8.5 miles back down. Again, this was faster than I usually do my long runs, and I tried to slow it down at times, but when you’re chatting with friends for two and a half hours, it’s easy to get caught up in the convo and lose track of pace. Kelli and Hallie both ran Jack & Jill last year, so they gave me lots of insight into their experiences and pointed out the exact spots where the race started to get really hard! At this point, I can only imagine what multiple hours of downhill at 8:00 pace feels like…

Total weekly mileage: 43.8

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 8: Tiger Mountain Half Marathon

Note: Week 8 was May 14-20.

This week was a bit unusual because I ran a trail half marathon on Saturday rather than my typical goal pace run on Saturday and long run on Sunday. My training plan actually has a half marathon race scheduled for week 9, so I just flipped parts of weeks 8 and 9 to account for it.

Other than that, it was a typical week. Two solid months of marathon training complete! Now only 10 weeks to go.

MONDAY: 3-mile easy run at 9:16 average pace.

It was 87 degrees (in mid May?!), so I delayed my run by doing some much-needed yard work. I got carried away and worked for an hour and a half! It was 8:30 and starting to get dark as I set out for a still-hot and still-sweaty run. And thanks to all that hedge trimming, raking, weeding and more, my arms were sore for two days.

TUESDAY: 8-mile easy run at 9:07 average pace.

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It was great catching up with Hallie about her recent vacations to Hawaii and Las Vegas, plus planning for the upcoming Taylor Swift concert and talking through our marathon training plans (both based on Hal Higdon Advanced 1, with slight variations to fit our schedules). Now that her 50K is over, she’s fully focused on the marathon and I plan to log a lot more miles with her!

WEDNESDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:08 average pace.

I ran with Stephanie, plus did BBG week 2 arms + abs, stretched and foam rolled.

THURSDAY: 6 x 800 speed intervals (6.5 miles total) at 8:29 average pace.

Targeting 3:30, I ran the 800s in 3:36, 3:30, 3:34, 3:38, 3:34 and 3:30. I worked HARD for that last 3:30! I also worked hard to push negative thoughts out of my head through the entire workout. I started each interval with a confident, “I can do this!” mindset, but inevitably, I’d hear the naysaying creep in: “No way I can keep up this pace. My legs can’t do it. I’m just not fast enough.” Every time those thoughts crept in—and every time I checked my watch to see a less-than-ideal moving pace—I felt my energy and pace flag. Every time I successfully squashed those thoughts and resisted the urge to look at my watch, I ran a faster interval. The mental is just as important as the physical, whether you’re running a half mile or a marathon. Tell yourself, “I can do this!” and watch it happen.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: Tiger Mountain Half Marathon — 13.56-mile trail race in 2:21:57.

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I haven’t been doing much trail running lately, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this race. And since it’s not the main race I’m training for, I only had two goals: (a) don’t twist my ankle, and (b) finish under 2:30. I also wanted to keep up with Hallie for as long as possible, but knew she’d drop me at some point.

The first four miles of the race went up, up and up, which is my strength, so I was able to keep up with Hallie even though my legs were feeling fried pretty early on. Once we hit a considerable downhill, it was game on for Hallie (her strength), and I was on my own. I walked for the first time around mile 4.5 (fried legs) and tried to keep it to a minimum, but walked every so often throughout the rest of the race. It’s too easy to walk when you’re alone in the woods and there are no other runners or spectators to see you!

Most of the trails we ran on—which are usually packed with mountain bikers—were super smooth and runnable. For the first time, I let myself relax and fly on the downhills where I didn’t have to worry too much about tripping over rocks and roots. It felt awesome! But later in the race, things got rockier (ba-dum-ching!). I nearly stumbled twice and became more cautious as a result. I got passed by several people, but just accepted it and kept running as steadily as I could.

Overall, I had a lot of fun and was happy with the experience! My average pace is up for debate: the course map said it was 13.56 miles, which works out to 10:28 average pace. That seems inaccurately fast to me, given my bouts of walking. My Garmin measured 12.3 miles, which works out to 11:31 average pace (more reasonable), but Hallie says GPS watches always measure this race as shorter than it really is due to the mountains. I don’t know what to believe; all I know is that I enjoyed the race and am proud of my finish. Out of 91 runners, I finished 41st. Out of 41 females, I finished 13th. Not bad at all!

Race gear:

Top: Lululemon (old)
Shorts: Brooks Chaser 3”
Bra: Senita Sarah (it has a phone pocket!)
Shoes: Hoka One One Challenger ATR
Hydration vest: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta
Hydration: nuun
Fuel: Vanilla bean Gu

SUNDAY: 3.2-mile easy run at 9:46 average pace.

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My legs were tired (but not totally wrecked) the next day, so I took it eaaaasy for my recovery run. Aaron and Evie joined me on his bike, and we stopped in the middle at a playground for some fun. A perfect low-key Sunday with the fam!

Total weekly mileage: 38.2

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

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Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 7: Run Redemption

I’m so behind on posting, but trying to catch up! Week 7 was May 7-13; it’s now June and I just finished week 10. But humor me as we go back in time…

This week was a great one, as I was very happy with my three key workouts: Thursday tempo, Saturday marathon goal pace and Sunday long run. After a discouraging/too-hot tempo run two weeks ago and a disappointing goal pace run on too-tired legs last week, I needed those wins.

I continue to be amazed at how well my legs are handling six days per week of running (when I actually take my rest day on Friday, as I did this week!). That’s most certainly due to running easy most of the time, which I’ve never done in the past. So far, I’ve followed this training plan far more diligently that I ever have before, and I’ll be so much better equipped to run 26.2 miles as a result. I have three 20-milers to run, people! Three! And I’m not intimidated by that; just excited.

My only miss this week was accidentally running 3 miles on Wednesday instead of 4, but that’s no big deal—and I accidentally ran 8 miles instead of 7 last Saturday, so it sort of evens out.

I cracked the 40s for the first time this training cycle in terms of weekly mileage. I’ll peak at about 58 miles three weeks before the race. I’m not sure I’ve ever run that many miles in a week before, but here’s hoping my body will be ready when the time comes!

Scratch that—hoping won’t help at all. The only thing that’ll prepare me for the hard work is running, running and running some more.

MONDAY: 3-mile easy run at 9:37 average pace.

I needed to pick up a prescription for Evie and our pharmacy is exactly 1.5 miles away, so I ran an errand! My legs were t-i-r-e-d, so it was slow going, but that’s standard for these post-long-run shakeouts.

TUESDAY: 8-mile easy run at 9:19 average pace.

Aaron went on a bike ride right when we got home, then I was going to run right when he got back. Wouldn’t you know that the moment he stepped into the house, the skies opened up into a torrential thunderstorm! The streets of our neighborhood were flooded in just a few minutes. I resigned myself to an hour-plus slog on the treadmill, but after I put Evie to bed, it seemed as though the rain had stopped. I headed out onto my usual trail and miraculously didn’t feel a single drop of rain. Plus, there was no one else on the trail but a family of deer. Random thunderstorms have their perks!

WEDNESDAY: 3-mile easy run at 9:01 average pace.

I listened to Ali’s interview with Liz Plosser, editor-in-chief of Women’s Health magazine, and then wound up weeding my whole front yard so I could keep listening! You know something’s good when it gets me to do yard work. ☺ I’ve been slacking on my strength training these past few weeks, but I kind of count weeding as a workout… and it really needed to be done. Also, I was out of clean running shorts and reached back into my pre-pregnancy archives to see if my old Lululemon Speed shorts fit—and they did!!

THURSDAY: 5-mile tempo run at 8:14 average pace.

I finally redeemed myself for that too-hot tempo run two weeks ago! The weather was decently cool and I ran my comfortably hard miles in 7:51, 7:44 and 7:41—right where I wanted them and negative splits to boot. I finished just in time to enjoy a killer sunset, and all was right with the world.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 8-mile goal pace run at 8:07 average pace.

I learned my lesson after going out too fast last week and used the first mile of this run as a warmup (8:26). From there, all the miles were under 8:10, but not as close to my goal pace (8:00-8:05ish) as I hoped. I’m still happy with it! I know I won’t hit my paces every single week, and it’s the consistency that counts. There was also a slight rise in elevation for the last half of this run, whereas I’ll be going downhill 100% of the time during the marathon, so hopefully the faster pace will come without much more effort.

SUNDAY: 16-mile long run at 9:19 average pace.

Happy Mother’s Day! Maybe next year I’ll sleep in and have breakfast in bed, but this year I woke up at 5 a.m. to start my run at 6. It was going to be a hot day, and I had plans later with my mom, so I had to get it done early!

Stephanie (who is also a mom!) joined me for the first five miles, and they flew by. I felt great through the halfway point, but as I turned around to head back after 8 miles, my stomach indicated I had “unfinished business” to take care of. Luckily I was near a popular trailhead with a bathroom, but even afterward my stomach never made it back to 100%. I’ve been staying away from added sugar, so I wonder if my splurging on a piece of cake at a birthday party on Saturday had anything to do with it?

Anyway, I survived the run; it just wasn’t very pleasant. It reminded me to be grateful for how good my stomach has felt throughout training, which I believe I owe to healthy eating. I need to keep it up, especially in the weeks immediately before race day!

Total weekly mileage: 43

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 6: Official BQ Attempt

Suddenly I think I might actually be able to BQ. Not because this week felt particularly strong and gave me lots of confidence (kind of the opposite, in fact; you’ll see), but because I believe in myself now. I don’t know why; I just do. Do I need a reason?

I changed part of my Instagram bio from, “Training for PRs in 2018!” to, “Training for a BQ in July 2018!” So it’s out there. And it’s out here. Let’s do this thing.

MONDAY: 3-mile easy run at 9:16 average pace.

My legs felt super stiff as I started this run, thanks to Sunday’s long run with zero recovery/toddler birthday bonanza. But they loosened up the more I ran, and thus the recovery run did its job! Before I started this plan, I was worried about running six days per week without taking a rest day after long runs, but I haven’t found it to be an issue so far.

TUESDAY: 7-mile easy run at 8:59 average pace.

On this sunset run, I listened to episode 31 of the Ali on the Run Show featuring Dan Nevins, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs in Iraq and went on to become an inspiring yoga teacher and public speaker. I choked back tears several times listening to Dan eloquently describe his time in combat and his experiences dealing with both the physical and emotional wounds of war. It reminded me to be grateful for every step and every breath—not just during this run, but during every moment of every day.

WEDNESDAY: 3.1-mile easy run at 9:10 average pace.

I ran with Stephanie, which always makes the miles fly by faster! I also stretched, foam rolled, lifted weights and did some crunches while listening to the Ali on the Run Show episode featuring Ali’s parents, which was adorable!

THURSDAY: Rest.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t feeling it this day, but my legs just needed a break! Moving my rest day from Friday to Thursday made my Saturday run suck, though, so I’ll try not to do it again.

FRIDAY: 5 x 800 m speed workout (6 miles total) at 8:24 average pace.

My legs felt nice and fresh for this workout, but I ran my first interval too fast (3:24, targeting 3:30) and had trouble hanging onto my goal pace for the rest of them (3:33, 3:31, 3:38, 3:35). It’s so hard to know how fast I’m going in the moment, so I just run as fast as I possibly can. But next time, I’ll start more conservatively so I still have some energy for the other intervals!

SATURDAY: 8-mile (attempted) marathon goal pace run at 8:16 average pace.

This run suuuuucked. I was more than happy to stop for a minute when I ran into Aaron and Evie on a bike ride at mile 7! 

I took Evie to her first soccer lesson in the morning (so cute!), then did this run less than 24 hours after my speed workout. I knew going into it that there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to hang onto marathon goal pace (around 8:00), but I gave it my best shot. I was good through the first four miles, and then the wheels totally fell off and I just tried to stay under 8:30 average pace. It was good practice trying to run fast on super tired legs, which is a thing that will definitely happen during the marathon.

I realized after the fact that I was looking at the wrong week on my plan and only needed to do 7 miles at marathon goal pace. D’oh! Oh well. I actually have 8 miles at MGP next Saturday, so that will be a chance to redeem myself for this run.

SUNDAY: 10-mile long trail run at 11:41 average pace.

We had our house deep-cleaned (yesssss) and needed to be away for eight hours, so we took Evie to the zoo with some friends in the morning, then headed over to my in-laws’ house for lunch and naptime (for Evie, not me, unfortunately). While she napped, Aaron went on a bike ride and I ran a nearby trail I’d never explored before: the Coal Creek Trail. It’s super runnable (packed dirt, not too hilly) with beautiful scenery (lush greenery, pretty creek, waterfalls, etc.). There were lots of families hiking, so it felt very safe as well. Sometimes I can go several miles on trails without seeing anyone and get very freaked out about wild animals. This was suburban trail serenity at its finest. My legs were still tired from back-to-back hard workouts, but it was a nice run regardless.

Total weekly mileage: 37.1

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.