Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Building a Philadelphia Half Marathon Training Plan

I can't believe it's been almost four months since I've been on some sort of training plan. I'm used to spending the summer in hardcore training mode for an early fall race, but it's been really nice this year to kick back, relax and not stress about training.

But with the Philadelphia half marathon about 12 weeks away, it's time to get back on the training wagon.

Philadelphia Marathon start
Oh hey Philly

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to craft a training plan that was challenging enough, but realistic. I made sure to take into consideration the start of football and soccer season, which means I spend a ton of time tailgating.

Terp Tailgate

I also made sure to use my schedule to my advantage. Since I spend Saturdays tailgating, I'll be doing my long runs on Fridays when I work from home.

I also know I'll lose Sunday mornings to my flag football league. Tentatively the schedule has me doing a few three mile runs on Sundays before football. If that seems manageable, I'll keep it up, but if not I'll dump the run in favor of the football cross training.

Pick up football

My plan also has a good mix of speed work, tempo runs and hill workouts to keep me challenged. The Philadelphia half course isn't extremely hilly but there is a long climb between miles 8 and 9 near the zoo that really took it out of me last year. There's also a really short, steep climb right near the finish that slays me every year. I'm hoping with some dedicated hill training I'll be a bit more prepared for those.

I'm really excited for this race. I'm excited to train in some cooler temperatures and I'm excited to be back on a running schedule.

I'm not so excited for the start of 4:30 a.m. wake up calls during the work week, but I love morning running, so it won't be all that bad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Earning Points For Being Healthy with DailyFeats

I know I've admitted it before, but I am shamefully bad at remembering to record my workouts. I have a Daily Mile account, but update it exactly never.

I've tried paper logs, I've tried Google spreadsheets and just nothing seems to stick. I'll remember to jot my workouts down for a few days, but after that something happens. I get busy and don't have time or I forget.

But I'm giving the whole tracking thing another try on a new website called DailyFeats.

dailyfeats screengrab

The concept behind DailyFeats is that you earn points for each healthy thing you do. So you can track workouts or the amount of water you drink. You can earn points for taking the stairs instead of the elevators and remembering to floss at night.

Then you can cash the points in for all different deals and discounts in your area or save them for bigger rewards like gift cards to Starbucks, Safeway or iTunes.

I'm hoping that with an extra incentive built in, I'll be better about recording all the little healthy things I do. My workout playlists could use a serious makeover, so I'm gunning for an iTunes gift card.

I've only been playing around on the site for a few days, but I like it so far. I think it's awesome that a company is trying to encourage people to be healthier by adding in extra incentives.

If you're interested in checking out DailyFeats, you can sign up (it's free!) and use the code jessruns50 to give yourself an automatic 50 points before you even start recording your workouts. The code expires tomorrow (8/31), so if you're interested in checking it out, don't wait too long!

Standard FTC disclaimer: DailyFeats reached out to me and gave me 50 free points for signing up and checking out their site. The thoughts about the site are all my own.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cue the Quarter Life Crisis

This weekend was a strangely emotional one for me.

I guess turning 25 will do that to a girl.

Originally I had all these fantastic plans for an epic birthday weekend that included a baseball game, a soccer game, a bar crawl in my favorite city and a Sunday afternoon birthday tailgate followed by another soccer game. Ringing in my 25th was going to be a weekend long event of awesomeness, celebrated with all my favorite people.

Then Irene happened. And all my amazing birthday plans went straight to hell.


Cue massive quarter life crisis breakdown.

Yes friends, I spent Friday and Saturday having a meltdown about turning 25. Between crying over sappy Netflix movies while being trapped inside and sending some seriously pathetic text messages to friends, it was a rough couple of days.

But then Sunday rolled around. And the weather cleared up. And some last-minute plans were thrown together to salvage my birthday.

And I got to see all my favorite people:

Jess and Megan
Like Meganerd!

And my college roommates!

And do all my favorite things

Front porch chillin
like hang out with friends

and play cornhole!

And just like that, my feelings about turning 25 completely changed.

I've always been a big believer that age is just a number. It doesn't define who we are or what we're capable of, and I'm a little disappointed that I let a silly hurricane change that perspective, even if it was only for a few days.

By the end of the day yesterday, my quarter life crisis was gone. Instead of being sad about being another year older, I'm excited about all the possibilities a new year holds.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

24 in 24 Review

Last year I put together a list of 24 things I wanted to do in my 24th year. With my 25th birthday right around the corner, I figured it was time to evaluate and see how I did this year:

Fitness related:

1. Run a marathon
Done. I ran Philly in November.

2. Run each popular race distance (5k, 10k, half marathon, etc) one more time since it's my last year in the 20-24 age group.
I did OK here. I think I only missed the 10K.

3. Win an age group award. This requires finding a very small race.
Didn't happen.

4. Find and stick with some sort of strength training routine.
I was going strong with this all winter and then even in the spring, but fell over the wagon after that.

5. Break 2 hours in a half marathon.
Nope, but maybe next year.

6. Volunteer at a race.
I actually forget this was on the list. I spectated a race this year and volunteered to be my friend's cheerleader. That counts for something right?

7. Find a balance between having fun and sticking to a training plan.
This is something I'm still working on. Some weeks I'm really good at balancing everything out, others I struggle. But I have definitely seen improvement in this area.


8. Go to Bermuda and or the Bahamas
I was thisclose to going on a cruise to the Bahamas, but then Libya happened (the first time back in winter) and gas prices went sky-rocketing and the cost of the cruise doubled. So yea, it didn't happen.

9. Swim with dolphins
I was supposed to swim with dolphins in the Bahamas. I did however, see some dolphins super close to the shore when I was at the beach earlier this summer.

10. Spend at least one weekend at the beach completely unplugged to recharge my batteries.
I didn't go for a weekend, but I spent two weekdays at the beach relaxing. I didn't unplug though. I packed my laptop and did some work while I was there.

11. Visit a place I’ve never been before. A friend of mine one year made it his mission to see one new place each month for a year. I always thought that was a cool idea.
Done. I went to New Orleans in the winter for the first time ever.

Friends and Family:

12. Stay in touch with friends, who are all spread out now, whether that be through phone or email.
I did OK with this. I kept up with some friends, but not as well with others. Could still use some work in this area.

13. Spend more time with my family. That includes cousins locally and family back in PA.
Success! I spent a lot more time with my family this year than I have other years, especially my cousins who are local, and I'm really glad I have. I love spending time with my cousins. They are amazingly awesome people and we always have a good time together. Between weddings and birthday parties and other random dinners, it was a fun year!


14. Start saving to buy a house. Not that I’m anywhere close to ready to do this, but it will be good to have some money set aside.
I'm still no where near ready to buy a house, but I did start a savings account just for this purpose that I put a little bit of money into each month.

Self Improvement:

15. Read at least one book a month. (Ideally more)

16. Try meditation.
I did a lot of yoga in the winter, but no straight up meditation.

17. Go to more cultural events/festivals in my area. I live near DC and I never take advantage of it like I should.
I spent more time doing fun things in D.C., but still haven't really taken advantage of the various events and festivals.

18. Complete a cross word puzzle without having to Google any answers
Epic fail. I think I maybe attempted three crosswords the entire year.

19. Learn how to take better pictures. Maybe take a photography class.
My photo skills have improved, but they still aren't great. I'd still like to take a class at some point.

20. Find time to volunteer with organizations I care about.
The keyword there was finding time and I never did. I contacted people at Girls on the Run about being a coach, but just couldn't make it work with my schedule.

21. Unplug at least a half hour before I go to bed. Take that time to read or relax.
Yea this didn't happen. Most nights I come home from my day job and start working on blog projects and I'm plugged in until the moment my head hits the pillow.

22. Be more spontaneous and less "type-A everything must be planned days/weeks in advance". Learn to roll with it.
I'm still working on this. In some ways I've gotten better, but I still really like to plan and I haven't let go of that.

23. Break out of my comfort zone and try some new restaurants instead of always relying on the same few.
Thanks in part to the D.C. blogger dinners and my coworkers who love to try new places, I tried a ton of new restaurants this year and most of them were really good!

24. Do something that scares the pants off me. I’m not sure what this will be yet, but I'm always open to ideas.
I flew by myself twice this year, which is a pretty scary thing for me, but I don't think it quite falls into the category of "scares the pants off me." Need to work on this for next year.

Overall, I think I did OK with this list. There's still plenty of room for improvement and I'll be carrying some of these things over for next year. All I know is that if my 24th year was pretty good, my 25th year is going to be epic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mother Nature and I Are in a Fight

I've had it about up to here with Mother Nature this week!

Between yesterday's earthquake and Hurricane Irene threatening to ruin all my birthday plans this weekend, I'm one unhappy girl. 

The earthquake yesterday ended up being more of a pain in the butt than anything, but in D.C. you can never been too sure if a rumbling building is an earthquake or the after effects of the city being bombed. (I find this is even more true when you work for the government.)

So our building was evacuated, but thanks to Twitter, I was able to find out what was going on pretty quickly, so we could all stop worrying that something more serious was happening.

Cell phone service was jammed and no one could make calls or text messages, but I could send emails and tweets without a problem. Gotta love technology!

I can forgive Mother Nature for the earthquake, even though it was the second one in two years, it didn't cause any major problems other than making my commute home hell.

But this hurricane. That's a different story. 

This weekend the Terps soccer home opener happens to fall on my 25th birthday. I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than with my friends tailgating, playing cornhole and watching soccer.

We have been planning the tailgate/birthday party for a solid two months, and now it looks like the whole thing is going to get hurricaned out and for the first time ever in my life, I have no back up plan.

So I'm just a little bit frustrated with Mother Nature and the weather today. 

(And yes, I realize that complaining that the hurricane will ruin my birthday is kind of insensitive when other parts of the country will probably be dealing with major damages. If I had my way, I'd just make the stupid thing turn out to sea so no one had to deal with any problems.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

D.C. Blogger Network and Four Speedy Miles

One of my favorite sessions at the Healthy Living Summit over the weekend was all about learning how to use social media to meet other bloggers in your city.

D.C. is a big place and there are tons of bloggers here. We just weren't very organized when it came to planning meet ups.

DC Bloggers at HLS
Some D.C. Bloggers at HLS

After consulting with some of the other D.C. bloggers, I spent my entire day yesterday getting us organized.

I cleaned up our email list, built us a spreadsheet of contact information and created a Facebook group and Twitter list.

Planning events for D.C. bloggers just got a million times easier.

If you're a D.C.-area blogger and want to get involved, find more information about our monthly dinners and other meet ups and get involved!

After spending many hours sitting in Panera cranking on the D.C. blogger network stuff, I decided I needed to blow off some pent up energy and I headed out for a run.

I had no plans to go a certain pace or a certain distance. I just wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. The humidity broke in D.C. this week, making it feel almost like a cool fall evening when I set off last night.

In the end I ran 4.5 miles and averaged about 9 minutes per mile.

That little taste of speed and the cooler temperatures made me itch for fall running weather. I sort of remember when I could run fast, before the heat and humidity of summer set in and I'm really excited to get back to my quicker paces.

It's my first day back in the office after a nice long vacation, so I've got tons of email and other projects to plow through today.

Is it the weekend yet?

Monday, August 22, 2011

HLS 2011: Blog Friends Are Awesome

Friendship was definitely the theme of the Healthy Living Summit this year:

Reconnecting with old friends.

Erin and Jess
Erin and I went to UMD together and were HLS roomies! 

Meeting new friends.

Meghann and Jess
Me and Meghann hydrating with water for our long run.

DC Bloggers at HLS
D.C. bloggers representing at HLS 

And forging friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime, even though we don't live in the same city.

HLS cocktail party
Orlando, Charlotte and D.C. bloggers (Ben, Caitlin, Kelly, me, Erin and Allison)

One of the things I truly love about the blogging community is our ability to form lasting bonds that we sustain through our blogs, through Twitter and through once-a-year conferences like HLS, Fitbloggin' etc. These conferences are what a high school reunion is like if you actually liked the people you graduated with and really wanted to see them again.

So needless to say, my favorite part of the conference wasn't the sessions, though I did attend some fabulous ones and all the speakers were awesome.

What I loved most was the cocktail party, where we had the chance to be completely ridiculous in the photo booth.

Photo booth pictures
Thanks Megan for this pic!

And being convinced to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to go for a long run Saturday morning.

Thanks for the pic Meghann 

And staying out until 2:30 Saturday night/Sunday morning dancing and laughing and having a blast with friends.

(No actual dancing pictures will be shared. They are just too embarrassing.)

Being back home is a little bit bittersweet. I'm happy to be sleeping in my own bed, recovering from the cold I picked up in Philly (I can sort of breath out my nose again!), but I already miss my amazing friends that aren't local.

For those bloggers that are local, get ready for some fun times in the coming months. We have a lot of amazing things planned and I'll be spending a huge part of my day today organizing stuff for future D.C. blogger events. If you didn't catch me at HLS and ask to be added to our email list, leave me a comment or shoot me an email and I'll add you.

And with that I am off. Thank goodness I'm not in the office today, I have so much blog work to do!

Happy Monday y'all!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hi to All My New HLS Friends

To my regular readers: I'm on the way to another conference (my last one for a while, I promise!). Feel free to skip this "Meet Jess" post. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging next week!

To all my new friends who are stopping by because you met me at the Healthy Living Summit, welcome!

Let me take a moment to introduce myself.

I'm Jess.


I love to run and I love to write about all things health and fitness related.

I live in Maryland and work in Washington D.C., an area that makes for some great running.

Yoga at Lincoln
Where else can you take a yoga break on a monument?

On the Mall

In my day job, I work for managing our blog and working on social media.

When I'm not working, I love to train for races. The half marathon is my favorite. I've run 10 of them and I've also run two full marathons.

Philly marathon
Mmm nothing like a Philly pretzel after the Philly Marathon!

Other fun facts about me:
  • I'm a pretty middle of the pack runner. I dream of being able to run wicked fast like my friends.
  • I'm a huge sports fan and still get back to the University of Maryland fairly often to watch my Terps play football and soccer.
  • I'm originally from PA, not far from Philly, so HLS feelings like coming home. 
  • I recently started playing rec league softball and I'll be starting flag football in the fall. (Who says team sports are just for kids?)
  • I love to eat (especially fro-yo and anything Mexican)

I'm a big believer in everything in moderation, whether that's working out, eating, or having fun. Work hard, play hard and get enough sleep to balance it all out.

If you like the sound of all that, I'd love to stay connected:
If it's your first time stopping by, leave me a comment so I can say hi!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Balancing Marathon Training and Tailgate Season

As you all know, I love me a good tailgate and with football season only a few weeks away, it's time to start figuring out how I'm going to balance half marathon training and tailgating.

Cornhole board

Spending six hours every Saturday at a tailgate and following that up with a football game leaves precious little time for the all-important weekend long run.

But after five years of balancing tailgate season with fall race season, I've got it down to a bit of a science. Today I'm sharing my tips on how to balance marathon training with tailgate season over on Ashley's blog.

Make sure you stop by and check it out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adding New Books to My Library

I love a good book, and my inner nerd always come out when I spend time in a bookstore.

This weekend I stopped into Borders to see if I could snag any good deals as part of their going-out-of-business sale.

I made a bee-line to the business section to see what I could find. I usually get most of my fiction books from the library, but I love owning business books for my personal library.

My bookshelf is currently packed with books on productivity, social media, marketing, etc.

Yes, there's also some running books on there too.

I cut myself off at three books from Borders, but I'm happy with what I ended up with.

Books from borders

  • Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel: I've wanted to read this book for a long time and it was 50 percent off. I cannot wait to start reading this.
  • New Girl on the Job by Hannah Seligson: I know I'm a little bit beyond being the "new girl" on the job, but I still feel like there's a lot I could learn from this book. 
  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: The one fiction book I picked up.

Other than fiction, business books are my favorite kind of reading. I always read them with a notebook and a pen close by so I can jot down the millions of ideas the books bring to mind.

I can't wait to see what little nuggets of inspiration these books impart. Now I just need to make the time to sit down and actually read them.

What's your favorite book genre? Have you picked up any good reads lately?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Introducing Yourself to Another Runner

The other day I was about a mile from home on my run when another runner turned the corner and started running the same route as me.

Being the competitive person I am, I decided I would use this guy as my motivation to kick it into high gear for the last mile and finish my run strong.

He was moving at a good clip, but I was slowly able to reign him in thanks in part to some nice downhills and a few traffic lights that worked in my favor.

At one light, we did that awkward half smile runners do to acknowledge each other, and then I took off when the light turned green.

We eventually fell into the same pace and were running side by side not talking to each other. I had my headphones in, but it got to a point where I couldn't really take the awkwardness of running right next to a stranger without at least saying hi.

So, I pulled out my headphones, extended my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Jess."

The other runner smiled, introduced himself and we realized we were finishing our runs at pretty much the same spot.

We stopped to chat about running and racing and decided it'd be fun to go running together sometime. And just like that, I'd made a new running friend who can help me push my pace a little bit.

So my question is this:

What's the proper etiquette for introducing yourself to another runner?
  • Should you wait until you're at a stop light? (I didn't)
  • Should you wait until the end of a run? (What if you one of changes paths?)
  • Should you just throw your hand out there and say, "Hi" and hope for the best?
  • Am I the only person crazy enough to even be thinking about this?
Have you ever introduced yourself to another runner while running?

(And don't worry Mom, I promise if/when I go running with this guy, I will bring my pepper spray and cell phone and let about five million people know where I'm going and the route we plan to run in case he ends up being a creeper.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

What I Listen To When Running

It's been ages since I've done a playlist post. To me, summer pretty much equals country music so needless to say, my country playlists have been getting a lot of love lately.

Here's a playlist my college roommate put together for me that I've been loving for running:

Song Title Artist
Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not Thompson Square
You Lie The Band Perry
Dirt Road Anthem Jason Aldean
Amen Eden's Edge
Postcards from Paris The Band Perry
Country Girl Luke Bryan
Everything is Fine Josh Turner
Little Miss Sugarland
Honey Bee Blake Shelton
Barefoot Blue Jean Night Jake Owen
One More Drinking Song Jerrod Niemann
Why Wait For Summer Walker Hayes
Every Girl Like Me Sugarland
A Buncha Girls Frankie Ballard
Remind Me Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood
Maybe It Was Memphis Pam Tillis
Drink a Little Drink Eric Church
Let It Rain David Nail
Still Comin' Down Christian Kane
Homeboy Eric Church

What have you been listening to lately on your runs?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fit Approach Bootcamp

When I was at BlogHer I took one of the best bootcamp classes I've ever taken. I have never laughed and smiled so much while seriously getting my butt kicked.

Jamie, a co-founder of Fit Approach, taught the class. Jamie and her cousin Alyse launched Fit Approach back in June. Aside from teaching fun and intense bootcamp classes, they developed an online community to support people's health and fitness goals.


Jamie is one of the cutest, bubbliest people I have ever met, but boy did she know how to kick my butt.


When I got to the park early Saturday morning, the Fit Approach team was busy laying out weights, medicine balls and resistance bands.

The class started off with an easy warm up jog around the basketball courts and for the remainder of the hour it was a straight butt kicking.

Jaime had us moving from station to station mixing cardio and strength exercises.

We did squats and bicep curls with these hand weights. Because they're ball shaped they are harder to grip and make the exercise much more challenging.



We also did push ups and lunges,


burpes and the way more challenging partner burpes where instead of just jumping straight in the air, you jumped over your partner,


and inch worms.

To do an inch worm, you bend over and touch your toes.


Then walk your hands out until your in a plank and do a push up.


Then walk your feet back into your hands and repeat. It may sound easy, but it's actually super intense.

Oh and planks. Lots and lots of planks.


By the end of the class I was wiped out.


This was my first time ever taking an outdoor bootcamp class, and I really loved it. Being outside was fun, and the atmosphere reminded me more of recess than of a workout.

Jamie and Alyse kept the class lively and fun and almost made me forget how much pain I was in. I only wish I could fly them out to the East Coast so they could kick my butt on a more regular basis.

After the class, I got to spend some time hanging out with both Alyse and Jamie and I can't say enough good things about these ladies. They are sweet down to earth people and the more I learned about their Fit Approach the more I wanted to see them succeed. If you're in the Bay area, I highly encourage you to take a class with Fit Approach, and if not, definitely check out their blog and get to know them a little bit better.

And a huge thank you to Ellis Au of Signal Element Productions for the fantastic pictures in this post.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Interview with the White House Executive Chef

One thing I love about the Obamas is they walk the talk.

At least when it comes to food and the problem this country has with childhood obesity.

Michelle Obama's biggest health initiative, the Let's Move campaign, teaches kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and to be active every day. And the First Family follows the Let's Move model by planning their meals each week around what's growing fresh in the garden.

How do I know so much about the Obamas' eating habits? 

Well because yesterday I interviewed the White House Executive chef and she told me so.
Cris Comerford White House Executive Chef

My coworkers and I were shooting the most recent episode in our Career Spotlight Series and we got to take a trip to the White House and see the kitchen where the food magic happens.

Me, Coqui and Emily waiting to head to the kitchen. Yes my job rocks! 

Executive Chef Cris Comerford was one of my favorite interviews to date. She was smooth on camera, spoke clearly and told some really great stories about how she came to be a chef.

We chatted about how meal planning works in the White House (menus for state dinners are planned months in advance!) and what is currently sprouting in the First Lady's garden. (Lots of peppers and eggplants).

Veggies from the garden

Some things I thought were most interesting: 
  • The First Family is dedicated to eating local. They grow lots of their food and what they can't grow they try to get from local farmers. 
  • The First Lady manages to grow some food even in the winter, mostly spinach and kale. 
  • Bo, the First Dog, doesn't get to eat the leftovers. 
Gratuitous picture of Bo (photo from the White House)

I can't give away all the secrets, but I promise to share the video once it's finished.

If you could ask the First Family's chef one question, what would it be?

All photos in this post are courtesy of my coworker Arlene.

Monday, August 08, 2011

BlogHer in Pictures

I can't believe BlogHer has come and gone already. I've spent the bulk of the summer looking forward  to San Diego for this conference and I feel like I blinked and all of a sudden it's over. The only thing reminding me that yesterday I was on the West Coast is the serious case of jet lag I'm battling right now.

Here's just a glimpse at some of the awesome things I got to do at the conference.

Ran the BlogHer 5K with some of my favorite bloggers: BlogHer 5K
Me, Jenn and Shannon

Me and Roni, the fabulous Fitbloggin' founder

BlogHer 5K
Thanks to Kath and Lori for pushing me so hard. I managed to run some awesome negative splits (8:41 | 8:34 | 8:21)

Went to two swanky networking parties at the Hard Rock Hotel:
Hard Rock Hotel

Took a bootcamp class that kicked my butt. I'm still so sore.

Did yoga on the water.

Explored the Gaslamp Quarter and ate some delicious Mexican food.
Gaslamp up close

Ate Smores!
Eating smores
(Thanks Hershey!)

Hung out with my friends from Sesame Street.
Seasame Street

And these random construction workers at the Kudos booth.
Kudos workers

Seriously so many of the exhibitors hired male models just to stand in the booth and look nice. I guess that'll happen at an all women's conference. But truthfully I was so intimidated by the beautifulness of the models in the Pepsico booth, I didn't even stop by. True life, I'm awkward.

Met and chatted with Bob Harper.
Me and Bob
(He is awesome and gave me some good marathon training tips)

Drank a massive margarita courtesy of Ricki Lake.

Explored the aircraft carriers and military monuments along the waterfront.

Aircraft carriers
Cool sculpture
This sculpture was my favorite!

Oh yes, and learned a ton. (I mean that was the whole reason I was there.)

It was a whirlwind weekend and I had a wonderful time. This conference is seriously one of the best out there and I hope to attend again next year when it's back in NYC.

For now I'm off to battle jet lag, and get ready for a video interview we are doing this afternoon with White House chef Cristeta Comerford. I've never been inside the White House, needless to say, I'm pretty excited. Did I mention, I love my job? 

Happy Monday y'all!