The Christmas Challenge
I have to confess that I find the Christmas season slightly stressful. My beloved "routine" is thrown to the winds for the entire month of December and I won’t find peace again until after the New Year. You have to survivethrough festive luncheons and holiday dinners. I have to plan out my family’s travel plans, moving everybody from north to south and back again. On odd years a transatlantic trip is involved. Any one of these things would upset anybody’s everyday life. I personally feel calmer and happy when my days are all planned. From the time the alarm rings in the morning, to meal planning, and of course my own training program. I like having a program to follow. It gives me peace of mind knowing that despite the holidays, something remains consistent. That is, if you keep it consistent. With Jingle Bells being playing on air several times a day it’s important to do two things to keep your sanity: keep your nutrition under control and move consistently.


I know that during the holidays a lot of people like to let themselves loose during meals, which in my opinion can be a good thing to do every once in awhile. It only becomes a problem when one dinner becomes two or even three and then four. Everybody knows by now that weight put on at Christmas won’t be lost until April. The key here is to celebrate on Christmas and again New Year's Eve. On those six days in between you should be eating like the normal active athlete that you are. You don’t really need Christmas cake for breakfast the entire week. Trust me.


For the holidaysactivate the “bare minimum" program. From December 24th to January 1st run or walk at least forty minutes every day. Do it first thing in the morning, that way when the out of town relatives show up for a surprise visit you won’t go into a panic because your training program gets messed up. Forty minutes can be too little for some or too much for others, the important thing is to do it every day. Mix it up! One day run an easy road, the next day run (or walk) thirty minutes and finish up with a series of strides. Another day you can add jumps, squats or hills. If done consistently you come out at the other end of the holidays fitter than before!
Julia Jones: Back To Base
You did it! Twenty-six miles in one go, all the way from Stra to the finish line at Riva Sette Martiri in Venice. A unique experience, one that you’ll never forget. Upon returning home I hope you gave yourself a week of rest, not the active kind but the real deal. A week where you slept until late in the morning without having to get up at dawn for your workout. Evenings out in the company of friends tell them all about your marathon experience in Venice. Finally, you could sip an alcoholic beverage without worry about spoiling your race preparation. And now? After a week of vacation and relaxation what do you do? You return to the base.

These days it seems to be popular to jump from one marathon to the next without leaving yourself any down time. But I'm old school and I like to rebuild a path that can last several months in order to get to the next goal. In the first month I suggest you go back to some activities that you may have neglected due to your high mileage load.

Stretching and muscle elongation - Choose a yoga course for runners, now offered at many Yoga centers. Or opt for a Pilates course where they’ll be focused on postural movement while still maintaining muscular elongation. Simple stretching exercises on your living room carpet can also work well. How many of you don’t know at least three? The important thing is to be consistent in doing them every week.

Total Body Exercises - A lot of athletes enrol in a Cross Fit course because they think they’ll get faster results. Personally I would not disdain a "simple" Total Body course with an instructor. I put the wordsimple in quotation marks because it's really not so simple. First try it at home with a circuit os squats, lunges, arm flexions and planks. Write me a note the next day and tell me how those muscles are feeling!

Give yourself a road test - Before you begin training for your next race take a road test and measure yourself. Any short distance from one kilometre to five is fine, just remember that it has to be run at your maximum speed. It might hurt a little! After several months of specific training you can test yourself again, knowing exactly where you started from.

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Julia Jones: Memorable Marathon Workouts
With only two more weeks until you’ll be running Huawei Venicemarathon now is just about the time when you start to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Fourteen more days of being careful with what you eat, going to bed early, getting up at the crack of dawn to squeeze your workout in before starting your day. Most runners start their taper at the third or second to last week before the race, right after finishing their last long run.

To start a long run runners get out maps, GPS devices and spray paint to mark out their double digit mile route. Water, fruit and gels are set out to be consumed what they already foresee as hours of a long, slow run.

But if I were your coach I wouldn’t have you running long, slow mileage. I’d write up a plan you’d be on your feet for about two and a half hours. I’d mix up times and distances for variety. The monotony of junk miles would be exchanged for a quality workout. But wait, you might still be in time to give these workouts a try. Here’s two sample workouts, just choose one of them for your weekend run. They can be done by any level of runner since they’re based on perceived effort and speed. “Marathon pace” is a speed you should already know and practice on this last long run.

I would also recommend using any nutrition you plan to use in your marathon along with the shoes and gear you’ll be wearing. Just remember it’s a practice run and have fun with it!

- 1:30:00 easy paced run + 5 x (1km marathon pace/1km ten seconds faster than marathon pace) - begin this workout by running for an hour and a half at an easy pace. Finish the workout with 10 kilometres, alternating between one kilometre at your marathon pace and next kilometre running ten seconds faster.

- 40:00 easy paced warm up run + 4 x 5km at medium pace, rec. 4:00 + 10 x 100mt strides - Warm up with an easy 40 minute run. Move on to these long 5km intervals that you’ll run at medium pace. Recover for 4 minutes between each interval. Finish the workout with ten 100 metre strides.
Julia Jones: Training Your Brain (for Marathon Running)
There are many bridges in Venice, they have been counted and there are 438 bridges all over the city, but on some occasions we can add another one: HUAWEI Venicemarathon is one of them!

As we mentioned in the previous articleby Stories by Run, the organization will set up a temporary bridge to connect Punta della Dogana to St. Mark's Square across the Grand Canal. The bridge is made up by floating piers that cover the 170 meters to cross the San Marco basin.

This temporary bridge built for HUAWEI Venicemarathon is not the only one: in fact in the past it was built every year also for the Redentore festival.

From 1575 to 1577, the plague struck down the Serenissima and it caused about 50,000 victims, one-third of the population. The Senate of the Serenissima decreed, on 4 September 1576, that the Doge should have built a church dedicated to the Redentore to obtain mercy for the plague and promised to honor the basilica every year on the day in which the epidemic would have been defeated.

On 13 July 1577 the plague ended and it was decided to celebrate the liberation from it every third Sunday of July with a religious and popular celebration. From the first huge and spectacular votive bridge, set up through 80 Venetian ships, it changed over the years and it was decided to use cheaper and more practical rafts.

From the 1950s the votive bridge was assembled by the Italian military genius using an English Bailey bridge abandoned by the allies at the end of the Second World War. In 2002 it was replaced by a more modern floating bridge.

From the beginning of the sixteenth century, a second floating bridge was set up for Redentore’s Day to cross the Grand Canal near the boat stop of Santa Maria del Giglio: today this votive bridge is built only on the occasion of the Festa della Madonna della Salute – 21 November  - to allow to the faithful to reach the basilica. Also this celebration was instituted by the Serenissima to pray and thank the Virgin Mother of God to protect Venice from the terrible plague of the seventeenth century.

Just a curiosity: the bridge built in each of the three occasions is nowadays the same one, therefore it means that the parts used to built them are the same for Redentore, Festa della Salute and HUAWEI Venicemarathon.
Julia Jones: A Marathoner’s Rest
Only four weeks until Venicemarathon! In preparing for your race you should be at your peak mileage in the next twenty days. The immune system, that set of mechanisms that works to defend your body from viruses and bacteria, will be put to the test. Not only because your body is stressed with longer runs, but especially because at this time of year we’re going through another season change.  One day it's hot, the next day it’s cold and our bodies don’t always adapt so well.
A decrease in mileage during the tapering weeks should help you recover faster,  but it’s not always enough. That’s why many marathoners become ill with fevers, flus and pulmonary influenceswithin a few weeks of the race. I have three simple tips to strengthen your immune system and get you to the starting line still in one piece. It’s all about sleep and rest.
- Go to bed early once a week. I usually choose Wednesday for this task. Have a light early dinner, even a half hour before your usual time would be good. No after dinner television or any other screens. Get in bed and under the covers by 9:00 p.m. with a book. Not before long you should feel your eyelids becoming heavy, the signal to shut off the light. The quality of your sleep is better when going to bed early and sleeping at least eight hours rather than sleeping in during the morning. Give it a try!
- Take an afternoon nap. The idea is not to spend hours on the couch screwing up your natural biorhythm but rather just getting in a quick nap. If you practice it enough times you’ll be able to get yourself into REM in only twenty minutes. Here’s the method:
- Set a timer for the desired nap time (20 minutes is ideal, no longer than 30).
-    Lie on your back and place an arm over your eyes shut out any light.
-    Relax.
If practiced every day you will be more able to rest completely in those twenty minutes. Afterwards feel awake and ready to do your afternoon workout with more energy.
- Don’t be afraid to take a full day of rest. If you feel a scratchy throat or a cold coming on it’s better to stop and rest than force yourself to be active. It's always better to skip some workouts and get to race day healthy rather than completing every single workout but show up on race day sick or injured.
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Julia Jones: Crazy Autumn changes
The other day I had to take a break from running for a few days. No more intervals or long runs, just swimming and napping to recuperate. My body was giving me clear signs that things were not going well and that I was pushing the whole living-like-a-pro-athlete-but-you’re-not deal a little too far.
Then voilà , the next day it was … cooler. Not cold, not colder, just cooler. Probably not too much of a difference in temperatures during the day but first thing in the morning I ran at 7:00 a.m. instead of having to get up at 5:30 a.m. Last night I even had to put a light cotton sweater on to eat outdoors. It was a completely different environment and with the promise that summer was coming to a close very, very soon.
It used to be that the planet had distinct, predictable seasons in each hemisphere. It also used to be that middle and long distance runners had a “race” season. One in the spring and the other in the mid to late fall. In 2017 that is no longer the case and the lines that used to separate summer from fall, race season to training season, have started to blur.
I love summer but as a runner I love autumn and winter even more. The running is easier and faster and smoother. So as summer comes to a close I anxiously look at the fourteen day weather report to watch for that day when the temperatures drop and I can training during lunch hour again. Thank goodness Venicemarathon will always be organised well into fall, the fourth Sunday in October this year!
If you haven’t yet signed for the Venicemarathon there is still time to train, with cooler temps yet!
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Julia Jones: The elephant in the room called “Injury”
You might not have noticed that these weekly articles are written in both Italian and English, my mother tongue. I write them both because I like the translation to be done in a certain style. I start each article with an idea and then the topic leads me to decide if I'm more inspired in one language or the another. Today I started out in english and I asked my husband if there was an Italian equivalent to  "TheElephant in theRoom". There isn’t, so I had to explain in the Italian article thatan elephant in the room is an anglo saxon metaphor for an obvious problem that no one wants to face. In our case the elephant in the room is running injuries.
If you run, sooner or later, you'll get injured. I know, written like that it sounds brutal, but it's the simple truth. The mechanical stress of running is traumatic by definition. That's why it's important to increase your weekly mileage gradually, include compensatory exercises and learn a better running technique in order to move as smoothly as possible. During marathon preparation I see more injuries when an athlete starts to increase their mileage during a single workout. For anybody preparing for the Venicemarathon in October that moment should come just about…now!
There’s not enough space here to talk about the long list of possible running injuries but I can give you the top three suggestions that come to mind in order to avoid them.
-    Learn to distinguish between  real pain and  simple fatigue. A certain type of muscle fatigue is useful for your training. You’ll recognised it because it’s bilateral (on both right and left sides), constant (not increasing), and absorbs with time (disappears after 2/5 days). Any pain outside of this description should be examined more closely.
-    No running doesn’t mean no movement. If you need to take a break from running for any significant amount of time you need to find an activity that’ll keep you moving and conditioned while you heal. Make sure it’s a sport  that won’t aggravate your injury. Swimming is generally good for everyone. Give cycling a try and if knees and back feel fine…start training hard!  If you’reconsistent with your cross training once you return to running you might even run stronger and faster.
-    If pain persists or worsens  seek a specialist immediately. I’m not joking around here. Sometimes an injury will inexplicably appear, stay for few weeks and disappears in the same way. But if it continues, even modifying your race style, you’ll risk making it worse or even with permanent damage. Seek out a physiotherapist or an osteopath. In the latter case, you can find them in the official Register of Osteopaths.In Italy you can find them at
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Julia Jones: Running & Vacation
Last night I went running at 8:00 p.m. I had ten kilometres on my training schedule but I knew that I was taking a risk at that time of night. On the coastal road  I would join the droves of seasonal runners (summer version) who fought for a piece of road to run on. They’d be alongside the vacationers who just finished a day of sunbathing on the beach  and were trying to cross the road with towering carts packed with umbrellas, ice chests and beach towels. Everyone was was trying to  slalom between the speeding cars that would not slow down.  I didn’t calculate the sunset time correctly and the last mile was run in pitch black dark. Not exactly the training I had in mind.
So I decided to try again earlier the next day, at 6:30 a.m. It went a little better because there was less traffic and all the beach goers were still snoozing away in bed.  There were definitely more runners and this made me happy. Nothing like company in the early morning hours!  But I know that it was still too “late” and I needed to get up even earlier to avoid the heat that hits at 8:00 a.m.
This week a lot of the athletes that I personally train are going on vacation and giving me instructions on what they can and can’t do while away.  It could be an interesting social or psychological study to compare the various reactions each person has to facing new or changing environments. In identical situations everyone reacts differently. Whether the destination is an island or a mountain top, there are those who see their vacation in positive light (“I’ll be vacation in the mountains, give me some hill training!”)  and those who see only obstacles (“I’ll be vacation in the mountains, don’t make my workouts too hard!” ). Some are afraid to disturb the family (“I can’t run on vacation!”) And others try, like me, to run at dawn or sunset while everybody else is in bed.
Running should not become another stress to our lives and if it does it needs to be reprogrammed! But if October 22 you’ll be with us at Venicemarathon, a two-week break could be fatal to your marathon preparation. Here’s some tips on how to handle your vacation, running included.
- Unless you are racing at the IAAF World Athletics World Championships in London in the coming weeks you don’t need to follow your training plan exactly as it’s written while on vacation. A “more or less” attitude is fine for a few weeks. Add up the minutes or miles you need to run that day and then just go out  and do your best. The important thing to be consistent in the number of workouts (three to four per week, generally).
-    Replace a run with another aerobic sport. Yes to swimming in the ocean and sea or hiking (at a fast pace!) In the mountains. If you’re a city tourist and plan to spend the day at museums get a an hour earlier and go for a run before breakfast.
- You could skip an entire week of workouts without doing any damage, especially if that time is occupied by hours of rest. If one week becomes two remember to run a minimum of three days per week, knowing that when you get back home you’ll go back to your training schedule, supposedly well rested!
PS: only eleven more weeks until Venicemarathon. You’re all signed up, right?
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Julia Jones: Using races to prepare your Venicemarathon
As I write this, there are only twelve weeks until October 22nd, the day you’ve hopefully penciled in on your calendar to remind you that you’ll be running Venicemarathon. Twelve weeks can be seem like few or many, depending on where you are with your preparation. If you want to see it from another point of view: if you train four times a week there are still forty-seven workouts to complete. Does that feel like to few or just enough? From my point of view you still have the month of August to lay down a solid foundation and then start with a long block of marathon refinement in September. During those months you’ll probably want to sign up for a few preparatory races before the big marathon day.
On the fall calendar you’ll find a few longer distance races planned specifically for those that are participating in marathons in Italy or abroad. My recommendation is to focus on the distance of the half marathon and any event around ten kilometres.
Racing these two distances combines usefulness with fun; racing will train you and at the same time the result will give you an indication of what kind of time you should expect for your marathon. For the half marathon I would race somewhere around mid September and then another half at the beginning of October. The important word to remember here is, "race". You have to run at a good pace (relatively speaking). If you have in mind a specific time for your marathon here are some examples of times to target at your half.
Venicemarathon in 4h30'00 = half marathon in 2h07'00 "
Venicemarathon in 4h00'00 "= half marathon in 1h52'00"
Venicemarathon in 3h30'00 "= half marathon in 1h37'00"
You can race a 10k race at any time and use them as a tool to give your speed a bit of a kick. One important thing to remember: your main race is Venicemarathon. Other races are important steps toward that goal but not a point of arrival or your main goal. Get a temporary tattoo with that to remember it!
Julia Jones: On Stretching ...
Last week Lorenzo Possanzini interviewed me for Agoradio in Italy on preparing an athlete for Venicemarathon. He asked me a curious question about the practice of stretching. Here’s the question:
Stretching is a nightmare for a lot fo runners but at the same time essential for preventing injuries. How should it be done and when?
The first thing I noticed was the word "nightmare". Stretching after a workout is actually thought to be a relaxing moment by many athletes after miles of hard running. My intuition told me that Lorenzo was probably referring to himself , and I was right. My first response was to say that if it really felt like a nightmare he probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. Any done in a haphazard way with no real conviction is surely going to be done incorrectly and cause more damage than good. But then our reporter went on to mention that he was stretching for long before a workout and again after. That’s when I thought maybe I needed to clarify some points on stretching for Lorenzo.
The aim of stretching for an athlete is not to be able to do the splits like a ballerina but instead to maintain an optimum range of movement in order to keep your running action fluid. The three points to focus on are your calves, quadriceps and back because they all play an important role running. When after miles of workouts you’re slightly contracted, muscle elasticity diminishes and a risk of injury increases. As in all most everything it’s just a question of balance and following guidelines.
- Stretching should be done after your warm up or at the end of the workout when muscles are warmed up and pliable. Never, ever before!
- Each stretching exercise needs to be done on the right and left side of your body.
- Stretching is a gentle exercise so there is no force. Put in just a small amount of tension but without ever feeling pain.
- The positions should be held for a few seconds without bouncing up and down or back and forth.
- Breathing exercises are an integral part of stretching. Be careful not to hold your breath!
If you want an easy solution, sign up for a yoga or pilates course. You’ll get a lot of benefits on just an hour of lessons per week. Namasté!
Julia Jones: Eat to Train
Have you started your specific training for Venicemarathon? If by chance you haven’t you’re still in time since it’s fourteen weeks away. After asking me numerous questions about how to train for a marathon I always know that the nutrition questions are soon to follow. Rather than preaching from a pulpit on the virtues noble proteins or how many carbohydrates grams to consume, let’s have a look at the four most common questions I’m asked about training and energy.
- How much pasta should I be eating? This is of course asked in Italy. In your home country it may apply to rice, bread or yes, even pasta. You need to include carbohydrate in your diet but you can get them from many sources. Whole grain rice (even red or black), buckwheat, quinoa, beans or legumes can easily substitute pasta. About quan-tity: a normal portion that satisfies your hunger is enough. Balance out your meal with a portion of protein and one of vegetables (or fruit) and you’ll be good to go.
- Morning workouts: breakfast before or after? This depends on how your body works. Some of you may be blessed with a metabolism already programmed to take any nee-ded fuel from your fat reserves and are ready to go first thing in the morning. Others may be battling low blood pressure in the early morning hours and need extra time before they feel normal. If you belong to the first group, lucky you! If instead you have problems running and performing on an empty stomach, try eating half (or a whole) banana and sip on some tea sweetened with honey before you head out the door. After your workout you can then eat a normal breakfast, a mini reward for your efforts.
- Should I have something to eat during my workout? Up to an hour and forty minu-tes I don’t think it’s necessary to eat or drink anything besides water while you run. You might even be able to make up until two hours. But (and there’s always a but!) if your workout is particularly intense (with intervals or a particularly difficult terrain) or goes past the second hour, eat or use whatever you think you will be using in your marathon race. Fruit, whatever you think you’ll find at the refreshment stations or what you plan on bringing with you. That way you’re killing two birds with one stone by testing your race nutrition at the same time.
- How much should I drink? Once upon a time the experts would advise to drink “x” amount of liquids a day or during a marathon race. But then cases of hyponatremia started occurring more frequently and they had to rethink their research. A good habit is to start your day off with a glass of water first thing in the morning and then continue drinking throughout the day according to thirst. Remember that fresh fruit (and vegeta-bles) should also be included in your hydration regime. The word watermelon is not a fluke!
Julia Jones: Not just running
When following a marathon program most runners put all their concentrated effort on the workouts, adding in muscle strengthening sessions at the gym, stretching when they think about it. If they’re dedicated athletes they’ll throw in a nutrition program too.

But there are two additional training components that I think are fundamental for all  runners, especially marathoners. The first is sleep (and rest) and the second is meditation. I know, it seems too easy. Who has time for that when there are only twenty-four hours in the day? I’ve been running for almost thirty years now and can tell you that adding more rest to your routine will boost your running experience and performance by at least twenty percent. Meditation instead will give you a tool to work with while you run and race.

Sleep and rest
When you rest and sleep your energy consumption lowers, putting both your brain and body to rest. That extra energy along with nocturnal growth hormone production work on repairing damaged muscles and bones.

But sleeping more means going to bed earlier and that’s where the difficulty comes in. If you happen to be a night owl  the summer evenings are even more enjoyable with cooler temps and evening drinks. But the nights you’re able get eight or more hours of sleep will change the quality of your workout the next day. Plus, one of the best times to run is in the early morning hours.

- Clean your room and change the sheets. Nothing will make you feel better than having beautiful surroundings.

-    Go to bed without your smartphone. Really. Stop it. If you need an alarm clock for the morning, buy a real alarm clock.

-    Choose a book, get comfortable and read until you start to feel sleepy.

-    Turn off the lights and nighty night.

The next day you’ll have a quality workout, If you do this three nights in a row you will be magically transformed.

The meditation I’m talking about doesn’t require learning a mantra or attending a special course. You can start with five minutes a day and still get plenty of benefits. In meditation you try and get a clean slate for your mind while you concentrate on something specific, your breathing pattern or a simple body scan. Learning to do this while sitting still will prepare you to do the same as you run. You’ll be needing this skill when you start doing repeats or on any of your longer runs.

-    Find a comfortable place to sit, a chair or a bed is fine. No, you don’t need to get into a full lotus position!

-    Set a timer for the amount of time you want to do the exercise. Five minutes is a good starting point.

-    Take a few deep breathes and then close your eyes.

-    Breath normally but as you do pay attention to the rhythm of your own breathing pattern. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breathing when you notice that happening.

You can then try the same when you go out for your next run, but keep your eyes open!
Julia Jones: Looking for cooler places to run
For someone who loves running so much, I chose one of the worst places in Italy to live in. From October until April the running is fine. We have a “normal” winter, sometimes with snow, justifying a separate running wardrobe for when the thermometer drops below freezing. There’s plenty of running space with a variety of trails. For a change of landscape there are nearby hills to strengthen muscles and an increased heart beat . The big problem is right now, in the middle of the summer, which in the twenty-first century seems to last several weeks more each year. It starts out with a heat wave in May and from week to week with control the weather forecasts to figure out when there will be a couple of hours of rain relief.
A few week ago I wrote about how to cope with running in the summer heat. But sometimes you need to really just pick yourself up and go someplace else to get a breath of fresh air for both your body and soul. Elite runners move to mountain resorts. Our pro runner Eyob goes to Livigno in the Italian alps to enjoy cooler training temperature while he prepares for a fall marathon.
If like me you live in a place where the humidity is so high it feels like you’re swimming rather than running you have two options:
- Look for some woods or a pine forest near your home. I live in the flatlands in Italy but I’ve discovered a charming woods next to a creek with an adjacent running trail only ten miles away from my house. I can’t go every day but if I get myself out of bed earlier on a Sunday morning it’s totally doable.
- Sign up for a mountain race like the Primiero Dolomiti Marathon. Once upon a time there were only road races and most of them were suspended during the summer so that runners wouldn’t melt on the sidewalks. Today trail races are back in vogue, held on mountains and in forests. Most of the events offer short and long distances, a little of something for everyone. At PDM you’ll find everything from the 6,5km mini trail run all the way to the marathon. If you act fast you’re still in time to sign up for the race and enjoy a refreshing weekend running.
Julia Jones: Marathon preparation starts here
If you’ve been clicking on our Venicemarathon website page and mulling it around in your mind for the past few months whether to sign up or not, now is the time to make that decision. It’s an important decision, not for the event in itself as much as the time and energy that you’ll be putting into preparing yourself to run forty-two kilometres.
You’ll need approximately four months, four days per week with fifty to sixty kilometres of weekly mileage volume. It takes time, it takes energy and it takes commitment. Of those three the commitment is the most important element. If you have your energy on that marathon goal, nothing can stop you. Remember that the commitment is usually not only yours but your family’s too. They’ll have to accomodate and support your new running schedule and the many quirks that will pop up in your new runner’s persona.
For any of you that are on the edge about making this decision let me reiterate my thoughts on running a marathon. I believe that in order to train for a marathon you should be able to run a half marathon in under 2 hours 20 minutes.
If you’re not hitting these times it usually comes down to one (or a combination) of the following reasons. You need to...
... improve your anaerobic values (more training)
... improve your body composition (less body fat, more muscle)
... improve your running mechanics (running style)
I know a lot of runners may not agree with me, after all, the Venicemarathon maximum time is a full six hours. I’m not saying that you can’t run the marathon. I just want to make sure you’re not out there training for too many hours and setting yourself up for injury or disappointment.
In the end, it’s what your gut instinct tells you. If you’ve caught “marathonitis” and all you can think about is running gear, negative splits and those last miles through Piazza San Marco, you know deep down exactly what you want to why not just do it? Here’s the link to sign up ;-)
If you’re looking for a 16 week training plan I have it for you right here. My First Marathon and has been used successfully by thousands of runners around the world, come join them!
Julia Jones can be found online at
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Julia Jones: Pacing and Racing at the Moonlight Half Marathon
When you read this you’ll probably be packing your bags for Jesolo, anxiously thinking about Saturday’s race. You’ve done all the training, you’ve studied your pre-race meal, you have the perfect running outfit. Now all you have to do is run 13 miles, right? So many runners set themselves up for racing success all the way up to the starting line to then throw caution to the wind as the gun start goes off.

You don’t need a written plan but if you can put together a few of these suggestions I can guarantee that not only will you have a better race, you might even come close to a Personal Best. Pick one or all!

Your pre-race warm up
You don’t need to cover any mileage in your warm up, just enough to shake some of the pre-race jitters and get your blood flowing. Walk at a fast pace for a few minutes and then run slow for another few minutes. Add in some exercises for your feet like heel lifts along with a few strides. You should be ready to go!

Know your pace
To get a good half marathon pace estimation get out your math skills. Take your best 10k time, double it and then add ten minutes. Example: 50:00 x 2 = 1:40:00 + 10:00 = 1:50:00 = 5:13 per km for your race. Easy!

Use the pacers
Our pacers (see them all HERE) if used will do half the work for you. Running in a group or behind someone can reduce your wind resistance by 90% and decrease your energy expenditure by almost 10%. It’s really silly not to take advantage of them!

Drink at the aid stations, it’s going to be hot!
The forecast calls for clear skies and a hot start. It’ll be fabulous evening running but remember to take in some fluids at each of the water stations. By italian regulation they are set up approximately every three miles. My secret is to dump a little water on my head, it helps cool me down if I’m feeling overheated.

In progression to the finish line
If you’re still feeling good, somewhere around the ten mile mark is where you can leave your pacing group and edge your way ahead of them. Take a deep breath and speed up just a bit, nothing drastic, just concentrate on a faster rhythm. Get your breathing under control and concentrate on keeping it that same pace until your triumphant finish in Piazza Mazzini. See you there!
Julia Jones: Advice from the Moonlight Half Marathon pacers
In a little more than a week we’ll see each other in Jesolo at the Moonlight Half Marathon and 10km Garmin events. For both races we’ve arranged for pacers to assist you in maintaining the perfect race pace. Even if these fantastic athletes are totally normal people, they undoubtedly have a special talent for running at an even pace. If you want a few suggestions for pre-race meals, race tactics and how to enjoy the Moonlight Half race course, read on!

Pacer 2h00’00”: Rossella Naples (with pacer Davide Cervato)

Pre-race meal Saturday - A plate of pasta garnished with olive oil, walnuts and parmesan cheese along with a salad.

My race tactic for the Moonlight Half Marathon - From start to finish I’ll try and keep up the same tactics: have fun, smile and enjoy every minute of the race! Start, smile, run and have fun: that’s my motto.

Where did you see athletes having trouble last year? (if ever) -
Around the 17th and 18th kilometre...after the overpass is where the real challenge starts!

- Which is your favorite section of the course? The start is amazing with a sunset on the lagoon. I turned around to look at it several times! The scenery that we see while running will fill your heart up and, again, the sunset is marvellous!

Pacer 1h45’00”: Massimo Coppo (with pacer Cesare Monetti)

Pre-race meal Saturday - A large plate of pasta with a low alcoholic beer. From 3:00 p.m. I start drinking a lot of water and eat some fruit, both fresh and dried. From 6:00 p.m. I’ll stop eating but keep sipping on water until the race starts.

My race tactic for the Moonlight Half Marathon - To not be influenced by the excitement at the start and in the first three kilometres. Thirteen miles is far but we’ll have plenty of time to recover any seconds or minutes lost at the start.

Where did you see athletes having trouble last year? (if ever) -
After the first three kilometres and in the first moments of darkness, after the sunset.

- Which is your favorite section of the course?
The exciting serpentine of runners in the first miles and the finish with all the bright lights: that’s where the second beer of the day awaits me!

Pacer 1h30’00”: Massimo Preziosa (with pacer Domenico Startari)

Pre-race meal Saturday - At 1:00 p.m. a plate of plain pasta together with some bread. At 5:00 p.m. an energy bar.

My race tactic for the Moonlight Half Marathon - I have a simple strategy: start at a pace slightly slower than race pace so that we create big group of runners that can follow us all the way to the finish.

Where did you see athletes having trouble last year? (if ever) -
Along the lagoon where there’s a lot of humidity.

- Which is your favorite section of the course?
The last three kilometres coming into Jesolo, then onto Viale Mazzini where the fatigue ends.

Pacing groups for the 21km Moonlight Marathon

1h25’00” - Luca Mattighello e Sandro Boni

1h30’00” - Massimo Preziosa e Domenica Startari

1h35’00” - Matteo Corti e Gianni Scremin

1h40’00” - Tiziano Lion e Roberto Turatello

1h45’00” - Massimo Coppo e Cesare Monetti

1h50’00” - Alessio Rizzato e Annalisa Fae

1h55’00” - Roberto Grosso e Marco Roversi

2h00’00” - Davide Cervato e Rossella Naples

2h15’00” - Matteo Esquinazy e Margherita Bobrek

2h30’00” - Paola Vezzani

2h45’00” - Silvia Stefanello

Pacing groups for the 10km GARMIN

40’00” - Paolo La Placa

45’00” - Damiano Agostinelli

50’00” - Gianfranco Biasuzzi

55’00” - Silvio Dus

1h00’00” - Moira Lorenzon
Julia Jones: How many steps do you take in a minute?
If you want to instantly change and even improve your running style increase the number of steps you take per minute, a.k.a. your stride rate That said, it sounds easy to do but there’s two things stopping runners from becoming successful at it. The first is that stride rate is the result of an innate internal rhythm. You’re born with it. I’ve seen people running for the very first time with an abnormally high stride rate while there are thousands, maybe millions of athletes with miles in their training diaries that advance at such a slow pace they risk injury with every step.

Articles cyclically make the rounds through running websites on how to improve stride rate. The author always take the example of a “real” athlete that runs with a mythical stride rate of 180 steps per minute and invites everyone to do the same in order to run like the pros. That’s not exactly how it works. First of all, stride rate changes with distances. Secondly, stride rate varies wildly from person to person, even among elite athletes.

In my experience most amateur runners have an average stride rate of around 170 steps per minute. Anything running below this number is going to put too much stress and strain on their quadriceps and knees along with wasting precious energy. It’s not easy to increase your natural stride rate but everyone can work on it, you just need patience and consistency in your training.
Here’s what you can do right away:

- First, find out where you’re starting from, how many steps per minute you take. While running at a slow warm up pace count how many steps you take in ten seconds time. Do it a few times so you get the average, then multiply that number by six. If you happen to have a stride rate somewhere around 180 you can thank your genetics and run happily ever after. If your stride rate is 170 or less then you’ll definitely feel and see immediate improvements by increasing your stride rate. Read on!

- Buy a small metronome ( or download a metronome APP on your smartphone. There are several free versions or by adding a few dollars/euro you can have them without the publicity. I’ve used both GISMART metronome and Tempo Lite ; download and use instantly.

- Increase your stride by only five steps. Example: if you’ve counted your stride rate at 160 steps per minute set the metronome for 165. After a brief warm up activate your metronome and follow the rhythm for one minute. Remember, just one minute! Take a few minutes off running normally and then try it again. It might take some practice but you’ll get it after a few tries.

- Get ready for it to feel strange and different. It seems crazy that five more steps in a minute’s time would make such a difference. You’ll have to shorten your stride and your heart rate will mostly likely increase in that minute because you’re running faster. Recover with easy running until you feel like you have your breathing under control and then when you’re ready, try it again. It will take some time to get used to and you’ll have to practice this, well, forever. But if you get into the right rhythm you will see improvement in your running style and times.
Julia Jones: 10km forever
On Sunday morning I got up at dawn to drive the two hundred kilometres that separates my home from the San Giuliano Park, where the Corri Mestre race starts. The freeway was unusually trafficless, probably due to the long weekend holiday (it was labor day here in Italy). It was better for me since I got there a half hour earlier than expected. It gave me more time to say hello to the organising staff, some friends and of course readers who follow this blog. Then, I lined up with the other runners at the start of the non-competitive race. The course (pleasantly) surprised me so much variety of landscapes in so little space: city park, a closed to traffic road, a dirt trail next to a brook and rising hill overlooking Venice. Delightful!

I finished in an hour and after having said goodbye to everyone I got back in my car for the trek home. As I drove, I thought about the fact that, for me, the 10km is the perfect distance. Here’s why:

• A minimum amount of training keeps you in great shape. Three workouts per week for about 50 to 60 minutes and for a volume of approximately 25/30 kilometres is all you need. It’s not only not too hard to find three hours in a week to dedicate to your own health, I would say it's compulsory!

• You can prepare yourself for a more competitive 10km within a few weeks. Just stay active and compete on the distance of ten at any time. To be more competitive, one month of targeted training will always be enough. It’s also the Ideal plan for runners that have short attention spans!

• 10km races are organised in beautiful places around the world. One of the most beautiful is our very own 10km Garmin Running Tour, with a course that covers the last ten kilometres of the legendary Venicemarathon. Sign up asap since we tend to sell out the bibs well in advance. If after this week’s 10km you want to test yourself one more time come to Jesolo to join us for the Garmin 10km or 21km race. Another gorgeous Italian race, with a start at dusk and partying on the beach under the Moonlight!
Julia Jones: How to race Corri Mestre
On Sunday, April 30, the ninth edition of Corri Mestre is being held and if you follow this blog you should have already signed up. If you haven’t done so yet, you’re still in time to go to the website and sign up for the race. If the idea of pinning on an actual race number scares you but you still want to come to the party, you're still in time to sign up for the non-competitive race on Sunday morning. You can choose between the 18km, 11km or 5km distances.

Now, let’s talk about the race! The biggest mistake I see both beginners and more experienced runners make is the tendency to run every distance at the same speed. They run the first miles in their comfort zone (whatever that is at that moment) and continue at a relaxed speed all the way to the finish line. In theory the shorter the distance the faster you should run, but often beginners without a lot of mileage or experience have difficulty judging how fast they could or should run.

To calculate the pace of your 10km there’s a simple math formula that you can use: take your recent time on the 5km distance and multiply it by 2.1. For example: If you run 5km in 30 minutes, multiplied it by 2.1 = 63 minutes = 6'17 "per km.

Your instructions are to start at 6’20” per km and any faster than that for the first half of the race. Once you have your emotions, your adrenaline and your breathing under control, try to finish the race in progression, running the second half of the course slightly faster.

Try it and let me know if it was a success!

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Julia Jones: Running style
From the very first moment that a novice runner goes out for a training run he or she wants to know exactly what they’re supposed to do to run with the same style of a champion. They’ve watched track and field meetings and marathons on television. They can recognise which athlete runs with impeccable style and who could use a little bit of improvement. Despite being a beginner who still hasn’t broken an hour in a training run, they want to have the style of an Olympic athlete now.

Everyone has their own style of running which is the sum of many factors. Your bone alignment, your current body mass percentages, the posture you’ve developed over the years are just some of the few. It’s not easy to correct a running defect but before doing so we need to be able to recognise it. A first step could be to take a video of yourself while you run. Smartphone video camera qualities is so good today that it should be easy for anybody to do.

But transforming your running style is not so easy. Elite runners who have coaches watch them train at every workout have a hard time doing it, you can imagine how difficult it can be for an amateur runner. But it is possible. You just have to arm yourself with time. patience and a little sweat. Here are two exercises for you to try out:

• Pay attention to your feet. You don’t have to do anything special for this exercise, simply pay attention to how you’re using your feet for a few minutes. Feel how you land on them (Toes? Heels? On your arch?) , if you push your feet behind you, how fast your pace is.

• Increase your strides per minute. Amateur athletes often measure their strides by counting how many times their feet touch the ground in one minute’s time. A good amateur stride is around 180 per minute, but I don’t often see it. Especially beginner runners tend to have a long stride along with a low frequency. Without aiming for a specific number try shortening your stride while you increase the number of steps per minute. It will feel strange and unnatural but you’ll have a more dynamic running style.

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Julia Jones: Faster running skills
In the last year there have been a lot of trending articles in the fitness world on what the experts now consider to be the best way to stay fit and in shape. It’s hard to keep up with their ever changing minds! One year they advice us all to practice yoga and the next year slow walking down dirt paths in nature is the new nirvana. But lately I’ve seen the experts in the different sports spheres agree on one practice: running for brief duration at a very intense speed. In other words, running fast.

Most beginner runners tend to train at a running speed that is well within their comfort zone. Part of this has to do with experience. They don’t know how to handle themselves when their body is screaming for more oxygen (breathe!) and they get alarmed when they feel their heart beating faster than it usually does on those slow and easy workouts.

But learning to run at a more intense speed, even for very short distances, is the fastest way not only to improve your running but to get in better shape. You can insert these exercises (one at a time!) into your training plan once a week. Start off each session with 30:00 minutes of an easy warm up run, you know, that lovely comfort zone you love so much. Then to finish your training session add on one of these exercises.

- Uphill Sprints - The incline of the hill doesn’t need to be steep and you can start out the running distance at about 50 meters. For your recovery walk slowly back to your starting point at the bottom of the hill.

- Sprinting on the beach - The sand will give your body extra cushioning and at the same time slow you down. This again can be a distance of 50 meters or if you’re feeling up to it, 100 meters. You can run with your shoes or be adventurous and go barefoot. Be aware that this is harder than it looks!

- Jumprope - Did you used to jumprope as a child? Then you probably still know how to do it. Start with twenty double jumps while slowly turning the rope. Remember that the speed of the rope is in your control through your wrists. Between sets you can walk for a minute or run slowly for 200 meters.

- 500 meter intervals - Once you’ve done a few weeks of sprints or jump roping you’re ready to try running for longer distances beginning with 500 meters. Try six intervals with two minute recovery periods between each. Time your runs so you can get an idea about how fast you’re running and if there’s improvement from one session to the next.

- 1km - The almighty 1km “test” is simple to do. Run fast for 1km and time it. I like having my runners do these often just to get used to throwing in a fast pace every once in awhile. In just a few minutes you can see exactly in what kind of shape you’re in once you know what your base 1km speed is.
Julia Jones: When to stop and when to restart
Last week I got really sick. It happened it what felt like a split second. At 10:00 a.m. I was working on the track with a group of athletes, at 11:00 a.m. I felt shivers running through my body, at noon I got out a thermometer and measured a 104c fever. There was nothing to do but go home and put myself under the covers for a week, which I did. All this could not happen at the worst moment; just three weeks from my “A” race of the season, something I had been planning and training for for over a year.
I’ve seen so many amateur athletes try to ignore the symptoms of an imminent illness for this very reason. They’ve already paid the entry, their teammates are counting on them, they don’t want to disappoint friends and family who’re also looking forward to an exciting trip to a new location. Besides, running regularly fills amateur athlete with endorphins, which they sort of get hooked on. They try as hard as they can to ignore any signal that the body is clearly trying to send them. The question I get asked most often in these cases is: can I still run? The first rule is to listen to your body because it is definitely wiser than any athlete’s heart and soul. If you’re feeling extremely tired, run down or with a heavy cold, adding a workout into the mix can only make the situation and your health worse. In order for a workout to be efficient and boost your health you first need to be rested and... healthy. Otherwise you’ll just cancel out its benefits. Do not run if:

- you have a fever (even a low one)
- your cold symptoms have spread to your lungs
- you have a viral infection
- you’re on antibiotics
- you’re having intestinal distress

You might try to run if the symptoms are from the neck up, like a cold with a stuffy nose. I always encourage and extra day of rest, you can never go wrong with this tactic. When you start running again remember that your body needs time to get back to normal. Give it a few workouts before expecting to run smoothly. Also, please remember that the fun runs and races are held annually. They’ll still be there for you next year. Your health needs to be is your number one priority, always.
Julia Jones - Stretching: yes or no?
Sometimes it seems that what the experts believed to be “good” for us yesterday, today gets adamantly confirmed to no longer be good for us. Nutrition, movement and sleep are all under examination. To be reviewed and re-evaluated. That’s the case with stretching, a a word that’s become part of our every day vocabulary. In english language dictionaries they simply define stretching as lengthening and distending. In Italians dictionaries they go as far as inserting an opinion. A translation: stretching exercises, muscle extension, practiced specifically by athletes and serves to increase the elasticity of the muscles, allowing them to perform intense efforts, improving movement capability and contributing to athletes feeling less fatigue.
But does stretching really do all that for us?
It’s actually been several years now that fitness experts have been discussing the pros and cons of stretching for athletes. If you look at track or, simply, at a city park, you’ll find runners devoting a lot of their workout time to stretching exercises. Sometimes even more than the actual workout. On the other hand if you happen to watch a race with elite athletes they break out a stretch or two, but not much more. As it often happens, somewhere between the middle of the two extremes is probably what you should aim at. Here’s some suggestions to help you with your stretching practice.
- Yes to stretching because contracted muscles can shorten your stride, change your posture and, therefore, increase the risk of injury. Develop a routine to include a range of movements for various parts of the body. In addition to the legs and arms also remember your back, your shoulders, neck and feet.
- To stretch it’s not necessary to be super flexible or become a yogi. Start from where you are right now (from zero or expert status) e just make sure to be consistent with your stretching.
- Remember that stretching should be done when you’re already warmed up. I find the best time to do it is after my workout, at home.
- Once you get into a stretching position remember to breathe. Two deep breaths while you stretch will help relax the muscles.
- There are thousands of books on stretching , if you need help on what you should be doing or new exercises there are endless choices out there!
Julia Jones: first steps toward running 10km
Do you remember that 5km you ran last week? How many minutes did it take you to get to the finish line? Until now we’ve never tale about numbers because our concentration was on having a consistent practice and not necessarily on speed. Now, with a timed 5km distance we can talk about where to go from here. If you were able to run under 35:00 (or at 7:00 per km), let get on with 10km training! If you were over this time barrier however, here are three reasons why you aren’t make as much progress.

- Are you still out of breath after just a few minutes of running ? You probably still need to build an aerobica base (and start your workout running at a slower pace). Remember that three workouts per week is the bare minimum along with taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

- When you run do your feet make noise when hitting the ground? Concentrate more on drills and exercises. Remember that your feet are the most important body part (and instrument) for running.

- If you’re not out of breath and you run like a leopard, you’re problem may be found under your skin. Excessive fat mass will slow you down. For every kg extra around your waist or rear you’ll slow down approximately five seconds per km. This is probably the easiest problem to take care of. Find a sports nutritionist that can guide you towards better health and more efficient running.

The next eight weeks
With the new 10km goal in mind your training is going to evolve. Don’t be alarmed, it’s nothing drastic, just a small change. The number of weekly workouts is staying at three but now instead of them being the same each week we’re adding in some variation. It’s a way to stimulate you, but most of all, your muscles. Total weekly time required for your workouts will now be two to three hours, depending on the week. With Daylight savings coming up it will be easier and more pleasant to get out in the evening. It’ll be the best way to spend some time in your favorite running park.

Next week : Stretching yes or no?

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Julia Jones: Running your 5km!
If you’ve been reading us since January and following the training plan and instructions you'll know that this week the big moment to run your 5km has finally arrived. It’s a great goal and achievement that’ll allow you to continue with confidence to ten km...and beyond. The ideal scenario for running your 5km would be an event or race where they offer the distance. But I know from experience that it’s not always easy to find a weekend race. That’s why I recommend you setting up your very own 5km event. It’s easy to do, here’s how:
• Decide on the date and time. The 5km run replaces your third workout of the week. Get organised to run in the morning so you have the rest of the day free. Pencil it in on your calendar, it’s a moment to be enjoyed without any other distractions.
• Measure out a course. A park is the “race” venue. You won’t have do deal with cars, traffic lights or pedestrian crossing problems. You could either measure out a 1km circuit to be repeated five times an out and back course (2,5 km each way). The important thing is to measure it before and know where the start and finish is. That way you can focus on your race and not worry about the rest.
- Invite friends to run or walk with you. Make it into a social event and invite friends and family to participate with you. If you chose a circuit course they can decide whether to run with you a few laps or simply to encourage you as you pass by.
The workouts and preparation done in the last eight weeks will have prepared you to take on the 5km. Now you need to learn to The energy must be properly distribute your energy evenly for the whole distance. Here are three tips to do that successfully:
- Start slow. This will be a recommendation for any race you ever do for long distances, get used as of now! You’ll never go wrong with a slow start. If you start out too fast it’s impossible to recover that wasted energy in the second half of your race.
- Walk for short distances. You can walk for brief moments during the 5km if you feel overstretched but try and limited them to no more than one minute at a time. During those sixty seconds take some nice deep breaths and then start again with a slow run.
- Time your 5km. Since you’ve pre-measured the course all you have to worry about is starting your stopwatch at the start and stopping it at the finish line. The results will be your point of arrival...or where you take off from!
Julia Jones: Nutrition - Part I
Currently, on the subject of nutrition, the opinions and theories of scholars are divided. Each person in their field believes that their own theories on the best diet for humans in order to stay healthy are the most convincing.
There are those that believe we should only eat plant foods while others lead us in the opposite direction, encouraging us to consume animal protein like there's no tomorrow. One thing is certain: the quality and quantity of food has a direct impact on your health and well-being. As a result (and and even more so!) whatever you eat has a bearing your running performance and influences the effectiveness of your training. In this first phase when weekly mileage is still modest, you probably won’t notice a big difference. It’ll become much more evident once (and if!) you begin marathon training sometime this summer.
I don’t believe there is only one diet out there fit for everyone. Each one of us has to find out which foods are appropriate for our own bodies.
There are, however, some general principles and guidelines that we can all follow, (yes, even you!).

- Eliminate simple sugars from your diet. For this first task you’ll need to buy yourself a pair of reading glasses that can enlarge the tiny font used to write the ingredients on labels. Sugar, in its various forms, can be found in the most unexpected foods. Cold cuts, bread, vegetable drinks or “milks” are not spared. But if you have the patience to read the labels you'll find similar products with no added sugar.

- Begin your main meals with raw vegetables. Prepare a plate of crudités or a simple salad. It doesn't need to be complicated. You will keep your intestinal tract functioning well and at the same time get your daily fill of vitamins and minerals.

- Balanced carbohydrates and proteins at each meal. Whether you’ve decided to follow a Vegan or a Paleo diet, always add a serving of protein to your meal. Most have no trouble finding sources of carbohydrates (even beginners athletes like you are already experts on the subject!)

- Remember to drink water! You would think that this would be the the easiest rule to follow. I can assure you that many overlook this fundamental habit, especially with spring and summer around the corner when the temperatures are going to rise.
Julia Jones: When pain is normal
After almost twenty years of accumulated experience following and assisting runners of every type and level, I can tell you which is the most common pain that occurs in the first weeks of training. Ready? It’s tibial soreness, commonly known as “shin splints." It doesn’t just magically appear. It’s simply what happens when, after who knows how long, you really start using your feet (sometimes for the first time) to move. The human body has a simple (and complicated) design: in order to push with your foot you need put in action your musculoskeletal system, including the tibial muscles. In the first week of training it’s absolutely normal. It’ll continue to be a “normal” pain when you run on rough terrain, change shoes or increase your speed. Anybody who practices a sport knows that these little annoyances are part of normal adaptation to the training load. But anyone that’s been sedentary for awhile has a harder time recognising the difference between simple muscle soreness and a real injury.
In mistaking pain for injury the inexperienced runner stops training until the “pain” subsides. Unfortunately when they start running again they have to often have to go back to square one and thus begins and endless cycle. Muscle fatigue is useful and let’s us know that the training was effective.
There are three important signs to be observed:

1. The pain should be bilateral. If your quadriceps, shins, calves, hurt on both the right and left side of your body...everything should be fine.

2. The pain remains the same and does not increase as you run. The day after your workout might might feel like a tractor passed over your body. Take a deep breath and wait it out. As long as the pain decreases and eventually subsides and disappears you should be fine. Or until the next workout!

3. The pain is reabsorbed. You need to develop a sensitivity in feeling that muscle tension is decreasing, even a bit. A hot bath with salts and a massage with arnica oil on the sore muscles will help speed up the healing process. Full steam ahed to the next workout!
Julia Jones: Motivation 2.0
That dream you had while napping on the couch was beautiful. You were running down a dirt path. To your right there was an overflowing creek bubbling with musical notes. To your left sun rays caressed your face and energised you with natural Vitamin D. In those first two weeks of workouts adrenaline was flowing and recharging you constantly. But this week you’re faced with the (harsh) reality of going out to run even when the sun’s behind the clouds. Running, cycling or changing your diet is super easy to imagine and dream about, but it requires initial discomfort in its practicality. You need to do some work without getting instant gratification, acting now in order to obtain something tomorrow ... or a year from now.
So many people start fitness programs and then quit after a month. They think that the whole dreaming on the coach phase was actually part of the plan. Sorry to tell you but you’re going to have to take some solid steps forward. It’s important to know that not every workout is going to be a breeze, endorphins are not going to be flowing every single week. But I promise you that the mystical reason why you’re really doing this life change will come clearly to you. In the meantime I’m going to give you two tasks to do.

Task # 1 - Prepare yourself in advance. The day before training set aside everything you need for your run: running clothes, shoes, socks, stopwatch and/or GPS. Fewer decisions you have to take the easier it’ll be to start your workout. If you run with music remember to charge the batteries and know where your headphones are so you don’t have to search the house at the last minute.

Task # 2 - Register for your race (or races) - Register now for the 10km of Ali Mestre Venice Running Days. Click here to go to the registration page. You’re still in time to take advantage of the lower entry fee . If you’re feeling lucky, register for the Moonlight 10km in Jesolo at the same time. To make that dream come true click here and grab your bib for for the Venicemarathon in October 2017. Remember that to sign up for the race you have to belong to a running club in your country. If you still haven’t had your the medical clearance for competitive activity now is the time to the that. Let’s go!
Julia Jones: Start from the feet
When runners want to add quality to their training they usually run to the gym. They start out with the hardest and most complicated strength training exercises for “instant” results. It’s squats and lunges as if there were no tomorrow along with push-ups and pull-ups to aesthetically balance everything out. If you really want to change your running and save money on that gym membership you need to focus on another part of the body: your feet.
I can probably bet that on your typical day you get up in the morning and slide into a pair of house slippers. For work you choose a pair of sturdy and protective shoes to keep you comfortable for the whole day. If it’s ladies night out a pair of high heels will give you legs a lift whereas the gents can choose a pair of loafers. Lucky dudes! In other words, from the time you get up in the morning until you go back to bed your feet are always in a shoe. They protect your soles but at the same time they don’t allow your feet to move naturally. When we go out and run we’re not able to use our feet efficiently. Using your feet when run can improve your running like nothing else. The exercises for feet activation are really simple, you just need to be diligent and patient to get noticeable results.

• Go barefoot at home. Leave your house slippers in the closet and start walking barefoot at home. If you have hardwood or tile floors put on a pair of a wool or cotton socks. We floor heaters installed so we could go barefoot all year long!

• Practice the Stork daily. Balance is a skill that needs to be trained every day ... forever. Doing the Stork exercise will strengthen your feet and ankles which is important at any age no matter what you do. Start by taking off your shoes. Stand without support and raise your right foot off the ground while remaining balanced on the left foot. The first time start with just thirty seconds and then change feet. Repeat five times for a total of five minutes. Work up to one minute per foot five times (total of ten minutes). Click here to see a video of the Stork. It can be done at any time, even while watching television so you have no excuses!

• Simply pay attention to your feet. While your running (and only for a few seconds) concentrate on your feet. What are they doing? Do they make a thudding noise as you slam them on the pavement or do you quietly hum along? Can you feel where you land as you run? Do both feet move in the same way? This is the only exercise that you need (for now). Simply concentrating for a few seconds how you run and where you place your feet will create change. For the better.
Julia Jones: "Running shoes, the choice is yours"
Over the years I’ve seen runners show up at their first workout with every type of shoe on their feet. Tennis shoes, boating shoes, and plain old Keds. One woman even showed up with a pair of city shoes with heels. And she ran in them too! Most beginners open their closet and pull out any pair that they deem fit for sports, a sort of a multi-tasking mule. The same pair gets used for activities ranging from gardening to a walk around the block. I'm not here to tell you which running shoe to buy. There are currently 132 companies worldwide that manufacture running shoes, you can only imagine how different many types and models you can choose from. Besides, we’re all a little like Cinderella, we’ll only know which shoe is right for us once we slip it on our feet. In any case, here’s a few tips to help you sort through them.

- Purchase your running shoes from a store that sells mostly running shoes. They always have an expert on hand to help you out and whose one and only job is to hook you up with the right running shoe. Finding them is easy, Just go online and search: Running Store - Your City. Easy!
- Bring along the shoes that you’re currently using for running. That way the salesperson will have an idea what kind of shoes you’re used to running in and the wear and tear they have on them.
- Make your first purchase a neutral shoe. Your foot, for better or for worse, has its own way of landing and pushing off the ground when you run and walk. Trying to correct any pronation or supination could eventually cause damage. If you run in a neutral shoe you’ll allow your foot to move they way it’s used to.

Once you have your new running shoes start recording their mileage. Think of them as car tires; sooner or later they’ll need to be replaced. To keep track of how many miles you run use an app like Shoedometer or simply write it down on paper. The duration of a shoe depends on a lot of factors (your running style, the terrain you run on, the material it’s made from) but we can estimate the natural life of a running shoe to go from 600 to 1000 km or 400 to 600 miles. When they’re ready for retirement you can use them to wear around the house or donate them to a project like Soles3Souls.

Next week: Your feet!

Julia Jones is online at
Questions? Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Julia Jones: Effective Scheduling (Runner style!)
The hardest thing for those who venture for the first time into the running world is in creating time to train. It’s easy to find half an hour or even an hour for a brisk walk outside. But becoming methodical in lacing up your running shoes and going outside week after week, that’s a different story. That famous "lifestyle" change needs to happen so that it not only feels natural to go for run, but becomes a necessity. Time to go out and run needs to be created and not “found”. And don’t tell me that you have less time than others because we all have the same twenty-four hours available. You just need to establish your priorities and decide how to organise those hours.

To make sure that everything goes just as you’ve been daydreaming, you need to have a simple plan that you can put into practice to organise your workouts. Let’s start from a concept that few people take into consideration: calculate how much time you’ll be dedicating to training every week. In this first phase every training session will last, approximately, forty-five minutes each of the three workouts. That’s a total of two hours and fifteen minutes to fit into seven days: easy!

Now follow these first three steps:
1. Take out your calendar or agenda with your weekly schedule.
2. Deleted the your working hours and other scheduled commitments.
3. Take a look at the weather forecast.
In summer it’s handy to have a sunrise and sunset schedule (with amazing runs at dawn!)

You should be able to clearly identify three slots in your calendar when you can train. If you can, leave a rest day in between training sessions. Example: Tuesday/Thursday /Saturday or Wednesday/Friday/Sunday. If time is tight during the week you can consider a Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday solution. In any case, mark them on the agenda or calendar, now you’re committed!
Once you get used to creating your training schedule at the start of each week it’ll be easier to later stretch into the 10km (sixty minutes for three workouts) and, then, the marathon (a total time of 5 hours per week). You can already see how complicated things are for anyone skipping straight to the marathon!
Next week: Running shoes!
Julia Jones is online at
Questions? Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.