Making Exercise Part of Your Everyday Routine

There are two simple ways to ensure that exercise will become routine for you:

  1. View exercise as a non-negotiable required part of your day.

Just like sleeping, eating, showering, and brushing your teeth… exercise needs to be viewed as one of those things that has to happen for it to be a complete day. If people shower to clean the outside of their body and brush their teeth so they don’t rot, we need to be doing some sort of movement to keep the inside of our body from rotting and we need to view it as a necessity just like the other tasks. Our skin and hair need soap and water. And, our heart, lungs, and muscles need movement. If it’s not viewed as a necessity, excuses will be made, it will be put off and the end of the day will come before it happens. Schedule it in on your calendar if need be. Or, add it to your Wunderlist so you have a reminder and something to check off if that helps. However you do it, view it as a non-negotiable requirement.

2.   Make it fun by doing something you enjoy!

Pick an activity you like doing! Don’t commit to something for the next year that you won’t be able to stick to or that you despise. You may instead end up doing nothing. There are a million ways to move our bodies to get healthy. We all have opinions about what is fun. I happen to love running, but for others it’s a nightmare. So, don’t do it. Choose something else. The important thing is that you choose something! Pick an exercise that is fun or change up your regular routine when you’re bored to make it fun. Here’s my example: Today I brought two pacesetters and bodyguards 🙂 with me to the trail for a training run! Following behind them as they chatted away made my run different and fun!

Mary and Jake

Thank you for your encouragement and support which has made My Journey to Boston so far so fun! What is your new, fun routine going to look like to ensure you are living your healthiest life so that you can enjoy your family and serve others for a very long time?!

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,


Boston Marathon Training Officially Starts TODAY!

Just nine days after running the Philadelphia Marathon and my official training schedule for the 2016 Boston Marathon begins!! We are exactly nineteen weeks and 5 days out from race day, April 18, 2016.

Boston finish line

So, what does a ‘typical’ marathon training schedule look like? Good question. There really is no ‘typical’ schedule. If you google marathon training or talk to many different runners and coaches, you’ll come up with a huge variation of opinions and schedules. Often, training schedules go from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced, to competitive, but even those can vary tremendously. And, before any marathon training schedule even begins, a runner is encouraged to have a base ability to run 20-25 miles per week consistently for a month.

For the past 4 years, my marathon training schedule has been somewhere between an intermediate and advanced 20-week program. I typically put in the miles of the advanced schedule, which maxes out at over 50 miles per week and includes long runs that are over 20 miles. But, I have neglected to focus on the speed/hill training and also the cross-training of an advanced schedule, which makes my running calendar look a little more like an intermediate schedule.

A typical training week for me includes 6 runs and one rest day, which cover anywhere from 30-something miles to 50-something miles, depending on where I am at in the schedule and how far out race day is. An average run each of 5 days/week includes anywhere from a short 3-4 mile run up to an 8 mile run. And, then the 6th running day is my long run which begins at 10 miles the first week of a training schedule and works it’s way up to 24, or even 26 miles. I follow an “every other” training program which means that instead of increasing my long run by one mile each consecutive week – 15, 16, then 17 miles … and so on… I do 14 miles, then 12 miles the next week, then 16, then 12 the next week, then 18 miles, 12 miles, 20 miles, 12 miles, 22 miles, 12 miles, 24 miles… and so on… increasing my long run by 2 miles each time, but with a shorter 12 mile run the week in between. This works out best for my busy mom schedule and also my mental stability, knowing I have that 12 mile long run week in between my really long runs :). After the last long run (20+ miles), a 3-week taper period begins leading up to race day, which means reduced overall miles and also shorter ‘long’ runs. This time-frame can play with your mind! It is somewhat of a relief that you don’t have to do anymore of the long runs, but you also can start to feel unable to complete the upcoming 26.2 miles of race day with each passing day since your last long run.

For Boston 2016, I have 2 coaches with Team in Training that have put together a general training schedule that can be modified for each teammate based on fitness level. Due to already completing several marathons, I’ll be increasing the mileage included in their schedule. BUT, since I am not running Boston for any time or with any pace in mind, rather just for the enjoyment of those glorious 26.2 miles and knowing that we raised money and awareness for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I am going to mix up my traditional schedule and include some of their cross-training recommendations. This time around, I plan to run only 5 days a week (yikes!!) with my 6th day being a cross-training day. The cross-training day will include an hour work-out of weight training, core exercises, and one of either biking, uphill walking, or yoga. I am super excited for this change! Wish me luck!

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,


Whatcha Talkin Bout Willis?

Have you ever felt like someone was speaking a foreign language to you… except they weren’t? It’s how I occasionally feel when my husband uses complicated financial terms while talking about his work. Or how some of my ‘newer to church’ friends feel when people there use unfamiliar language, often called “Christianese.” It’s how we sometimes feel when a doctor is describing a prognosis or treatment plan that scientifically goes over our head. And, it’s also how I felt when I started running and had no idea what the heck people were talking about when they used terms like fartlek, pronate, PR, BQ, toe box, and negative split.

I was pretty sure I wanted nothing to do with a fartlek (and still don’t, even though I now know it doesn’t mean anything like the word sounds!). I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be doing any kind of split at my age. And a toe box? Well that sounded either weird or painful. Because I felt like this, I think it would be fun on My Journey to Boston to talk about some of these words. PS – If you have a running question or topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know!

For this blog: What is a negative split?

Technically, a negative split run means that your splits (min./mile) progressively get faster over the course of your run. A perfect negative split run is when each mile is faster than the last. But, most runners consider their run to be a negative split run if overall, they start with a slower pace and finish with a faster pace.

The key to running a negative split is to start the first mile slower than your desired overall pace. If your first miles are too quick, you would have to hit an unrealistic pace during the last miles in order to have a negative split. Those who opt for negative splits patiently run a bit slower for the first third of a run, pick up the pace in the middle, and finish with strength and speed.

Training to run a negative split is very important! You truly have to practice increasing your effort gradually. This technique teaches you patience, which is an essential part of marathon training and racing. It helps build discipline, because everyone’s natural tendency is to go out fast. It takes a lot of self-restraint in a race to allow others to run ahead and not be pulled along with them. To run a negative split you really have to run your own race.

Here are a couple recent examples of my negative split training runs:

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The majority of runners believe that in order to run a PR (Personal Record) pace, in a marathon especially, you have to start slower and finish faster. A negative split works in other distances as well but is often the most apparent in the marathon, where many people are accustomed to ‘hitting the wall’ (we can talk about that term in another post, because I have hit it… and hard). In a marathon for example: Let’s say you’re planning on 10-minute miles for the race. For the first 8-10 miles, you’d go a little slower than this, maybe 15-20 seconds per mile slower. This would give you plenty of time to get into the groove of the long race. Between miles 8 and 20, you’d cruise at your goal pace of 10-minute miles. For the last six miles, you’d pick up the pace and finish strong.

The reason negative splits work is because it can take your body several miles to get warmed up. After that, your muscles are charged, your joints lubricated, and mood-boosting endorphins flood your system. You’ll often find yourself running faster without feeling any more effort. Starting slow also allows the runner’s body to compensate for the lactic acid that is produced as a by-product of exerting oneself and the low oxygen levels from the exertion. The runners that start out too fast build up more lactic acid faster and that causes them to slow down, even though they don’t want to, because their bodies can’t process the lactic acid fast enough.

Typically, runners who set out too fast, are trying to ‘bank’ time—a strategy many use to give themselves a cushion at the end of a race. It’s risky business, and one that positions you to crash and burn in later miles, having used up all of your available energy stores.

I have run races with no pace goal nor strategy whatsoever. I have run races by starting quicker than I trained for, trying to bank time, only to peter out in the second half (Philly 2013), causing a ‘positive split’ run. And, last year, my BQ and PR (Boston Qualifying and Personal Record) marathon, I stayed a bit ahead of a pacer (a person running the marathon at a certain pace to help runners finish within a specific time) and I did a negative split run. As you can see in the pictures below, my first half for both years 2013 and 2014 were 1:52:37 and 1:52:35 respectively. My second halves are where you find the difference. In 2013 my second half was significantly slower at 2:04:19. In 2014, my second half was two minutes quicker than my first, at 1:50:34. This has a good bit to do with pacing, but also with hydration and nutrition (which we’ll talk about in a future blog).

          Philly 2013 – Positive split                             Philly 2014 – BQ – Negative split

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Where I do NOT want a negative split is in my fundraising :)!!! And, because you have all been so supportive and generous, I won’t! With $8,865 already raised in just 29 days and 57 days left until my birthday deadline of Jan. 16th to raise the remaining $1,135, I see a positive split in this fundraising race’s future! Thank you!!

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Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,

What do you HOPE for?

The word HOPE can conjure up a million different thoughts and feelings for each of us. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. For an entire year after qualifying for Boston, I hoped. I expected. I anticipated. Everyday. If this video doesn’t inspire you to be your best, reach for greatness, and attain a goal… I’m not sure what will.

For a brief time that hope was stripped away. But, thanks to Team in Training and so many supporters, my hope is restored. It’s a broader hope. And, it’s stronger than ever!

Something else I hope for? A world without cancer. My role with Team in Training is to raise funds and awareness to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. Cancer affects everyone in one way or another. Cancer sucks. And my hope is that we find cures for all cancer. In the meantime, I also hope we provide families that are fighting and struggling with the resources they need to get through their battle with HOPE.

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Since we are approaching the gift-giving season, Pink Moonlight Designs has joined with Team Alyssa to offer HOPE ornaments, the proceeds of which will benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Everyone could use a handcrafted ornament for a gift exchange, present topper, for staff gifts, or for the person who has everything and would love a unique, meaningful gift! Contact me directly at to place your order. Ornaments are $10, cash or check. Quantities are limited. Thanks in advance for supporting a great cause!

Two ornaments

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,


The Number FOUR!

Ironically, FOUR years ago today, Nov. 5, 2011, I ran my very first half marathon. And, today, Nov. 5th 2015, we topped the FOUR thousand dollar mark for the Boston Marathon LLS Team in Training!!!

Four years ago I drove by myself in the very early, very dark, and very cold hours of the morning to Paradise, PA to run my first half marathon.

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If you judged my running future based on how I felt that day or if I enjoyed that race, you’d have guessed that it was basically done. It was a frigid 27 degrees with windchill. The race was supposed to have “rolling hills”, which to me at the time were actually more like continuous large mountains. The roads were littered with mounds of horse poop leaving the runners to dodge the piles. Due to the cold temperatures, the roads near any water stations were a sheet of ice that we had to walk or navigate around. There were very few spectators cheering or providing any moral support. Most of the limited number of runners were serious and immediately paced out ahead of me leaving me at the back of the pack. The roads weren’t even closed off to vehicles, so we frequently had to navigate to one side to allow a car (or horse and buggy) to pass and to avoid getting hit by a large delivery truck. The scenery consisted of farm, after field, after corn patch, after farm… which would be beautiful to drive through… but not the most motivating or stimulating for a runner. And, the course was a 2-loop course which meant we had to repeat exactly what we had just done after the first 6 1/2 miles. By mile 7 I was promising myself that I would never make myself do this again. Ever. Ever. Ever. For the next 6.1 miles I asked myself why the heck I had paid to run this race when I could have easily just run 13.1 miles at home. But, I finished! And, I was happy to see Ben, Jake, and Luke cheering for me and to have a hot drink and a piece of pizza :)!


Amish Country Half, Nov. 5, 2011

Surprisingly enough, 6 months later I was running another half marathon in Washington D.C. with my friend Kristin, even with my bum hip. And, I loved it! And, 6 months after that I was running my first full and favorite marathon in Philly 2012.

Four years ago, I never would have predicted what running has become in my life! Four years ago, if you told me that on this day, four years later, I would reach the four thousand dollar mark of my goal for LLS’s Boston Team in Training, I would have laughed at you. Honestly, I would have. But, WE DID! Just two weeks after being asked to join the team, we topped $4,000!

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What a difference FOUR little years make!

Lesson: Don’t let your first experience write the rest of your story!

No Girls Allowed!!

Did you know that in 1972, just 3 years before I was born, the Boston marathon became the first marathon competition to allow women to enter; the distance was previously considered too grueling. In 1984, the Olympics opened the marathon competition to women. 1984! I was in elementary school before the Olympics finally allowed women to compete in the marathon distance!

But even before the Boston marathon officially allowed women to race, there were a few daring females who snuck in. In 1966, Roberta Gibb cleverly hid in the bushes until about half of the racers had passed her by. Then she quickly jumped in, ran the course, and finished in 3 hours, 21 minutes, 40 seconds (albeit unofficially). Inspired By Gibb, the following year Katherine Switzer applied under her initials, K.V. Switzer, and was accepted. About four miles into the race, officials noticed “K. Switzer” was actually a girl and tried to boot her from the run. Switzer’s boyfriend shoved the official away, allowing her to finish the course in about 4 hours, 20 minutes. (I don’t know about you, but I would like to give her boyfriend, Tom Miller, a big high five!!)


K.V. Switzer, 1967

Flash forward to 2013… Despite several cancellations due to weather and the Boston Marathon terror attack, 2013 was a record year for the marathon 26.2 mile distance with more than 1,100 marathons run across the country generating 541,000 finishers with a breakdown of 57% men (308,400, all-time high) and 43% women (232,600, a new high overall and percent) and 47% Masters – 40 and older (254,300, also a new high overall and percent). (Let’s be very clear! As of 2013, I did NOT yet fall into the Masters category! Although, I proudly claim it as of 2015 :)!)

Let that sink in… Just 41 years prior (basically my lifetime), it was “No girls allowed!” Just 29 years prior, women weren’t allowed to compete in the Olympics at the marathon distance. And yet, as of 2013 nearly half of marathon finishers in the U.S. alone were women!

Too grueling for us?! I think not.

Would you join our team?

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,


Big News!!

A year ago, one of my dreams came true! I qualified for the Boston Marathon. I have been running marathons for the past several years and qualifying for Boston has been a goal of mine. It took countless hours of training. In fact, over the last 4 years alone, I’ve logged 6,500+ running miles. Needless to say, when I crossed the finish line with a qualifying time 1:51 quicker than the required time for my age group and was greeted by my loved ones, the tears freely flowed for all of us! Since then, I have planned for, read about, and dreamed about crossing the finish line in the city of Boston on April 18, 2016.

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Philadelphia Marathon 2014, BQ – 3:43:09

Something else you probably know about me is that I’ve been involved in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for many years. On Dec. 25, 2008 my dear friend Kristin’s dad, Joseph Staudt, passed away after his courageous battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Following that, two of my uncles were diagnosed with and treated for Lymphoma. Once cancer has touched your life and you’ve witnessed what patients and loved ones endure, you realize you have to do something!

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The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Light the Night Walk, 2015

That brings me to September 2015. I registered for the 2016 Boston Marathon with my Philly 2014 qualifying time. Nine days later I found out that due to the number of registrants and the limited number of spaces, the required time for accepted runners was 2:28 faster than the required qualifying time per age group, an all time historically stringent cut-off. That meant that I missed being accepted into the race by 0:37 seconds. I was devastated. After processing the shock, I knew right away that God must have a plan for why this had happened and that I had to make something great come from my intense disappointment. I applied for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Boston Team in Training, which would provide me a spot in the marathon based on fundraising for the organization, which I wholeheartedly support. It was a huge leap of faith and commitment, but I strongly felt led to trust God.

On Oct. 22nd, I received the exciting call, letting me know that I was accepted! Both my passion for running Boston and my passion for LLS would be coming together as one! Unlike weeks earlier, tears of joy flowed! I won’t just be running in Boston 2016 because of my qualifying time, but also for LLS because someone’s life depends on it! By participating as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) TNT, I am raising funds and awareness to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

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Slide show highlights of my running and LLS history

Here is where I would love for you to join my team! I need your help to reach my goal of $10,000 raised by my birthday, January 16th! It takes more than one person to make up a team and that’s why I’m asking you to join me, so together we can fight cancer one mile at a time!  Would you please:

  • Star: Give a $3 Starbucks/week toward LLS through Jan. 16th$42
  • Super: Sponsor me at $2/mile for the 26.2 mile Boston marathon – $54.40
  • Silver: Sponsor me at 10 cents/mile for every training mile I’ll log  – $80
  • Gold: Sign your name on the shirt I’ll wear to run in Boston – $100+
  • Platinum: Team Alyssa t-shirt sponsor- have your name/ logo on it – $250+ (Team Alyssa t-shirts will be sold as a fundraiser and worn by friends and family attending the Boston marathon.)
  • Titanium: Sign a name on the shirt I’ll wear to run Boston; Have your name/logo on Team Alyssa t-shirts; Have company advertised on Team Alyssa FB page & other social media; Receive a drink on me on April 18th if you’re in Boston! – $500+
  • Elite: All of Titanium; Dinner on me on April 18th if you’re in Boston: REI Duffle Bag with LLS logo and DOUBLE the tax write-off J! – $1,000+
  • Share my story with friends, family, and local businesses!

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these. Patients need these cures and they need your support.

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,

Thank you!


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