How I'm Training for my Half Marathon + Does Running Make You "Skinny Fat?"

Hey loves!

Since I announced I'm training for the Toronto Island Half Marathon, I've gotten a few questions about WHY I'm running again, and how I'm planning to train for the race. Let's chat all about RUNNING! 

Why I'm Running a Half Marathon

My life motto: if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

Running has never come naturally to me. In fact, I have to work REALLY hard, really consistently to even become an 'OK' runner. I always joke around with Mark and say that his 60% max effort is my 100% max effort - haha! 

And that's exactly why I wanted to run this half marathon: because I suck at running and want to get better. I honestly get nervous before I set out for every run, even if it's only 3 miles. But I walk away with SUCH a feeling of accomplishment after I'm done. 

A little side note/background info: I ran my first half marathon back in December of 2012. I was in college at the time, and belonged to a running group where we'd get together to run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. This was just a little while before I got into strength training, so literally all I was doing was running. I was also a vegetarian at the time (that lasted about 6 months), so my diet was very carb-focused and lacking in protein compared to now. 

Also, I was sick of going into the gym and just going through the motions of what I "should" be doing. I "should" be strength training to get a lean, toned body. I "shouldn't" do cardio because it's not good for fat loss.

I was listening to all these outside sources telling me what I "SHOULD" do, instead of listening to what truly makes me light up with joy and enjoy my training.

Now, I'm in the mental place now of strictly doing things I enjoy.... Which leads me to HOW I'll be training for my half marathon.

How I'm Training for My Half Marathon

I started training for my half marathon this week, which is about 11 weeks out from my scheduled race on September 17, 2017.

My running buddy, Dayna :)

My running buddy, Dayna :)

I wasn't really running much at all before this, but I do sprints pretty regularly and HIIT circuit-style workouts, so I wasn't starting completely from scratch from a cardiovascular standpoint. 

I'm following the running structure of Hal Higdon's Half Marathon Training Plan - Novice 1

In addition to the running schedule listed above, I'm also going to lift 3-4 days per week (probably 2 upper, 1-2 lower body days).

I have a pretty solid base of muscle since strength training has been my focus for a few years now, so my goal is maintain as much muscle mass as I can throughout my training. 

Does Running Make You "Skinny Fat?"

Before we wrap up here, can we just dispel the myth that "cardio makes you skinny fat"?

"Skinny fat" is commonly referred to as someone who is skinny, yet doesn't really have much tone or muscle definition, thus appearing overall 'softer.'

If running/cardio is all you're doing, it can certainly increase your cortisol levels which encourages fat storage. Cardio can also make you a lot hungrier than not working out at all OR just lifting weights, so people who do more cardio have a natural inclination to eat more. 

BUT, if you are strength training and balancing your food/calorie intake, you should have no problem maintaining the muscle mass you have as your running frequency increases.

That being said, I would not recommend focusing on BUILDING strength at the time you're training for a half marathon, because those are two conflicting goals. There's a time and place for every goal -- no need to rush through and try to do everything at once. 

If your priority is to build muscle, running a half marathon probably isn't the best way to do it. But if you already have a solid base of muscle from lifting weights over a few years, running a half marathon can be a great challenge for you and won't necessarily ruin your #gainz if you also plan to keep lifting a few days per week. 




COMMENT BELOW: Have you ever run a half or full marathon? What was your experience like? 

How Strength Training Saved My Life

This morning as I was taking a shower and shaving my legs (#FloridaLife where you have to shave your legs every day because you wear shorts because hibernating underneath fur would cause immediate death).... anyways.

I was in the shower, and I was admiring the bruises that cover my shins.

And simply by looking down at my legs I had an "aha" moment about WHY I love weight training so much, and how strength training saved my life.

Just to give you a little background... I spend the majority of my day in the weight room, both for work and for pleasure -- unracking and reracking weights, lifting heavy ish, jumping on boxes, sprinting, pushing and pulling sleds, you name it.

With all of these daily tasks comes a lot of wear and tear on the bod. My shins may be bruised, my hands calloused, my toenail polish chipped from constantly wearing athletic shoes, my booty constantly sore... but I wouldn't trade my lifestyle for anything.

In fact, strength training has given me more than just a stronger, better looking body.

It gave me life.

It gave me purpose.

It saved me from my eating disorder.

It taught me how to FUEL by body for performance, rather than focus on how much I can restrict calories.

It showed me that I don't have to "exercise" solely for the purpose of burning calories, but rather "train" to beat my previous personal-best records.

It taught me that I'm capable of WAY more than I think I am.

It's given me confidence -- both in and out of the gym.

It's shown me that everyone comes in different shapes, sizes, body fat percentages... and that just because someone may look ripped and shredded doesn't mean they're healthy.

Most importantly, strength training has given me the courage to pursue all that I'm capable of pursuing. It's taught me to look at life with an "I CAN F*ING DO THIS" attitude.

If I can go into the gym and deadlift 235 pounds.... why can't I go out and talk to that cute guy?

If I can squat my bodyweight plus some for reps... why can't I have confidence to go out and ask for that promotion?

Instead of asking "why me?".... strength training has taught me to ask "why NOT me?"

It's taught me that if I work hard enough - day in and day out - I will achieve what I set out to do. It takes courage, discipline, focus, determination, a good attitude, and a willingness to try and try again when you fail, because you inevitably will.

I'm so grateful that God led me to the barbell.

That I have a sense of purpose.

And that I can share that gift and purpose to help YOU reach your fullest potential, every single day of my life.

Love you guys!!!

XO, Julie

P.S. Don't forget to check out my latest blog post: Should I be tracking calories/macros?

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P.S. Can't wait to launch my Strong and Sexy Bikini Body Program on April 1st! Send me an email ( or leave me a comment below with YOUR email and you'll be first on the list when I release more information :)