Guest Post by Leah

Half Marathon Tips for N00bs

Half Marathon Tips for N00bs

by Leah

I never ever thought that I would ever utter the words “I am a runner” but lo and behold, I have and I am.

Rhody Run

I’ve never been much of a runner. I’ve tried a few times and got so discouraged that I gave up and settled into weight lifting, throwing all cardiovascular activity to the wayside. Looking back, I just realize that I was going about it all the wrong way. And now, I have a few races under my belt (including a 12k, half marathon and a 197-mile team relay) and am a confident, albeit slow by some standards, runner.

Ragnar Van 1

Start slow. If you really are brand spanking new at running, start with a walk/run regime, similar to Couch to 5k. Start with low weekly mileage, maybe around 10 miles per week then increase it about 10% per week. Don’t forget to throw in a few step-back weeks every now and then!

Have a plan. I utilized Hal Higdon’s Beginner Half Marathon plan and it worked out really well. Having structure is going to make it easier for you to hit the pavement.

Don’t be afraid to change the plan. After a couple of weeks running, I found that 5 days of running like many plans recommend was just too much for me. I scaled it back to 3 days of running and 2-3 days of weight lifting and lengthening my training plan to get in the mileage. Don’t feel bad about missing a run here and there or switching runs around to fit your schedule. Be flexible but try to follow the plan at least 80% of the time.

Get out of the gym. Treadmills are the devil’s spawn. Get outside, get some fresh air, tackle some hills. You’ll thank me later. (Treadmills do have their place from time to time like extreme weather conditions but there are some serious drawbacks to them!)

Have fun. Your first half marathon should be about just tackling the distance. Don’t set yourself up for failure (and an unenjoyable time) by imposing a strict time goal on yourself. Find a friend or family member to run with. Check out the race expo beforehand to get pumped up. Enjoy the excuse to carb load. Pick out awesome music to run to. Seek out local running groups and make some new friends!

See Jane Run Half Marathon

Check out the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage recap here!


Leah is the blogger behind Leftovers for Lunch where she shares mostly healthy recipes but isn’t afraid to use butter. She eats, drinks, and runs around Bremerton, WA with her husband, Jodus, and 8 year old Golden Lab, Pippin.

Lisa’s Note: Thanks Leah for sharing what you learned! I love that Leah had such a great time doing the Ragnar. Her advice is great. When I was training for Hood to Coast my biggest challenge was being flexible with my training schedule and cross-training.

QUESTION: If you are a new runner, what training plan are you using? What lessons have you learned?

The Battle of The Calorie Counters

The Battle of The Calorie Counters

Hi folks! My name is Leah and I blog over at Leftovers For Lunch.

My story is like so many others – I put on weight because of too much beer and pizza in college and then diving into a desk job right after. I turned to calorie counting to help me lose the extra 30 pounds I was carrying around and have continued to count calories off and on to help maintain a healthy weight (read: lose and gain the same 10 pounds for 2 years).

When I first started calorie counting, I started with pen and paper. I’m pretty sure that lasted like two days before I went crazy and started hunting out online calorie counters. After a brief fling with My Pyramid, I got serious with The Daily Plate. I logged in there for over a year and a half before it was consumed by Livestrong.

Recently, I’ve moved on to Sparkpeople for my latest bout of calorie counting and I’ll be the first to admit, it was for completely superficial reasons which I will get in to in a minute.

While I know I am totally biased, I think that Livestrong and Sparkpeople are basically the top two calorie counters. (Sorry, Lisa! I know you use My Fitness Pal!) There are serious pros and cons to both sites though.

With calorie counters and most weight loss websites, there are two distinct aspects of them: the functional and the feely.

The Functional

The primary function of a calorie counting website is obvious: calorie counting. And to make it as easy as possible for the user to count, naturally. Both LS and SP have extensive databases but on a side-by-side test, my preference is for Livestrong for one reason and one reason alone: everything is embedded and works a lot like the new Google search feature, actually.

You are in your “plate” adding things and you just type it in to the search bar, you can see the basic nutritionals, and it will even have a blue star on things that you have used multiple times before.

Now, I didn’t realize how cool that was until I moved over to Sparkpeople. My huge annoyance with Sparkpeople is that when you go to search for food to add to your log, it opens in another window. And to be specific and search the entire database, you have to select some radial buttons. And then if you want to look at the calories for that food option, it opens in another window.

So let’s say you are at work and your amazing boss gave you a Lindor Truffle and you want to add it to your log before you forget about it, you have to log in, click “Add Food”, change the search options, type in what you are looking for, double check that you selected the right item by clicking on the nutrition button, then close that window, click “Add Food”, then close that window. And if you are at work and trying to be discrete, having multiple non-work related windows open at once just to add a chocolate that your darling boss gave you and it takes you a solid 5 minutes and a million and one clicks to get it in there.

Ok, maybe I’m overreacting  but when you are adding upwards of 15 items a day into your log, all those extra clicks add up and just bug the crap out of me.

But it’s pretty.

This is how I first got hooked on Spark, actually. I would see Brie’s daily screen shots and I was oohed and ahhed by the pretty colors and cleanness of it. So I can overlook its faults, I suppose.

The Feely

The other main aspect of calorie counting is the emotional aspect of it. I don’t care what anyone says, losing weight and trying to get in shape is hard. I think that the people with the most success would attribute a lot of it to a support system, be it their significant other, a workout buddy, or, in the case of us calorie counters, the community.

And as far as community goes, Sparkpeople wins.

I frequented the message boards and groups on Livestrong and Sparkpeople but here’s the highlights of what Sparkpeople offers that Livestrong doesn’t.


Sure, LS has groups but the teams on SP have a really awesome set up – just like message boards with multiple topics going on at once.

LS groups aren’t broken out like that – it’s more like a blog with posts that people can comment on but it is arranged by date so you have to scroll a lot to get to an old topic.

It just isn’t as conducive to really networking and developing relationships.

LS and SP also both have challenges (dares) that you can participate in and databases full of information on health and fitness but I’ve explored more on SP than LS in the few short months I’ve been on SP for one reason: Sparkpoints.

Sparkpoints are great for the overachiever. They don’t really do anything, per say but the “A” student in me wants to get them and as many as I can.  Trophies and medals for surfing the web? For exercising? For posting on the message boards? Um, yes please!

Oh, and I love that you can create and personalize your own Sparkpage, though some of them can be a little MySpace-like. (Ew.)

So there you have it, my long abbreviated run down of the two calorie counters I’ve used. There are obviously a lot more facets to them than I have shown here but I am really happy with the switch I’ve made to move to the Spark.

Not trying to lose weight? Check out the Spark’s other websites: Spark Recipes, Spark Savings, Baby Fit, Spark Teens, and Daily Spark. *

* I wasn’t paid to say any of these. I just really really like Spark People!


Lisa’s Note: Thank you Leah for kicking off the Guest Posts. I particularly enjoyed this because I am a calorie counter and yet I haven’t tried the other programs out there that are available. I think this is a good breakdown of different options. I do use My Fitness Pal to track my calories and exercise and I like it. It’s easy, it’s convenient and it’s on my iPhone. I never use the website, I solely add my calories on my phone. Thanks Leah!