‘Tis the Season…for lots of Sneezin’!

coldI hope wherever you spent the weekend you were lucky to enjoy some sunshine and warmer temperatures. Here in New York, it seemed everyone made the most of the glorious spring weather including yours truly. Of course, as I went for a long walk through the tree-lined, grassy suburban neighborhood where I grew up, it hit me – the pollen that is.

The last thing I want to do after the horrendous winter is complain about the arrival of allergy season. (However, the experts are predicting one of the worst spring and summer allergy seasons in a long time.) So as we New Yorkers welcome a 70-degree Motivation Monday, I’ll simply offer some advice for anyone who’s ready to move your fitness routine outside but wants to keep the sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing and potential wheezing to a minimum. Here are some of my springtime survival tips:

  • Timing is everything: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will help.
  • Wear sunglasses: You can create at least a minimal barrier for your eyes by wearing sunglasses (or even goggles) if you plan to exercise outdoors for a long period of time. Using eye drops before you head outside can help, too.(Non-prescription Alaway eye drops helped me a lot last year and I recently added a new bottle to my medicine cabinet.)
  • Don’t forget your meds: I got allergy shots for many years when I was a kid. They helped make my acute reactions less severe over time, but I still battle through hay fever season. Today there are so many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines that can offer relief. (Important note: I do NOT like to take a lot of medicine, but I’d much rather take something for a few months than cut back on my workouts and start scratching my eyes out!) Talk to your doctor about what treatments might work best to alleviate your symptoms. To prevent the onset of those symptoms, it helps to take your medication one hour before your outdoor workout. If you get out of bed and head outdoors immediately, ask your doctor if you can take your medication before bed so it’s in your system when you head outside.
  • Clean up: At the end of an outdoor workout, your clothes are covered in a lot more than sweat. Get out of that pollen-covered workout gear, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.

To wrap things up, the best advice I can offer is simple: listen to your body. If you’re trying to get your heart rate up outdoors but all you’re feeling is misery, be smart. Stop. Head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you turn to an air-conditioned group exercise class or pop in your favorite Zumba DVD in at home to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Fresh Start

istock_000015612296smallI think I lost 10 pounds since last week.

Don’t worry, I didn’t start some crazy diet or workout eight hours every day. The weight I lost was in my mind, and it melted away thanks to a little spring cleaning. Well, in full disclosure, it was really more like spring cleaning on steroids.

I decided to spruce up my apartment with a fresh coat of paint. Anyone who’s been through it knows you might as well be preparing to move. While I wrapped up my fragile knickknacks and made room for the painters to work, I also cleaned out my closets, desk drawers and other storage spots that were surprisingly chock full of papers and plain old junk. I also came across some bittersweet memories – photos and other memorabilia of special people who aren’t around anymore. Even putting those items in a special box and tucking it away in a closet was cathartic. The memories will be there if I want to relive them down the road.

Starting my mornings with a workout gave me a solid shot of those forever-welcome endorphins which only made me more enthusiastic about loading pounds of paper into the shredder and putting other items aside to donate. As I finish putting my photos and books back in their nooks and paintings back on the wall, I feel a little lighter after getting rid of the “stuff” I simply didn’t need anymore. I think I’m truly ready for spring. (Now if Mother Nature will just cooperate, it’ll be a great season!)

So on this Motivation Monday, I encourage you to take stock of what’s around you. Something as simple as eliminating the clutter in your life can have a huge impact on your psyche. Removing any kind of negative energy – things, people, habits – can only be good for your overall health and well-being. Remember, creating positive surroundings can give you a boost when you’re not working out and only help you stay  the course on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

My First Blog Tour

iStock_000009363193SmallI realize this is a departure from my Motivation Monday norm, but as you know, I’m a big proponent of mixing things up.

I’ve been invited to participate in a “blog tour” by writer and blogger Paula Rizzo. I guess you could call it a sort of chain letter for blogs. However, unlike the chain letters I usually ended up tossing as a kid, I thought this would be a bit more fun. I have to answer four questions about my writing process and introduce you to three bloggers who will pick up the baton next week. They’ll introduce you to another trio…and so on, and so on. Ready…set…go!

1. What am I working on?

Along with my Motivation Monday posts and other social media outreach, I’m in the infancy stage of writing a proposal for my very first book. Without giving too much away, my goal is to draw on my personal experience – including more than a few mistakes- to write an easy-to-follow blueprint for people of all ages and skill levels. On the non-fitness front, I’ve been keeping a journal since the age of 12. One day, I hope to draw from some of the events in my life to create some form of realistic fiction, but that’s down the road a piece.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

While there is no shortage of fitness experts in Cyberspace or on TV, I can’t truly relate to many of them as a 40-year-old woman. I don’t believe you have to go to injury-inducing extremes to make positive, healthy changes in your life at any age. I promote choices that people can live with for more than a few days or weeks at a time and promote finding fitness routines and diet regimens that make you feel good so you’ll stick with them for the long haul.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve loved to write and I’ve loved to exercise for as long as I can remember, so bringing the two together feels natural. At the age of 40, I can honestly say I’m stronger than ever. By taking better care of myself physically during the last five years, I know I’ve also gained strength mentally and emotionally. I share my favorite workouts, foods and even some fitness faux pas in an effort to inspire others to find their own path to leading a healthy lifestyle.

4. How does my writing process work?

Each workout, each trip to the grocery store and each week can present its own inspiration. If I enjoy a particularly grueling Central Park workout or add a new item to my fridge, there’s a good chance you’ll read about it here. I also rely on the calendar to address timely topics like staying healthy through the holidays or hydrated through the summer.

Who’s On Deck…

LoriAnn LaRocco (Lori Ann LaRocco.wordpress.com) Lori Ann is one of my dearest friends and the author of three books including her most recent, “Opportunity Knocking” (Agate Publishing).  She is also the Senior Talent Producer for CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Lori Ann has used her “trillion dollar” Rolodex to gain real-world insight into business and finance. Her work, including her blog, is an inspiration for all entrepreneurs or anyone who needs a swift kick in the you-know-what to stop dreaming about what you want to do and put a real plan into action.

Lauren Muscarella (traumatoart.org/inspire/) Lauren and I met several years ago at a NASM workshop while preparing for our personal training certification exams. Along with sharing a passion for health and fitness, I soon learned Lauren lost her mother to breast cancer at a very young age. She eventually found comfort for her grief in writing a blog called MamaQuest. After receiving countless emails and letters expressing how her blog inspired others to use creativity to cope with their own losses, she wanted to do more. Lauren founded TraumatoArt.org to help young adults find their own unique path through grief using creativity, rituals and community contribution.

Stephanie d’Orsay (itrainthereforeieat.com) Stephanie is certified as an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist and has a MS in Applied Nutrition. We met in Twitterville and in addition to falling in love with the name of her blog, I appreciate her love of food and her outlook on what it means to follow a healthy lifestyle. We share a common belief that there is no one-size-fits-all diet and fitness plan and Stephanie’s blog offers an honest and uplifting approach to reaching goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for reading and as always, I wish you all a great week filled with tons of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Welcome Spring!

Another Springtime bonus? Baseball season is almost here!  Photo by Leslie Hassler

Another Springtime bonus? Baseball season is almost here!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

It’s the first Motivation Monday of the Spring of 2014! Obviously, Mother Nature has yet to catch up with the calendar. (We’re bracing for more snow here in New York tomorrow.) So for now I’ll enjoy the little rush I get from just wishing people a happy Spring! As we all try to catch the buzz of a new season, it’s also the perfect time to think about shaking up your fitness routine.

There are three reasons why change is good when it comes to how you exercise:

  1.  Avoid a Plateau: If you run at the same speed on the treadmill everyday for 20 minutes, your body will eventually hit a plateau. You’ll still burn calories, but you’ll need to increase your resistance levels or speed if you want to help boost your metabolism and maximize results. This is the same reason personal trainers push clients to increase reps with each workout. As your strength and endurance grows, so should your workout.
  2. Avoid Over-Training: Doing the same workout day after day doesn’t allow muscle groups time to rest and recover and ultimately grow. This not only diminishes returns on your hard work, but it also puts you at increased risk for injury. This is why I mix up my cardio days and take different Physique57 signature and mat classes throughout the week. I also take at least one day off each week.
  3. Avoid Burnout: If you get bored with your fitness routine, you’re likely to stop putting 100% into your work. If you stop seeing results, you may give up on your fitness goals altogether. Trying new group exercise classes and weight training circuits can keep things fresh. 

The good news is there are simple ways to add a little variety to your routine:

1) Start jumping rope: Along with making you feel like a kid again, jumping rope can burn up to 20 calories per minute! Also, since you only need one portable piece of equipment, you can do it just about anywhere. (Just watch your ceiling height!) Even walkers can incorporate jumping rope into their routine and take things to the next level. Try this: walk at your top speed for 5 minutes and then jump rope for 1 minute. Keep switching between walking and jumping rope and work your way up to a total of 30 minutes. Ideally, try to work up to three walking/jumping sessions three times a week for two weeks.

2) Tweak the traditional push-up: Place your feet on a six- to eight-inch high step as you get in plank position and perform a push-up as you normally would. Be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze the glutes through all your reps. Adding the step creates more work for your shoulders along with the chest. (Feel free to use stairs in your house or outside your building as the step!)

3) Take it outside: Sometimes a change of venue is all you need to put that extra spring in your step! Take Tabata training to the park, the backyard or the deck. Take advantage of the extra daylight and meet a friend or catch up with that special someone over a walk before or after dinner.

4) Get some new gear: I recently strayed from basic black to purchase a few new pairs of workout pants and tank tops. (I’m now a first-time owner of purple yoga pants!) Whether it’s a new pair of cross trainers or a moisture-wicking sports bra or pair of shorts, sometimes a pop of color can go a long way in lifting your mood and getting you pumped to workout. Who doesn’t like to show off new clothes or kicks?

5) Get a new playlist: I can always count on heart-pounding beats to keep me moving! If you need some new tunes, here are some of my latest favorites:

  • “Made Of (Chuckie Mix)”  by Nause
  • “September (Neil McLellan Remix)” by St. Lucia
  • “Fire In Your New Shoes” by Kaskade (feat. Dragonette)
  • “What’s Up Suckaz” by TJF
  • “#Selfie” by The Chain smokers

So, how are you planning to take things up a notch this spring? Let me know so we can all share some ideas on our neverending quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

” Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ “

-Robin Williams

New Food Find

Newest Go-To Meal: Grilled Fish & "Superfood Pilaf"

Newest Go-To Meal: Grilled Fish & “Superfood Pilaf”

Today’s Motivation Monday message is all about fuel. If you make a commitment to move more, it’s crucial to give your body the fuel it needs to keep moving – both in and out of the gym. Since people are always asking me what I eat to stay healthy, I thought I’d share one of my new favorites. On top of being tasty, it goes from my microwave to my plate in about seven minutes. Anything but a master cook, I always look for foods that are nutritious, filling and super easy to prepare.

My newest find is a Trader Joe’s product called “Superfood Pilaf.” An organic combination of quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale and carrots, it’s rich in iron, dietary fiber, vitamins A and C and it’s the perfect complement to a piece of grilled chicken, fish or lean red meat. It’s also a nice break from the “ordinary” brown rice or the whole grain farro I usually make.

IMG_2399The bottom line is you don’t have to spend tons of time in the kitchen to follow a healthy lifestyle. A little bit of prep goes a long way. For me, that means spending a little time every Sunday chopping and slicing fresh produce into individual serving containers that I can grab each day of the week. Along with an ample supply of microwavable frozen veggies (like the “Superfood Pilaf”), I also stay stocked with go-to proteins like chicken breasts or frozen tilapia filets. Taking two minutes in the morning to move a piece of protein from the freezer to the fridge to defrost can mean the difference between grilling up something healthy for dinner or ordering something filled with extra calories, extra grease and extra guilt.

I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-prepare and healthy meals or snack items, so if you have one or two, I’d love to hear from you! Remember, striking a healthy balance between diet and exercise is the best way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Extra Sleepy This Monday? You’re Not Alone!

iStock_000008015531LargeThis weekend presented a good news – bad news scenario for most of us. The good news: we added some much-needed sunlight to our days at the end of a winter that just won’t quit. The bad news: we lost an hour of sleep thanks to changing the clocks for daylight saving time. So on this particular Motivation Monday, instead of offering a boost to squat or stretch more often, I encourage you to use this drowsy day to take stock of something that’s crucial to our overall health but often overlooked: your sleep habits.

Why do we need sleep? Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps regulate our mood and learn and retain valuable information. There are even studies out there linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from my work to my workouts and I definitely get more annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.

Here are some ideas for incorporating those all-important zzzz’s into your healthy routine:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol: Anyone who’s read this blog for some time knows I enjoy a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Of course, having a hangover the next day after too many libations is never a good thing.
  • Caffeine: I have some friends who can have a cup of coffee after dinner at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like herbal teas and chocolate.
  • Hunger:  The bottom line is you don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to be too full either. I try not to snack at night after dinner, but if I do, I go for a single-serve bag of 94% fat-free popcorn, a skinny cow fudge pop or a few clementines or mandarins. Frozen grapes are great for taming those sweet cravings, too.
  • Stress:  This an area I hope to manage better this year. I recently read somewhere it’s a good idea to write down all your worries an hour before getting into bed. Whether it’s the to-do list for the next day or some project that’s been on your plate for awhile, writing things down gets the worry “out there” and you can deal with it in the morning. I find the nights I write in my journal (which I’ve been keeping since I was 12!) helps me unwind more than the nights I don’t.
  • Shutting Down:  If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be overstimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.

Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout and watch what you eat, you owe it to yourself to give your body time to rest and recharge. It’s all part of the winning formula to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“March”ing Ahead

iStock_000014614375SmallLike most people, I am beyond over this miserable winter.

This particular Motivation Monday post goes live after a weekend filled with another round of ever-changing weather reports for yet another winter storm filled with uncertain snowfall totals and other foul-weather calamities. Which means many of  you could be cooped up at home today, and quite possibly with kids who are missing yet another school day thanks to Old Man Winter. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and remember, exercise is one of the best ways to produce some endorphins which can keep the “winter blues” at bay. And let’s face it – with this winter still very much in full effect, we need all the help we can get!

The good news is you don’t need to leave the house to get those mood-elevating endorphins flowing through your system. In fact, if you’ve been meaning to give Tabata training a try or have been thinking about adding it back into your fitness routine, a forced day indoors is the perfect time to make it happen!

Click here for a refresher on Tabata training and how you can get one or two in around the house today.

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Some of my favorite basic exercises that work perfectly for Tabata training and need no equipment:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Plank
  • Squats
  • Side planks
  • Bridges
  • Crunches
  • Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Push-Ups

Since Tabatas are done in four-minute intervals, I present this challenge: why not try to bang out two or three consecutive Tabatas (giving you roughly 10-15 minutes of activity) two or three times throughout the course of the day? By dinner time, you could easily bang out 30 minutes of exercise (or more!) while keeping a steady level of endorphins running through your body as a bonus!

If you have other survival tips for keeping the body and mind in good form during this winter that just won’t quit, I’d love to hear about them! Here’s to keeping those spirits up and holding out hope for a warm and sunny spring filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Don’t Give Up Now!

iStock_000018191976XSmallIt’s hard to believe this is the last Motivation Monday of February. However, I’m having an even harder time coming to grips with the fact that we’re nine weeks into 2014!

Unfortunately just like every other year at this time, I have less of a wait for the elliptical or chest press machines at New York Sports Club and there’s even a bit more space at the barre at Physique57. Why? Because this is the time when lots of people find themselves standing on the precipice of throwing in the towel on those health and fitness goals. If you’re one of them, I hope this post will help you stay the course. If you’ve become a bit discouraged, bored or burned out, now’s the perfect time to step back and assess the good things that have been happening since you made your New Year’s resolutions.

All too often in this hectic life, we can dwell on the negative. So let’s start clearing the mind of those self-sabotaging thoughts such as “I’ve been working out and eating better for almost two months and I still can’t fit into those skinny  jeans I bought five years ago.”  Step back, take a deep breath, give yourself a good reality check and turn your attention to the positive. Ask yourself if your healthier habits have caused any of the following side effects:

  • Increased energy throughout the day
  • Sharper focus at work and/or getting things done around the house
  • Healthier glow to your skin
  • Not feeling winded after daily activities like carrying groceries or one of your kids up a flight of stairs
  • Better posture
  • Better overall mood and less irritability
  • A stronger immune system kept the cold and flu bugs at bay or helped you feel better faster even if you did get sick during the peak winter months
  • More solid shut-eye

If you’ve experienced any or all of the above, then you have some tangible reasons to stick with your routine. Remember, the health and fitness journey is a road that stretches for an entire lifetime. Along that road, each and every one of us will encounter wrong turns, speed bumps and nasty potholes, but those are the times to remember there are smooth patches, too. If you experienced some dangerous curves just this weekend enjoying a few too many calories and slacking off on the exercise, don’t sweat it. This is a brand new day, the start of a brand new week and a fresh slate of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

My Latest Fitness Find

photo-24This quick-hit Motivation Monday post is aimed at helping all you ladies “train like a beast but look like a beauty.”

If you’ve been reading my blog since last April, you already know how addicted I’ve become to Physique 57.  While the workouts have made this body leaner and meaner than ever,  they’ve also caused one undesirable side effect: callouses.

Between the 10-minute upper body warm-up with weights and all the positions I hold onto the barre for stability while sweating through an endless barrage of squats and other standing seat and leg work, my palms have taken a quite a beating. Since this bona fide “girlie girl” is equally addicted to keeping my nails in shape, I realized I needed to do something to try and keep my hands looking healthy on both sides.

Then one day, I ran into a woman leaving the class before mine who was wearing the solution: “girlie” weight lifting gloves! I’m now happy to share my find with any other fitness “beastresses” who want to add the final touch to your cute and colorful workout wear. The gloves I found are here at FemmeFitaleFitness.com  I plan to order my second pair soon!

So remember: while strong is the new sexy, you can still add a little feminine flair to your fitness routine to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Okay, 40. Bring It On!

Forty & Fiercer Than Ever! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Forty & Fiercer Than Ever!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Well it’s the start of a whole new decade here at LauraLovesFitness. I’m officially 40.

I won’t lie. About six months ago, when I started thinking about turning the “big 4-0,” it put my brain into a bit of a tailspin. However, when I stopped to think about how I’ve evolved through the decades, I came to a pretty darned good realization: I’m stronger than ever. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

Sure, I had to make some mistakes in my 20s and 30s to get here, but I have no regrets. Actually that’s not true. I do have regrets, but guess what? They have more to do with the choices I’ve made in my fitness routine than in my love life.

I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s been more than a year since my last injury at the gym. This makes sense considering I’m training harder but smarter than I did in the past. While I’ve always been active, I didn’t truly grasp the importance of taking care of my body while pushing its limits at the gym until I studied for my personal trainer certification. Thanks to an introduction to anatomy and human movement science, I finally understood what it means to train the whole body so that it works in synergy. This is why I started putting more emphasis on things like core and flexibility training to build a healthier body.

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30

In addition to my studies and continuing education, my appreciation for total body training also comes from the Physique57 workouts I added to my routine last April. The one-hour class includes a range of moves including more squats than I’ve probably done in my entire life. The workouts never get boring, and they’ve helped me build lean muscle and feel stronger than ever.

Of course, a healthy diet is key to maximizing the positive effects from your workouts. While I’m eating cleaner than I did in my younger years, anyone whose read this blog for awhile knows I’m also a big fan of enjoying life. For me, turning 40 was the perfect occasion to enjoy everything from a strong margarita (or two) to a decadent flourless chocolate cake. You only live once, right?

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Luckily, my body has healed from the injuries of my 20s and 30s. My heart has healed from its own share of hits, too. Working through emotional pain with exercise has helped my heart stay strong through the tough times. At the start of this new decade, I know my body and mind are working in better harmony than ever before. Which means it’s time for the fittest and fiercest decade ever!

I wrap things up with a few quotes about aging and a thank you for listening to my birthday musings. With my family, friends and fellow fitness enthusiasts behind me, I take my first strong steps into the new year and look forward to the next 40… and all the chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” -Mark Twain

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” -Henry Ford

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.”-Maurice Chevalier

 

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