The First of Many Avon Walks to Come

Ready to Roll!

Ready to Roll!

People often talk about life-changing experiences. At 40, I can say I’ve had a few. Yet nothing compares to the two-day, 39.3 mile journey around New York City shared  with thousands of people from all over the country, all sporting pink for a purpose. Being a part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer can be summed up in one just one word: empowering.

When I arrived at Pier 84 along the Hudson River just after six on Saturday morning, I immediately felt a surge of energy. Then Sue, my fellow St. Mary’s Gael, and I found each other among the masses of people stretching, filling their water bottles and taking photos before the start of the journey and my excitement intensified through the duration of our bear-hug greeting. After the opening ceremony featuring motivational music and moving stories from breast cancer survivors and those who lost loved ones to the disease, we were off. When the journey ended nearly 30 hours later back at the spot where it all began, Sue and I had tears in our own eyes as we gave each other another bear hug and crossed the finish line.

26.2 Miles Done!

26.2 Miles Done!

The journey took us through many New York neighborhoods from the Upper West Side to Greenwich Village, over the Brooklyn Bridge, to Randall’s Island and back to where it all started. As we crossed streets with safe guidance and motivation offered by an amazing crew of volunteers, and welcomed pom-pom animated cheers from well-wishers in the different neighborhoods, we met people with so many different stories. A nine-year survivor who’s already looking forward to next year when her three granddaughters will join in for their first walk. A man from North Carolina who has participated in 91 Avon walks around the country in honor of his son who had a double mastectomy at the age of 17 and a friend who’s also battling the disease. The other first-timers who knew after mile one they’d be back next year – just like me and Sue.

We did it! 39.3 Miles!

We did it! 39.3 Miles!

The stories and the hometowns were different, but we all came together for the same purpose. To literally take steps toward wiping out a disease that affects far too many lives each year. At the closing ceremonies, while we celebrated the fact that the New York event raised seven-point-one million dollars, we were also presented with the sad reality that while we walked, another 150 people lost their lives to breast cancer over the weekend. But as the survivors walked into the ceremony site, their spirit reminded us that we can’t give up the fight against breast cancer. Their determination, matched with the challenge of finishing a 39-mile journey taught me we are all stronger than we think.

Gaels for Life!

Gaels for Life!

As many of you already know, I’ve wanted to walk the Walk since my mom beat breast cancer in 2008. Then this year, Sue and I learned we had a common source of motivation as one of our classmates is now waging her own war against the disease. On Sunday afternoon, Liz joined us at the closing ceremonies and we all agreed we couldn’t wait to start planning our next walk when she would join us as a survivor.

I write this post realizing I’ve probably never been this sore or tired in my life, but I also realize I’ve also never felt so exhilarated. There is something amazing about pushing your body to the limit with the help of sheer determination stemming from something close to your heart. Once again, I want to thank all my friends and family who made a donation and helped me get to the starting line and whose faith kept me pushing through to the end. Please know these are only a few of dozens of great images I captured over the weekend. If you’re following me on Facebook, be sure to check my page for the complete Avon Walk album to be posted soon! (And if you aren’t following me there yet, now’s the time to do it!)

IMG_4541If you’ve been thinking about joining the Avon Walk or other similar efforts to take up the fight against a disease that’s hit close to home, get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Step Off the Scale!

iStock_000015952283SmallLet’s face it. We can all get way too caught up in the numbers game. Perhaps no digits are regarded with more dread than those reflecting our age and our weight. So on this Motivation Monday, I’m here to remind you of two important realities:

1) Age IS just a number. Considering the alternative, is blowing out an extra candle on your birthday cake every year really such a big deal?

2)  The scale is NOT always your  friend.  You give up wine and cupcakes for a week, and the number staring back at you hasn’t budged or had the audacity to creep up a digit or two. Well, that’s when you need to literally step off and take stock of the non-scale wins you can see and feel because of your efforts to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Think back to when you started working out. Whether it was last week or last year, don’t dismiss any of the gains you’ve made:

  • Can you do five more push-ups today than the first time you hit the gym last month? That’s a win!
  • How about my favorite exercise, the plank. You’re already able to hold that position for 30 seconds? Kudos to you!
  • Did you walk up the stairs from the train platform today and not feel winded by the time you hit the street? Major win!
  • Didn’t even blink carrying your kid on one arm and a bag of groceries on the other for 10 blocks? Win and win again!

Now think about what’s changed thanks to adding healthier food choices to your daily routine:

  • Are you getting more daily servings of fruits and veggies thanks to the 30-minutes you put aside to prep containers of grab-and-go produce? Win!
  • Do you have more energy during the day because you’re focused on eating every few hours instead of waiting until that one big meal at night? Good job!
  • Can you concentrate better at work or on that never-ending to-do list thanks to steadier blood sugar levels? Mental victory!
  • Feel like you rocked those “skinny jeans” or that outfit you’ve been saving for a special occasion last weekend? Chalk up another win for “Team You.”

We can be so hard on ourselves that we forget to stop and take note of the positive things that happen when we exercise and eat well. Whether it’s sleeping better or being a more attentive colleague, spouse or friend, we can help our bodies and our minds function as close to 100 percent as possible by making healthy choices. Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference when it comes to staying on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Five Dos & Don’ts for Healthy Living

Smile & Keep It Simple! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Smile & Keep It Simple!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

On this particular Motivation Monday, I feel the need to keep things as simple as possible.

After a four-day mini-marathon helping my parents start cleaning out the house they’ve lived in for the past 35 years and my mom’s birthday, my muscles and my brain are just a bit fried. So, for the sake of everyone facing a manic Monday, I thought I’d offer some basic elements for how I keep my healthy lifestyle in check.

Here are my top five dos and don’t for healthy living:

1) DON’T skip meals for an entire day in anticipation of a big event at night. DO eat small, sensible meals every few hours before the celebration so your blood sugar levels stay consistent and you don’t over-do-it once you arrive. One hour before the party, try to have a satisfying snack with some protein. My go-to: string cheese and a couple of clementines or an apple.

2) DON’T sabotage all your efforts at the gym by drinking sugary drinks while you workout. Unless you’re running up and down a court or field for 90 minutes or more, stick with water to stay hydrated. Can’t stand plain water? DO feel free to add a drop or packet of zero-calorie flavor crystals to your water bottle or opt for no-calorie versions of the popular sports drinks.

3) DON’T go to the gym when you have symptoms of something beyond the sniffles. If you have a serious cough or stomach issues, do everyone a favor and skip the workout and stay home. DO, however, maintain a consistent exercise schedule with a combination of cardio and strength training to help boost your immune system and fight off the bugs when they try to bring you down.

4) DON’T let exercise become an obsession. Pain beyond the typical aches and pains following a tough workout or extreme fatigue are warning signs that it’s time to rest! DO take at least one rest day each week to let your muscles recover and give your entire body a re-charge.

5)DON’T skimp on sleep. Many people fail to realize that exercise, healthy eating and getting the proper rest are all necessary for staying on top of your game. DO wrap up your workout at least two hours before bedtime and stop texting, emailing and all your other social-media activity at least 30 minutes before lights out.

Remember, sometimes keeping things simple is the best way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Bring on October!

Thanks to the Generous Spirit of Friends Like Marianna - Who Made This Pin! - This October Will Be Unforgettable!

Thanks to the Generous Spirit of Friends Like Marianna – Who Made This Pin – It Will Be an Unforgettable October!

It feels like I blinked and found myself at the last Motivation Monday of September. That means we’re only two days away from the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I couldn’t think of a better time to remind everyone about one of the many reasons to make exercise a part of your life.

You probably already know about some of the major benefits of exercise:

  • Controls weight
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves your mood
  • Promotes better sleep

In case you need another reason to get moving, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, there is also strong evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer.

As many of you repeat readers already know, my mom is a breast cancer survivor. Because she has always been adamant about keeping up with her health screenings, the doctors detected the cancer early and she beat it. A few months ago, I learned about two women in my age group who joined the more than 230,000 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the end of 2014. Because of my mom, my peers and the countless other stories I’ve heard about people being affected by breast cancer, I decided to put my best foot forward and try to do my own small part to fight the disease. Thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I am exactly 19 days away from doing just that!

I’m happy to report I’ve met the $1,800 minimum donation mark to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer here in New York City. I can’t wait to join my St. Mary’s High School classmate, Sue, and thousands of others for a 39-mile walk the weekend of October 18th. While I’ve raised what I need to walk the Walk, it isn’t too late to make a donation. Please click on the link below to find my personal page where you can help us top last year’s New York donations of $6.7 million.

http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/NewYork?px=7671099&pg=personal&fr_id=2366

I close with some very important thank yous. First, I’m grateful for the people who always have my back – not only in my efforts to join the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, but for all the other adventures I’ve taken on since starting this blog three years ago. Last but certainly not least, I want to thank my mom. Her 2008 diagnosis made me want to learn all I could about reducing my own risk and taking care of myself in general. To that end, exercise has been a key component for my own well-being while giving me the energy to be concerned about the well-being of others.

If you’ve been looking for a time to turn your take-care-of-you goals into reality, here’s your chance. Make this Breast Cancer Awareness Month your time to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

A Monday of Motivation & Gratitude

Bring on Fall!

Bring on Fall!

Well, the last Motivation Monday of the summer of 2014 has arrived!

As we get ready to start the fall season filled with new adventures, I’m thrilled to tell you about another first for LauraLovesFitness.

I met Gary Davis, the owner of HealthFitnessGenie.com via Twitter and was honored when he asked to interview me for his website. The site offers great information for people of all ages and fitness levels with articles ranging from how to hire a personal trainer to exercising proper etiquette in the gym.

Please click on the following link to read the interview where Gary and I discuss how fitness has remained the one constant that’s kept me grounded through the ups and downs of the biggest adventure known as life. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about me and perhaps get a shot of motivation to stay on track with your own goals as we head into a new season.

http://www.healthfitnessgenie.com/laura-deangelis-interview/

I close with a thank you to Gary and to all of you for checking out the interview. Feel free to share away on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you’d like to spread the word about “team” LauraLovesFitness and HealthFitnessGenie.

Here’s to the fall of 2014 and all the chances we’ll have to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

Take Care of Those Tootsies!

photo-25On this Motivation Monday, I want to offer a reminder about two things you should never ignore in your fitness routine: your feet.

A few weeks ago, I started experiencing some knee pain halfway through my elliptical sessions. It wasn’t anything serious, but there was enough discomfort to warrant some ice-pack recovery time  after my high-intensity cardio sessions. Then I realized I hadn’t followed one of my own cardinal rules on footwear. I missed the six-month mark for replacing my sneakers and was about to cross the threshold into the ninth month.

That might not seem like a long extension, but if you workout almost every day like I do, those sneakers wear down a lot faster than you think. Knee pain can be a sure sign you’re losing the support you need in your footwear. Sure enough, after I got a new pair of Ryka cross trainers, the knee pain disappeared in just a few days.

Here’s a little foot trivia that can help illustrate why your feet deserve a little extra TLC: there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons in each foot. That means there are 370 places vulnerable to injury in your feet alone. Now consider that insufficient foot support can lead to compensations made by your knees and hips, and you’re putting your body at risk for a whole world of hurt.

So, what’s the best footwear? It depends on your foot type. If you have a high arch, you need sneakers with good shock absorption. If your feet are flat and/or “roll” inward or outward, you need a sneaker with stability. An “average” foot needs a shoe with both cushioning and stability.

Since my fitness routine includes everything from elliptical training and rowing for cardio to squat Tabatas and strength training classes, I have always been the most comfortable working out in cross trainers. My friends who run will only pound the pavement wearing running sneakers. Many basketball players like high tops for the extra ankle stability. If there’s one sport you play often, it’s a good idea to get a pair of sneakers specifically for that activity, and also have a more “universal” pair, like cross trainers, for days when you mix things up.

I look at it this way: I have far too many lip glosses in my makeup drawer  and most guys have more gadgets than they’ll probably ever need. So why wouldn’t you spend the money to have at least one good pair of sneakers to protect you from getting hurt while you’re working so hard to stay healthy?

In the end, wearing the proper footwear is one of the easiest ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Back to School, Back to YOU!

A New Month of Opportunities Awaits!

A New Month of Opportunities Awaits!

Well here we are one week into September of 2014. My New York City neighborhood is back to its normal frenetic pace. The kids are back in school and everyone who vacationed outside the concrete jungle are back from their summer hideaways. That means the gyms are crowded again, too. So I figured I’d use this Motivation Monday to remind everyone this is the perfect time to incorporate some fitness into your back-to-reality routine.

Parents are helping their kids deal with new teachers, new schedules and after-school activities. If you’re like me and you don’t have kids, the speed of everyday living tends to amp up a notch thanks to the end of summer Fridays and the beginning of new projects and deadlines. The good news is fitting some fitness into your September routine doesn’t have to be impossible.

Here are some tips to make things a little less overwhelming:

  • Set a Time & Put It In Writing: If you drive your kids to school or your spouse to the train station, figure out if there’s time immediately following a drop-off or right before a pick-up for a workout. You could hit the gym for a group exercise class, drive a few more blocks to the park for a run or meet a fitness friend for a brisk walk or game of tennis. Listing the activity in your smart phone calendar or on the daily to do-list stuck to the fridge can offer a visual boost to keep that workout on schedule.
  • Ten Minutes of Something is Better than Nothing!  As time seems to grow more precious each day, there are plenty of workouts geared toward gaining maximum results in less time.  Click here for a refresher on my “Tear-It-Up-in-Ten Circuit” as featured recently on the Working Woman Report. (Don’t forget to tune in for a new episode tonight at 8:30 pm NYCLife Channel, which is either 25 or 22 depending on your provider.)
  • “Fall” Into Healthy Eating Habits: If you pack lunch for the kiddies, why not add  just a few minutes to the prep time and make some healthy snacks or meals for yourself? I spend about 30 minutes every Sunday slicing and dicing veggies including peppers, celery sticks and carrots and then pack them in reusable containers or individual plastic bags. I can grab a portion anytime as a healthy snack or as a side to a turkey sandwich. Some of my other favorite on-the-go eats include almonds, low-fat string cheese and non-fat plain Greek yogurt.
  • Wardrobe Prep If you plan to exercise first thing in the morning, put your workout wear in the bathroom the night before. It’s usually the first room we visit after we wake up, so if your clothes are staring you in the face, it may be harder to ditch the workout. If you’re exercising after work, pack your gym bag the night before and leave it by the door to grab on your way out. (And don’t forget to grab one of your prepped snacks for some healthy fuel, too!)

Finally, it’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting fitness on your schedule and healthy foods into your fridge are two big steps toward a healthier  you. If you indulged in more ice cream or margaritas than you planned over the summer, don’t sweat it. It’s a new month, a new season is coming and there will be plenty of chances to get your butt in gear so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy Labor Day!

What I Miss Most About Every Summer...

What I Miss Most After Every Summer…

Well, here we are. Labor Day – the unofficial end of summer – has arrived. Whether you’re working out, chilling out, beaching or grilling, I hope you savor every second of the holiday.

As I hope most people will abandon the Internet and spend more time with family or friends today, I offer a short and sweet post featuring my favorite  summertime songs. If you’re looking to make the season last a little longer, maybe you’ll download one or two and create a new playlist for your workout or cookout.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and safe Labor Day ahead and here’s to a whole September filled with new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Laura’s Summer Song Faves:

Help Me Walk the Walk

One of my Favorite Pictures with Mom

One of my Favorite Pictures with Mom

On this Motivation Monday, I find myself 54 days away from an event I’ve wanted to participate in for years.  I’ve committed to take part in the 2014 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer here in New York City. The two-day event takes place October 18th and 19th. Thousands of people will walk 39.3 miles to help fund life-saving research, education and advocacy programs.

I’ve wanted to participate in the Avon Walk ever since my Mom’s diagnosis back in 2008. She beat breast cancer, and I know thanks to other events like this, more people will, too. Within the past few months, I learned of two young women – one in my high school class, another in my fitness circle – who are now waging their own war against breast cancer. So I decided it was time to stop talking about joining the fight against the disease and start walking!

However, I can’t do any of this without some help. In order to join in the Avon Walk, I have to raise $1,800. Your generous donations will help make that possible. Please click on the the link below to visit my personal page at the Avon Breast Cancer Walk website. While I hope to raise more than the minimum, I’ll take all the support I can get!

http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/NewYork?px=7671099&pg=personal&fr_id=2366

While I’ve Zumba-d my bootie off for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and donated to other charities, I’ve never done anything on this scale before. It’s a wonderful way to use my love for physical activity for a good cause and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I look forward to walking with Sue, a fellow Gael from St. Mary’s High School Class of 1991, and thousands of others as we strive to top last year’s New York donations of $6.7 million.

I close with a big thank you for your support on this new adventure. For all of you who follow me on social media, I appreciate any likes, shares and double-taps you can offer on those channels, too!  I look forward to sharing more about an experience that will hopefully help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Savoring Summer

IMG_3886

Savoring every beach walk in Montauk, NY

It’s hard to believe this Motivation Monday brings us exactly two weeks away from Labor Day. Most consider the holiday the unofficial end of summer. As I sat on the beach on the last day of my last vacation of the season, I realized how much time can be wasted thinking about how many hours or days we have left to enjoy something instead of seizing and savoring the present moment.

I stared at the roaring sea, listened to the waves crashing against the sand and started breathing a little more deeply. I wanted to savor the scent of salt and sunscreen and embrace the feeling of the heat on my sun-kissed skin. However, somehow the my-vacation-is-almost-over panic crept in to my head and in to my heart. Panic about the future. Back in the concrete jungle. Back amidst the cacophony of sirens and horns. Back amongst the crowds of students on the subways and more people in the streets.

I know I’m not alone in this constant struggle between living in the present and worrying about what’s to come. As my mom pointed out, how can we not project about what’s two days or two weeks in the future when we’re bombarded with back-to-school sales in June and Christmas promotions in July?

Then I went for a last long beach walk, and one of my all-time favorite quotes from the legendary Dr. Seuss popped into my over-analytical head:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

And I did smile. I realized how fortunate I was to be back in Montauk with my parents after last year’s hiatus because of my father’s emergency heart surgery. I realized the ocean will continue to churn and then settle into a calm, just like the different seasons and stages of life. At some point, each of us may face the end of a vacation…a job…a marriage…a life. My goal as I move toward a new season is to remember it’s healthier for the body and the spirit to hold on to what was good than lose sleep and sanity over what went wrong and what we can’t get back.

So when life seems overwhelming, I will close my eyes and envision the mighty sea to give me the energy I need to keep going. Whatever gives you strength- a good workout, an image of your children laughing without a care in the world, a conversation with your best friend – enjoy as many of those moments as you can this week and in the weeks ahead. We can’t change the fact that time will always march forward. But savoring the only thing we have control over in that journey – the present moment – can help us take on life’s challenges while keeping us on the course to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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