As if the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided on the same day wasn’t enough to get people in a holiday frenzy, now we’re faced with a shorter shopping season than usual before Christmas. Faced with this added hustle and bustle to the 2013 holiday season, I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to touch on the importance of keeping your mental health in check throughout the last month of 2013. To me, there’s no better way to do just that than by breaking a good sweat!
Obviously, working out will help burn some of the extra holiday calories that come in all shapes and sizes ranging from homemade cookies to rich wines and sweet, seasonal cocktails. Weight maintenance aside, the endorphins that stay with you after a workout can also help you maintain a level of calm as you battle the crowds in overheated stores or spend extra amounts of time with the extended -and sometimes non-harmonious- family. (Bonus: if you’re visiting family for the holidays, there’s no better excuse than a run or walk to escape for awhile! Just don’t forget your sneakers!)
I bet some of you are saying, “Laura, between working, shopping, taking care of the kids, baking, cooking and going to all the holiday parties, there’s just no time to exercise.” Well, guess what? You OWE it to yourself to find 10 minutes somewhere in the day to get moving. Why? Simply because 10 minutes of anything are better than zero minutes of nothing! As some of you repeat readers already know, one of my favorite ways to make the most of abbreviated workout time is the Tabata.
Need a Tabata review? The four-minute high-intensity “formula” is pretty simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. So if you truly only have 10 minutes today, why not give this a try. Bonus: You never even have to leave the house!
- 60 seconds of jumping jacks
- Rest only long enough to set your timer, then bang out one squat Tabata. (Need a timer? I use UltraTimerHD)
- Rest for 60 seconds
- Bang out one more 4-minute Tabata (Choose from mountain climbers, push-ups, planks, side planks or crunches.)
- Recover/stretch for 60 seconds or longer.
- Congrats! You spent 10 minutes doing SOMETHING for your body!
(On the rare occasion the chaos dies down enough to give you a little more time, why not try to build a ”Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout.)
While I love Tabatas, I realize they may not be your thing. So taking a power walk around the block a few dozen times, running up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building or dare I say meeting a friend for a group exercise class or game of basketball may be the fitness fix you need to feel a little stronger physically and mentally. Remember, while this is known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” don’t ignore your body’s need to escape some of the chaos so you can continue to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
While Thanksgiving is the latest it can possibly be in the calendar year, I still feel like it snuck up on me! The fact that Hanukkah starts on the same day (for the first time in something like 18,000 years!), we’re REALLY kicking off the 2013 holiday season with a bang. So, if you’re packing up or planning for your festivities, there’s no time like this Motivation Monday to get your mind focused on how to get through the holiday(s) without completely throwing your healthy habits out the window.
If you’re gearing up for a week filled – or maybe stuffed! – with food and drink (and a little football), here are some tips to help you avoid overdoing it.
- Don’t skimp on the workouts this week: Even if you can’t get out of the house on Thanksgiving Day, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata or two wherever you have space to do push-ups or burpees. If you only have a short amount of time to escape the house, take a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. If your gym is open, get to a morning group exercise class or at least bang out some cardio and core work.
- Don’t skip breakfast before the Turkey Day feast: Be mindful of your meals early in the week. On Thursday, eat something sensible in the morning to fire up your metabolism and to avoid being ravenous when you arrive for the holiday feast. If you’re not scheduled to fight for the turkey leg until late afternoon or early evening, make sure to have a second small meal so you don’t go overboard later. One of my favorite sensible fillers is a non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in. The protein-rich snack keeps me satisfied for hours!
- Use a smaller plate (like a salad dish) for your Thanksgiving feast: If there’s salad or veggies, load up on those first, then take some turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. (There won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.)
- Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait about 10 minutes before loading up on round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
- Watch the alcohol intake: Turkey Day is a good time to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of water of diet soda before moving on to the next libation.
- Give away leftovers: Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving what’s left of the turkey and trimmings to your guests.
If you have any “secrets” that help you enjoy the holiday without waking up feeling guilty on Black Friday, I’d love to hear about them! The season ahead is definitely challenging when it comes to watching our waistlines, but the good news there are some tricks that can help you continue your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I remember making countless mix tapes back in college and more of those tapes were littered around my car when I went to gyms in the different states where I worked. Now my iTunes playlists have replaced those old-school cassettes. In the “old days,” I never went anywhere without my Walkman, and today, I make sure to have my ear buds with me at all times so I can play my motivational music for long walks in the city or when I work out at the gym or in the park.
Since music is such a big motivator in my routine, I thought I’d share my favorite top 10 songs of the moment. I always love to hear what everyone out there is listening to so don’t be shy about sharing your own top picks. Remember, whether you use music to move you or soothe you, it’s a great tool to add to your routine that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Laura’s November 2013 Faves:
- “Let It Go (Laidback Luke Remix)” by Dragonette
- “Cry Baby (Paul Oakendfold Mix” by Roisin Murphy
- “Berzerk” by Eminem
- “Little Bad Girl” by David Guetta
- “TKO” by Justin Timberlake
- “Starry Eyed (Penquin Prison Remix)” by Ellie Goulding
- “It’s All Good (The Scumfrog Mixshow)” by Fantasia
- “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” by Fergie, Q-Tip & GoonRock
- “Victim” by WIN WIN
- “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Bo
The 26.2-mile journey through the five boroughs of the Big Apple is the largest marathon in the world. More than two million spectators cheered on the participants ranging from first-timers to world-renowned record holders.
There were two big reasons this year’s marathon held special meaning for New Yorkers and for people all over the country. First, thanks to Superstorm Sandy, last year’s event was cancelled. Second, the presence of the runners, spectators and volunteers was a testament to our resiliency following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. The fact that the crowd didn’t let extra security measures or fear stop them from being a part of this event shows how the strength and endurance of a community can help us through whatever hardships life throws our way.
As you repeat readers already know, despite my lifetime love affair with fitness, I’m not a runner. Unfortunately, running is one activity that never gave me anything aside from knee pain and overall discomfort. So I admit, I’m a little jealous of the official “runner’s high” this body and mind will never experience. Because of that, I have nothing but admiration and respect for those who lace up and pound the pavement in any kind of weather to chase that high while doing their bodies a world of good. For those who take it to the next level and push their bodies to amazing limits by running mile after mile in marathons, I will forever be in total awe.
So whether this was your first marathon or your 10th, I hope all you inspirational souls are enjoying a well-deserved day of rest. Maybe you can even manage to fit a massage into your schedule today or sometime this week! Your discipline and commitment to training are big time motivators for all fitness enthusiasts to never give up the quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Unfortunately, one of the rest days arrived as the result of a minor injury. Last Tuesday, I strained my left pectoral muscle from either not executing proper form during a push-up sprint or gripping the ballet bar and leaning back a bit too during a “waterski” sprint at Physique57. By Wednesday night’s “UFX Burn” class at New York Sports Club, every amped-up inhalation during our high intensity cardio drill and each rep of standing reverse flies were pretty painful. So after icing the area and popping a couple of ibuprofen before bed that night, I took Thursday off. I even stayed away from the elliptical because I knew using the arm handles would or gripping the side bars too tight would have put unnecessary stress on my tweaked muscle. By Friday afternoon’s Physique class, I felt 90% better. After enjoying another gal-pal catch-up day on Saturday, I decided to extend my rest time to cover the entire weekend. In the end, I tallied four workouts in a seven day period. While that’s less than my typical five to six, you know what? My body is much happier on this Monday morning thanks to the extra TLC.
If you’re prepping for a competition or if you’re a serious bodybuilder, I understand there’s a strict schedule to follow to make gains in a certain amount of time. However, if you’re on a new health and fitness kick or if you’re like me and you’ve been attacking your workouts at 125% to get through a rough patch in your life, it’s not a bad idea to pause for a moment and remember rest is a crucial component to improving your well-being. Whether you’re a runner, strength-training class or Zumba addict, it’s actually the rest days that allow those amazing muscles in your body to recover and grow.
The bottom line is by not taking at least one rest day each week, you can put yourself at risk for overtraining. When you overtrain, the body is more prone to injury and instead of enjoying the typical endorphin rush from a great workout, you could find yourself feeling more tired than usual. Here’s a checklist of overtraining symptoms:
- Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
- Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
- Increased resting heart rate
- Slower recovery of heart rate
- Decrease in strength performance
- Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain
Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength it needs to get back in the game so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
As you loyal readers know, I’ve been posting new material for Motivation Mondays since this blog started back in July 2011. While I didn’t plan to push this week’s post to land on Tear-It-Up Tuesday, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, realize there are only so many hours in a day and accept the way things work out. The bottom line is we can probably all do a better job at NOT beating ourselves up when we don’t cross out every single item on our to-do list every single day of the week.
That being said, I’ve finally “forgiven” myself for not getting to the fitness center during my business trip to Los Angeles. I did pack my workout wear, but when I factored in a five-hour flight, three-hour time difference and production call time of 3 am, I had to choose between getting the rest I needed to do my job well or sacrificing the few zzzz’s I could get for a workout. At the end of the day, the project went well, my boss and the clients were happy and by not running myself into the ground, I also warded off some serious cold germs provided by my fellow passengers during the flight home.
When I returned, it was just in time to enjoy a fun fall Saturday with a dear gal pal and her family and then round off the weekend spending quality time with Mom and Dad. Could I have banged out a post when I got back to the city on Sunday? Probably. Would it have been coherent? Probably not. Obviously if I had a work deadline, I would have sucked it up and got things done. However, when things that are supposed to be fun start stressing you out, it’s time to step back and ask yourself: “Is the world going to spin off its axis if this doesn’t get done for another 24 hours?”
So, instead of fretting over writing, I used the time to get organized, rest and recover. You know what? I had extra energy to kick off my Motivation Monday with a Physique57 class and then attack the computer. Now I’m ready to take on whatever the week ahead throws at me – physically and mentally.
Let’s face it, most of us have too much on our plates on any given day of the week. When crunch time gets extra crunchy, we sometimes have to make choices to make a whole laundry list of “stuff” a little easier to carry. Maybe your favorite group exercise class falls on the same night your child needs help studying for a spelling test or the only night you and your spouse or best friend have time to catch up on a long-overdue date or phone call. Make the choices that work for you in that moment and remember tomorrow’s coming…with a whole new set of opportunities to help us have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Since I’ve already offered some tips on how to adjust your fitness routine with the change of seasons, I thought I’d shift gears slightly on this Motivation Monday to tell you about a new staple in my fall diet: farro.
I’m sure many of my fellow Italians are thinking “are you kidding, Laura? Italians have been cooking with farro for nearly 2,000 years!” Well, I might be a little late discovering this wonderful whole grain alternative to rice and pasta, but you know what they say, better late than never!
Farro (FAH-row) is a whole grain, but has a richer, almost nutty flavor compared to the somewhat bland brown rice. While it isn’t a complete source of protein, like quinoa, a cup of farro has about eight grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber. It also contains minerals like magnesium, which is known to relieve tension and finally, it contains “smart carbs” that break down slowly and keep your energy levels stable.
For me, farro has become my go-to for adding a little “bulk” to dinner when that piece of grilled chicken or fish and a side of veggies just isn’t enough. This is especially true on my double-dose workout days of fasted cardio in the morning followed by a Physique57 or other group exercise class in the evening. A serving of farro satisfies my craving for “comfort food,” and the fiber content helps keep me feeling full for awhile.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m definitely not a cook. So the other thing I love about farro is how easy it is to prepare. (At least using the 10-minute version I buy at Trader Joe’s.) All I have to do is boil water, throw in a bag of farro, let it cook for 10 minutes, strain it, add some seasoning and maybe a few sprays of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and that’s that. I put the leftovers in my fridge and nuke them throughout the week. (I usually get about 3-4 servings from out of one bag.) You can also add cold farro to salads for lunch and I’ve heard some people even like it hot for breakfast with some fruit as an alternative to oatmeal.
If you have any healthy farro recipes you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them! It’s always fun finding a new zero-guilt item to add to the pantry or fridge so you can give your body the fuel it needs and stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I know it’s nearly impossible for Monday NOT to cause some stress. Just hearing the word Monday can make even the calmest of people a bit tense. When a Monday happens to fall during an especially busy time in your already hectic life or after a whirlwind of a weekend, it can easily threaten to make the entire new week seem overwhelming.
While there’s nothing we can do to stop another Monday from coming, there are things we can do to minimize the stress levels in our lives. Along with getting more exercise, another great way to relieve stress is to get a better handle on your schedule, particularly when it comes to prioritizing items on that never-ending to-do list. I’m a big fan of lists, and I make them all the time. The one thing I’m training myself to get better at is accepting the fact that it IS okay to NOT get everything on my to-do list done in one day. That’s where the prioritizing comes in, and that’s the main reason why the bulk of this Monday’s blog post borrows motivational words from others.
After a few unexpected surprises at the end of the work week, I spent the weekend on Long Island for my Mom’s birthday. There were lots of laughs, a little shopping, some good food and good spirits and even one big Northwestern University football game to watch for added excitement. (I’m still crushed my ‘Cats lost, but they gave Ohio State a good fight!) On game day, I realized I hadn’t started a post for this Monday, and I started to stress about it. Then I reminded myself of two important things:
- Spending quality time with my family is your number one priority for this weekend (and beyond) and
- This blog is supposed to be a positive outlet for my energy – not a source of stress.
On that note, I hope you’ll forgive me for borrowing some notable quotables for this week’s Motivation Monday boost. This allowed me to spend a little less time on the computer and more time with my family. I hope the following words will help give you what you need to kick off the new week with new energy to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” – Nido Qubein
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” – Jim Rohn
“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.”-Amelia Barr
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and repeat to yourself, the most comforting words of all; this too, shall pass.” -Ann Landers