This 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!
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.
Some of my favorite basic exercises that work perfectly for Tabata training and need no equipment:
- Jumping Jacks
- Side planks
- Mountain Climbers
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!
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!
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!
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.
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?
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
If your team didn’t win the big game, it may be comforting to know at least you’re not alone in struggling with the aftershocks of food overload. It’s probably no surprise to hear Super Bowl Sunday is the second-biggest calorie-consumption day of the year after Thanksgiving. Just how many calories, you ask? Let’s put it this way: the recommended daily caloric intake for people looking to maintain their weight is roughly 2,000 calories. On Super Bowl Sunday, the majority of Americans eat close to 2,800 calories…in about three hours.
Even if you’re not a big football fan, Super Bowl Sunday has become an American tradition like apple pie. I think it’s because the big game and the big-budget commercials that play in between the big plays offer the perfect opportunity for friends and family to get together. Those get-togethers always seem to be fueled by many of the foods most of us try to avoid on a regular basis.
With some help CalorieKing, I put together a playbook featuring some of America’s favorite Super Bowl foods. Considering many or all of these items may have been on your game day menu, I’ll let you add them up based on how many pieces, slices or serving sizes you enjoyed. As you calculate the numbers in your head or using the calculator on your smart phone, I imagine you may have found a good reason to get off your you-know-what and start that next run or workout pronto.
- Queso Dip = 71 calories per serving. (A serving is 2 tablespoons and most people have closer to 10. Each serving also includes 5 grams of fat)
- Doritos’ Tortilla Chips, Cool Ranch Flavored (12 chips) = 140 calories
- Lays’ Potato Chips, Sour Cream & Onion Flavored (17 chips) = 160 calories
- 5 Pigs-in-a-Blanket = 470 calories
- 5-wing serving of hot wings = Anywhere from 300 to 597 calories (depending on the sauce and dip they’re served with)
- 1 Slice of Cheese Pizza = 240 calories
- 1 Slice of Pepperoni Pizza = 298 calories
- 1 Slice of Papa John’s “The Works” Pizza = 330 calories
- Bowl of Chili = Calories range from 300 – 600 based on the recipe. (e.g. cheese v. no-cheese)
- 1 Light Beer (12 oz) = 96 calories
- 1 Regular Beer or Ale (12 oz) = 150 calories
- 1 Regular Soda (12oz) = 140 calories
Whatever you ate and whatever team you cheered for, I hope your Super Bowl Sunday was a fun one. If that included going a bit overboard with the food and drink, don’t sweat it. Just use today as your chance to get back on track with your regularly scheduled, not-so-gluttonous plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I hope you’ll forgive my wandering off the normal Motivation Monday path, but I’ve spent the past week swimming through a sea of emotions. Those feelings fueled some extra intense workouts, and I now find them guiding my fingertips on this keyboard as part of what could be considered my attempt at a mental-health workout.
On Friday, my parents & I said good-bye to a dear friend and someone I’ve considered the guardian of my spiritual health and well-being since I was a kid. I was in the second grade at St. Mary’s in Manhasset, New York when we first met the Reverend Ralph Ferro. As I was just a child, I couldn’t tell you the specific date or time when we all grew close, but it happened somewhere between my father caring for Father Ralph and his family as patients and the countless Christmas dinners he spent with us even after his parents and his brother passed away.
Through the decades we knew each other, he celebrated a gamut of monumental events ranging from my cousin’s wedding to my best friend’s dad’s funeral. He celebrated my own wedding, and later counseled me through the divorce and even the painful annulment process. He shared in my joy when I found love again and shared in my sorrow when it didn’t work out. He prayed for my parents when they went through health scares and surgeries. He prayed when we mourned the loss of loved ones to cancer, old age or unexpected tragedies. No matter what was happening, I could turn to Father Ralph who either face-to-face or through the phone line would tell me, “It’s gonna be okay, kid. God loves you. So do your parents – and so do I.”
At his funeral, a fellow priest described Father Ralph as a “diamond in the rough.” My parents and I – along with many of the people who filled Holy Spirit Church to say good-bye – couldn’t help but chuckle in agreement. He didn’t look like a “typical priest,” but under his unique character was a true heart of gold. It was that heart along with his faith that led him to counsel people many of us would rather forget – prisoners in the Nassau County jail system. Sadly, that big heart stopped beating at the age of 71 – not even a month after we shared another memorable Christmas together.
While the news of his sudden death shook my parents and I to the core, it also reminded me of something so simple and so important, yet all too often forgotten. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, here it goes: Our time on this earth is far too short to put off living for one more day.
So if you’ve been meaning to make changes to follow a healthier lifestyle in the hopes of being on this earth as long as your body will let you, start today. On the flip side, if you don’t want to workout today because you’d rather spend that free hour visiting with the friend or loved one you haven’t caught up with in far too long, then don’t. If you’ve been denying yourself the indulgence of a certain treat, have it. If you can’t remember how a petty disagreement stopped all communication with a relative or friend, pick up the phone and start making amends. I’m not saying to spiral into an abyss and abandon all sense of order in your life. However, there’s no time like the present to stop delaying happiness when the opportunities to embrace it exist right in front of our eyes each and every day.
If there’s some semblance of motivation to be found amidst these 600 words, maybe I offered a push for you to think about doing the one thing you’ve put off for far too long. Sometimes we all need a reminder to enjoy each moment and live as if today was our last chance to have fun, be fit & feel fabulous.
As a lifelong fitness lover, I always get excited at the start of a New Year. It’s wonderful to see a fresh crop of faces sweating it out on the elliptical machine next to mine at New York Sports Club or squatting away at the barre in my Physique57 classes. In the back of my mind, however, I can’t help but wonder how many of these glistening faces will disappear come March. I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday as a chance to encourage everyone to pause for a few moments and assess how things are going so far – and also forgive yourself for any slip-ups.
When I talk to people about why they abandon their fitness journey, most of their reasons can be put in two categories:
- Getting discouraged easily: Maybe these thoughts crossed your mind over the weekend “I’ve worked out every single day since January 1st. I haven’t had one piece of chocolate or even a glass of wine, but I don’t see the hint of a six-pack yet.” Well, consider this your reality check. First of all, I’ve never been a proponent of embracing extreme restrictions to make healthy lifestyle changes. Denying yourself the things you like for too long can only end in disaster, such as devouring a whole cake or pizza instead of one slice. Second, it’s important to remember it takes a minimum of six weeks for anything to become a habit. Whether that’s fitting those five servings of fruits and veggies into your daily diet or finding your groove in spinning class, be patient. Stick with your plan and focus on the positives you have experienced since making some healthy changes. (Don’t stop reading now, some of those positives are mentioned below.)
- Doing too much too soon: Similar to my mantra about restrictions, I’m also not a fan of over-the-top workout plans for newbies to the fitness world. Which of the following scenarios sounds better to you?:
- Banging out a series of squats, planks and even modified push-ups and feeling a healthy “burn” in the muscles afterward and being able to tackle another workout the next day or
- Plowing through 50 burpees and/or pull-ups in far-from-perfect form only to suffer lower-back pain and be out of the game for five days
Sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately too many people take the less optimal choice and end up with plenty of pain and no gain. Choosing quantity over quality is a surefire way to put yourself at risk for injury…which leads to discouragement…which can ultimately lead to throwing in the towel on those fitness goals altogether. You already know slow and steady wins the race. When it comes to running down your health and fitness goals, I like to think of it as more of a lifelong marathon.
Finally, it you’re plugging away with your workouts and healthy eating choices, keep it up and remember to focus on the positive! In fact, I’ll be so bold to tell you forget what the scale says and take stock of any of these positive changes:
- A sharper focus at work or tackling that to-do list on the homefront
- A new “glow” to your skin
- Increased energy for everyday activities like playing with your kids
- Not needing to catch your breath after walking up that flight of stairs
- Getting a better night’s sleep
I leave you with one last reality: there will be “off” days. Even this fitness lover can admit there are times all I want to do is watch TV while sipping red wine and eating chocolate. It happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course. Just wipe away the cookie crumbs, chop some veggies, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously pumped about the year ahead. Maybe it’s because the fortune teller I met back during a bestie’s birthday weekend in Jamaica told me 2014 would be my “best year yet.” (I don’t place too much stock in all the thoughts she shared, but that was the one that stuck with me!) Maybe it’s because I’m one month away from hitting that milestone known as the “Big 4-o.” Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m glad 2013 is over and done with. Whatever the case, I’m beyond excited about all the opportunities ahead to be healthier and happier than ever!
Speaking of opportunities, this first Motivation Monday of 2014 presents another exciting first for me. I’m thrilled to be today’s guest on the Lifestyle Accountability Show. I met Bate Brothers Adam and Devon via Twitter and was honored when they asked if they could feature me on their daily health and well-being podcast. Please click on the following link to listen to the interview where we discuss everything from my favorite healthy foods to the pitfalls I’ve encountered on my never-ending fitness journey:
I hope you’ll find the information helpful to make this YOUR healthiest and happiest year yet!
I close with a thank you to the Bate Brothers 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 the show and all the sources of inspiration at LifestyleAccountability.com. Here’s to the remaining 359 days ahead of us in 2014 filled with so many chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!