Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Holiday Gift to You: More Music to Make You Move

This will be my last post for 2011. I’m happy to report I’ll actually be following some of the advice I’ve shared on my blog and taking it easy between now and the start of the New Year. I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends for Christmas, enjoying some holiday treats and then enjoying some down time as December comes to an end. I’m looking forward to mixing up my workout a bit with a new group exercise class or two and not glancing at the clock every few minutes to see how much time I have left before rushing off to some other obligation.

All that being said, my holiday gift to all of you is one final music list featuring my current cardio favorites:

  • “Shivers” by Armin van Buren
  • “Open Your Heart” (featuring Tiff Lacey) by Cosmic Gate
  • “My World”  (Andy Moor Remix) Luminary
  • “Make Me Feel” Benassi Bros.
  • “Next to You” Darude
  • “Amsterdam” (Super8 & Tab Remix) Luminary
  • “Chemistry” (Eric S Remix Radio Mix) Velvet
  • “You and Me Belong” Jes
  • “Sexy and I Know It” LMFAO
  • “Like a Waterfall” Jes

Some “oldies but goodies” for resistance training:

  • “Wherever I May Roam” Metallica
  • “The Fire” The Roots & John Legend
  • “Four Minutes” Madonna (feat. Justin Timberlake)
  • “Crazy on You” Heart
  • “Dragula” Rob Zombie
  • “Sin” Nine Inch Nails

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa and of course, a Happy and Healthy New Year! Thank you for making my new blogging adventures so much fun! I’ll be back with new posts after the New Year and look forward to receiving your questions and comments so we can continue on our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous in 2012…and beyond!

Fitness for the Mind: Holiday Edition

Chill Out! Photo by Leslie Hassler

One of my first posts here on LauraLovesFitness was all about the importance of keeping your brain in shape along with your body. With the holiday season in full swing, I thought it was the perfect time to remind everyone about the importance of keeping your mind healthy during the hustle and bustle of this joyous but frenetic time of year.

No doubt exercise can help you shake off some of the extra calories and some of the extra stresses associated with this season, including crowded stores, travel delays and spending extended amounts of time with the extended family. However, when you factor in how online shopping and maybe some lo-cal recipe surfing are added to the year-round attack on our senses – emailing, texting, Tweeting, updating our Facebook status and even DVR-ing – it’s no wonder our minds are in overdrive. With so much more than sugar plums dancing through our heads, it could be more important than ever to challenge yourself to steal some precious moments to simply disconnect and re-boot. Here a few tips to make it happen:

  • Focus on one thing at a time: If you know you’re setting aside an hour to wrap gifts, then for that hour, don’t deal with texting or answering emails. If it makes you feel better, you can alert your social network that you’ll be offline for a bit. Then put on the holiday tunes (or whatever motivates you to be a good elf) and get to work.
  • Step away from the computer: This month, I have been making a very conscious effort to NOT turn on my home computer unless absolutely necessary when I get home from work and the gym. I still check my iPhone at least once before bed to make sure I didn’t miss any “emergency” emails, but it makes a difference not to have the laptop on with the Facebook tab taunting me to make my way back to the keyboard.
  • Turn off the TV: We still have a no-TV “rule” in our home on Wednesdays. I’m really looking forward to it this week, as it will be nice to decompress with a game of  Backgammon or cards. It may turn into a night of getting the Christmas gifts in order, but it’ll be time to tackle those holiday chores with fewer distractions.
  • Steal some time for YOU: If you’re making the commitment to find 20-30 minutes in your crazy schedule for a workout, take another 5 minutes to stretch. Then maybe add a few more minutes to a hot shower at night. Treat yourself to a lavender-scented body wash or moisturizer to turn that shower in to an extra calming experience for your senses. Sip some caffeine-free tea afterward and try to shut down that overactive mind before getting under the covers.

As we work through this holiday high-time and you make an effort to workout, don’t forget the importance of standing still for awhile, too. Never underestimate the power of your mind on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Holiday Travel

It’s crunch time! Just days left to cross those names off your gift list and get those cards in the mail. Many people are also packing up their suitcases and getting ready for some holiday cheer with the relatives. If your holiday plans take you “over the river and through the woods” to somebody’s house for a few days, you don’t have to leave your commitment to exercise at home. Packing a few fitness essentials and making a few modifications can keep you on track.

  • Don’t forget the sneakers. Having them along for the trip means there’s no excuse not to go for your usual daily run (weather permitting) or take a long walk with that relative or friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with since the last family get-together. It also means you’ll have an easy way to burn some calories pre- or post-feast time.
  • Pack some workout clothes. There’s always room for an exercise bra, a pair of shorts or yoga pants, a moisture-wicking top and two or three pairs of athletic socks. I love workout wear because the clothes don’t take up much space and you don’t have to worry about anything getting wrinkled!
  • Use the drive time to download some cool fitness apps. If you’re traveling by train or car (and you’re not driving, of course), use the trip to download apps that give you exercise plans no matter where you decide workout. One of the most popular ones out there is FitnessPro. Being delayed at the airport is another perfect time for app downloads.
  • You packed the gear, now get moving! Whether it’s on the floor of the guest bedroom you’re sleeping in or in the den when it’s not filled with the TV crowd, here are some exercises you don’t need a gym for: Bridges,  Planks, Crunches, Jumping Jacks, Squats, Lunges and Push Ups. (If you’re driving and have the room, throw your yoga mat in the car so you can do the core exercises on the floor with greater comfort.)
  • Plan a family fitness activity. If your family is willing to give you control of the remote for a bit, maybe you could all meet in the living room to give your walking or Zumba DVD a try. If they happen to have a Wii, XBox 360 or PlayStation system, perhaps a Dance Dance Revolution competition could be a fun way to get everyone moving and have a few laughs in the process!

So while you may miss your favorite group exercise class or one day of weight training at the gym, there are ways to keep moving while you’re away from home. And let’s not forget the memories we make while spending time with family and friends over the holidays are incomparable moments in the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Holiday Fitness Wish List

Happy Friday everyone!

With less than a week until Hanukkah and a little more than a week until Christmas, maybe you’re still looking for last-minute gift ideas for the fitness fanatics in your life. Or maybe you’re still working on your own list for Santa and trying to think of a few items that could help you stick with your fitness routine in the New Year. Here are some ideas:

  • Footwear. Wearing the right footwear when you workout is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from exercise-related injuries. Since my exercise routine involves a mix of cardio, weight training and group exercise classes, I have always been most comfortable in cross trainers. I get a new pair every six months and time it so that Santa brings me a new pair at Christmas.
  • Workout Wear. Never underestimate the power of a moisture-wicking pair of running shorts, shirt or yoga pants when it comes to keeping your cool during a workout.   If you’re not sure of someone’s size, a gift card to a store like Target or Modell’s allows someone figure out what style and/or brand works best for his or her routine.
  • A Yoga Mat.  It not only outlines your “personal space” in a gym or studio, but the “sticky” surface helps prevent your hands and feet from slipping while exercising. While most gyms and studios provide mats, wouldn’t it be nice to have your own that you can keep clean? These mats are also great for stretching at home. Click here to check out some good mats for under $20.
  • Ear buds. These tend to be a bit more comfortable during exercise as opposed to bulky headphones. The good news is you don’t have to spend a bundle on them. This link features some options under $30 but you can check out this link if you need an “extra” special gift for that extra special someone.
  • Snag-free hair ties. Stocking stuffer alert! These keep sweaty hair off the face and out of the eyes during a workout without ripping into your locks.
  • Heart Rate Monitor or Pedometer. I asked Santa for a heart rate monitor this year, so hopefully he’ll think I’ve been “nice” and leave one under the tree. I’ve seen price ranges anywhere from $20 to more than $110, so if you have one you really like, I’d love to hear about it!
  • Reusable Water Bottle.  A gift that helps anyone stay hydrated while being good to the environment.
  • iPod or Mp3 Player. Probably one of the most extravagant ideas, but if you don’t have a phone that can play music at the gym or on your run, this is a great gift to give or hopefully receive. I know I’d be lost without my music to keep me moving, especially during my toughest workouts.

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, adding some of these new “toys” to your exercise routine could be just the boost you need to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Holiday Parties

Hanukkah starts in one week and Christmas is a mere 11 days away, and you know what that means. The holiday party season is in full swing! If you’re looking for ways to get through the next couple of crazy-calorie weeks, here are some tips that help me get to New Year’s Day without feeling like I completely fell off the health and fitness wagon.

  • Plan Ahead:  If you know you’re going to enjoy some cheer after work, don’t starve yourself all day. Instead, eat a sensible breakfast and lunch and don’t forget to have a healthy snack up to one hour before the party starts. This way, you won’t arrive with a rumbling stomach and grab the first thing you see.
  • Choose “Smart” Foods First:  Many office holiday parties and even get-togethers with the neighbors feature lots of appetizers. Load up on some of the better options first, including the crudités (celery sticks, carrots, bell pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower). Just try not to drown them in dip. Another good idea is to seek out some protein. I love shrimp, and the good news is with 18 grams of protein in a 3 oz serving, there’s no reason not to! Sushi, skewered chicken or beef tenderloin strips are also a better option than loading up on the cheesy breads or creamy dips.
  • Deal with the Dessert Dilemma: The “cocktail and cupcake” party theme seems to be getting more and more popular, at least here in the Big Apple. I admit, I’m a big fan of this concept, but it can wreak havoc on your efforts to eat healthy. If you’re attending this type of bash, you definitely want to eat a sensible small meal before arriving at the party and diving into the sweets. When you do dig in, split a cupcake, cookie or piece of cake with a friend. If there’s any fresh fruit, eat that first.
  • Maintain Cocktail Control: The every-other-drink rule works just as well at a holiday party as it does for happy hour. To space out the alcohol consumption, start with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and when your glass is empty, switch to a glass of water, seltzer or diet soda for your next beverage.
  • Get Moving! Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, you can find some time to exercise. Remember, getting through 20 minutes of cardio or your favorite workout DVD is better than nothing. If you have a party after work, hit the gym, pop in the DVD or take a walk with a neighbor in the morning. If you live in a city with sidewalks, don’t let the cold stop you in your tracks. Throw on an extra layer, pack the party shoes to go and burn some extra calories by walking to work and/or to the festivities.

Remember, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. For me, that includes enjoying some holiday cheer…along with some chocolate and probably a few cupcakes. So with a little planning, we can all make it through the holiday party circuit and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

More Core

Photo by Leslie Hassler

Thanks to an inquiry from Erin, a friend from my “old” life as a TV reporter, I kick off month five of LauraLovesFitness.com by re-addressing one topic that is crucial to an effective and safe exercise program: core training.

Erin is getting back into her exercise groove and hopes strengthening her core will help alleviate some of the lower back pain she experiences doing everyday things like carrying her little ones around. As you other busy moms can relate to, she doesn’t have tons of time to dedicate to core training so she’s looking for no-nonsense core exercises.

Before I offer my three favorite exercises, here are a couple of important reminders:

  1. If you have severe lower back pain, make sure you get to a doctor and rule out any serious injury before starting core training or any type of exercise program.
  2. In case you forgot why core training is so important for women and men of all ages: the core is the region of the body where all movement begins and where we find our center of gravity. So, in the simplest terms, if you have a weak or unstable core, your body can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I present my core favorites:

  • The Bridge – strengthens the glutes and stabilizes the lower back muscles.
  • The Plank – makes all your core muscles work to keep your spine in line.
  • The Crunch – works those abs!

If you’re like Erin and getting started on a program, attack the first week with one to two sets of each of the above-mentioned exercises, aiming for 12 to 20 reps. Before you start any of the exercises, make sure to draw your belly-button in toward your spine and continue to do throughout the duration of the exercises. Don’t rush through the reps to get a high number done. It’s better to perform 12 reps in perfect form than 15 sloppy ones. Perform the entire core circuit (all three exercises) on two to three non-consecutive days during the week. In week two and beyond, continue to add reps until you can do three sets of 25 reps.

What’s great about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere. As you progress in your routine and want to add an extra challenge, a stability ball may be just what you need. When you do get to the point when 25 reps get too easy (and you WILL get there!), here’s a link I like from SHAPE magazine that can help take you to the next level.

There are many other ways to strengthen the core, including boxing (one of my all-time favorite activities!), but hopefully these exercises offer a good starting point. I’d love to hear what kinds of exercises you use in your core routine as part of your efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The 12 Days of Fitness

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you enjoy my twist on a holiday classic:

On the first day of fitness, my workout gave to me…a big rush of endorphins.

On the second day of fitness, my workout gave to me…two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the third day of fitness, my workout gave to me…three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the fourth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the fifth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the sixth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the seventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the eighth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the ninth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the tenth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the eleventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…eleven eccentric muscle actions, ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

On the twelfth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…twelve reps of lunges, eleven eccentric muscle actions, ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a big rush of endorphins.

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend, and remember, don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season put the brakes on your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Must-Have App

I started off this week writing about cool apps to help you stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Turns out, thanks to my latest production at work, I feel compelled to tell you about a brand new app everyone should have that goes way beyond counting calories or keeping track of how many minutes you walk on the treadmill.

Today, I produced a satellite media tour that promoted the worldwide launch of bSafe. The app can be downloaded for free and turns your smartphone into a personal safety device. During the four-hour radio and TV blitz, Silje Vallestad, CEO and Founder of Norway-based Bipper, Inc., described how bSafe turns your iPhone, Android or Blackberry into a one-click “SOS” alert system that notifies your designated contacts (called “Guardians”) if you need of help. A tech-savvy mother of three, Vallestad founded Bipper in 2008 as part of her mission to expand the role of mobile devices for personal peace of mind.

As a woman, and one who lives in New York City to boot, I can’t think of a more important app to install on my iPhone, especially during these months filled with darkness. For anyone who goes to the gym early in the morning, late at night or ventures out into their city streets or the great outdoors for exercise, it seems like a no-brainer to have an alert system where you can put out a distress signal if you need it. That includes medical emergencies. During one of her interviews, Vallestad described a story in her native Norway where a man used bSafe to alert his Guardians when he experienced what turned out to be a heart attack. The app saved his life.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out this website and learn more about bSafe. While I’ll be sure to write countless blogs about the significance of incorporating different types of training into your health and fitness routine, I couldn’t pass up this timely opportunity to promote the paramount importance of protecting your personal safety as part of your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Cool Fitness Apps

Happy Monday!

I start off a new work week with a post inspired by a question from Rachel, a fellow 1991 graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, New York. She wanted to hear my thoughts on some of the best fitness apps and websites. I must admit, until Rachel asked, I really didn’t know too much about what’s out there. (I guess I was too busy earlier this year studying from my NASM textbook!) However, with a little research and some feedback from a few other fellow fitness lovers, I have started my fitness app education.  Here’s my top pick so far:

Thanks to a tweet from Marcia Edwards, I found out about myfitnesspal. (Marcia – thank you so much for introducing me to this terrific resource!) There’s a website, Apple and Android apps and you can follow a whole support community on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s the best part: it’s FREE! When you sign up on-line or download the app, you’re asked basic questions including your current weight, how much weight you’d like to lose and your activity level. In the end, you’re setting goals and the program helps you reach them on a realistic timetable. For example, if you choose to lose 1-2 pounds each week (which by the way, is the recommended amount to lose each week for healthy weight loss) the program calculates how many calories you should eat each day to reach that goal and even breaks down how many grams of carbs, fat and protein should be factored into your meal plan. It also tells you gives you an exercise plan to meet the goal and offers a ton of information including a food database, a recipe nutrition facts calculator and places to keep a daily food and exercise journal. Last but not least, there’s a message board and other community resources where you can find support and ideas to stay on track. I’ve signed up for my free account. If anyone else signs up, let me know what you think!

Myfitnesspal is only one of hundreds of health and fitness apps on the market today, but it did make at least one best-of list earlier this year. At the top of that list is something called FitnessPro. I’ll be downloading that app to my iPhone within the next 24 hours, as well. Click here to check out more free and fantastic health and fitness apps for the iPhone and iPad.

And check out this link to learn about some of the best Android apps for health and fitness.

Like anything else, there will always be mixed reviews on any app or website in the health and fitness arena. I’ve read and heard both positives and negatives about iWalk, a pedometer app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. As an iPhone owner for only a few months, I have many more test runs to take in the app world. So, I’d love to hear about the ones that work for you and help you stay on the right track to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

These Dark Times

Welcome to the beginning of December…and the end of 2011!

I wrap up this week addressing a timely issue raised by my colleague, Joe.  He wants to know how we can stay motivated to workout during these dark times. I’m not referring to the state of the economy or the political shenanigans going on in Washington. I’m literally talking about the dark days we must endure between now and the springtime.

Many of us leave our homes each morning in the dark only to leave work at the end of a long day and find ourselves enveloped in darkness once again. Add some colder temperatures to the mix, and it can become all too easy to look for any excuse to ditch your exercise plans, change into comfy clothes and make a bee line for the couch. So here are a few ways to stay on track:

  • Don’t Leave Home Without the Workout Wear: If you normally exercise after work, make sure to bring a gym bag to the office. If you have to go home to change before your workout, you’ll only find yourself face-to-face with that all-too-tempting comfy couch.
  • Get Physical at Lunchtime: If you usually head to a gym for a morning workout before heading to the office or after dropping the kids off for school, why not consider moving your workout to lunchtime? Even if the sun is hidden by some wintry clouds, it will be brighter in the middle of the day and sometimes that’s all you need to boost your mood and get your butt into the gym. This could also be the perfect time to see if a group exercise class you’ve been curious about is offered at  midday.
  • Make a Workout Date:  Plan to meet a friend for that morning power walk, lunchtime step aerobics or evening Zumba class. The “guilt” factor involved with not showing up for a friend may be all you need to keep you committed to your scheduled exercise plans.

I leave you with this final tip: remembering how good you feel after a workout may provide the biggest incentive to help you stick with your routine even on the darkest days of December. Never underestimate the power of that post-exercise endorphin rush as you continue on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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