Monthly Archives: April 2012

Exercise & Rosacea

With fellow Rosacea patient Cynthia Nixon, Dr. Doris Day and floor manager Iris Comune at the Rosacea Awareness satellite media tour

I have no idea where April went, but I’m getting this post up just in the nick of time as it’s the last day of Rosacea Awareness month.

According to the National Rosacea Society, more than 16 million Americans struggle with this common yet often undiagnosed skin condition. I’m one of them, and I recently learned award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon - who’s probably best known for her work as “Miranda” on my all-time favorite show, “Sex & the City” - is, too!

I was thrilled to work with Cynthia last week, along with Dr. Doris Day, as the producer for their satellite media tour aimed at helping people recognize the red flags for Rosacea.  (The two-hour tour and other outreach efforts were sponsored by Galderma Laboratories, L.P.)

So, what’s Rosacea? It’s a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects more women than men, often after the age of 30. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead.
  • Small visible blood vessels on the face.
  • Bumps or pimples on the face.
  • Watery or irritated eyes.

I started noticing many of the above-mentioned signs after my 35th birthday. Suffering from acne in my teens and 20s, I was convinced I was dealing with it yet again. So, I used my harsh scrubs, drying masks and strong topical creams to try to clear things up, only to find the redness and bumps getting worse. I finally got things under control once I saw a dermatologist who gave me a correct diagnosis and started me on a better skincare routine which includes gentle, irritant-free products and topical prescription creams.

Two lifesavers for my face have been Cetaphil’s gentle skin cleanser and facial lotion with SPF 15. I’m also constantly on the lookout for triggers. Unfortunately, they’re pretty much all the things I love  - red wine, sun exposure, spicy foods, hot showers (or baths) and here’s the kicker: EXERCISE!

Does this mean you shouldn’t exercise if you have Rosacea? Of course not! It just means you need to be hyper-aware of other triggers and work with a dermatologist to manage the condition. Here are some of Dr. Day’s fitness-friendly tips for Rosacea patients (they work for me!):

  • Warm up and cool down: These pre- and post-workout components will help avoid a sudden change in body temperature which can trigger a flare-up.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: On super hot or cold days, consider running or exercising indoors to prevent flare-ups triggered by the sun, wind or cold.
  • Mix things up: On the days I focus solely on cardio, my Rosacea flare-ups tend to be worse than the days I take my Club Strength class, where I focus on resistance training moves for the whole body. If I know I have plans after my workout, I may save the hardcore cardio for a day when I’m  not trying to literally put my best face forward.
  • Don’t skimp on your skin care: Don’t put off washing your face with a gentle cleanser after a workout. Use the mild products recommended by your dermatologist and don’t skip doses of topical prescription treatments if that’s what you’re using to keep the condition under control.

Exercise has so many benefits for the body including your skin. If you suffer from Rosacea, or think you do, don’t waste another minute: get to a dermatologist and start getting things under control so you can continue your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Friday Fun

Happy Friday!

It seems everyone I’ve spoken to regardless of their age or profession has had one hell of a week! So, to help kick off what I hope will be an enjoyable weekend, I thought I’d share my newest favorite cocktail alternative that serves up some fun without all that sugary, calorie-filled guilt!

Crystal Light now offers mocktail mixes in Margarita, Mojito and Appletini. I’ve tried the Mojito and Margarita mixes and I have to say, I’m a fan! Like the other flavors, these drinks sans alcohol register at a mere five calories per glass. Add a shot of rum to the mojito or tequila to the margarita and you have another 100 calories. That’s a LOT better than a “normal” margarita where the mix alone can range from 200-300 calories per drink and a “regular” mojito comes in at around 175 calories. Want to skip the alcohol altogether? Add some club soda to these cocktails and serve over a tall glass of ice, and you’ll still have a refreshing way to end the day or make an afternoon more interesting!

Here are a few of my other staple “recipes” for low-cal cocktails:

  • When mixing a Cape Codder (vodka & cranberry), replace high-sugar cranberry juice with light or reduced-calorie cranberry juice. For an even “slimmer” version of this summertime classic, mix one shot of raspberry or blueberry vodka with Diet Sprite, Diet 7Up, Sprite Zero or Fresca. You get the berry flavor without all the sugar.
  • Use diet tonic water when mixing with vodka or gin.
  • For the taste of cream soda with a kick,  add a shot of vanilla vodka to a tall glass of  Diet Coke.
As any of my repeat readers can tell you, I’m a big fan of enjoying everything this life has to offer in moderation.  So, here’s wishing everyone a safe and fun-filled weekend filled with at least one or two chances to sit back, relax and pat yourself on the back for all you do to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Death By Abby”

If that title sounds daunting, it should. In honor of another Workout Wednesday, I share the latest and greatest killer workout courtesy of Roberto Murichi, UFX instructor extraordinaire.

The workout concept is pretty basic: a one-minute timer starts counting down as we push out three burpees immediately followed by three kettlebell push presses. With the remaining time in that 60-second window, we begin our quest to conquer 200 sit-ups.

When the timer “dings,” a new 60-second countdown begins and we start all over again with the burpees and move on to the push presses. Then we add on to our previous round of sit-ups and continue to push toward 20o. Every minute marks a new start on the exercise trio. Roberto gave us a max of 20-minutes to reach the 200 mark. I finished in just under 12 minutes. (And second to classmate Zac.)

Here’s what one round looked like:

This killer workout has endless possibilities when it comes to the exercises you can include. Sticking with the 200 sit-up goal, options for the other two exercises include squat thrusters, box jumps or even pull-ups. Whatever exercises you choose, I guarantee you’ll finish feeling like you got your butt kicked pretty hard!

Tonight marks my last UFX class for awhile. I can’t thank Roberto enough for opening my eyes to new workout options and for his motivation and energy! I look forward to keeping in touch with my small group training classmates and meeting up to keep the workouts alive and continue along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

An Unexpected Swim

I had been looking forward to spending this past weekend in Boston since I bought my Amtrak tickets back in February. Getting tickets to the Red Sox v. Yankees game for my first-ever visit to Fenway Park and seeing my beloved Bronx Bombers beat their rivals in a comeback of epic proportions was a bonus. Earlier in the day, I got to enjoy another first-ever visit to Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. Thanks to a gracious invitation from the friend of my lifelong friend, Ania, I was able to enjoy a pool-deck view for Boston’s inaugural team relay challenge for Swim Across America.

The event brought swimmers of all ages and skill levels together with one common mission: “making waves fighting cancer.” For two hours straight, the swimmers dove into the pool striving to be on the team making the biggest splash in the fight against pediatric cancer. The proceeds from this event benefit the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

with US Olympic Silver Medalist Janel Jorgensen

As I watched the swimmers and cheered them on from the pool deck (luckily, no one threw me in despite my Yankees gear), I found myself in awe of their stamina and mostly of their determination to make a difference.

Before the relay started, I was fortunate to meet a woman named Suzanne. She started swimming less than a year ago and here she was swimsuiting up and making a splash in the fight against cancer. I also had the joy of meeting 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Janel Jorgensen who has been the Executive Director of Swim Across America since 2005. Also on the pool  deck was Craig Beardsley, who would have most likely won gold at the 1980 Olympics had the US not boycotted the summer games in Moscow. Then there was Kitty, who aside from directing volunteers in their tasks that morning also spent countless hours helping organize the relay’s details before diving in with the other swimmers.

While the swim relay spanned a few hours, it’s really impossible to clock the amount of behind-the-scenes prep time leading up to events like these. Between the fund raising, training and hammering out  all those pesky little details, the swimmers and organizers reminded me how a passion for swimming, running or any kind of physical activity can do so much more than get the heart pumping. Using that passion to raise awareness and money in the fight against cancer is one of the best ways I can think of to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Strong Finish Friday!

AMRAP Example

AMRAP.

No need to adjust your eyes. I had no idea what that “word” meant when I first saw it written in erasable marker on a mirror in the gym before one of my first Ultimate Fitness Experience classes. Since then, not unlike the burpee, it’s a word I’ve come to love and hate. It’s an abbreviation that stands for “As Many Reps / Rounds As Possible.”

The directive pushes you to do as much work as possible in a given amount of time. Here are just a few some examples of the high-intensity AMRAPs I’ve pushed through during the past month courtesy of our class instructor Roberto Murichi:

7-minute AMRAP: 21 sit-ups, 7 box jumps
For this workout, you push out as many rounds of 21 sit-ups followed by seven box jumps. You rest when you need to, but of course the idea is to sweat through multiple rounds.

20-minute AMRAP: 15 rear lunges, 15 push presses, 10 kettle bell high pulls
Same concept as above but different exercises for longer amount of time. I managed to get through six rounds. Adding it all up in terms of reps, that meant 90 rear lunges; 90 push presses and 60 high pulls.

If you’re not a complete fitness newbie, AMRAPs can be a great way to make the most of a limited amount of time. You can also progress or regress as needed. The first day of UFX, Roberto had us perform a four-minute Tabata using a combination of four rounds of squats followed by four rounds of sit-ups. That meant pushing out as many squats or sit-ups as we could (or AMRAPs) in a 20-second work period followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeating the cycle eight times. Maybe the first time you try this Tabata, you can barely perform seven squats in 20 seconds. Then a few weeks later, you’re banging out 15-18. Listen to your body about moving at a good pace for you.

Again, these workouts aren’t for the faint of heart or anyone who’s brand spankin’ new to exercise. However, if you’re looking to kick things up a notch, using the AMRAP practice in your workout can be a challenging way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Allergies & Exercise

This is the time of year Mother Nature smiles down upon us with warmer temps and spring breezes. That makes it the perfect time to move your indoor fitness routine outside. If you’re just getting started on a workout program, adding some outdoor activity to your daily routine can be a great way to ease into a routine.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and the thousands of other allergy sufferers around the country, the outdoor activity can trigger more than an endorphin rush. Instead, you can find yourself sneezing, coughing or wheezing and trying to find relief for those itchy eyes.

I don’t have to hear the numbers on the news to know the tree pollen count is off the charts. Since everything isn’t concrete and steel here in the Big Apple, the lovely breezes are doing a great job spreading pollen around from the trees in my neighborhood and nearby Central Park. I’ve continued my daily 30-block morning walk to the office, but I usually arrive with swollen, red eyes and the sensation that there is cotton stuck in my throat. So, I thought it was a good time to offer some of my allergy-season survival tips that help keep me in motion.

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

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

(Sledge)Hammer Time!

“Action” shot taken by Roberto Murichi

During my 38 years on this planet, I never had any reason to pick up a sledgehammer. That all changed recently, and of all places, it happened at the gym.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I kicked off a small group training class called “UFX” at New York Sports Club back in March. Each and every workout put together by our instructor Roberto Murichi has been unique and challenging. Each one starts with Tabatas. The idea is simple: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times for a total of four minutes.

The day I first tried sledgehammer swings, the exercise was just one of five stations Roberto set up for us that day. Roberto captured about 40 seconds of my work with the 12-pound “Thor Hammer” on my iPhone. (You’ll also see a few seconds of my classmate Louis working hard at the squat station.)

Needless to say, after four minutes of sledgehammer swings, my heart was racing, the sweat was pouring and my shoulders and arms were screaming at me a little bit. From watching the short clip, you can also see how the swings force you to maintain core strength to control the motion and hit the tire as your target.(I then had to move on to Tabatas for squats, rings, ropes and sit-ups for a total of 20 minutes of work.)

While I’d be hesitant to use sledgehammer swings as part of workout routine for a fitness newbie, I do believe they’re a great exercise for the more conditioned gym-goer looking to take things up a notch. I’ve also learned the sledgehammer has been a conditioning tool for fighters since the birth of combat sports. Whether you plan to step into the ring or not, adding sledgehammer swings to a workout can help improve work capacity, develop core strength and also build grip and forearm strength. Oh, and the cardio kick doesn’t hurt either!

Of course, like any other new piece of equipment or new set of moves, be sure to get some instruction before you simply pick up a hammer and start swinging. If you do belong to a gym and see a hammer sitting in a corner, don’t be shy. Ask a personal trainer if he or she can help you use the sledgehammer correctly. Don’t forget, understanding how to execute new exercises with proper form is a crucial part of the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Play Ball!

Spring Has Sprung!

This is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s the day my beloved New York Yankees play their home opener in the Bronx.

This day makes me feel like spring has officially sprung. That means it’s the perfect time for me to encourage anyone looking to be more active to use the season to your advantage. No more excuses – Mother Nature is giving you the ideal backdrop to get out and get moving!

I know I’m a gym rat. I also know there are people who just don’t like to go to the gym. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some exercise and feel great!

We’re supposed to enjoy near 70-degree temps here in New York over the weekend. So, there’s no excuse not do any or all of the following:

  • Take a hike: I mean that in the nicest way possible.
  • Take a walk: You can do double-duty and make up for some overdue catch-up time with a friend by taking him or her along for a brisk jaunt around your neighborhood.
  • Hit the park: You don’t need a gym to do squats, lunges or even burpees. Use a bench for box jumps. Heck, go climb a tree!
  • Hit the beach: If you’re a beach bunny like me, it’s never too early to get near the water! Wear or bring an extra layer of clothing to keep the spring-breezes at bay and hit the boardwalk. For an extra challenge on an uneven surface, take your feet to the sand.
  • Hit the playground: Be a kid again! Swing on the monkey bars or use them for pull-ups.
  • Play some pick-up: Get active and make new friends by shooting some hoops.
  • Try a new racquet: Do you have a tennis racquet collecting dust in a closet? Dust it off and hit the court.
  • Turn fantasy into reality: Forget make-believe baseball – get some friends and get on the field!

Wherever you live and whatever your pleasure, I hope Mother Nature smiles on you this weekend so you can find some new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why Laura Loves the Foam Roller

Welcome to yet another Workout Wednesday!

The last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on some pretty intense exercises that get my heart racing courtesy of my small group training class. For today, I decided to shift gears to address what should be a key component in everyone’s exercise regimen regardless of his or her fitness level: flexibility training. Click here for a reminder on why we all need to make more time to incorporate stretching into our daily routines.

Every stage of flexibility training –  corrective, active or functional – incorporates one common denominator: self-myofascial release, or SMR. My NASM textbook defines this stretching technique as one that focuses on the neural system and fascial system in the body. Here’s a video where I demonstrate how SMR works on one of the most common problem areas – those aching calves!

Many thanks to director/producer Larry Saperstein and the crew at C & C Studios for their help with this production and to editor extraordinaire Rob Romas for putting it together. (Check out Rob’s new business Sports Media Recruit which provides video resumes for student athletes.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if I could go back in time and change one thing about my life-long love affair with fitness, it would be to incorporate much more flexibility training into my routine. It’s truly one of the best things we can do for ourselves in order to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy Easter Monday!

Whatever holiday you celebrated over the weekend, I hope it was happy!

I was all set to write about my first mammogram for today’s post. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling snafu by the imaging center, my Saturday appointment was postponed for a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. So, I decided to improvise with a short and sweet ode to chocolate.

The beginning of chocolate overload

I’ve been giving up sweets for Lent for as long as I can remember. While there’s obviously much more significance to Easter  Sunday than breaking my fast, I won’t deny that one of the things I look forward to on this holiday is overloading on the treats I’ve missed for a little more than 40 days. It starts with Cocoa Puffs for breakfast (good to know there’s whole grains in that cereal now!) and continues with Italian cheesecake, rainbow cookies and at least one Creme Egg for dessert following a big, pasta and other carb-filled lunch with my family.

So, along with the moderation-is-key “rule,” another part of my lifestyle mantra is this: Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bad to get back to the good. That means today I’ll push my body extra hard at small group training  (I’ll even welcome burpees if our instructor Roberto includes them in workout) and eat my normal healthy fruits and veggies and drink lots of water to get my body back on track. I can’t promise I won’t sneak in a leftover piece of milk chocolate or a peanut butter filled chocolate egg…but again, it’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

I’ll wrap up sharing a recent story on Foxnews.com that made me feel a little better about my guilty pleasure. Click here to learn about a study about chocolate and body fat.

Sometimes giving in to temptation (at least when chocolate is involved) is what you need to do so you can get it out of your system, and re-focus on the course to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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