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!
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!
I don’t know about where you live, but here in New York City it seems like everyone – including yours truly – has been fighting a cold bug since fall arrived. While exercise can help keep your immune system strong, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that workout does your body good and not have you bringing home a boatload of bacteria that can make you sick.
Bacteria and viruses ranging from the common cold bug to the antibiotic-resistant MRSA love to lurk and grow in a moist, warm environment which is exactly what the gym provides. Instead of letting the fear of catching a cold (or worse) keep me out of the gym, I take a few simple measure to try and prevent bringing to the pesky germs home.
- Pre-workout prep: Cover cuts or scrapes with adhesive bandages. I have a bad habit of biting my cuticles and if I do more damage than usual, I’m sure to put some antibiotic cream on the open skin and cover it up before I hit the gym or park.
- At the gym: Almost all facilities provide paper towels and anti-bacterial spray or disinfectant wipes to clean off equipment. It only takes an extra minute or two before you start dripping your own sweat on a machines to remove what the person before you left behind. Wipe down handles, setting buttons, bars and pretty much anything you grip or press before you use it. Follow good gym etiquette wipe down the equipment when you’re done, too.
- Group classes: If you’re a regular at a class that requires a mat, why not bring your own from home. (With the holidays fast approaching, if you don’t have on, think about putting it on your wish list.) If you do use a studio mat, cover it with a clean towel.
- Post-workout: If you shower at the gym, invest in a cheap pair of flip-flops or water shoes and wear them not only in the shower itself, but as you walk around the locker room. It’s pretty disgusting to think about some of the things lurking on floor tiles that were brought in from the soles of sneakers and other street shoes.
- Avoid touching your face: Make a conscious effort to NOT rub your eyes with sweaty, dirty gym hands. Your tear ducts are an easy entry for germs to get into your system, so don’t make it any easier for them to get in. Before you leave the gym, be sure to wash your hands with warm water. If you’re in a huge rush, be sure to at least wipe them down with antibacterial gel.
One final note, if you’re sick and not sure whether to work out, the general rule of thumb is if your symptoms are above the shoulders, it’s probably okay, but don’t overdo it. If you have a fever, severe cough or chest congestion or a stomach bug, do everyone a favor and stay home! By listening to your body and using some common sense, we can all help each other get through the “germy” season and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
We made it to the first Motivation Monday of the fall of 2013! As you repeat readers know by now, this bona fide beach bunny is beyond ecstatic about leaving this particular summer behind and kicking off a whole new season filled with new opportunities and adventures.
If you’re still working on defining your health and fitness goals for the season, let me offer a little guidance that may help. The guidance comes in the form of a question. It’s an important one because there are so many answers, none of which is wrong and all of which are tailored for the individual who answers it. Here it is: what’s your definition of strength?
Here’s the definition you’ll find in Webster’s dictionary:
- the quality or state of being physically strong
- the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force
- the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way
Those three bullets are a great starting point for what the heart of the word means. Deciding if one or all of them is the driving factor behind why we want to be strong is crucial to finding our motivation to incorporate fitness into daily routine. Maybe you want stronger muscles to lift weights or your growing children. Maybe you want a stronger will to follow your dreams and not be distracted by fear and doubt. Maybe you want to grow tougher armor to not be hurt by the people and things that try to break you. Whatever your motivation, exercise is one of the best ways to gain the strength you desire to tackle each and every day of this sometimes crazy life.
When I look at my own life, adding Physique57 classes to my weekly training routine has helped me feel physically stronger than ever. The total body workouts have especially helped me conquer the lower back pain I’ve experienced on and off for years. My lower body is finally getting the strength training I admit I avoided for far too long. On the emotional front, that physical strength has actually helped my mind stay sharp and focused even when unexpected and sometimes unpleasant distractions are thrown at me. The discipline I follow with my workouts motivates me to stay on track with other areas that are part of an essential recipe for my overall health and well-being, namely fueling my body with healthy food every few hours and staying on a sleep schedule. Working to keep those ingredients steady in this ever-changing life help me stay strong and ready to overcome the obstacles that sometimes seem too much to bear when they first attack.
Remember, whether it’s a desire to put your strength to the test in a fitness competition or have more energy to play with your kids on the weekends, we can all rely on our strength to help us handle the toughest of challenges. Figuring out why you want that strength in your life will help you put some plans into action so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I’ve always found this to be a strange time of year. Many of us try to soak up what’s officially left of the easy-going summer season while desperately trying to adapt to the faster-paced back-to-the-grind time. Since my last post offered some tips on how to fit fitness into your fall schedule , I thought I’d follow-up with a Motivation Monday boost of encouragement if you’re struggling to make it happen. Remember, deciding to add exercise and healthy choices to your daily routine is about as personal of a decision as you can make. So make sure you’re doing it for yourself and no one else.
As my longtime readers already know, I’ve officially become addicted to the Physique57 workouts I started taking back in April. Aside from the fact that I always feel like I can conquer the world when the 57-total-body-sculpting workout is finished, I also love the positive affirmations offered by the instructors throughout class. While they push us to bang out just one more squeeze of the playground ball with our inner thighs while we squat hundreds of times at the ballet bar, they also bombard us with positive affirmations including:
- We’re stronger than we think
- We should not compare ourselves to what the person next to us is doing
- We should focus on ourselves and what our body is capable of during that workout at that time.
- We should be proud of ourselves for getting out of bed or out of the office for an early morning or lunch-time workout
- We need to remember with each rep and each pulse, we’re helping our bodies get stronger and healthier.
I find myself using some of that self-affirmation during other group exercise classes and even during my independent workouts. Whether I’m pushing through a high interval on the elliptical or combat rope Tabata, I remind myself that I am strong, and focus on how good it feels to expel any bad energy with every exhale and every bead of sweat. I block out the people on the machines around me. It doesn’t matter if they’re climbing a higher hill or lifting heavier free weights while doing the exact same exercise. I focus on maintaining good form and making each move count. I also remind myself how I’ll be able to face whatever awaits after the workout with new energy and a sharper focus.
So, if you’re struggling to get motivated to move more, try to think about how good you feel when you do. What’s the biggest benefit you get from that walk, run, Zumba class or park bootcamp workout? Focus on that feeling and you’ll be amazed how you can stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I won’t lie. I’m beyond ecstatic that this summer is unofficially over and done with!
While I always do my best to stay upbeat no matter what’s going on, to be blunt, this summer was a big test for my psyche. (New readers, click here to see what I’m talking about.) Still, I passed the test and now that September is here, it means a new month and new beginnings. If you dealt with your own challenges these past few months, now’s the time to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Parents are dealing with the responsibilities of getting the kids back on track at school. That means new teachers, new schedules and perhaps new after-school activities. If you’re like me and you don’t have kids, there’s still an uptick in the overall pace of life with the end of summer Fridays and the beginning of new projects and deadlines. Whatever new items are on your agenda, it’s the perfect time to get your health and fitness goals in serious shape. As you focus on getting a daily routine established for you and maybe the whole family, don’t forget to fit some fitness into your September routine. Sound impossible? Think again!
Here are some tips to make things a little less overwhelming:
- Put it in writing: If you drive your kids to school or drop your spouse at the train station, figure out if there’s time immediately following a drop-off or right before a pick-up for a workout. This could mean hitting the gym for a group exercise class, driving a few more blocks to the park for a run or meeting a fitness friend for brisk walk or game of tennis. Typing it into your smart phone calendar or putting it in your planner will also give you a visual boost to make it happen at the allotted hour.
- Ten minutes of something is better than zero minutes of nothing: With our time-crunched lives, there are more and more workouts geared toward maximum results in less time. Click here for a link to a previous post where I offer a 10-minute circuit I like to call the “one-minute-wonder.” If you only have 15 minutes, add a few stretches before and after and you’ll feel like you worked. If you have up to 30 minutes, you can repeat the circuit two or three times and really get your sweat on! (Another plus: you can do this circuit anywhere.)
- “Fall” into healthy eating habits: If you pack lunch for the kiddies, why not add 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. Now, they’re ready to grab as a side to a turkey sandwich or healthy snack. Some of my other favorite snack ideas include almonds, apples and non-fat plan 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 when we wake up, so if your clothes are staring you in the face, it may be harder to skip 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.
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 and happier 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!