Give the Gift of Wellness

In full disclosure, this Motivation Monday post filled with gift ideas for the 2018 holiday season was supposed to be posted last week. However, this elf was simply overwhelmed with other life responsibilities and well, something had to give. So while I realize the Hanukkah festivities have wrapped for this season, I hope to help a few others scrambling to cross some names off their lists with only 15 days left before Christmas.

Here are five feel-good items that everyone can enjoy regardless of their fitness level …

  1. Scented candles: After a long day of work, working out and holiday happenings, a soothing scent can help even the most frantic mind unwind. Diptyque candles are a longtime favorite among those looking for something a little special for those special someones.
  2. Earth-friendly water bottles: I received a Mira water bottle several years ago and I never leave home without it. It’s amazing how it keeps water perfectly chilled even on the hottest days.
  3. Athlete Recovery Sleepwear: Anyone who gives or receives one or more of these Under Armour items for this holidays will have to send me some reviews. These are pretty pricey pajamas, but they’re supposed to help promote better sleep,
  4. Portable, complete hydration: I’ve been touting the benefits of these perfect stocking stuffers for several years now.  A few pumps of BFit Rapid Electrolyte Spray before, during and after your workouts give you all the electrolytes your body needs. The spray keeps you moving without weighing you down with what you don’t need – sugar, calories or gluten. (As to other stocking stuffer ideas, gift cards to a favorite athletic apparel shop; a 10-pack of fitness classes or grippy socks are always a hit.)
  5. Soothing teas: My friend Michele recently introduced me to the soothing power of Yogi’s Kava Stress Relief tea. It’s perfect on a chilly, winter night after a long day. There are dozens of varieties of great tasting teas. Consider one box as a stocking stuffer or fill a gift bag with a variety and let that lucky someone on your list decide which one he or she likes best.

Remember, giving gifts that promote a healthy lifestyle is a great way to let the most important people in your life know you support every step in their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

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Holiday Survival Tips for the Mind & Spirit

It’s hard to believe this Motivation Monday brings us to T minus 29 days until Christmas and less than one week away from the beginning of Hanukkah. As crunch time commences, the growing number of items on our to-do lists can get a bit overwhelming. In addition to the daily work grind and family responsibilities, many of us wish there was even just one more hour in the day to get all the holiday “stuff” done including decking the halls; cooking and writing cards. Add online shopping and searching for recipes to the daily frenetic stimuli of emails, texts, and status updates…and it’s no wonder our hustled-and-bustled minds are in overdrive.

While I implore you to fit that quick-hit workout into your daily routine, I also remind everyone to remember it’s equally important to steal another few precious moments to re-boot. Here a few tips to make it happen:

  • Focus on one thing at a time: If you set aside one hour to write holiday cards or wrap gifts, make sure that’s all you do during those 60 minutes. No texts. No emails. No multiple posts on Instagram. Worried about withdrawal? Use social media to alert your network you’ll be offline and in elf mode for a bit.
  • Step away from the computer: I understand the need to check email once before bedtime to make sure you didn’t miss any late-day developments on the work front. However, try to shut down at least 30 minutes before bedtime to get your brain in mellow mode. The same goes for social media. The Facebook world will continue to spin if you don’t wish it good night.
  • Turn off the TV: Try to establish one night where you set the DVR and turn a show’s normal viewing time into down time with family or friends. Play cards or a board game and forget about the holiday craziness for awhile. It may turn into a night of getting the Christmas chaos under control, but it’ll be time to tackle the holiday to-do list with fewer distractions.
  • Make Me-Time a Must: If you’ve committed to finding 10 minutes (or more) in your schedule to exercise, add just five minutes more minutes to stretch. Then go ahead and add another five minutes to your post-workout shower. At this time of year, I keep lavender-scented body wash or moisturizer in my arsenal to help me decompress. (I’m a big fan of Aveeno.) Also, don’t underestimate the soothing power of caffeine-free, herbal teas. My two favorites are Yogi Kava Stress Relief® Tea and  Twinings Nightly Calm® tea.

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, if you find yourself wanting to throw your hands up and scream “Bah Humbug,” rest assured you’re not alone. While I applaud any effort to make time to exercise even when you’re jingling all the way, I also want to stress the importance of standing still for a few moments when you can. Never underestimate the power of your mind on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Gobble, Gobble With Less Guilt!

It may not be eloquent, but I’m a big fan of yet another old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In that vein, I’m dishing out my annual pre-Turkey Day, Motivation Monday inspiration.

Thanksgiving remains my all-time favorite holiday because it’s a day that provides a chance for us to pause and give thanks for all that’s good in our lives. As I continue to reflect on and recover emotionally from the events of last month, I know I have even more to be grateful for this year. And what better way to embrace what’s good than spending quality time with family, friends and plenty of delectable food and drinks?

It’s probably no surprise to learn between the snacking and sitting down for a traditional holiday meal, the Calorie Control Council reports the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day. (And we won’t even address the leftovers many of us forage on throughout the extended holiday weekend.) So, I thought I’d help everyone start the week of strong with a few holiday feasting survival tips:

  • Move it! Don’t skimp on the activity this week. Remember, ten minutes of some type of exercise are always better than doing nothing. The bonus is you’ll get a mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the the indulging. On Thursday, even if you’re hosting the holiday fun and can’t leave the house, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata or two first thing in the morning. You could also try and sneak out for a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. Your gym is open? Great! Try a morning group exercise class or attack some cardio and core work. A few solid planks can make you feel strong before filling your belly with those delicious eats!
  • Eat breakfast! Be sure to eat something sensible on Thanksgiving morning to kick-start your metabolism. If you’re not feasting until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or smart snack so you don’t go overboard later. Some ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a handful of almonds mixed in; a green apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter or a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and salsa. These protein-rich snacks will keep you feeling full longer than a sugar-infused snack. For me, blending a chocolate Isagenix shake for breakfast is always a surefire way to know I started the day off on the right foot – even if it all goes downhill later!
  • Mind Those Portions! Load up a smaller dish, like one you’d use for salad, for your meal. Start filling it with salad or veggies and then add the protein-rich turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. There simply 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 10 minutes before going back for 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 – and saved room for dessert, of course!
  • Keep Tabs on the Libations! This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink plan. Enjoy your libation of choice, followed by a glass of still or sparkling water before moving on to cocktail number two…and so on…
  • Doggie Bags Make Great Favors!  Hosting the holiday get-together? Don’t be shy about giving sending some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings home with your guests.

I wrap this year’s post like the others by extending my heartfelt wishes to all my readers to enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving! Your support is one of the many things I am thankful for at the holiday, and all year round. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Laughter, good food and even some good wine can be the perfect ingredients for a happy holiday as we continue our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Maximize the End of 2018

Where does the time go?

It doesn’t seem possible, at least to me, but this Motivation Monday brings us to week 45 of 2018. If someone can explain how we only have seven weeks left in the year, please clue me in. I do find some comfort knowing many people share my sentiment that this year flew by faster than others in recent memory. Maybe it’s because here in New York, we had a not-so-hot spring, followed by a rainy summer and now we’re in the thick of darker, chillier days. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older with each week bringing more responsibilities and more headaches than we remember as kids. Whatever the reason, now’s the time to embrace a take-charge attitude when it comes to your health and making sure 2018 ends on a high note.

Some of you might be thinking, “Laura, you do realize we’re about five minutes away from the start of another holiday season, right?” I do indeed. In fact, with Thanksgiving only 10 days away, there’s no time like the present to make some plans to do what you can to make healthy choices before the onslaught of festivities, food and cheer fill our calendars and our stomachs!

Am I saying now’s the time to re-arrange your entire life when it’s going to be re-arranged by that barrage of holiday happenings? Heck no! I simply want to encourage everyone to remember as the days grow more hectic, it’s even more important to carve out even 10 minutes for yourself to keep yourself physically and mentally focused. Here are three easy tips on how to keep being good to yourself as the year winds down:

  • Maintain Healthy Shopping Habits: Be sure there are fruits, veggies and whole grains on your holiday food shopping list. It’s okay if you want to bake cookies for your kids’ class party or neighbors’ holiday get-together. Just don’t skimp on the healthy stuff to keep your immune system strong and help you make smart pre-party choices on the days you are going to be indulging in some treats.
  • Fit Fitness Into Your Routine: I can’t think of a better time of year to try one of those “express” group fitness class at the gym. Many offer options ranging from 30-minute abs and stretch to 45-minute glutes classes.
  • Add Some Lavender to Your Life: If you’re adding vanilla, cinnamon or evergreen scented aromas to your holiday decor, add a hint of lavender, too. The fragrance from the oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness and it’s also said to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Be sure to check in next week when I’ll offer my annual smart feasting tips for Thanksgiving. I’ll keep the festive themes going as we get through the season together. Remember, a few smart choices can help you stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – even as we gear up for the craziest time of the year!

Congratulations, Runners!

On this Motivation Monday, I send huge kudos to the tens of thousands of FITASTIC men and women who laced up for yesterday’s TCS New York City Marathon. As my repeat readers know, despite my love for kickboxing, barre classes, Zumba and all types of exercise, I never caught the running bug. So I will forever be in awe of anyone who can run for any amount of time – and 26.2 miles is simply incredible.

In addition to some well-deserved celebrating and indulging in treats galore, I hope the more than 50,000 runners are also taking a well-deserved rest day after pushing their bodies to the ultimate extreme. While the rest of us may not have clocked 26.2 miles on our fitness trackers this weekend, it’s important to remember each and every one of us regardless of our fitness level needs at least one rest day each week. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining. That can lead to a gamut of problems ranging from stress fractures and joint pain to sleepless nights.

To put it simply, too much of a good thing – even exercise – can be bad. Why? Because working out, especially at high levels with high impact, breaks down your body tissue. Resistance training actually breaks down muscles causing microscopic tears and it is on rest days when the muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissue get the needed time to rebuild.

So if this Motivation Monday turns into a rest day, don’t sweat it. Sometimes your body and mind need some extra zzzz’s or an overdue chat with a loved one more than a heart-pounding workout. If you’ve made the commitment to exercise and watch what you eat, you also 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!

An Unexpected Hiatus

One of my all-time favorite photos from a winning post-season.

As I get older, I am constantly finding more reasons to repeat a well-known saying: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

As many of you already know from my social media posts, October 11th was a horrible day. I won’t share all the details, but I will say it was just after 10:30 am when life changed in an instant. I was with my parents on Long Island and just walking into a medical building to meet a new doctor for Mom. Holding one of my arms per usual, Dad stopped suddenly and uttered 10 terrifying words: “Laura, I can’t breathe. I think I’m having a heart attack.” He was. The next five or ten minutes were a blur, but if it wasn’t for several fast-acting good Samaritans and an automated external defibrillator provided by a doctor’s office on the first floor of that building we were walking into, those would have been Dad’s last minutes with us.

In the chaos that followed, Dad was taken to Winthrop Hospital in an ambulance, and Mom and I met up with him in the emergency department before he was taken away to have a stent placed in the main artery of his 82-year-old heart. He then spent five days in the ICU. By day three, he was walking around the floor and cracking jokes. Even more miraculous is the fact that Dad’s is one of the rare cases where the heart muscle suffered zero damage. His strength has always overwhelmed me, but never more than in this instance.

So many reasons to smile at the finish line that day!

Of course, during those five long days, everything stopped except for being with Dad. There was no gym. Normal healthy eating habits were impossible to maintain with so many hours spent in the hospital. And we won’t even talk about sleep. While life was anything but normal, we tried to find some sense of it where we could. That meant following through with my plans to participate in my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on October 14th. Dad told me he’d feel better knowing I finished the four-mile trek. So, I did. James pounded the pavement with me, and we happily joined the sea of pink making waves around Central Park. As with all the Avon39 walks before, I walked in honor of warrior survivors like my Mom and in memory of those who lost their brave battle, including my friend Elizabeth.

A little more than two weeks later, breast cancer awareness month is winding down and Dad continues to make strides including a good follow-up visit with his cardiologist. He has even started in-home physical therapy. As I continue to keep an eye on his progress, I also worry about Mom taking care of herself as we all continue to recuperate from the emotional strain of this unprecedented time.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, this not-so-typical Motivation Monday post is another reminder about how precious life really is. As a journalist and producer who’s used to meeting and setting deadlines, it’s not always easy to adapt when plans go awry. It’s even harder to accept being powerless. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of the things you can control. Like telling the important people in your life you love them. Pursuing your passions. Not taking one day for granted.

It’s been a hell of month. I wrap up this final October post with a huge thank you to Dad’s cardiologist, and to all the physicians, nurses, aides and entire staff who took care of Dad at Winthrop. We are also beyond grateful for the overwhelming number of prayers and good wishes that continue to come via texts, emails and phone calls from family and friends as far away as Italy and Canada. In addition to keeping Dad’s spirits up, the good vibes have helped Mom and I though the exhausting days, too. Onward we go toward Dad’s full recovery; some rest for Mom; the re-launch of my healthy routine and all the other chances we have to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy October!

I always love kicking off a new month on a Motivation Monday! October is full of activity. It’s my mom’s birthday month. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And it’s the time when fall’s signature squash is at its peak. Yes, I’m talking about pumpkins.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin ravioli and good ol’ pumpkin pie, now’s the time to get your fill. The good news is there are several good reasons to add some pumpkin to your diet this season – or anytime of year.

  • Post-Workout Power!  Bananas get lots of rave reviews as a natural source of energy thanks to being full of potassium. However, it may surprise you to learn one cup of cooked pumpkin packs 564 milligrams of potassium compared to 422 milligrams in one banana. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.
  • Good for Your Baby Blues…and Browns, Greens and Hazels, too!:  One cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Also, pumpkin is full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color including Beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
  • Keep Your Appetite in Check! This often forgotten source of fiber packs three grams in a one-cup serving with only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.

So, while it’s always a good idea to enjoy the pumpkin pie in moderation, there’s no reason not to indulge in some of the other healthy options provided by this seasonal favorite to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous !

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy Fall!

Happy first Motivation Monday of the fall of 2018!

Many of us mark the official change of seasons by packing up the beach gear and craving all those pumpkin-flavored treats. So I thought it was the perfect time to offer yet another reminder about how a little patience can go a long way when it comes to adjusting to a new season filled with new demands. That reminder isn’t just for my loyal readers. Putting the words “on paper” in this post is another kick in my own you-know-what to be better to my body in the days ahead.

The great news is I start the fall season with a discharge from physical therapy! After nearly two months of treatment for an overuse injury in my knee, my wonderful physical therapist Jun Zhang deemed it safe to let me back into the wild. However, just because I no longer have to meet with Jun at the Orthology studio in Chelsea, I still have work to do on my own. The stretches and strengthening exercises he taught me for my adductors and abductors will continue to be a part of my daily exercise routine. I also have to wait just a little bit longer before I can run back to the heavy bag at Best Kickboxing NYC. I’m going to “test” my knee over the next couple of weeks with jab / cross / weave drills to make sure my knee can handle the twisting needed for the tough muay thai inspired classes. Now that I’m so close to getting back to doing what I love, it’s almost harder to wait it out. But I will. I keep reminding myself of something I’ve told others so many times: going back too quickly could mean end up exactly where I don’t want to be – back in physical therapy.

I have shared a little about my physical therapy journey as a reminder that injuries can happen whether you’re a novice or a bona fide fitness fanatic. The key is to not ignore the pain in your body or the voice in your head telling you something’s not right. The longer you put off treatment, the longer it can take to get back in the game that you love. So, listen to your body and follow through with your prescribed treatment. In a world of instant gratification, it’s important to realize slow and steady will always be a way to win the continuous race to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Less Than One Month To Go…

This Motivation Monday marks the less-than-one-month countdown until I lace up for my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park. So it’s time to pull out all the stops in trying to raise as much money as possible in the fight against a disease that claims too many lives in these modern times.

Full disclosure: I miss the long, weekend morning training walks of Septembers passed when I’d prepare for the 39.3-mile journey that was Avon39. However, though my walking buddy Sue and I face a shorter distance to complete our first Making Strides Walk, the mission remains the same – to raise money for research to put an end to a disease estimated to kill more than 40,000 women before the end of 2018. The dollars will also provide patients with transportation to and from treatments and even help with lodging for those who need to travel far from home to receive that essential care.

To all my generous donors so far, I offer a heartfelt thank you. For anyone considering making a donation, please click here to be taken to my personal page. Like any good fight, I truly believe we can win the battle against breast cancer with teamwork. Strength in numbers is an essential component in our collective efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

Remembering 9/11: 17 Years Later

Today, the old saying “time heals all wounds” is nothing short of senseless. Some might even call it offensive. Seventeen years after the day that changed the world as we know it forever, it’s impossible to imagine anyone who lost a loved one on 9/11 not experiencing sadness and pain.

No matter how much time passes, I am simply overwhelmed each year by the all-too vivid memories of what started out as a crisp and clear picture-perfect day here in New York City. As my longtime readers know, back then I was working as a reporter at News 12 Connecticut. My colleagues and I watched the newsroom’s multiple TV screens in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That moment when we realized it wasn’t an accident was the first and only time I can remember a newsroom being completely silent. Then, in what seemed like a blurred frenzy, our assistant news director shifted into auto-pilot and sent us out into the field with videographers and live trucks. There were no lessons from my journalism classes at Northwestern or past experiences as a reporter that could have prepared me for that unfathomable day. Before leaving the newsroom, I left a message on my parents’ answering machine telling them how much I loved them.

I don’t remember how many live shots I did that day or how many people I interviewed. I do remember the faces of the medical team anxiously waiting to treat injured survivors; the tearful embrace between an ash-covered man and the woman waiting for him on the platform; and all the cars that remained in the parking lot as midnight approached. I wondered how many people would never return to claim them.

In that pre-Facebook world, many of my friends tried to reach me on my cell phone – when the circuits weren’t down or busy – to see if I could help find any information about a loved one who worked in the city. Receiving those messages in between countless live reports broke my heart, and I’d learn later that several of those people being searched for were indeed gone. In the days that followed, I also learned a former friend and News 12 Long Island colleague, Glen Pettit, was killed. A talented videographer, Glen was also a NYPD officer. He was last seen with his camera on his shoulder running toward the towers to capture footage. Glen was 30 years old.

Along with the sadness, shock and anger felt around the country after the attacks, I also remember another unprecedented turn of events. Stores were selling out of Americans flags and random acts of kindness were reported everywhere. Seventeen years later, I realize all three of my Goddaughters – all born after that fateful day – never witnessed that kind of unity in the country they call home. Today, they see social media feeds where bullying takes on a whole new level as people lash out at others who don’t share their beliefs. Simply put, when I think about the state of our world today, it makes me want to cry all over again.

Never one to be political in this blog or on my social media channels, I can’t help write about what’s in my heart. As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, we’re bombarded with headlines surrounding the latest discord in Washington and looming disasters as hurricane season continues. We also continue to struggle with volatile issues ranging from gun control to the cost of healthcare. We even post scathing, combative messages for all the world to see about everything from Nike’s choice of a spokesperson to Serena Williams’ loss at the U.S. Open. What a mess. 

On this September 11th, as we all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 17 years ago, let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion.

God Bless America.

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