Eleven Years Later…
I woke up on this Motivation Monday realizing we’ve somehow crossed the halfway mark for the month of July. Which also made me realize I completely forgot this blog had another “birthday” last week. It’s been 11 years since the first LauraLovesFitness post went live.
Each year that passes gives me pause not only because time seems to be moving faster and faster, but because life continues to present surprises I could never have imagined when I started writing. (A pandemic? In these modern times?) Things defined as top priorities more than a decade ago seem trivial now; while the importance of family, friends, health and faith have grown more important than ever. As I have aged along with this site, I can say my 40s have been a good decade when it comes to being more confident in my decisions and not wasting time worrying about what other people think about my choices. However, these years have also been filled with new things to worry about. My biggest fears now surround my aging parents and their myriad of health issues. I know I’m blessed to still have them both with me, but watching them struggle to do things that used to come easily is hard on the heart. Then I think of my friends who’ve already lost one or both parents and I’m overwhelmed thinking about the gravity of their loss.
While the issues that weigh heavily on the heart may have changed, there is still one constant that helps me push through the fear and uncertainty: exercise. At this point, I feel I can honestly say I’ve tried every workout under the sun, and nothing has had a more positive impact on my physical and mental health than boxing. Let me be clear, I don’t spar with others, but I do unleash hell on the heavy bag during 60-minute workouts at TITLE Boxing in Huntington. The classes are a core component of my self-care routine, along with mindful eating and every attempt to get enough sleep. I’ve also managed to cut back on my wine intake, which got a little out of hand in 2020 and 2021. If you’re still struggling to get back on track after a difficult couple of years, don’t beat yourself up. Finding my fitness groove didn’t happen overnight, and it will forever remain a work in progress. Trying to follow a healthy lifestyle isn’t a sprint.
I’m sorry to say one activity that used to help keep my mental health in check has become more of a chore than catharsis. I’m talking about writing. Thoughts and words feel more jumbled in my mind and I stress over finding the right way to put them together. So I honestly don’t know what the future of this site holds. Maybe it’s time to explore a different platform and different topics altogether. For now, I guess I’ll follow the advice I’ve offered here countless times and just take things one day at a time.
I close with a huge thank you to all my readers. Whether you’ve been stopping by here since day one or drop in from time to time, your support of my ramblings means more than words can say. My hope is we all find peace and comfort in these challenging times by clinging to the people and activities that nourish the heart and soul. And may we also find the strength to let go of the things – and yes, even the people – that may no longer be good for us. Wishing you a summer filled with good times and plenty of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Ready for Another Trip Around the Sun…
So how’s everyone doing so far in 2022?
I have no idea how January disappeared so quickly. I’m even more unsure how it’s just about time to turn the page to my 48th year on the planet. However, I’m happy to report I’m kicking off my new year feeling better both physically and mentally thanks to one addition to my routine: a rekindled “love affair” with the heavy bag.
I’ll be the first to admit my health and fitness routine took a major hit in 2020, and it still wasn’t quite up to my usual standards in 2021. As you may recall, I did start running in Central Park after the gyms closed, but my heart has never really been in it. While I definitely missed my “dates” with the heavy bag, I don’t think I realized just how much I missed throwing powerful punches and breaking a serious sweat until I signed up for classes at TITLE Boxing Club of Huntington. You repeat readers know I’ve tried lots of fitness classes and routines during the lifespan of this blog, and I can honestly say this is the greatest fitness community I’ve ever joined.
The high-energy classes are simply amazing. My heart rate maxes out around 170bpms and averages in the mid- to high 140s during the 55-minute classes. The workouts consist of a 10-minute warm up; eight, three-minute rounds of boxing (no more kickboxing for me – my SI joint simply can’t take it); and 10 minutes of core or strength training to wrap things up. All of it is fueled by great tunes pumped through the super-clean, airy facility. But what makes these killer workouts so FITastic are the passionate and highly-skilled instructors and my “family” of fellow athletes. We’re a mixed bag of ages and fitness levels, and each and every person working his or her own bag is driven and supportive. This is a 100% no-judgment zone. I look forward to getting stronger with each workout, each week and each month in the year ahead. If you haven’t tried boxing, especially in these ongoing stressful times, I encourage you to give it a try – assuming your doctor gives you the green light. (And if you’re a Long Islander and give TITLE in Huntington a try, please be sure to tell Danny or Christin I sent you their way!)
Of course, I realize boxing isn’t for everyone. Each of us needs to find the right routine to motivate us to move. Whether it’s running, walking, swimming, tennis, dancing, bodybuilding, HIIT training….do what makes you feel good. No matter how many birthdays are in your rearview mirror, exercise will always be one of the best ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – especially with each year we get to put another candle on the cake!
Merry & Happy Everything!
I’m having a hard time believing there are only nine days left in 2021. (And this is the second-to-last Workout Wednesday of the year!) However, just like this time last December, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in being ready to rip this year off the calendar, too.
I didn’t want 2021 to end without expressing my gratitude to all of you who’ve continued to stop by here despite the limited number of posts. Just like this blog’s first holiday season back in 2011, I am beyond thankful for all the supportive comments on the increasingly random musings shared here – from my personal reflections on the ongoing COVID situation to the unbelievable lifechanging ear surgery I had in October. I feel beyond blessed to wrap up another year in good health and being able to share another Christmas with my aging parents. Of course, I also think of those we lost this year, especially my dear Uncle Lou. My heart goes out to all those missing loved ones during the holidays.
None of us knows what 2022 will bring on so many levels. James and I will start ours in a new home in a new town with new adventures ahead. (For me, that includes getting back in fighting form at the TITLE Boxing Club in Huntington!) I’m honestly not sure what the future of this site will look like, but if I’ve learned anything since the world changed nearly two years ago, it’s to let go of the small stuff and just do the best with each day you’re lucky enough to open your eyes and start anew.
I close out the year with another heartfelt thank you for the ongoing support here at LauraLovesFitness and on my social media channels. Wishing all those celebrating a very Merry Christmas, and cheers to a happy and healthy 2022 filled with countless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
A Whole New World!
It’s hard to believe five weeks have gone by since the day my life changed forever.
If you’ve stopped by this site during the past couple of months, you know I elected to have surgery in the hopes of correcting significant hearing loss in my right ear caused by a rare condition called otosclerosis. Since the stapedectomy on October 7, I can’t count the number of times I’ve nearly stopped dead in my tracks as I savor the sounds I missed or strained to decipher for years.
I am no longer asking people to repeat themselves several times. I have no need to contort my neck at odd angles to hear someone speak from behind a cash register or in a crowded restaurant. There’s just this new “balance” to how I hear everything from the music on my running playlist to the sirens and all the other sounds of the city. Then just three days ago, my first post-surgery hearing test proved the surgery was indeed a success. When the audiologist delivered the news that my hearing tested “within normal range in both ears,” I actually started crying.
In addition to being truly overwhelmed by how my quality of life improved in just a matter of weeks, I’ve also been blown away by all the supportive emails, texts and messages on social media from people near and far. I will be forever grateful for the support. I also can’t say enough about my ENT, Dr. Neil Sperling and his entire compassionate staff. Last but certainly not least, I have to give a special shout out to my “Uncle” Joe. A retired ENT, he performed countless stapedectomy surgeries during his own career and offered words of wisdom and encouragement from my initial diagnosis in 2018 right through my ongoing recovery. I couldn’t have made it through this experience without him.
I close with the knowledge that I am truly blessed to have had such successful results following surgery. I also realize while I feel lucky to have had this option in the first place, not everyone is comfortable with having surgery. Hearing loss can be caused by a myriad of factors, and I encourage anyone challenged by it to talk to your primary care physician or an ENT about your options. There have been so many advancements in hearing aids over the years, and I know many people who’ve worn them for years. (You may recall, I tried one myself for more than a year.)
I’ll see Dr. Sperling and have another hearing test in six months. In the meantime, I’ll continue being thankful for the sounds I hear each day and for all who continue to check in and send good vibes. It’s amazing how the power of positive energy can help us all stay on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Two Weeks Later…
Even as someone who enjoys writing, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to describe the last 14 days. How can you accurately define what it’s like to be able to hear again? This overwhelming new reality is an amazing gift for which I will be forever thankful.
After more than three years of struggling to hear out of my right ear, especially in restaurants, gyms or anywhere with ambient sound – and there are just a few of those living in New York City – I decided to undergo a stapedectomy. The procedure has a high success rate – more than 90% – for those diagnosed with otosclerosis. The rare condition occurs when the stapes bone in the middle ear (which happens to be the smallest bone in the body) stops working properly. This prevents sound waves from reaching the inner ear, resulting in conductive hearing loss. On October 7th, Dr. Neil Sperling, replaced my faulty stapes bone with a titanium prosthesis.
I was placed under general anesthesia for the procedure, which took about 90 minutes. For me, the anesthesia turned out to be the toughest part of the experience. The kind nurses at the Greenwich Village Ambulatory Surgery Center kept me in recovery a couple of hours longer than expected to administer anti-nausea medication intravenously. Back at home, I slept for five hours straight, and continued to suffer from nausea and dizziness for the first 24 hours. As far as any pain, it was minimal. I needed only two Tylenol before my real bedtime that first night to stave off the slight ache in my ear.
The dizzy, woozy feeling continued throughout the weekend, but thanks to James’ care and a stockpile of movies and shows to choose from, I simply laid low and drank lots of fluids. Being on antibiotics and steroids, I didn’t have much of an appetite. The biggest shock: I didn’t even want wine. (My liver must have enjoyed the short hiatus!)
Four days after surgery I saw Dr. Sperling for a follow-up, and he removed the packing from my inner ear. Rid of the gauze, it suddenly felt as if someone flipped a switch and the fog started lifting almost immediately. The best part of that post-op visit: I started hearing sounds in my right ear. Heading home from the appointment, I almost started crying on the sidewalk. I think I may have startled James when I suddenly stopped in my tracks and looked around to fully take in the sounds of the city. They were somewhat muffled and definitely overmodulated, but I suddenly realized the traffic, sirens, people yelling into their smartphones – the cacophony of sound that defines New York City – was being processed by both ears.
Since then the sounds have grown a bit sharper, and I can follow conversations without tilting my head to the left to favor what was once my only “working” ear. A few nights ago, I even asked James to lower the television. I now have some itching and a bit of a “clogged” feeling in the right ear again, but I’m staying positive this may only be a temporary “setback” as the healing continues. (If it continues by the end of next week, I’ll be sure to get to the doctor’s office.) Right now, I am scheduled to see Dr. Sperling again in a few weeks, and I’ll have a full hearing test to officially gauge how things are progressing. Another exciting day to look forward to!
In the meantime, I’m getting back to some real exercise and slowly increasing the mileage on my power walks in Central Park. Two days ago, I managed to for my first post-surgery short run, (just one-and-a-half miles long) and experienced no balance issues at all. Just one more reason I’m more thankful than words can describe.
This unexpected journey has taught me a lot about hearing loss. There are so many different types and causes, but not all have a surgical option as a possible solution. So again, I realize how fortunate I am to have had the ability to choose a course of action that could have such a positive impact on my quality of life. To anyone struggling with hearing loss, I encourage you not to suffer in silence. Talk to your primary care physician or find an ENT. (If you live in or anywhere near Manhattan, I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Sperling!) Get your hearing tested and see what options exist.
I close with a heartfelt thank you for so much love and support that’s helped me through this ongoing journey. The number of prayers, good vibes and encouraging words I’ve received from near and far are simply overwhelming. I’ve also been amazed to learn how many people of all different ages are considering this surgery or struggling with their own hearing loss story. Please don’t be shy about sending along any questions. By sharing our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – we can help each other gather information and get back to our sometimes sidelined plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
My Hearing Loss Journey: Part Two
I hope these musings find you and your loved ones healthy and safe as we continue our journey through these challenging times. Again, I ask your forgiveness for my absence from the blogosphere. I’m certainly thankful to be in a better space both physically and mentally as we move through this fall of 2021, but I also know I’m not alone in my ongoing struggle to find a steady routine. I also haven’t felt compelled to write about anything, as life has felt pretty uneventful – until now. Tomorrow, I’ll undergo surgery for the first time in my life.
My repeat readers may recall a “big reveal” on this site not long before life as we once knew it changed forever. In January of 2020, I started wearing a hearing aid. This was the non-invasive path available to address the conductive hearing loss that came on suddenly in 2018 because of a rare condition called otosclerosis.
WebMD offers the simplest definition of this condition that affects a little more than three million Americans:
“Otosclerosis is a condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.”
In everyday life, this condition makes it extremely hard to hear and follow conversations in crowded places or anywhere with ambient sound, like restaurants or gyms. While the hearing aid did improve my hearing somewhat, the device never felt truly comfortable and I found there were too many circumstances where wearing it wasn’t an option. That included high-intensity workouts including running or kickboxing. Since I couldn’t risk getting the device wet, it also never accompanied me on days at the beach – my go-to destination for solace during the last two summers.
The bottom line: after extensive research and another visit with the ENT who first presented me with my options, I decided to move forward with a surgical procedure called a stapedectomy. During the short procedure, I’ll be under general anesthesia while Dr. Neil Sperling removes the non-working stapes bone in my right ear and replaces it with a titanium micro prosthesis.
I am sharing my story as an example of when plan A doesn’t work, it’s up to you and you alone to determine if and when you’re ready to move on to plan B, if one exists. Am I nervous? To be completely honest, yes. But I’m also excited to see what the aftermath will sound like. I’ll be sure to write about how it goes and what the recovery is like. I do know I’ll be resting for a few days after the surgery and facing about two weeks of downtime from my running routine. I’ll also be having monthly audiograms until next spring to track improvements in my hearing.
I credit my journalism background with helping in the information gathering process throughout this journey to date. I’m also extremely grateful for the guidance from a dear family friend who happens to be a retired ENT and performed countless stapedectomies during his career. Finally, I thank everyone who has reached out since I first wrote about my hearing loss with so many kind words of support. These are the times you realize how a little encouragement can go a long, long way when it comes to getting back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Laura Loves Fitness Turns 10!
I realize many of my posts kick off with a commentary on the passage of time. While it’s hard to believe we’ve crossed the halfway mark for 2021, I’m having a harder time processing another moment in my personal history. This week marks an entire decade since my very first blog post appeared here on LauraLovesFitness.
It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how this blog – and ultimately, its creator – has changed during these past 10 years. The site started as a place to share exercise and nutrition tips a few times a week. However, a gamut of life experiences reminded me health and well-being are affected by so much more than a specific workout or meal choice. Death, illness, divorce, job loss and tragedies faced by loved ones all take a toll on one’s body and spirit, affecting everything from the motivation to exercise to sleep patterns. While exercise has remained a constant source of solace through the challenging times, writing seems to become an even bigger part of my mental health care routine with each year that passes.
Of course, this past year changed life in a way most never could have imagined. Neither exercise nor writing offered the solace I’d relied on in previous years to bring me back to my center, and the number of blog posts simply dropped off. I’m honestly not sure how much I’ll share here as we make our way through the second half of 2021. Yet, I find comfort knowing I have a space I can share my thoughts when I’m ready. And that is thanks to you, my wonderful readers.
Many of you have been here since day one – July 13, 2011 – and others joined the journey somewhere along the way. I am grateful to each and every one of you for taking the time to stop by and offer your own words of support and motivation. Whether you shared your sympathy after a loss, or congratulated me on one of my Avon39 walks, my first fitness competition or for finally finding my happily ever after, the support has meant more than words can say. While I am uncertain of how LauraLovesFitness may change moving forward, I know the site couldn’t have reached double-digits without you.
I close with a final heartfelt thank you to each of you for keeping me moving on this 10-year journey. Here’s to the adventures that lie ahead of us and all the opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Bring on Summer!
As we continue to navigate through 2021, there are many days it seems time is flying by and standing still at the same time. Yet, here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of spring – and nearly halfway through the year.
With the official start of my favorite season only three days away, I find myself bolstered by energy I haven’t felt since…I’m not really sure when. I realize this is based on a combination of factors, including the fact that COVID cases remain low here in New York City. However, I think the biggest and most welcome change has been experiencing actual human contact again. Each and every second of laughter and the super-tight hugs shared with family and friends after far too long are gifts beyond compare.
As the buzz throughout the city grows a little louder each day, I look forward to a season of getting back to a more normal health and fitness routine. It’s nearly impossible to believe it’s been more than one year since I last stepped inside a gym. The walking / running program I started when the gyms closed in March 2020 has kept me going, but only to a point. I candidly admit I still don’t ‘like’ running, so it hasn’t given me the same mental outlet as other types of exercise. However, last weekend, I took my first NY Best Kickboxing class since pre-COVID times – and it felt incredible to be outside in Central Park throwing jabs and punches again! (And who knew trees make great substitutes for heavy bags?) The soreness I felt for the next couple of days was super intense, but I didn’t mind one bit. I know with time and patience; my body will grow strong again – along with my spirit – as I add weight training and my other “old favorites” back into my fitness routine.
For anyone who feels off their game – remember, you are certainly not alone. We’ve all done the best we could this past year. Now, it’s time to start living again. Just be kind to yourself and remember to ease back into old workout routines carefully. Going from zero to 100-percent effort on day one is a surefire way to put your body at risk for injury. So take some time to breath as you get back to doing what you love. Of course, that includes spending time with the people you love. Here’s to making this the best summer ever filled with new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
A Shot of Hope
I know, it’s been awhile. I also know the start of 2021 has been a bit of a sluggish one for my body and spirit. However, as we’ve reached the start of another new month in a year following one like no other, I feel more optimistic than I have in who knows how long.
I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday. The mask I wore to the appointment couldn’t conceal my emotions. I actually felt tears of joy fill my eyes and heard a slight tremble in my voice as I answered the nurse’s questions before she administered the totally painless shot. Then reality hit: in just two more weeks, I’d be considered fully vaccinated. The moment was, in a word, surreal.
One year ago at this very time, we had absolutely no idea when we’d have a handle on the pandemic nor did we know when life-saving vaccines would be available. On a personal note, I wondered when it would be safe to see, let alone hug my elderly parents again; how long New York City would remain in a state of “pause” with sirens punctuating what became an eerie silence in so many parts of this concrete jungle; and of course, when would the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from this horrible virus stop soaring. At this time in 2020, I was also just a couple of weeks away from taking the online Johns Hopkins Contact Tracing course that would lead to a job with New York City’s Test + Trace Corps. I can’t help but smile thinking about how the program has evolved in its outreach efforts, with many of my colleagues now making phone calls to help our neighbors receive vaccines.
As for the aftermath of the vaccine, I did feel pretty crummy after both my first and second dose. However, the side effects only confirmed my immune system was doing its job and after 48 hours, I was pretty much back to normal following each shot. I’ll take two days of feeling “off” versus ending up in the hospital – or worse – if I somehow contract the virus in the future.
Meanwhile, plans are underway to get New York City completely re-open. Broadway tickets go on sale today for shows starting September 14th. Restaurants are open later. In a couple of weeks, you can catch a Yankees or Mets game and get a vaccine at the stadium. Warmer sunshine and throngs of people have started filling the parks. There’s just a buzz of new optimism in the air. With the unofficial kick off of summer on the horizon, that buzz can only grow louder. As we head toward that growing light at the end of a painfully long tunnel, I wish you and yours good health and safety. Here’s to better days ahead and making some serious plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Happy World Sleep Day!
It certainly doesn’t feel like it here in New York City, but here we are two days before the official start of spring. How’s everyone holding up?
As we all continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, I did want to offer what’s usually a semi-annual reminder about one of the most critical but often overlooked components to staying healthy: sleep. As if getting quality sleep wasn’t hard enough before 2020, many people – including yours truly – are suffering from a new condition some health experts have identified as “Coronasomnia.” While not surprising, this new classification only highlights the importance of trying to find ways to unwind and give your body a chance to rest and recover, especially during these stressful times.
We all know how hard it is to focus or find energy to do even the most basic tasks when we don’t get enough solid zzz’s. But research shows lack of sleep can contribute to other less-than-optimal health issues including weight gain, a rise in blood pressure and even increase your risk for heart disease.
So while there is no surefire way to get better sleep, I’ll offer some of the tips and tricks that work for me:
- Sip carefully: It’s no secret I love my libations, but while a glass or two of wine can help soothe the spirit after a stressful day, too much can wreak havoc on your system and end up doing just the opposite.
- Kill the Screen Time: I know. Throughout these monotonous days, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much to do than mindlessly scroll through a feed or read the latest statistics on the virus or other stressful news. I’ve been working hard to shut off any blue-light devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try reading a real book or magazine instead.
- Pamper Yourself: Maybe it’s a hot shower or bath with lavender scented soaps. Or lighting a calming candle and sipping some herbal tea. Or putting on your favorite fuzzy slippers. Whatever creature comfort gives you peace, cling to it and unwind!
- Get Moving: Exercise always does a body good, but just wrap up the workout at least one hour before bedtime.
- Let It Out: Jot down some thoughts or list of worries in a journal or on a piece of note paper. Or sing out loud to your favorite “angry” song. Talk to a best buddy. Just get the negative “stuff” out of your system.
If you’ve found the secret to better sleep in these challenging times, please don’t keep it to yourself! As we move toward a new season together, sharing ideas is a great way to keep pushing forward and not lose sight of our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!