See you in September!

Vitamin “Sea” Therapy

Some longtime readers may recall August is typically when LauraLovesFitness goes hiatus. That goes for 2020, too. However, unlike previous years, I just realized I never left you with a one-last-thought-for-July post before taking the break. Since it’s hard to remember the last time anything in 2020 resembled normal, I imagine you may forgive the omission.

As this strange summer winds down, I hope you and your loved ones continue doing all you can to stay safe. As many of us long for the barbecues and happy hours of summers passed, I also realize parents, teachers and of course students across the country are also struggling with how to navigate a bizarre school year ahead. Meanwhile, back here in Manhattan, we have no idea when gyms or city staples including Broadway theaters and music venues will be able to re-open safely. While New York City’s numbers have improved when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the virus, this is no time to get over confident and stop following the protocols. Wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others when you are out in public.

I have heard from many people who continue a daily struggle with anxiety, fear and boredom as we continue to move through a year unlike any other. I hope some daily exercise – walking, cycling or even dancing in your living room – will help you get some endorphins flowing. Also, remember there are many mental health counselors available via Zoom or other telemedicine platforms these days. For my fellow Manhattanites, you can reach a counselor by calling 888-692-9355. You can also text “well” to 65173.

I’ll wrap up this last Workout Wednesday post of August with a huge thank you for sticking with me through my random musings over these past several months. I hope to return with some updated information here on the blog about me (my bio is extremely outdated!) and my newest career adventure. Stay tuned, stay safe…and cheers to better days ahead for all of us and new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

I Forgot My Blog’s Birthday!

Considering I still have trouble sorting out what day of the week it is, I guess it’s no surprise I recently forgot one special date on the calendar. LauraLovesFitness.com turned nine years old last week!

I use each blog birthday as a chance to reflect on some highlights during the past year. Needless to say, nothing looks the same as it did at this time last July. However, before the start of a year many of us can’t wait to leave behind, the last half of 2019 provided some truly memorable experiences. I’ll always consider it a successful cross-this-off-the-bucket-list year. So, here are the top three memorable moments in since last summer in chronological order:

 

 

My First-Ever NPC Bikini Competition (I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever compete again – assuming we’re able to have these shows again the the not-too-distant future!)

 

And… last but certainly not least..

 

Now, as we continue to push through a challenging and downright scary 2020, I am more thankful than ever to my readers and followers for your ongoing support. I hope my sporadic, yet candid posts during these past months have offered a few minutes of distraction during otherwise monotonous or difficult days. I look forward to better days ahead for all is us and to the times we can once again truly have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hello, July!

Yesterday should have been the beginning of my favorite month of the year. Despite the slow re-opening of businesses and activities here in New York, we are nowhere near pre-Coronavirus life. The city streets and scenes are very different from the ones I fell in love with when I arrived in 2008. And being my normal, candid self, I still find find these days to be a little scary.

Many businesses remain shuttered, and who knows how many will remain closed for good. Broadway will remain dark until the New Year. The New York City Marathon is officially cancelled. Beaches are open at half capacity, but the last time I visited my “happy place,” I was quite alarmed at the amount of large groups I saw ignoring social distancing and sharing everything from beach blankets to beer cans. Finally, and perhaps a huge source of extra anxiety is the fact that gyms remain closed. Despite my best efforts, my new running hobby has yet to give me the same stress release I experience when punching a heavy bag or lifting weights.

Meanwhile, anger over racism and socioeconomic injustice has reached a boiling point. People are enraged, scared and beyond restless after months of being shut in. And super close to home, my mom continues her slow yet steady recovery from open heart surgery while my Dad continues to grapple with his own health issues. Because of their age and vulnerability, I worry that one wrong move on my end could make them sick with a virus that’s still killing people every day. It’s no wonder I’m struggling with my own new health issue: insomnia.

However, it IS July. So I tell myself to snap out of it, turn the page and use whatever vitamin D therapy I can to focus on the brighter times ahead. I will keep the power walks and quasi-runs going to give my mind and body some sort of endorphin boost. I’ll keep praying. And I’ll remind myself of the the good that does exist in this upside-down world. Like the fact that my dear childhood friend married the love of her life last week at the Church we grew up in, masks and all. Then there’s the selfless goodness seen in the kind and compassionate eyes of the doctors, nurses and aides who took such good care of my mom during her seven-day stay in the hospital. Last but certainly not least, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by love during moments with my husband or my parents in person – and the virtual hugs I get from family and friends via emails, texts or phone calls.

Thank you for still being here to read my extremely random thoughts during these past few months. I hope you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy. As we head into a Fourth of July weekend like none before, I wish you peace, love and whatever joy you can find to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

One Strange Summer

Forever My Happy Place – Even When The World is in Chaos

Sunscreen? Check.
Water? Check.
Umbrella? Check.
Mask? Check.
And with that, I ventured out to Jones Beach for my first day by the sea to unofficially kick off one very strange summer.
Before I continue, let me apologize for the premature launch of this post earlier today in its unfinished form. I had the best intentions of posting these thoughts yesterday, the last Workout Wednesday of May. However, like many other best laid plans during these difficult days, I got caught up in I’m not exactly sure what, the day came and went and so did the deadline for this post. Better late than never, I suppose.
Back to the beach. It looked totally different from the moment I drove into the field six parking lot. Orange cones took up every other parking spot. There were hand sanitizer stations set up in several places along the boardwalk and near the restrooms.  Police patrolled the beach via SUV and ATV and encountered the occasional crowd of more than 10 teens and asked them to separate their towels and blankets by 10 feet. When leaving our beach chairs and blankets, the majority of people I came in social-distance contact with wore masks or had them hanging around their necks at the ready.  It felt as if we were all on our best behavior to ensure our happy place would remain open for the season.
On the not-so-crowded Tuesday, the solitude I always relish at the beach felt even more profound. There was no music escaping from a contraband radio or two on the few blankets nearby. I took in the roaring sound of the ocean, often closing my eyes and taking deep breaths of the rich, salty air. After countless days in our one-bedroom apartment in the concrete jungle,  this escape was like a vitamin B12 shot for my psyche. I still felt uneasy and uncertain as normalcy here in New York seems an eternity away. However, just as the sea always retreats from the sand then crashes back again, I felt a glimmer of new hope that we will get to the other side of this eventually.
As we’ve unofficially kicked off this unprecedented summer of 2020, I wish you all continued good health. For those who’ve lost loved ones over these past weeks, my heart goes out to you. To all the healthcare and essential workers who continue to show unbelievable fortitude and compassion, thank you. To all those who’ve continually checked in on us since this all started, hugs. Here’s to staying safe and getting back to those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On…

Three of nine albums made during quarantine….so far!

On this Workout Wednesday, we’ve reached the middle of May and day number who-knows-what in this fight against COVID-19. States around the country are starting to re-open, but things here in New York City remain the same. As the monotony continues, I thought I’d share one thing that’s helped maintain my mental health in addition to my near-daily power walks through Central Park: Snapfish.

I don’t know about you, but while I’ve loved the simplicity of taking pictures on my iPhones for the past several years, I hate the fact those photos usually end up in a sea of disorganization on my laptop. So, I decided to tackle the tedious task of creating some actual “old-school” albums to be placed on a bookshelf. While I still have plenty to tackle, I’ve used Snapfish.com to slowly assemble memories from various vacations; four Avon39 Walks; highlights from last year’s NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix along with images captures during the 15 weeks of prep time leading up to the main event; and finally, two year-in-review compilations for 2014 and 2015. (James and I met in 2014, so I thought that was a happy place to start.) It’s been wonderful to receive the finished products in the mail, sit with a big glass of wine and re-live some happy memories. (Bonus: Snapfish has been offering great deals on albums and other photo creations almost daily since these quarantine days began.)

If there’s a creative project you’ve kept on the back burner because of all the normal chaos of life, maybe now’s the time to give it a whirl. Working on a crafty project can also provide a feeling of accomplishment on days when much of life has stood still. Speaking of getting things done, one of my besties texted me earlier this week to say she felt unproductive because the “only” things she got done that day were laundry, bills and some other paperwork. I reminded her completing any kind of chore on days when many of us would like to just pull the covers over our head and stay in bed is something to feel good about. Whether you get one or five things crossed off your to-do list today, give yourself the kudos you deserve. Things are hard right now, and we can only do our best each day we’re lucky enough to start anew.

If you’ve worked on a project that’s given you some joy during these challenging times, I’d love to hear about it! In the meantime, stay safe, soak up the warmer temperatures that are starting to creep into this otherwise unprecedented spring and do the best you can to stick with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Month, New Hope

Even though it feels like the world has been standing still for the past 60-plus days, we’ve made it to the first Workout Wednesday of May. While we’re no way near being “done” with all the challenges and fears facing our households and communities as a whole, I find daily strength in the glimpses of hope that we will make it to the other side. The sounds of gratitude for our healthcare workers booming from windows and balconies around this city and all over the country. Acts of kindness extended toward the elderly and the other vulnerable populations. Creative and colorful masks on the faces of my fellow Manhattanites. And my biggest shot of daily positivity comes from my near-daily walks through Central Park. The budding trees and scents of magnolia are signs that Mother Nature continues her work this spring just as doctors, nurses and scientists continue theirs to help us get through this crisis.

Another happening that gave me some peace of mind this past week was getting the COVID-19 antibody test. Aside from outdoor exercise and quick trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, my husband and I have spent nearly all our time inside our apartment. According to the test results, it looks like we’ve been doing things the right way as my test results were negative. That means I haven’t had the virus. Of course, it also means I could still get the virus in the future, so nothing will change for now in our daily routine.

For anyone thinking about getting the antibody test, I can tell you other than the quick prick of my vein, it was a painless process. Hats off to the entire staff at our nearby CityMD who made it that way. I arrived at the urgent care facility 15 minutes before the 7am open, and there were already seven people ahead of me – all wearing masks and gloves and standing at least six feet apart on the sidewalk. Once the doors opened, a kind and courteous associate let each of us in at a slow but steady pace to allow us to check in and then sit in the waiting room at a safe distance apart. After about 30 minutes, I was taken to an exam room by a compassionate nurse who checked my temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen and asked a few questions about my health history and whether I’d experienced any Coronavirus symptoms. Other than overall fatigue and a headache that wouldn’t go away for more than a day about six weeks ago, I’ve felt just fine. After the nurse left, a tired but kind doctor arrived to draw my blood. He told me I was his 10th antibody test patient already that morning. The day before, he drew 200 viles of blood for the same test. Then it was back to the front desk for a quick check out and I was done. The whole visit took one hour and 15 minutes and my test results were available via the online portal 48 hours later. (A nice surprise since I was told it could take up to five business days to get the results.) For anyone thinking about getting the test and has access to it, I say you have nothing to lose and perhaps only some peace of mind to gain.

So again, does this mean I’m ready to change my routine? Absolutely not. I’ll continue to listen to the facts and advice presented by our health experts and will follow the “rules” issued by our governor and mayor. I’ll continue to do my best to exercise daily and eat as much healthy food as possible, but also try not to beat myself up over the extra wine or comfort food that seems to end up in my evening routine. And of course, I’ll continue to bang a pan with gusto at 7pm and cheer on our healthcare workers – not just on this National Nurses Day, but every day this global fight continues.

Whatever is working for you at this point, keep on going. Lean on family or friends for support. If you feel you need more than just extra prayer time or a happy hour chat with your gal pals to get through a rough patch, take advantage of the mental health hotlines offered by so many communities right now. Here in New York, the Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Helpline is: 1-844-863-9314. Let’s use the hope that comes with a new month to stay strong, stay safe and stay on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Ups, Downs and Everything In Between

Cheers to Mother Nature!

Here we are on Earth Day 2020. While it’s obviously different from any other I can remember in my lifetime, it’s still a chance to be grateful for things like fresh air, the sea, the sand and beautiful flowers. This year, I’m especially thankful for access to the walking trails in Central Park which have served as both a physical “playground” and mental health escape route during these difficult days.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve shared a post. To be completely honest, I just haven’t felt motivated to write. Actually, it’s more that I didn’t want to write about the dark moments or sleepless nights that crept up on me on more consecutive days than I expected. Thanks to an amazing support network of family and friends, those days and nights pass and I greet each morning with new hope it’ll be a better day than the one before.

The other thing that helps, as it always has, is getting some form of exercise on as many days as possible. In addition to my power walks and continued attempts to master the art of running, I also look to online workouts for inspiration to break a sweat. Since imitation is one of the highest forms of flattery, I wanted to share this heart-pumping 10-minute workout from the amazing, EJ, one of my amazing instructors at NY Best Kickboxing. (If you want to be super aggressive, repeat the series two or three times) Here it is:

My Home Workout Tools: Foam Roller; Resistance Bands; Dumbbells & BFit Labs Rapid Electrolyte Spray

:15 Bounce on the balls of your feet
:60 2 Lunges; 2 Squats
:30 Straight punches nonstop
:30 Hooks nonstop
:30 Uppercuts nonstop
:30 Mountain Climbers
20 Push-ups
:30 Forearm plank
20 Crunches
30 Leg raisers
20 Toe Reaches
:30 Russian twist
:30 Knee tucks
:30 Mountain climbers
20 Push-ups

In addition to some daily exercise, here’s my short list of activities that help me find some inner peace:

  • Chats with my parents
  • Governor Cuomo’s daily press conference
  • A hot shower
  • Scheduling Zoom calls with friends
  • Prayer

Finally, let me offer this candid piece of encouragement. Obviously, I’m a believer in the power of positivity. I’m also a proponent of daily exercise, good nutrition and a healthy sleep regimen. However, if you’ve had more than one bad day in these challenging times where too much TV and comfort food took the place of cardio and zzzzzz’s, don’t sweat it. You’re most definitely not alone. Allow yourself to experience your emotions and remember each day we’re lucky enough to open our sleepy eyes even in these uncertain times is a new chance to tackle our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Turning the Page…

 

Blue Skies & Sunshine: Natural Mood Boosters!

It seemed surreal to rip another page off the desk calendar this morning as we kicked off a new month. As I looked at the 30 empty squares on that page, I realized this is the first time in my life I can remember not having one social event or family get-together on the horizon. Of course, based on the latest directives from our health experts and government officials, that’s the way it will stay.

While one day bleeds into the next, I find it harder to keep track of the date and time. However, the one part of my day that sets my mind straight is my solitary power walk or jog in Central Park. I’m sharing some sunny images from today’s jaunt to hopefully offer a spot of brightness for anyone struggling with a dark moment or entirely difficult day. We’re all going to have those moments as this time of uncertainty continues, but maybe finding the one thing that brings your mind back to a “healthy” place can help you through. Some popular ideas at the moment include journaling; photography; exercise; a power nap; a video chat with family or friends and early happy hour. Maybe one of these or all of the above get you to the next day. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!

I wrap up these brief thoughts on the first day of April with another huge thank you to the doctors, nurses and each and every health care professional, along with all the emergency responders and essential workers who continue to push on in this unprecedented battle. Let’s help them out by staying home. When we do head outside for those essentials at the grocery store or pharmacy and see one of these warriors in our midst, let us not underestimate the power of saying two little words: thank you. With some faith and compassion, we’ll get through this together and get back to our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pressing On..

So, how’s everyone holding up?

It’s hard to believe this is the second Workout Wednesday where gyms remain closed here in the Big Apple and in many states across the country. On a positive note, it’s encouraging to see how many gyms and trainers are offering online workouts and exercise ideas. As these days of isolation continue, I encourage everyone to take that daily walk or run as permitted. As I continue to recover from a shoulder injury, I know the quick dose of fresh air from walking has helped keep the endorphin production going. And I think it’s safe to say we can use all the endorphins we can get right now.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon with my list of favorite at-home exercises – no equipment needed:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Calf Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Core work: crunches; planks; side planks; toe touches; dead bugs; push ups; glute bridges
  • Shadow boxing
  • Bicep curls; tricep kickbacks; front and lateral raises (use soup cans or bottles for weight)

Times Square

This post is really just my way of jumping into the “fitfam” positivity pool that’s streaming across so many social media platforms. I am beyond grateful to all of you who’ve sent private messages, texts and emails to check on us here in the city and also inquire about my elderly parents on Long Island. So far, we’re all healthy and taking the necessary precautions to hopefully stay that way.

I also want to offer a huge thank you to all the doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, first responders and all those who remain on the front lines of this pandemic. I also thank the other essentials workers who are showing up to keep mass transit running; stock shelves at the grocery stores; help people get their medicine at the pharmacies; provide food at the restaurants still offering takeout and delivery; man the front desks at apartment buildings; pick up the garbage and recycling and deliver the mail. Finally, a shout out to the reporters and news teams who are practicing the true rules of journalism by providing facts instead of spreading fear.

Eighth Avenue & W. 54th Street

Until the next time….let’s all stay calm, wash those hands, practice social distancing and continue to share prayers and good vibes with family and friends. While no one knows how long these difficult days will last, the good news is we will get back to life as we knew it and back to our original plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Unprecedented Times

My Newest Desk Accessory. Can Anyone Else Relate?

To say we’ve arrived at a wacky Workout Wednesday is obviously an understatement. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we’re aware of each and every new COVID-19 case, death and local, national or international lock down as soon they pop up. It’s obviously good to stay informed, but never good to get to a point of paralyzing panic.

I’m not an expert on anything related to this virus, which is no doubt dangerous for the elderly or anyone with a less-than-optimal immune system. However, several people have asked me for my take on whether it’s “safe” to go to the gym right now. In my non-expert opinion, I offer the same top tips I’d offer during cold and flu season:

  • If you feel sick, do everyone a favor and STAY HOME!
  • Wipe down equipment with disinfecting wipes or spray before and after you use it. (Hopefully, your gym has plenty in stock. Kudos to the team at Cruch54th for doing such a stellar cleaning job!)
  • If you must take a group fitness class, try and keep your distance from others in the class. (Attendance is already down at many group classes throughout Manhattan.)
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands with soap and warm water when you arrive and before you leave the gym. You may not have time to shower after a workout, but there’s no excuse for not taking 20 seconds to wash your hands.

With more daylight to work with, you can always opt for a long walk or run in a park or other open space. Many body weight exercises and HIIT workouts can be done at home, including my all-time favorite Tabata workouts. For another option, click here to see my oldie-but-goodie park bench workout. (Just be sure to wash those hands ASAP when you’re done! Maybe even wear gloves while you are touching that bench, and throw them straight into the laundry when you get home.)

Finally, help keep your immune system strong by sticking with those healthy habits you promised to make a part of your daily routine in 2020:
  • Get healthy nutrition from fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of zzzzzs!

Am I concerned about the Coronavirus? Absolutely, but mainly for my parents and other elderly loved ones. So let’s be sure to take care of ourselves so we can be there for our family and friends if they need us. Wash those hands, stay informed and we’ll all get through this together. Let’s hope we can soon return to our regularly scheduled programming and all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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