Give the Gift of Health & Fitness

Christmas gift and baubles on defocused lights backgroundSince this Motivation Monday marks 20 days until Christmas and 19 until the start of Hanukkah, I thought it was the perfect time to offer some cool gift ideas for the fitness fanatics in your life. (Whether they’ve been naughty or nice is up to you to decide.)

Since yours truly is trying to keep the hustle and bustle at manageable levels, I hope you won’t mind a list that’s short and sweet:

  1. Bluetooth wireless ear warmers. These wrap around your head without interfering with a ponytail or hat so you can stay in touch and listen to your favorite tunes while breaking a sweat in the chilly outdoors.
  2. Waterproof audio “stuff.” For the swimmers and even the beach lovers in your life, here’s a great way to provide some waterproof motivation for all their underwater activities.
  3. A not-so-typical water bottle. Aside from being BPA-free and easy-to-grip, this 24-ounce water bottle from Thermos also has a rotating meter  to help you track your hydration throughout the day.
  4. Protein-packed, gluten-free baking goods from Flapjacked.com There’s a wide variety of recipes for pancakes, cookies and muffins packed with 20 grams of protein and 200 calories per serving.
  5. For the fitness chicks in your life: I love my Femme Fitale fitness gloves. They help me avoid developing callouses from all those Physique57 barre classes or weight lifting. So many cute colors and patterns to choose from!

Great stocking stuffers:

  1. BFit Labs Electrolyte Sprays. I never leave home without a bottle. Each electrolyte-packed spray of Berry Blast or Very Vanilla contains 0 calories, 0 carbs and 0 food dyes.
  2. Moisture-wicking socks: I am a huge fan of Balega running socks. They’ve help keep my feet blister-free through my first three Avon39 Walks – that’s 108.9 miles and counting!
  3. Dry shampoo for quick touch-ups after a workout.
  4. Combination lock that lets you use words instead of numbers.
  5. Hot packs for hands and feet.

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

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

holiday-party-picWe’re in the thick of it now. The 2016 holiday season has officially begun.

This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we’re bombarded with end-of-year deadlines and all those extra items on our already endless to-do lists. Throw in the shorter days, colder temperatures and more than a few extra calories courtesy of all those holiday get-togethers and it can be tempting to say “Well, the rest of the year is a wash. I’ll just start my healthy habits again in January.” On this Motivation Monday, I’m here with a few simple words of encouragement: you’re better than that.

Is this the time of year for enjoying seasonal favorites like Christmas cookies, holiday-themed cocktails and a smorgasbord of decadent appetizers?Absolutely! Does that mean every day from now until January 1st needs to be a free-for-all? Absolutely not! A little planning and a few tricks can help you stay on track. Here are my top tips to get you through the season ahead:

  1. Do NOT skip meals! I admit I used to do this a lot in my “younger” days. If I had a party to go to after work, I’d skimp all day and save up for the big event. This never worked out well, as I always arrived super hungry and filled up on the first high-calorie items I could get my hands on. A better plan? Eat breakfast and small meals every few hours throughout the day so you keep your blood sugar levels steady and you don’t feel the need to attack the buffet.
  2. Get Sneaky About Exercise: Now’s the time to park the car a little farther away from the entrance to the office or mall and/or take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. If your schedule forces you to switch things up, taking a brief and brisk walk in the morning is better than getting no activity at all – especially if you have to skip your favorite group exercise class to make it to a social event right after a long day at work.
  3. Stock Up on Healthy Seasonal Favorites: ‘Tis the season to enjoy portable, sensible snacks including apples, pears and grapes. When you have time to make a meal, broccoli, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are all in season and ready to enjoy.

Remember, while it’s okay to indulge and enjoy what’s left of 2016, a few simple steps can keep you from completely throwing in the towel on your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Let’s Talk Turkey, and Trimmings and….

iStock_000004795159MediumOn this Motivation Monday, I offer my annual dose of Thanksgiving-infused inspiration to get this particular week started off strong.

I look forward to this all-American holiday every year because it’s a chance to stop and give thanks for all the good things in our lives. What better way to slow down than spending some quality time with family and friends? Of course, a lot of that time ends up being stuffed with food and drink. Between snacking and sitting down for a traditional turkey-with-all-the-trimmings 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. So, I thought I’d get these survival tips posted a few days in advance of the calorie-filled holiday ahead:

  • Move it! Don’t skimp on the activity this week. Remember, ten minutes of exercise are always better than zero. The bonus is you’ll have the mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the Turkey Day feast. 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 first thing in the morning. Or sneak out for some fresh air and 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 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 sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. Two ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in 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.
  • Portion Control: Use a salad or other small dish for your meal. Start with salad or veggies and then add the 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 – before moving on to dessert, of course!
  • Keep Track of the Libations: This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of still or sparking water before moving on to the next cocktail.
  • Make Doggie Bags! Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

Let me offer my heartfelt wishes for everyone to enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving! Each year, I’m even more thankful for so many things including my family, my friends, my health and for the support I receive from my “fitfam,” which includes all my loyal readers. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Remember, laughter, good food and even some good wine are all ingredients in many holiday recipes for a happy heart and the soul and part of our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Loss…and Life

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Our fearless warrior on October 15th

This is anything but your typical motivation Monday post. The truth is I can’t focus on offering healthy food tips or a shot of encouragement to get to the gym when I am coming to grips with a an inexplicable loss.

My friend Liz lost her brave battle with breast cancer yesterday. You may remember her from my posts about the Avon39 Walk.  I was blessed to meet Liz during my days at St. Mary’s High School. Thanks to Facebook, we reconnected long after our 1991 graduation and I felt like we picked up right where we left off. Then a few years ago, the unthinkable happened. Liz was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. It’s a bit of a blur right now, but all of a sudden, other St. Mary’s Gaels banded together to support Liz. Everyone wanted to do something to help. And honestly, I think most of us never believed this day would come. Despite the dire diagnosis, if anyone was going to beat the odds and kick cancer’s ass, it was Liz.

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Go Gaels! Liz meets Molly, Sue & me along the Avon39 route.

Her fight was relentless. She researched the different types of chemotherapy; sought out alternative treatments and was always so careful about what she ate and what she exposed her body to. I remember all the chats and email exchanges we had about the power of yoga, stretching and exercise and how it helped her feel stronger. She eventually traveled to Europe to undergo treatments not available here. She fought, she prayed and she showed all of us how to face adversity with determination and grace.

I had already been touched by breast cancer when my mom was diagnosed in 2008. She beat it. My mom’s battle made me want to do something to join the fight against breast cancer. Then Liz got sick. Then my friend Sue decided to join in Avon39, and I decided to join her. Sue and I have now finished three Walks together, and had other gal pals join in the 39.3 mile journey in 2015 and 2016. Liz was with us in spirit for every step of every mile, and she will continue to be there as we make plans for 2017 and beyond.

October 2014

October 2014

I was lucky to be with my parents when I got the news about Liz. Amidst my tears and sadness, my mom pointed out something extraordinary. Last night’s moon was the biggest since 1948. We won’t see another one like it again until 2034. I have no doubt that brightness was Liz’s light shining down on all of us wanting us to live, laugh and love. It is because of Liz that I was reunited with women I missed for years. Because of her, I was blessed to rekindle friendships I know will stand the test of time.

October 2014

October 2014

My faith gives me comfort that I will see Liz again. For now, I wish her peace and will remain forever grateful for the gift of her friendship. Thank you to all my readers for allowing me this detour from my normal weekly writing path. My only words of encouragement for the week ahead are these: tell those who are most important to you that you love them, and live each day to the fullest.

The Missing Link in Your Health & Fitness Routine

an alarm clock adjusting backward one hour and the text end of daylight saving timeThis weekend gave us two big reasons to cheer:

  1. Nearly 50,000 people crossed the finish line in the TCS New York City marathon. Congratulations to all you amazing athletes who participated in this incredible test of endurance!
  2. Most Americans enjoyed an extra hour of zzzzzzz’s thanks to the end of Daylight Saving Time.

So I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday to encourage everyone to think about an often overlooked piece of the well-being puzzle: your sleep habits.

Why do we need sleep? Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps regulate our mood and learn and retain valuable information. There are even studies linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from work to working out and I find myself annoyed by trivial things that usually roll off my back.

Here are some ideas for incorporating those all-important zzzz’s into your healthy routine:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol: Anyone who’s read this blog for some time knows I enjoy a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up
  • However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Of course, having a hangover the next day after too many libations is never a good thing.
  • Caffeine: I have some friends who can have a cup of coffee after dinner at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like herbal teas and chocolate.
  • Hunger:  The bottom line is you don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to be too full either. I try not to snack at night after dinner, but if I do, I go for a single-serve bag of 94% fat-free popcorn, a skinny cow fudge pop or a few clementines or mandarins. Frozen grapes are great for taming those sweet cravings, too.
  • Stress:  This an area I hope to manage better this year. I recently read somewhere it’s a good idea to write down all your worries an hour before getting into bed. Whether it’s the to-do list for the next day or some project that’s been on your plate for awhile, writing things down gets the worry “out there” and you can deal with it in the morning. I find the nights I write in my journal (which I’ve been keeping since I was
  • Shutting Down:  If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be overstimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.

Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout 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!

Happy Halloween!

iStock_000018985469SmallAttention fellow chocolate lovers: This Motivation Monday is full of good news! Not only is it Halloween, a day many of us get to indulge in a few sweet treats, but it’s also the day I’m sharing some feel-no-guilt information from registered dietitian Keri Glassman. Keri was kind enough to shatter some food myths for my LauraLovesFitness readers.

Before you dive into her informative video, I did want to let everyone know my Dad continues his recovery after back surgery and is getting stronger every day. Thank you again for all the amazing support and concern!

Now, I hope you enjoy Keri’s informative video and that you have an entire week filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Highs and Lows

Looking Forward to the Good Times Ahead!

Looking Forward to the Good Times Ahead!

What a difference one week makes.

It’s hard to believe it was only seven days ago when I shared my excitement and exhaustion after completing my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. On this Motivation Monday, I find myself experiencing those same polar opposites again. I’m overjoyed my father made it through severe spinal surgery five days ago, and I’m exhausted for the very same reason.

Obviously, this experience turned my normal routine upside down. Workouts were skipped; my eating-every-three-hours rule was broken; veggies and fruits were forgotten and sleeping came in small fits at best. However, one week of disruption is a small price to pay for my dad’s well-being. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this post, he’ll be on his way home from the hospital or maybe he’s already resting in his own bed. That makes today the start of getting back to normal.

Dad has four to six weeks of recovery ahead of him. That means a little extra worry for Mom and me while we try to keep him comfortable. But things will soon fall into a rhythm like they always do, even when those things are a little out of the ordinary. Workout schedules and healthy eating habits can be resumed, but having your loved ones healthy and happy can’t always be guaranteed. So, I’ll embrace the schedule changes knowing I still have my Dad going strong at 80-years-young.

I close this not-so-fitness-focused post with a huge thank you to my family, friends and everyone who offered prayers, support and concern during an overwhelming few days. With such an amazing support team behind me, I  know it’s only a matter of time before I get back on track with my own plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Avon39 2016

Sue, Molly, Me, Liz & Lori Earn our 39!

“Troll Sisters” Forever!

While doing the same thing over and over again can sometimes lead to boredom, I guarantee walking 39.3 miles in the fight against breast cancer is not one of them.

fullsizerender-2As I sit here on this Sunday night covered in sports cream and fighting to stay awake after completing my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, I hope you’ll forgive this somewhat simplistic but heartfelt Motivation Monday post. I offer two lists that sum up my emotions another unforgettable weekend here in New York City.

What I’m Thankful For:

  • My mom is now an eight-year survivor.
  • My generous supporters who got me to the starting line.
  • Joining my friend Sue for our third Avon39 Walk together.
  • Adding Molly, another St. Mary’s Gael, to this year’s experience.
  • The birth of two new friendships with Liz, a survivor; and Lori, Liz’s friend who flew in from Dallas.
  • The fun “hairstyle” Sue created for all of us, quickly transforming us into the fierce five unofficially known as “Team Troll.”
  • Seeing countless survivor t-shirts and pins along the walk.
  • Meeting so many people with unstoppable strength and determination, including Mike, whose 39.3-mile journey in Manhattan marked his 100th Avon39 walk to date.
  • The Avon39 crew members who kept us safe and cheered for us along 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday.
  • The strangers who took some time out of their weekend to stand on a street corner and offer a high-five of support.
Gaels Forever! Liz comes out to cheer us on.

Gaels Forever! Liz comes out to cheer us on.

What I Hope For:

  • To see even more survivors, including another high school gal pal Elizabeth, on next year’s walk.
  • To see more New Yorkers out on the streets on future walk weekends showing the pink warriors some love.
  • That one day in my Goddaughters’ lifetimes, we won’t have to ever walk again.

I wrap things up with a huge thank you to everyone who generously supported my third Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. Because of you I threw a  5,175-dollar punch in the fight against breast cancer, making this my biggest fundraising year yet. Please know that money will be used to support organizations that help men and women, regardless of their ability to pay, receive the medical care they need. I also want to thank everyone for your encouraging emails and texts and all those who liked or shared my social media posts documenting my preparation for the journey right through the weekends’ highs. I simply couldn’t have done any of this without an amazing team behind me. If you’d like to see even more fun photos from the weekend, you’ll find them on my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page.

The Trolls with 100-Walk Mike!

The Trolls with 100-Walk Mike!

If you’ve been thinking about being a part of Avon39 or other activities to wage war against a disease that remains the number one cancer killer of women, now’s the time to get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hitting the Pause Button

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t forget to stretch! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Wow. Here we are celebrating another Columbus Day and marching toward the middle of October. Meanwhile, more holiday displays keep popping up in the stores. To me, it’s all proof that time flies by faster each year and life simply gets more hectic as we get older.

If you’re a parent, you struggle with the complexities of your children growing up. All of us eventually face challenges as our parents age. At times, situations can be overwhelming and paralyzing. This is why it’s so important to carve out some precious moments of time to pause and regroup. Little did I know I’d find a big jolt of strength spending 30 minutes doing something I hadn’t done in far too long.

On Saturday morning after my usual Physique57 workout, I stayed an extra half hour for stretch class. Those 30 minutes did more wonders than I can explain. If I had an internal pause button, I’d say it clicked. That allowed me to worry only about three things for 30 minutes: inhaling, exhaling and holding stretches to release some of the tension in the multiple tight spots of my body.

I often write about the importance of making  for ourselves, but today I offer the reminder that sometimes that means finding a few moments to simply breathe deeply and stretch. What is your body telling you? Maybe it doesn’t need the hard-core boot-camp experience today. Maybe the lungs need to fill up with some extra air and your muscles need some TLC. As my wonderful instructor Lindi reminded us throughout the stretch session, sometimes you also need to shut out the noise and remember the good things in your life: the people who make you smile or a memory of a family get together or carefree moment at the beach.

As we all get back into fall sports, now’s the perfect time to re-focus your attention on flexibility and the all-important stretches too many of us skip as we rush out of the gym to our next busy activity. A lot of injuries happen at this time of year as people get back to their not-so-lazy-days-of-summer routines. Remember – if you haven’t played fall ball since…well, last fall…you need to warm up and be careful with muscles that may have been inactive for awhile.

If you’re off on this Motivation Monday for the holiday, why not take just 10 minutes to breathe in some air, think about stretching out the kinks in your hard-working body or at least plan a 10 to 20 minute block of time this week when you can. Whether you want to try a new group exercise class, meditation or a new nutrition program, deciding on a new goal is the first big step in making things happen on our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Putting a Healthy Twist on Seasonal Snacks

FootballThis Motivation Monday is all about one of my favorite food groups: snacks!

I classify snacks in two groups:

  1. The healthy ones you choose throughout the day to keep you body fueled and your blood levels at an even keel and
  2. The not-so-healthy ones you enjoy at a party or on those rare occasions you get to chill out on the couch.

As a strong believer in the power of eating several small meals throughout the day, I’m always on the lookout for healthy snack options. My go-tos include hard-boiled eggs, raw almonds, green apples, fat-free plain Greek yogurt and KIND bars. If you’ve been stopping by here for awhile, you also know I also enjoy my treats, especially when I can share them with friends and family. Which brings me to one of the biggest reasons people get together in the fall: football!

If your idea of “Sunday Funday” includes sporting your team’s jersey, sipping a few beers and savoring some indulgences, here are three ideas to enjoy those good times without the side serving of guilt:

  1. Spice Up Your Popcorn: Microwave popcorn has always been one of my favorite lo-cal snacks. To make it more fun for game day, try adding some chili powder, pepper or paprika to the bag or bowl. (Just be sure to put some muscle into it and shake well!)
  2. Healthy chili: How would you like to enjoy a hearty, hot bowl of chili packed with only 75 calories and 1. 5 grams of fat? It’s possible, thanks to this Weight Watchers “one-point chili” recipe my mom introduced me to years ago. Click here for the easy recipe. Since I’m not a big cook, I like to make a big batch so I can freeze some and nuke it later.
  3. A Better Way to Dip – Swap out breads and chips for crunchy, healthy celery or carrot sticks and dip those veggies into a whole new kind of creaminess. Chobani’s Meze Dips have just 25 calories and one gram of fat per serving. (Traditional French onions dips pack five or more grams of fat and at least 60 calories per serving.) With flavors like Roasted Red Pepper, Three Pepper Salsa and Smoked Onion Parmesan, there’s a yummy fix for all your savory cravings. The following are some of Chobani’s tasty and colorful alternatives to those traditional chip-and-dip days:

chobanipost

So, what’s YOUR favorite healthy football or other seasonal snack? Remember, if you do go a little overboard on Sunday Funday or any other day of the week – don’t sweat it. Sometimes you have to be a little bad to get back to the good on this never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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