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!

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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.

Back in Action…Well, Sort Of

My August “Fashion” Accessory

Happy September!

I realize I’m probably “showing my age,” but I’m absolutely blown away at how each summer seems to fly by faster than the last. It’s even harder to believe my annual month-long hiatus from blogging has come to an end, too. I hope your August was filled with at least a few lazy days, plenty of laughter and some precious moments with friends and family. Let the memory of those happy days give you a boost when the back-to-reality blues come knocking at your door.

Since everyone seems to be in back-to-school mode, I thought it was the perfect time to offer what I learned in a different kind of summer school: physical therapy. Fortunately, I am close to wrapping up my PT sessions, but I’m still uncertain of the date I’ll be able to return to my ultimate happy place: the kickboxing studio. So the lesson I hope you take away from this first post of September boils down to this: do what I say, NOT what I do. Seriously.

Since 2011, I’ve written multiple posts about the importance of listening to your body and taking a step back if it tells you something’s wrong. And what exactly did LauraLovesFitness do in this situation? I didn’t listen. I ignored the pain that started as a small twinge in the medial region of my right knee after a kickboxing class back in February. Sure, I’d take a day off, maybe two, here and there, but I never rested long enough to give my body a real break. After several months, that twinge had turned into a steady, searing pain that began impacting life away from the heavy bag. It started bothering me during long walks, at Physique57 classes and even after periods of sitting. When the pain started waking me up at night, I knew it was time to do something. Fortunately, a MRI ruled out a tear in my meniscus or any ligaments surrounding the knee. However, I was diagnosed with bursitis and tendonitis due to a probable strain in my adductor followed by overuse. That meant I had to take a step back from kickboxing and get my butt to physical therapy.

Now, after five weeks of manual therapy, ice massage, various stretching and strengthening exercises and wearing kinesiology tape (also known as elastic therapeutic tape or K-tape), I’m finally feeling like myself again. For someone used to going a million miles a minute, it’s been frustrating as hell and I miss kickboxing more than any other workout in my life. The bottom line is I have no one to blame but myself. If I could go back in time, I would have addressed the pain not long after it started, made sure I was executing the moves in my workout with proper form and taken the rest I needed.

So, as I continue to heal and look forward to a return to kickboxing, I encourage everyone to take things nice and slow as we transition from the “lazy days of summer” into more intense routines. Many are shifting from long walks at the beach back into more intense fitness classes or weight training sessions at the gym. Be sure to warm up and cool down; stretch; hydrate and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t keep doing it! If you don’t start feeling better after a few days of rest, consider seeing a doctor to make sure you haven’t done something that needs more than just ice and elevation.

I close with a hearty thank you to Dr. Andrew Rosen at Upper East Orthopaedics and Jun Zhu Zhang at Orthology in Chelsea for their expert care and for understanding my need to get back to the heavy bag. Here’s to healthy and happy September ahead and making smart choices along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

See you in September!

Here we are again on the brink of the true dog days of summer. This marks the time of year when my New York City neighborhood feels as close to a ghost town as you can get in the concrete jungle. Aside from the few tourists who wander north of Times Square and midtown, this is the time of year when I rarely wait in line at the grocery store or wait for an elliptical machine at the gym. It’s also the time of year when I take my an annual hiatus from writing new blog posts until after Labor Day.

Before I sign off on this Motivation Monday, I want to encourage each of you to enjoy these sunlight-filled days to the fullest. Lately, I seem to be bombarded daily with reminders of how truly short and precious life is. So whatever makes you happiest at this time of year, I hope you take every opportunity to steal as many moments as you can to enjoy those activities. Whether you have the luxury of escaping to the beach for a whole day or you can steal away to your backyard for only 10 or 20 minutes, savor whatever moments you can.

If you’re dealing with family or work-related drama, do your best to take care of your body and spirit. Go for a walk around the block to clear your head or grab a buddy for an outdoor workout and some iced tea and conversation after. Haven’t seen a special someone in awhile? Why not plan an impromptu barbecue or happy hour and enjoy a few moments of laughter and catch-up time. Have that ice cream cone. Have that second glass of wine. Whatever you do, wherever you go and whoever you spend time with, also remember to put down that smart phone once once or twice and be truly present in the moment.

As the iconic Ferris Bueller put it in one of my all-time favorite movies from the 1980s:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Summer is just one, tiny part of our lightning-paced lives. As it continues, I wish you plenty of sunshine, smiles and good times with the people you love. I look forward to being back here in September and picking up with new plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Strides in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth!

Instead of my usual Motivation Monday post, I decided to publish my latest Laura Loves Fitness musings on a much more significant day during this particular week. Today would have been Elizabeth Leonard Barton’s 45th birthday. My repeat readers may remember she is the dear friend from my St. Mary’s High School days who lost her brave battle with breast cancer nearly two years ago. While I know I’ll never get used to the fact Liz was taken from this world far too soon, I will celebrate her warrior spirit today by remembering her with love. In honor of her birthday, I could think of no better time to sign up to take my next steps in the fight against breast cancer – and ask for your support.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and four-time walker in Avon39, I was sad to learn the June 2017 Walk in Boston would the last 39.3-mile journey I’d share with Sue, another beloved St. Mary’s Gael. However, this spring we learned Avon was shifting its breast cancer crusade efforts to become the first ever national presenting sponsor for all of the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events.

Just like she did with our inaugural Avon walk together back in 2014, Sue signed up first for the American Cancer Society’s Central Park Walk taking place on Sunday, October 14. She created the Gael Force Wind team in Liz’s honor. While the route will be different and the journey not as long, we’ll be walking toward the finish line with the same mission: raising money to kick breast cancer’s butt once and for all and to help fund the services assisting patients battling the disease today. Those services include helping patients get rides to and from their treatments; assisting with lodging for patients who may need to leave home for their treatment and providing support groups for patients and their families.

For the October event I have set a fundraising goal of $1800, which was the minimum amount needed to participate in my past Avon39 walks. To all my Avon39 donors, I thank you for helping me raise more than $20,000 since 2014 in the fight against breast cancer and hope you’ll continue your generous support. For anyone considering a donation, please know every dollar helps. Please click here to be taken to my personal page where you can make a donation – and maybe even consider joining the Gael Force Wind team. Obviously, this will be the first of several posts here and on my social media channels to encourage people to get involved in the fight against breast cancer.

I close with a huge thank you for the support you’ve given me since I started this blog seven years ago. Whether you offered  words of encouragement to keep up with my mission to fight breast cancer or just get through a particular struggle in this windy road called life, I am beyond blessed to have family and friends who are always in my corner. Here’s to our next steps together in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

 

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