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Laura Loves ZUMBA®!

with Tanya Beardsley, International Zumba Education Specialist

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m so excited to write this blog post that I’m having a hard time typing my thoughts coherently. After a sluggish start to 2012 (thanks to my New Year’s cold), I’m now ready to tackle the fitness adventures awaiting me in the year ahead – and it’s all because of Zumba® Fitness!

It was only a couple of months ago that I actually took my first Zumba® class thanks to some encouragement from Ebonny Fowler. Ebonny is the Fitness Services Manager at the New York Sports Club I work out at most often, and she’s offered some great support as I continue to chart my course in the fitness industry. After just one class, I had only one question: why in the world didn’t I try this amazing dance-fitness program based on international rhythms years ago? (Anyone who knows me knows I love to dance as much as I love to exercise, so the combination of the two for a workout couldn’t be a more perfect fit for me!)

Fast forward to January 7, 2012 and there I was sweating it out at the Shorefront Y of Brighton Beach with nearly 50 other women and men of all ages for Basic Instructor Training. There were so many things that made the day amazing – the positive energy; the booty-shaking, body-sculpting beats; the new friendships – but the most incredible part of this training day was our instructor. Tanya Beardsley is an International Zumba Education Specialist and the Co-Host of the Zumba DVD Series. Aside from her ability to create a workout featuring fun and fiery choreography combining the Zumba mix of Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia and Reggaeton, Tanya’s passion to make other peoples’ lives better through fitness was nearly palpable and most definitely infectious. Like any good teacher, Tanya inspired me to want to learn even more so I can truly help others in their fitness journey when I start teaching classes.

This whole experience reminded me of something very important. It’s never too late – and you’re certainly never too old- to find something that moves or motivates you. (Actually, no matter how young or old you are, I’ll warn you a days’ worth of Zumba drills, along with one master and one mini-class will leave you needing a day of rest afterward!)

I’m beyond excited to kick off this new week as a Licensed Zumba Instructor. I look forward to keeping in touch with Tanya and the new fitness friends I met at the course. (We’re already planning to travel to an annual convention together in the future!) More than anything, I look forward to the work ahead in memorizing music and creating fun routines that will hopefully help more people have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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!

Back to the Grind

Still Dreaming About the Beach…

Happy September! I hope you’re a little distracted reading this post thanks to some wonderful sun-kissed memories from a fun-filled summer capped off by a great Labor Day weekend.

With a new school year in session and the no-more-summer-Fridays work grind in full effect, it’s time to get back to reality. The lazy days of summer may be ending, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to still incorporate some fun into the new season’s schedule, especially when it comes to your fitness routine.

For anyone who feels like they’ve fallen off the health and fitness wagon thanks to all the barbecues, margaritas and other summer favorites, don’t sweat it! I’ve always considered back-to-school season a perfect time to get back on track with your goals for the remainder of the year. I know things are hectic, but if you’re busy getting the rest of the family’s schedule in order, don’t forget to pencil in time for you, too. That means getting exercise on the daily planner.

So today, I encourage everyone to use this transition time to remember the three Fs of fitness: it should be fun; it should be functional and it can even be free!

Fitness with Friends is ALWAYS Fun!

Just last week, I was reminded how exercise can be all three (and more!) during the most amazing group exercise class I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to my gal pal, Rita Joan, I learned about a unique workout opportunity aboard the flight deck of the USS Intrepid here in New York City. For one hour, we sweat it out with hundreds of other fitness lovers of all ages, shapes and sizes. For the first 30 minutes, we pushed through everything from squats to single-leg balance reaches as part of an Ironstrength workout lead by its creator and sports medicine guru Dr. Jordan Metzl. Those functional moves were followed by some sultry ones thanks to a super fun 30-minute Zumba session with Jeimy Prisby. Oh, and the kicker to this amazing night? It was free!

This particular fitness experience is over, but it just shows how a little research can lead you to  new opportunities. Not only may you finally find the perfect workout for your goals, but you may also find a new source of motivation sweating it out with endorphin junkies of all fitness levels.  . For my fellow New Yorkers, click here to learn when you can get in on one of Dr. Metzl’s free Ironstrength workouts. If you’re looking to get your Zumba on, whatever city or state you live in, click here to find a class near you. This is also the perfect time to check for new group exercise classes at your gym, or look for free fitness activities at a local library or community center.

So, here’s to getting back in the game and to a brand new month filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Make 2016 Your Most FITASTIC Year Yet!

imageWe made it to the very first Motivation Monday of 2016! It’s a first of many kinds for me as I’ve never sent Happy New Year wishes from the Caribbean before today. Knowing how eager people are to kick their health and fitness resolutions into high gear, I didn’t want to let another day go by without sharing some tips to help your goals take shape.

When I get home, I’ll have to reserve my barre space at Physique57 a little earlier than usual and wait longer for an elliptical or to start a weight set at New York Sports Club. I love seeing so many new faces at the gym at this time of year, but I hate the fact that usually by March, many of those enthusiastic newbies are long gone. So, I kick off 2016 with a these ideas to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. Leave the past where it belongs: I know we all want to erase the “sins” of the holidays that came in the form of chocolate, cheese and cocktails. Don’t  waste your energy regretting the times you overdid it last year. I have my own memories of indulging in that second piece of lasagna and too many chocolates to count. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust your attitude:  Thinking of exercise as a “chore” is a surefire way to put the brakes on your new routine. Instead, think of exercise as “Me Time.” No matter what’s going on in my life, the time I spend working out is the one time my brain goes into neutral and the only thing filling it is some good music. Use  exercise as a break from the ordinary, and before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to sweating out whatever ails you.
  3. Reality check: Saying you’re going to exercise seven days a week is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure. The first day you miss, you’ll be discouraged, and could find yourself saying, “Well, there goes the week!” A more realistic approach would be to aim for a minimum of three days each week for the first month. As you start experiencing the endorphin rush and other benefits from exercising, you’ll want to spend more than three days working out. Discouragement aside, everyone should take a  minimum of one day off  each week to let the body rest.
  4. Do what works for YOU:  You woke up Christmas morning to find Santa left the latest exercise program under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs have been hanging out with the dust bunnies under your bed since VHS went out of style. Why not return the program and put the money toward a new pair of sneakers and moisture-wicking workout wear? Grab a friend and start those power walks or sign up for that Zumba class at your local community center. Have no idea what to try? Splurge and hire a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
  5. Avoid severe diet restrictions: If you deny yourself something you truly enjoy for too long, it’s only a matter of time before you break down and go overboard. So, the chocolate bar you could have had last week turns into five chocolate bars, washed down with a chocolate shake and a side of cupcakes two months later.

I leave you with this reality: there will be “off” days. Even as a lifelong fitness enthusiast, there are times I simply don’t want to workout and all I want to eat is cheese and chocolate. As you read this post, there’s a good chance I’m having my first high-calorie frozen cocktail of the day. Stuff happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the crumbs, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Help Me Walk the Walk

One of my Favorite Pictures with Mom

One of my Favorite Pictures with Mom

On this Motivation Monday, I find myself 54 days away from an event I’ve wanted to participate in for years.  I’ve committed to take part in the 2014 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer here in New York City. The two-day event takes place October 18th and 19th. Thousands of people will walk 39.3 miles to help fund life-saving research, education and advocacy programs.

I’ve wanted to participate in the Avon Walk ever since my Mom’s diagnosis back in 2008. She beat breast cancer, and I know thanks to other events like this, more people will, too. Within the past few months, I learned of two young women – one in my high school class, another in my fitness circle – who are now waging their own war against breast cancer. So I decided it was time to stop talking about joining the fight against the disease and start walking!

However, I can’t do any of this without some help. In order to join in the Avon Walk, I have to raise $1,800. Your generous donations will help make that possible. Please click on the the link below to visit my personal page at the Avon Breast Cancer Walk website. While I hope to raise more than the minimum, I’ll take all the support I can get!

http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/NewYork?px=7671099&pg=personal&fr_id=2366

While I’ve Zumba-d my bootie off for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and donated to other charities, I’ve never done anything on this scale before. It’s a wonderful way to use my love for physical activity for a good cause and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I look forward to walking with Sue, a fellow Gael from St. Mary’s High School Class of 1991, and thousands of others as we strive to top last year’s New York donations of $6.7 million.

I close with a big thank you for your support on this new adventure. For all of you who follow me on social media, I appreciate any likes, shares and double-taps you can offer on those channels, too!  I look forward to sharing more about an experience that will hopefully help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

‘Tis the Season…for lots of Sneezin’!

coldI hope wherever you spent the weekend you were lucky to enjoy some sunshine and warmer temperatures. Here in New York, it seemed everyone made the most of the glorious spring weather including yours truly. Of course, as I went for a long walk through the tree-lined, grassy suburban neighborhood where I grew up, it hit me – the pollen that is.

The last thing I want to do after the horrendous winter is complain about the arrival of allergy season. (However, the experts are predicting one of the worst spring and summer allergy seasons in a long time.) So as we New Yorkers welcome a 70-degree Motivation Monday, I’ll simply offer some advice for anyone who’s ready to move your fitness routine outside but wants to keep the sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing and potential wheezing to a minimum. Here are some of my springtime survival tips:

  • Timing is everything: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will help.
  • Wear sunglasses: You can create at least a minimal barrier for your eyes by wearing sunglasses (or even goggles) if you plan to exercise outdoors for a long period of time. Using eye drops before you head outside can help, too.(Non-prescription Alaway eye drops helped me a lot last year and I recently added a new bottle to my medicine cabinet.)
  • Don’t forget your meds: I got allergy shots for many years when I was a kid. They helped make my acute reactions less severe over time, but I still battle through hay fever season. Today there are so many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines that can offer relief. (Important note: I do NOT like to take a lot of medicine, but I’d much rather take something for a few months than cut back on my workouts and start scratching my eyes out!) Talk to your doctor about what treatments might work best to alleviate your symptoms. To prevent the onset of those symptoms, it helps to take your medication one hour before your outdoor workout. If you get out of bed and head outdoors immediately, ask your doctor if you can take your medication before bed so it’s in your system when you head outside.
  • Clean up: At the end of an outdoor workout, your clothes are covered in a lot more than sweat. Get out of that pollen-covered workout gear, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.

To wrap things up, the best advice I can offer is simple: listen to your body. If you’re trying to get your heart rate up outdoors but all you’re feeling is misery, be smart. Stop. Head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you turn to an air-conditioned group exercise class or pop in your favorite Zumba DVD in at home to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

We Could All Use More Motivation to….Rest!

iStock_000010338713SmallOn this Motivation Monday, I’m happy to report I feel physically stronger than I have in several weeks. Want to know my secret? I took a few days off.

Unfortunately, one of the rest days arrived as the result of a minor injury. Last Tuesday, I strained my left pectoral muscle from either not executing proper form during a push-up sprint or gripping the ballet bar and leaning back a bit too during a “waterski” sprint at Physique57.  By Wednesday night’s “UFX Burn” class at New York Sports Club, every amped-up inhalation during our high intensity cardio drill and each rep of standing reverse flies were pretty painful.  So after icing the area and popping a couple of ibuprofen before bed that night, I took Thursday off. I even stayed away from the elliptical because I knew using the arm handles would or gripping the side bars too tight would have put unnecessary stress on my tweaked muscle. By Friday afternoon’s Physique class, I felt 90% better.  After enjoying another gal-pal catch-up day on Saturday, I decided to extend my rest time to cover the entire weekend.  In the end, I tallied four workouts in a seven day period. While that’s less than my typical five to six, you know what? My body is much happier on this Monday morning thanks to the extra TLC.

If you’re prepping for a competition or if you’re a serious bodybuilder, I understand there’s a strict schedule to follow to make gains in a certain amount of time. However, if you’re on a new health and fitness kick or if  you’re like me and you’ve been attacking your workouts at 125% to get through a rough patch in your life, it’s not a bad idea to pause for a moment and remember rest is a crucial component to improving your well-being. Whether you’re a runner, strength-training class or Zumba addict, it’s actually the rest days that allow those amazing muscles in your body to recover and grow.

The bottom line is by not taking at least one rest day each week, you can put yourself at risk for overtraining.  When you overtrain, the body is more prone to injury and instead of enjoying the typical endorphin rush from a great workout, you could find yourself feeling more tired than usual.  Here’s a checklist of overtraining symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
  • Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Slower recovery of heart rate
  • Decrease in strength performance
  • Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain

Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength it needs to get back in the game so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fitness: It’s ALL About You

cardioareaI’ve always found this to be a strange time of year.  Many of us try to soak up what’s officially left of the easy-going summer season while desperately trying to adapt to the faster-paced back-to-the-grind time. Since my last post offered some tips on how to fit fitness into your fall schedule , I thought I’d follow-up with a Motivation Monday boost of encouragement if you’re struggling to make it happen. Remember, deciding to add exercise and healthy choices to your daily routine is about as personal of a decision as you can make. So make sure you’re doing it for yourself and no one else.

As my longtime readers already know, I’ve officially become addicted to the Physique57 workouts I started taking back in April.  Aside from the fact that I always feel like I can conquer the world when the 57-total-body-sculpting workout is finished, I also love the positive affirmations offered by the instructors throughout class. While they push us to bang out just one more squeeze of the playground ball with our inner thighs while we squat hundreds of times at the ballet bar, they also bombard us with positive affirmations including:

  • We’re stronger than we think
  • We should not compare ourselves to what the person next to us is doing
  • We should focus on ourselves and what our body is capable of during that workout at that time.
  • We should be proud of ourselves for getting out of bed or out of the office for an early morning or lunch-time workout
  • We need to remember with each rep and each pulse, we’re helping our bodies get stronger and healthier.

I find myself using some of that self-affirmation during other group exercise classes and even during my independent workouts. Whether I’m pushing through a high interval on the elliptical or combat rope Tabata, I remind myself that I am strong, and focus on how good it feels to expel any bad energy with every exhale and every bead of sweat. I block out the people on the machines around me. It doesn’t matter if they’re climbing a higher hill or lifting heavier free weights while doing the exact same exercise. I focus on maintaining good form and making each move count. I also remind myself how I’ll be able to face whatever awaits after the workout with new energy and a sharper focus.

So, if you’re struggling to get motivated to move more, try to think about how good you feel when you do. What’s the biggest benefit you get from that walk, run, Zumba class or park bootcamp workout? Focus on that feeling and you’ll be amazed how you can stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Bring on Spring!

A Quick Weekend Drive to Jones Beach Got Me Psyched for Spring!

A Quick Weekend Drive to Jones Beach Got Me Psyched for Spring!

I love to sleep. However, I didn’t mind losing an hour of snooze time this weekend thanks to Daylight Saving Time. Being able to hang on to the sunshine a little longer each day is definitely worth a few extra yawns.

I’m also ecstatic that there are only nine days left until the start of spring. Whatever’s been in the air this winter, I’m ready for it to move on out of here and bring on a new season filled with warmer temperatures and sunnier dispositions.

If you’re one of the many people who’ve been suffering from the “Winter Blues” now’s a great time to start shaking them off by thinking about some new moves to mix up your fitness routine. Remember, the extra hour of daylight nixes any excuse about hating to take that post-work walk in the dark. Come on people, use the light to boost your spirits and get moving!

Of course, if you’ve been hibernating all winter, remember to re-start your engines with care. Whether you’re taking on a serious fitness routine for the first time ever or if you’ve simply been on an extended, here are some reminders to help you safely spring into action:

  • Talk to your doctor. If you’ve never exercised before, you should make sure your heart is in good shape for a serious shake-up. If you’re already on heart medication or managing conditions like diabetes or asthma, it’s crucial to speak to your doctor about how to proceed with an exercise routine. Similarly, if you have any old injuries, it’s a good idea to make sure to gauge where you are in the healing process so you avoid activity that could set you back again.
  • Talk to a trainer. Even if I wasn’t a certified personal trainer, I’d suggest treating yourself to a session or two with someone who can assess any muscle imbalances, show you proper form and help you create a comprehensive exercise program that helps you reach your goals.
  • Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day. Start slow. Seriously. If you’ve been sitting on your couch all winter, it’s probably not a good idea to jump into a 60-minute boot camp class. Don’t know exactly where to start? Stretching, core work and cardio are always a safe bet.
  • No Gym? No Problem! If you don’t like the gym, well this is YOUR time of year! Treat yourself to a new pair of running sneakers or cross trainers and start pounding the pavement in your neighborhood or find some trails at a nearby park or recreation area. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to start cycling? Time to pick up the tennis racquet?
  • Got Gym? Check Out What’s New!  I visited my parents over the weekend, and if I’d checked the updated schedule at the New York Sports Club near their house, I would have arrived 20 minutes earlier Saturday morning and made it to Zumba!  Along with normal group exercise classes, smaller training classes are more popular than ever and now’s the time some of those classes may move outdoors. I know I can’t wait to start hitting it hard in Central Park again on Saturday mornings for Roberto Murichi’s killer workouts!

So, if you’ve been searching for some motivation to get moving, take advantage of the longer days and make this your time to shine. No doubt a little extra solar power could be just the boost we all need to fuel our drive to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy Heart Month!

iStock_000018172590MediumCan someone please tell me where January went?

Well, here we are on February 1st! While I have mixed emotions about turning another year older this month, there’s a special event I DO welcome with open arms: today kicks off American Heart Month. If you’re still looking for a reason to make those healthy 2013 resolutions stick, this is it. There’s simply no time like the present to take stock of how well you’re taking care of your ticker!

It’s no secret heart disease remains a serious problem here in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s one in ever four deaths.
  • Someone in this country has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Each minute, someone dies from a heart disease-related event.
  • Heart disease doesn’t discriminate. It’s the number one cause of death for most ethnicities in the U.S.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease.

While your family history can put you at greater risk, there are lifestyle choices each of us can make to decrease our behavioral risk factors for heart disease. These include obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol  and diabetes. Guess what? Along with quitting smoking and following a healthy diet, getting exercise one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against heart disease.

I’m not saying you have to run out to a boot camp class or sign up for a half-marathon during today’s lunch break. The latest guidelines from the American Heart Association indicate we need 30 minutes of brisk activity on five days a week. If that sounds overwhelming, consider this: you can break those 30-minutes down into two 15-minute or three 10-minute sessions.

If you’ve never exercised before, it’s time to get off the couch and get moving! Schedule morning or evening walks around the neighborhood or get a fitness game for the kids’ video console. If you’re thinking of joining a gym, consider signing up with a workout buddy for support. Try group exercise classes (like Zumba®) until you find one you like so you’ll look forward to sweating it out a couple of times a week. Treat yourself to a couple of personal training sessions so you learn to navigate your way safely through a fitness routine. This is your health we’re talking about. If you don’t invest in it, who will?

If you’d like more information about ways to prevent heart disease and events going on for American Heart Month as well as year-round initiatives, here are some websites to check out:

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/index.htm

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/

http://www.goredforwomen.org/

Finally, if you’re still figuring out your wardrobe for the day, throw something red on to support the 10th annual National Wear Red Day® When it’s over, here’s to the weekend ahead and continuing our year-round plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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