Author Archives: LauraLovesFitness

‘Tis the Season for those Winter Blues

Yes, it’s true. We’ve arrived at the last Motivation Monday of January. As we gear up for the second month of 2019, many of us are also bracing for some of the coldest temperatures on record around the country. If the extreme weather and sunlight-starved days are giving you a case of the winter blues, close your eyes, envision your sunniest memory and take comfort knowing you’re definitely not alone.

If you need a boost, never underestimate the power of breaking a sweat. Exercise is a natural way to lift your spirits thanks to all the endorphins that flow through the body when you workout. That energy surge stays with you long after the group exercise class or weight training session is done. Of course, bad weather can sometimes put the brakes on making that drive to the gym or lacing up for that daily run or power walk. The good news is there are plenty of exercises you can do in the comfort and safety of your own home. Here are 10 moves that require nothing more than your body weight (or some creative props) and a little space to call your own:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Mountain climbers
  • Planks
  • Push ups
  • High knees
  • Squat thrusts or burpees
  • Tricep dips (Use a stable chair or stairs for an extra challenge)
  • Bicep curls (use cans of soup or laundry detergent bottles for weight)

Try doing each of the exercises nonstop for 30 seconds with no breaks in between. After you get through all ten, rest for one minute and start over again. Aim for three sets. With the rest built in, you can get your heart pumping and work virtually every muscle group in approximately 15 minutes. Feeling extra motivated? Try banging out three sets in the morning and another three at night. There’s 30 minutes of exercise split up for the day.

If you have any ideas for indoor sweat sessions to keep the winter blues at bay, I’d love to hear about them. With a little teamwork, we can all get through the worst of the winter season ahead and stay on track with our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Slow Start….

Whoo hoo! There’s PLENTY of time to turn those healthy goals into reality this year.

Since January isn’t over yet, I feel I can still offer my heartfelt wishes for a very Happy New Year.

It’s hard to believe we’re already thee weeks into 2019 and somehow this is the first time I’ve managed to get a post together. I hope you can forgive my extended hiatus, but caring for Mom (and keeping an eye on Dad) after her knee replacement surgery because my full-time job after returning from vacation. I’m happy to report Mom’s doing great, continuing her physical therapy and being a great patient overall. (Thanks to all of you who’ve kept up with my other social media posts and sent so many good wishes to Mom!)

The beginning of a new year is always filled with so much promise. I love seeing new faces at the gym and all the posts on social media sharing new workouts, new workout wear and new recipes. However, with three Motivation Mondays behind us, this is the time I also start seeing frustration and even defeat in other posts as people feel badly about missing a day at the gym or enjoying that extra glass of wine or helping of mac and cheese after a cold commute home. In an effort to kick any self-doubt to the curb, here’s a reminder that habits take a minimum of six weeks to take root in mind, body and spirit. So don’t give up now!

Here are three realities to accept right now:

  1. Even the biggest fitness fanatics (including yours truly) have off days. If you miss a day of exercise, the next opportunity is just 24 hours away. One missed workout shouldn’t lead to throwing in the towel for an entire week.
  2. There will be days when the diet goes out the window: A birthday celebration; a bad day at the office or even a snow day spent indoors with too many cookies lurking inside the pantry. Own whatever triggered that “naughty” splurge on libations or high-fat comfort foods, and move on.    Just like that missed workout, one “bad” meal or entire “cheat day” doesn’t have to ruin a whole week.
  3. You will NOT drop three sizes or 50 pounds in a few weeks. (And if you do, chances are you didn’t get there in a sustainable fashion.) Healthy living isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon that lasts a lifetime.

If this post reaches you on an “off” day, I hope it helps you get back into fighting form tomorrow.  If you’re having a great day, good for you! Use the momentum to propel you forward. Here’s to a great end to this first month of the New Year and to making 2019 the best year ever when it comes to tackling our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Christmas Tradition Continues….

This marks the first Motivation Monday to fall on Christmas Eve since 2012. I can’t think of a better day to share a seven-year-old signature gift from LauraLovesFitness. Keeping up with tradition, this fitness-inspired twist on a holiday classic will also be my last post of 2018. Today I give you a kickboxing addict’s version of…

The 12 Days of Fitness

On the first day of fitness, my workout gave to me…my favorite kind of therapy.

On the second day of fitness, my workout gave to me…two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the third day of fitness, my workout gave to me…three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the fourth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the fifth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the sixth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the seventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the eighth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the ninth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the tenth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the eleventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…eleven side planks, ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the twelfth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…twelve reps of lunges, eleven side planks, ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

Whatever you and your family are celebrating as another year winds down, I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday week ahead. I close with a huge thank you for all the support throughout another year filled with highs and lows. Here’s to ringing in 2019 with a bang (and a punch!) and ushering in all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Christmas Crunch Time Survival Tips

If you find yourself in a haze after another weekend full of holiday cheer, take comfort knowing you’re definitely not alone. With Christmas only eight days away, the festivities have spun into overdrive. ‘Tis also the time those items on the to-do list grow a little more daunting with each day that passes leading up to the 25th. So, in order to let all you busy elves get back to business, here are a few survival tips to get through the next week while keeping some healthy habits in check:

  1. Drink water: One cannot exist on egg nog (or wine, or bubbly) alone. It’s no secret that boozy libations are high in sugar and calories. Just remember, if you’re reaching for an alternative, stick with water instead of soda or other sugary drinks that can also make you feel sluggish after the initial caffeine or sugar rush wears off. Water is still king when it comes to staying hydrated. In addition to helping us keep our appetite in check, proper hydration also promotes better sleep which is something most of us can use.
  2. Try a Little Culture: I’m talking about the live cultures found in foods like yogurt that can help keep our tummies balanced during a time when we tend to indulge a little more. The majority of our immune system is found in the digestive tract, so it’s an important place to take care of. Think about adding a yogurt to your daily routine this week, or try a food known for beneficial bacteria like miso or kimchi.
  3. Do NOT Skip Breakfast: I was definitely guilty of this bad habit during in my younger years, especially at this time of year filled with so many after-work festivities. Skipping meals may sound like a great way to save calories for the fun night ahead, but all it usually does is open the door for a hangry arrival at a party followed by a fast track to the richest, highest-calorie option on the table. Make sure to have breakfast with some protein. Whether you’re an Isagenix shake lover like me, or just have a hard-boiled egg or a non-fat plain Greek yogurt, getting something in your stomach is important to get the metabolism going. If you don’t want a full lunch, make sure to at least have a few snacks throughout the day – maybe almonds and a green apple or celery sticks and hummus – to stay fueled. And definitely have something at least an hour before the party so you don’t inhale a plate of hors d’oeuvres the minutes you walk in.
  4. Find Creative Ways to Exercise: Is the party taking you away from your normal group exercise class after work? Then maybe try to get up a little earlier and go for a power walk or bang out some Tabatas in your living room. If you drive to work, park farther away from the entrance and take the stairs instead of the elevator to your office. Try and sneak out for 10 minutes at lunchtime for another walk, or if the weather is bad, use the stairs. Remember, 10 minutes of anything is always better than nothing!
  5. Pack Healthy Essentials: Traveling for Christmas? Be sure to pack your sneakers and a couple of sports bras, tees and yoga pants along with the presents. Don’t forget the portable shaker and shake packets for a healthy breakfast or snack option, and don’t be shy about bringing your own raw almonds, KIND bars or other portable snacks so you’re always armed with some healthy options for the time away from home.your normal routine.

As Christmas crunch time winds down, remember this: the key is to do simple things for yourself so you don’t turn into a holiday humbug and stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Give the Gift of Wellness

In full disclosure, this Motivation Monday post filled with gift ideas for the 2018 holiday season was supposed to be posted last week. However, this elf was simply overwhelmed with other life responsibilities and well, something had to give. So while I realize the Hanukkah festivities have wrapped for this season, I hope to help a few others scrambling to cross some names off their lists with only 15 days left before Christmas.

Here are five feel-good items that everyone can enjoy regardless of their fitness level …

  1. Scented candles: After a long day of work, working out and holiday happenings, a soothing scent can help even the most frantic mind unwind. Diptyque candles are a longtime favorite among those looking for something a little special for those special someones.
  2. Earth-friendly water bottles: I received a Mira water bottle several years ago and I never leave home without it. It’s amazing how it keeps water perfectly chilled even on the hottest days.
  3. Athlete Recovery Sleepwear: Anyone who gives or receives one or more of these Under Armour items for this holidays will have to send me some reviews. These are pretty pricey pajamas, but they’re supposed to help promote better sleep,
  4. Portable, complete hydration: I’ve been touting the benefits of these perfect stocking stuffers for several years now.  A few pumps of BFit Rapid Electrolyte Spray before, during and after your workouts give you all the electrolytes your body needs. The spray keeps you moving without weighing you down with what you don’t need – sugar, calories or gluten. (As to other stocking stuffer ideas, gift cards to a favorite athletic apparel shop; a 10-pack of fitness classes or grippy socks are always a hit.)
  5. Soothing teas: My friend Michele recently introduced me to the soothing power of Yogi’s Kava Stress Relief tea. It’s perfect on a chilly, winter night after a long day. There are dozens of varieties of great tasting teas. Consider one box as a stocking stuffer or fill a gift bag with a variety and let that lucky someone on your list decide which one he or she likes best.

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

 

 

Holiday Survival Tips for the Mind & Spirit

It’s hard to believe this Motivation Monday brings us to T minus 29 days until Christmas and less than one week away from the beginning of Hanukkah. As crunch time commences, the growing number of items on our to-do lists can get a bit overwhelming. In addition to the daily work grind and family responsibilities, many of us wish there was even just one more hour in the day to get all the holiday “stuff” done including decking the halls; cooking and writing cards. Add online shopping and searching for recipes to the daily frenetic stimuli of emails, texts, and status updates…and it’s no wonder our hustled-and-bustled minds are in overdrive.

While I implore you to fit that quick-hit workout into your daily routine, I also remind everyone to remember it’s equally important to steal another few precious moments to re-boot. Here a few tips to make it happen:

  • Focus on one thing at a time: If you set aside one hour to write holiday cards or wrap gifts, make sure that’s all you do during those 60 minutes. No texts. No emails. No multiple posts on Instagram. Worried about withdrawal? Use social media to alert your network you’ll be offline and in elf mode for a bit.
  • Step away from the computer: I understand the need to check email once before bedtime to make sure you didn’t miss any late-day developments on the work front. However, try to shut down at least 30 minutes before bedtime to get your brain in mellow mode. The same goes for social media. The Facebook world will continue to spin if you don’t wish it good night.
  • Turn off the TV: Try to establish one night where you set the DVR and turn a show’s normal viewing time into down time with family or friends. Play cards or a board game and forget about the holiday craziness for awhile. It may turn into a night of getting the Christmas chaos under control, but it’ll be time to tackle the holiday to-do list with fewer distractions.
  • Make Me-Time a Must: If you’ve committed to finding 10 minutes (or more) in your schedule to exercise, add just five minutes more minutes to stretch. Then go ahead and add another five minutes to your post-workout shower. At this time of year, I keep lavender-scented body wash or moisturizer in my arsenal to help me decompress. (I’m a big fan of Aveeno.) Also, don’t underestimate the soothing power of caffeine-free, herbal teas. My two favorites are Yogi Kava Stress Relief® Tea and  Twinings Nightly Calm® tea.

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, if you find yourself wanting to throw your hands up and scream “Bah Humbug,” rest assured you’re not alone. While I applaud any effort to make time to exercise even when you’re jingling all the way, I also want to stress the importance of standing still for a few moments when you can. Never underestimate the power of your mind on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Gobble, Gobble With Less Guilt!

It may not be eloquent, but I’m a big fan of yet another old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In that vein, I’m dishing out my annual pre-Turkey Day, Motivation Monday inspiration.

Thanksgiving remains my all-time favorite holiday because it’s a day that provides a chance for us to pause and give thanks for all that’s good in our lives. As I continue to reflect on and recover emotionally from the events of last month, I know I have even more to be grateful for this year. And what better way to embrace what’s good than spending quality time with family, friends and plenty of delectable food and drinks?

It’s probably no surprise to learn between the snacking and sitting down for a traditional 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. (And we won’t even address the leftovers many of us forage on throughout the extended holiday weekend.) So, I thought I’d help everyone start the week of strong with a few holiday feasting survival tips:

  • Move it! Don’t skimp on the activity this week. Remember, ten minutes of some type of exercise are always better than doing nothing. The bonus is you’ll get a mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the the indulging. 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 or two first thing in the morning. You could also try and sneak out for 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 those 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 smart snack so you don’t go overboard later. Some ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a handful of almonds mixed in; a green apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter 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. For me, blending a chocolate Isagenix shake for breakfast is always a surefire way to know I started the day off on the right foot – even if it all goes downhill later!
  • Mind Those Portions! Load up a smaller dish, like one you’d use for salad, for your meal. Start filling it with salad or veggies and then add the protein-rich 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 – and saved room for dessert, of course!
  • Keep Tabs on the Libations! This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink plan. Enjoy your libation of choice, followed by a glass of still or sparkling water before moving on to cocktail number two…and so on…
  • Doggie Bags Make Great Favors!  Hosting the holiday get-together? Don’t be shy about giving sending some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings home with your guests.

I wrap this year’s post like the others by extending my heartfelt wishes to all my readers to enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving! Your support is one of the many things I am thankful for at the holiday, and all year round. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Laughter, good food and even some good wine can be the perfect ingredients for a happy holiday as we continue our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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!

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!

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