Category Archives: Fitness

Laura Loves Fitness Turns 10!

I realize many of my posts kick off with a commentary on the passage of time. While it’s hard to believe we’ve crossed the halfway mark for 2021, I’m having a harder time processing another moment in my personal history. This week marks an entire decade since my very first blog post appeared here on LauraLovesFitness.

It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how this blog – and ultimately, its creator – has changed during these past 10 years. The site started as a place to share exercise and nutrition tips a few times a week. However, a gamut of life experiences reminded me health and well-being are affected by so much more than a specific workout or meal choice. Death, illness, divorce, job loss and tragedies faced by loved ones all take a toll on one’s body and spirit, affecting everything from the motivation to exercise to sleep patterns. While exercise has remained a constant source of solace through the challenging times, writing seems to become an even bigger part of my mental health care routine with each year that passes.

Of course, this past year changed life in a way most never could have imagined. Neither exercise nor writing offered the solace I’d relied on in previous years to bring me back to my center, and the number of blog posts simply dropped off. I’m honestly not sure how much I’ll share here as we make our way through the second half of 2021. Yet, I find comfort knowing I have a space I can share my thoughts when I’m ready. And that is thanks to you, my wonderful readers.

Many of you have been here since day one – July 13, 2011 – and others joined the journey somewhere along the way. I am grateful to each and every one of you for taking the time to stop by and offer your own words of support and motivation. Whether you shared your sympathy after a loss, or congratulated me on one of my Avon39 walks, my first fitness competition or for finally finding my happily ever after, the support has meant more than words can say. While I am uncertain of how LauraLovesFitness may change moving forward, I know the site couldn’t have reached double-digits without you.

I close with a final heartfelt thank you to each of you for keeping me moving on this 10-year journey. Here’s to the adventures that lie ahead of us and all the opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Bring on Summer!

As we continue to navigate through 2021, there are many days it seems time is flying by and standing still at the same time. Yet, here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of spring – and nearly halfway through the year.

With the official start of my favorite season only three days away, I find myself bolstered by energy I haven’t felt since…I’m not really sure when. I realize this is based on a combination of factors, including the fact that COVID cases remain low here in New York City. However, I think the biggest and most welcome change has been experiencing actual human contact again. Each and every second of laughter and the super-tight hugs shared with family and friends after far too long are gifts beyond compare.

As the buzz throughout the city grows a little louder each day, I look forward to a season of getting back to a more normal health and fitness routine. It’s nearly impossible to believe it’s been more than one year since I last stepped inside a gym. The walking / running program I started when the gyms closed in March 2020 has kept me going, but only to a point. I candidly admit I still don’t ‘like’ running, so it hasn’t given me the same mental outlet as other types of exercise. However, last weekend, I took my first NY Best Kickboxing class since pre-COVID times – and it felt incredible to be outside in Central Park throwing jabs and punches again! (And who knew trees make great substitutes for heavy bags?) The soreness I felt for the next couple of days was super intense, but I didn’t mind one bit. I know with time and patience; my body will grow strong again – along with my spirit – as I add weight training and my other “old favorites” back into my fitness routine.  

For anyone who feels off their game – remember, you are certainly not alone. We’ve all done the best we could this past year. Now, it’s time to start living again. Just be kind to yourself and remember to ease back into old workout routines carefully. Going from zero to 100-percent effort on day one is a surefire way to put your body at risk for injury. So take some time to breath as you get back to doing what you love. Of course, that includes spending time with the people you love. Here’s to making this the best summer ever filled with new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

Happy World Sleep Day!

It certainly doesn’t feel like it here in New York City, but here we are two days before the official start of spring. How’s everyone holding up?

As we all continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, I did want to offer what’s usually a semi-annual reminder about one of the most critical but often overlooked components to staying healthy: sleep. As if getting quality sleep wasn’t hard enough before 2020, many people – including yours truly – are suffering from a new condition some health experts have identified as “Coronasomnia.” While not surprising, this new classification only highlights the importance of trying to find ways to unwind and give your body a chance to rest and recover, especially during these stressful times.

We all know how hard it is to focus or find energy to do even the most basic tasks when we don’t get enough solid zzz’s. But research shows lack of sleep can contribute to other less-than-optimal health issues including weight gain, a rise in blood pressure and even increase your risk for heart disease.

So while there is no surefire way to get better sleep, I’ll offer some of the tips and tricks that work for me:

  1. Sip carefully: It’s no secret I love my libations, but while a glass or two of wine can help soothe the spirit after a stressful day, too much can wreak havoc on your system and end up doing just the opposite.
  2. Kill the Screen Time: I know. Throughout these monotonous days, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much to do than mindlessly scroll through a feed or read the latest statistics on the virus or other stressful news. I’ve been working hard to shut off any blue-light devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try reading a real book or magazine instead.
  3. Pamper Yourself: Maybe it’s a hot shower or bath with lavender scented soaps. Or lighting a calming candle and sipping some herbal tea. Or putting on your favorite fuzzy slippers. Whatever creature comfort gives you peace, cling to it and unwind!
  4. Get Moving: Exercise always does a body good, but just wrap up the workout at least one hour before bedtime.
  5. Let It Out: Jot down some thoughts or list of worries in a journal or on a piece of note paper. Or sing out loud to your favorite “angry” song. Talk to a best buddy. Just get the negative “stuff” out of your system.

If you’ve found the secret to better sleep in these challenging times, please don’t keep it to yourself! As we move toward a new season together, sharing ideas is a great way to keep pushing forward and not lose sight of our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Quiet Start

Wow. Welcome, February! So, how is everyone handling 2021 so far?

Let me start with a heartfelt thank you to all of you who’ve taken the time to to check on me recently. It seems my silence here and on social media has raised some concern. Overall, I’m fine. And I realize I’m beyond blessed to be able to say the same for James, Mom and Dad. However, as someone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder during “normal” years, let’s just say this season has been particularly rough. I just haven’t had much motivation to do the things I usually enjoy. It’s been a struggle to get on the treadmill and break a sweat, and that’s definitely a shift from my usual self. (The fact I’m nursing an ongoing lower back / sacroiliac joint issue isn’t helping.) Then there’s writing. I’ve avoided that outlet mostly because I fear many of my musings have been darker than the ones I’m used to sharing. As for my unintentional hiatus from social media, I guess it was my way of shielding myself from the negativity and hate-filled posts and tweets that filled too many feeds for my liking.

So what have I been doing? I’ve remained beyond busy at work as part of the Test & Trace Corps. And there’s no let-up in sight. My other focus is trying to find more time for self-care. The newest addition to that routine is acupuncture. In addition to helping me find relief for the ongoing SI joint dysfunction that’s been plaguing me for years, it’s helping with my overall sense of well-being. I leave those sessions less anxious and more rested. My only regret is that I didn’t give it a try years ago.

As we kick off a new month, I garner new optimism for what lies ahead. (Even in the midst of a monster snow storm.) I hope all the beloved elderly people in my life can get vaccinated as soon as possible. I pray for the continued safety of all my family and friends. I look forward to the slow but steady arrival of more daylight in the days, weeks and months ahead. And I know my mood will eventually lighten just as it has through winters passed. In the meantime, I thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to days filled with more sunshine and more opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

The Dark Days Ahead

I truly don’t know where the month went, but here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of October. Election Day is only six days away. In three nights, we turn the clocks back for the end of Daylight Saving time. And every day, I see the alarming statistics and hear stories that prove we’re nowhere near the end of struggling with a pandemic. While I’ve always considered myself an upbeat and optimistic person, 2020 continues to put us all to the test on just how much we can take.

In an effort to focus on the positive, I’d like to turn your attention to a crucial element in our health and wellness routine: self-care. I realize some of you are smirking and thinking, “Sure, Laura, and just when would you like me to fit that into my schedule?” Well, my repeat readers know when it comes to fitness, I’ve always believed 10 minutes of exercise is better than zero. The same can be said for finding moments of me-time -which may be more important than ever.

Here are a five things you can do in 10 minutes or less to de-stress:

  1. Leave your computer/work station and go into a different room for a change of scenery. (Close the door for extra solitude if you can.) If you have access to outdoor space, step outside for some fresh air.
  2. Make a cup of tea.
  3. Practice deep breathing / meditate.
  4. Stretch!
  5. Eat some dark chocolate.

Just so you know, I’m making more of an effort to follow my own advice as I continue my work as a contact monitor for the Test & Trace Corps. (My colleagues and I get two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch during our shifts.) The number of cases is on the rise again in New York City and our call volumes have increased in recent weeks. Each day, we hear stories from our fellow New Yorkers different in age, gender, race and creed – but many share the same fears and frustrations. So many parents, teachers and students feel overwhelmed as they struggle to navigate this unprecedented school year. Healthcare workers continue their tireless efforts to care for the sick and worry about bringing anything home to their own families. Essential workers grind through their shifts and remote workers miss the socialization of office life. And many of our city’s seniors are scared and lonely, and need ongoing assistance with necessities including food and medication. After listening to these often emotional stories almost daily for the past 14 weeks, I’ve learned if don’t make time to shut off my mind for even just a few moments during the day, sleeping at night will be nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, I miss my extended family and friends and find myself feeling sad about the strange holiday season ahead. My hope is that each of us find one or two things that give us some peace and comfort throughout the darker, colder days ahead. For me, that means buying some warmer workout gear to keep up my running efforts as the days get colder and incorporating more mini-moments of Zen into the day.

I also encourage everyone to strive to follow a healthy diet, bundle up for those outdoor exercise plans, wash your hands often and of course, wear a mask! Here’s to getting a game plan in place for the new month ahead and hopefully finding more than just a few moments to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

One Strange October

Highlights of Octobers past… Boston, 2017

And so we turn the calendar to a Breast Cancer Awareness Month like no other.

As we kick off October, I find myself feeling more out of sorts than usual because I’m not gearing up for what’s been a favorite fall highlight since 2014. There’s no breast cancer awareness walk on my calendar. I completely understand why  fundraising walks around the country for all types of causes have been put on hold until at least 2021, but this absence only punctuates another aspect of “normal” that no longer exists thanks to COVID-19.

My repeat readers probably recall my journey in the fight against breast cancer started as a tribute to my Mom, a warrior survivor; and my dear high school friend Elizabeth, who sadly lost her battle with the disease in 2016. The experience changed dramatically in 2018 when the annual 39.3-mile trek as part of Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer morphed into a much shorter walk through Central Park as Avon began a new partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign. The mission, however, remained the same: to raise awareness about a disease that is still the leading cancer-killer of women worldwide and support patients and their families through the fight. This year, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative has made changes for less crowd-centric fundraising efforts and the main push kicks off today.

2016

Like so many people, I’m trying to navigate a much different October path this year. My passion for helping in this fight remains, but there comes a point when each of us has to step back and acknowledge “I can’t do it all.” I would have loved to join the Pink Forward Step Challenge, but between my new job in the contact tracing world; caring for my elderly parents; planning for an upcoming move and trying to stay healthy – physically and emotionally – well, sometimes you just have to say no.

What I can do is make a donation to this year’s Making Strides of Central park 2020 campaign. However, I encourage those only with the means to do so to consider doing the same. I realize it’s been an extremely difficult year for so many people, especially on the financial front. I hear about these hardships almost daily as I reach out to COVID cases and contacts around my beloved city.

2015

While everything looks very different, the passions that drive our heart and soul can remain strong and steadfast. Finding a different way to channel that energy will continue to be a challenge as we push forward through these difficult days. All we can do is try our best each and every day and not give up hope for better times ahead and more chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Happy Fall, Y’All!

Here Comes the Fall!

Wow. I blinked and somehow we made it to the first Workout Wednesday of fall. It’s nearly impossible to believe at this time last year, I was in the midst of peak week leading up to my first NPC competition. I still can’t believe how unbelievably different the world is this year.

While the mercury will register just shy of 80 degrees here in New York today, the past few days certainly felt like autumn and I found myself searching for heavier sweaters and socks to ward off some chilly air. Yet the bright sunshine and crisp air that greeted me on my morning runs also fueled me with new hope that better days are ahead for all of us as we start a brand new season.

I thought I’d kick things off season three of 2020 by reminding everyone of the few health perks found in a top fall favorite: pumpkins! While I recommend practicing moderation when it comes to enjoying pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie or pumpkin lattes, there are plenty of nutritional perks packed inside fall’s signature squash when enjoyed in its natural form:

  • Post-Workout Power! Bananas seem to get all the credit as a top source of natural energy, but pumpkins actually provide more potassium. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 milligrams of potassium compared to a banana’s 422 milligrams. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a workout and keeps those muscles firing.
  • 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 chock full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color. One of those compounds is beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
  • Keep Your Appetite in Check! Poor little pumpkin is often overlooked as a great source of fiber. A one-cup serving packs three grams or protein at only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.

If you have any recipes featuring the all-powerful pumpkin, please feel free to share! Also, don’t be shy about asking questions or offering ideas for mixing up your workout routine. Whatever is on your fall menu or exercise agenda, here’s to all of us embracing the season ahead filled with new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! (Just stay safe out there!)

The Reluctant Runner

Always happy AFTER the run!

This Workout Wednesday marks exactly two weeks since my gym re-opened in New York City. While I’m beyond thrilled for the trainers and staff who are back in action after the five-month furlough, I have yet to step foot inside those concrete walls. To be honest, I’m just not ready in this ongoing COVID-19 world. To my fellow fitness fanatics who have been back to those favorite indoor workout haunts, I’d love to hear about your experiences so far.

While I look forward to your feedback, I’ll stick with my running efforts. I can’t say it’s been easy, and not just because of the shin splints I developed back in May after getting a little too aggressive with my speed and mileage in too short a period of time. (Another reason to kick that no-pain-no-gain mantra to the curb!) It’s been more of a mental challenge, and the reason is simple: I just don’t like to run.

Staying motivated to do anything you don’t particularly like is a struggle, but I do try to focus on the positives. First, running provides the calorie burn I crave so I don’t feel guilty about that second glass of wine with dinner. Second, tracking my progress using the Strava app since late April has helped. While I’ll always consider myself the tortoise and not the hare, I have noticed an uptick in my speed and the distance I can travel before my legs and lungs start screaming. Finally, while I can’t say I’ve experienced that “high” described by true runners who love the sport, I definitely have more energy to face the workday after getting those four miles in (along with one or two core-focused Tabatas and push-ups) first thing in the morning. Since my contact monitor job does involve sitting for much longer periods of time than I’m used to, getting the blood going first thing in the day has definitely had its perks.

I really do look forward to a time when I’m back in the weight room and back in front of a heavy bag. In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself of the good I’m doing for my heart, body and spirit by sticking with the running / power walking regimen. As we all continue to muddle through a less-than-optimal year for all our pre-COVID “normal” activities, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves -and each other – and to be grateful for each day we wake up to do what we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

A Whole New World

Well, hello September. I hope this Workout Wednesday post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe and stealing some moments of sunshine as another summer winds down. I thought I’d kick off another almost-fall season here at LauraLovesFitness with an update on how my world has changed in a way I never could have imagined.

I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s been roughly six months since New York City basically went into shut down mode. Only a few weeks before, I had decided to make a major career change and leave the world of corporate video production and hosting to become a personal trainer. When the gyms closed, I had no idea what I’d do next. I never could have imagined just a few months later I’d be using the journalism skills I learned during my years at Northwestern as part of the New York City Health + Hospitals Test and Trace Corps.

My official title is contact monitor. From Sunday through Thursday, I reach out to those who have tested positive for COVID-19 (cases) along with contacts they’ve identified. Sometimes I’m the first person to alert a neighbor he or she has been in close contact with a case. The purpose of each and every call is to conduct wellness checks, encourage the case or contact to follow the appropriate isolation or quarantine guidelines and also provide resources. That includes everything from providing the phone number for the city’s mental health hotline to setting up food or medication deliveries and informing my neighbors about the free hotel rooms available for those who need a place to isolate or quarantine safely.

It has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far. I’m able to do my work remotely, though there are other members of Test & Trace who go out into the community when multiple attempts to reach people by phone fail. Thanks to help from translators, I’ve communicated with my neighbors in many languages, including Spanish, Bengali, Russian and Mandarin. I talk to nervous parents of pediatric contacts as young as three years old and happily tell a 75-year-old case they can get back to the “new” normal on their last day of isolation or quarantine. While I do this work from my laptop, I “meet” with my supervisor and the rest of the contact monitors in my team for a virtual chat each morning. We also reach out to each other to vent after a particularly emotional call or on a day when we just need some extra support. We all look forward to the day when the 20 of us can meet in person.

As we muddle our way through a September like no other, my heart goes out to students, parents, teachers and administrators across the country who have either started or are gearing up for a first-of-its kind academic year. I also think of the gym owners and fitness professionals and those still struggling with whether they feel “safe” enough to return to their favorite workout spot. Then there are the struggling restaurant and small business owners; out-of-work Broadway actors and crew members; healthcare and essential workers; and pretty much everyone still doing their best to keep it together day after challenging day. Last but certainly not least, I think of all the victims of 9/11 and the families and friends who continue to mourn them as we approach the 19th anniversary of that horrific day.

No doubt we’re all in for a strange fall season. Here’s to hoping things improve a little each day and we simply do the best we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

See you in September!

Vitamin “Sea” Therapy

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

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

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

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

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