Category Archives: Health

Turning the Page…

 

Blue Skies & Sunshine: Natural Mood Boosters!

It seemed surreal to rip another page off the desk calendar this morning as we kicked off a new month. As I looked at the 30 empty squares on that page, I realized this is the first time in my life I can remember not having one social event or family get-together on the horizon. Of course, based on the latest directives from our health experts and government officials, that’s the way it will stay.

While one day bleeds into the next, I find it harder to keep track of the date and time. However, the one part of my day that sets my mind straight is my solitary power walk or jog in Central Park. I’m sharing some sunny images from today’s jaunt to hopefully offer a spot of brightness for anyone struggling with a dark moment or entirely difficult day. We’re all going to have those moments as this time of uncertainty continues, but maybe finding the one thing that brings your mind back to a “healthy” place can help you through. Some popular ideas at the moment include journaling; photography; exercise; a power nap; a video chat with family or friends and early happy hour. Maybe one of these or all of the above get you to the next day. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!

I wrap up these brief thoughts on the first day of April with another huge thank you to the doctors, nurses and each and every health care professional, along with all the emergency responders and essential workers who continue to push on in this unprecedented battle. Let’s help them out by staying home. When we do head outside for those essentials at the grocery store or pharmacy and see one of these warriors in our midst, let us not underestimate the power of saying two little words: thank you. With some faith and compassion, we’ll get through this together and get back to our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pressing On..

So, how’s everyone holding up?

It’s hard to believe this is the second Workout Wednesday where gyms remain closed here in the Big Apple and in many states across the country. On a positive note, it’s encouraging to see how many gyms and trainers are offering online workouts and exercise ideas. As these days of isolation continue, I encourage everyone to take that daily walk or run as permitted. As I continue to recover from a shoulder injury, I know the quick dose of fresh air from walking has helped keep the endorphin production going. And I think it’s safe to say we can use all the endorphins we can get right now.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon with my list of favorite at-home exercises – no equipment needed:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Calf Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Core work: crunches; planks; side planks; toe touches; dead bugs; push ups; glute bridges
  • Shadow boxing
  • Bicep curls; tricep kickbacks; front and lateral raises (use soup cans or bottles for weight)

Times Square

This post is really just my way of jumping into the “fitfam” positivity pool that’s streaming across so many social media platforms. I am beyond grateful to all of you who’ve sent private messages, texts and emails to check on us here in the city and also inquire about my elderly parents on Long Island. So far, we’re all healthy and taking the necessary precautions to hopefully stay that way.

I also want to offer a huge thank you to all the doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, first responders and all those who remain on the front lines of this pandemic. I also thank the other essentials workers who are showing up to keep mass transit running; stock shelves at the grocery stores; help people get their medicine at the pharmacies; provide food at the restaurants still offering takeout and delivery; man the front desks at apartment buildings; pick up the garbage and recycling and deliver the mail. Finally, a shout out to the reporters and news teams who are practicing the true rules of journalism by providing facts instead of spreading fear.

Eighth Avenue & W. 54th Street

Until the next time….let’s all stay calm, wash those hands, practice social distancing and continue to share prayers and good vibes with family and friends. While no one knows how long these difficult days will last, the good news is we will get back to life as we knew it and back to our original plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Unprecedented Times

My Newest Desk Accessory. Can Anyone Else Relate?

To say we’ve arrived at a wacky Workout Wednesday is obviously an understatement. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we’re aware of each and every new COVID-19 case, death and local, national or international lock down as soon they pop up. It’s obviously good to stay informed, but never good to get to a point of paralyzing panic.

I’m not an expert on anything related to this virus, which is no doubt dangerous for the elderly or anyone with a less-than-optimal immune system. However, several people have asked me for my take on whether it’s “safe” to go to the gym right now. In my non-expert opinion, I offer the same top tips I’d offer during cold and flu season:

  • If you feel sick, do everyone a favor and STAY HOME!
  • Wipe down equipment with disinfecting wipes or spray before and after you use it. (Hopefully, your gym has plenty in stock. Kudos to the team at Cruch54th for doing such a stellar cleaning job!)
  • If you must take a group fitness class, try and keep your distance from others in the class. (Attendance is already down at many group classes throughout Manhattan.)
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands with soap and warm water when you arrive and before you leave the gym. You may not have time to shower after a workout, but there’s no excuse for not taking 20 seconds to wash your hands.

With more daylight to work with, you can always opt for a long walk or run in a park or other open space. Many body weight exercises and HIIT workouts can be done at home, including my all-time favorite Tabata workouts. For another option, click here to see my oldie-but-goodie park bench workout. (Just be sure to wash those hands ASAP when you’re done! Maybe even wear gloves while you are touching that bench, and throw them straight into the laundry when you get home.)

Finally, help keep your immune system strong by sticking with those healthy habits you promised to make a part of your daily routine in 2020:
  • Get healthy nutrition from fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of zzzzzs!

Am I concerned about the Coronavirus? Absolutely, but mainly for my parents and other elderly loved ones. So let’s be sure to take care of ourselves so we can be there for our family and friends if they need us. Wash those hands, stay informed and we’ll all get through this together. Let’s hope we can soon return to our regularly scheduled programming and all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Let There Be Light!

Counting the Days Till Another Beach Season…

And just like that, the last Workout Wednesday of February has come and gone!

It’s hard to believe we’re almost done with what many New Yorkers consider the winter that never quite arrived. (I do realize, however, those in the Midwest and other regions have suffered through Old Man Winter’s fury many times this season including this week.) For me, the best part of this upcoming change is the fact that we’re only nine days away from the start of Daylight Saving time. We may lose an hour of sleep on the overnight hours leading into March 9th, but we’ll gain so much more: mood-boosting sunlight!

As my longtime readers know, I’m one of the millions of Americans who suffers from  seasonal affective disorder. My winter blues have definitely gotten worse in my 40s, which I realize is a symptom of the life challenges that have been part of this decade so far. This winter may not have been as cold or snowy as others, but the cloudy, dreary skies have still lowered my motivation levels for everything from getting my butt to the gym to sitting down to write a blog post. Now that the wait for more daylight is down to single digits on the calendar, I’m noticing a little more energy fueling my system with each passing day.

If you’ve been dragging through the season, I hope you’ll find some comfort knowing you are most definitely not alone. Sometimes you have to embrace the lethargy and let it play out. Sometimes your body needs a nap or a binge-watching Sunday afternoon more than a heart-pounding workout. And sometimes, you need the comfort of mac and cheese more than a kale and quinoa salad.

Now’s the time to let all the “sins” of the season go and start thinking of the positive things you want to accomplish when there’s more hours of daylight to fuel your motivation to get them done. What will you put on that healthy to-do list for March? Maybe you add more outdoor walks to your weekly calendar. Maybe you dedicate one night a week to shutting off the TV and spending some quality time with family or friends. Whatever it is that signals a fresh start, a little planning now can go a long way as we welcome a new month and new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Onward!

Hooray for Discharge Day!

Well, here we are just two days shy of the second month of 2020. How’s your January winding down as far as turning those healthy goals into a reality? If you’re still trying to find your groove, hang in there. Remember, it can take up to six whole weeks for habits to take root in our daily behavior. So, don’t give up now! This is a good time to take stock what’s working and what’s not. For example, if you’re more likely to workout in the morning rather than at night, stop stressing out when you don’t get to the gym after work. Instead, embrace that early-bird energy and keep setting your alarm appropriately to make time for that morning endorphin rush.

I know how hard it is to wait for habits to develop. Living in a world where everything is available at the push of a button, click of a mouse or swipe on a smart phone, it’s not easy to be patient. But patience is crucial when traveling on the lifelong marathon that is healthy living. So be sure to count the small victories. They can only add up to big changes in the not-so-distant future.
Speaking of moving forward, I just took a giant leap in a journey that began in November. That’s when I started physical therapy to address two arm issues I put on the back burner during my bikini competition prep. On Tuesday, my wonderful physical therapist, Don Zerio at Spear Physical Therapy, officially discharged me from treatment! Seven weeks ago, it was hard to imagine lifting anything with my arm without feeling pain. However, thanks to Don’s know-how and compassion, my discipline and yes, patience, I am blissfully pain free! Now, I’ll continue the journey on my own by not doing too much too soon and focusing on taking baby steps to get back to “normal” with my weight training and kickboxing routines. One day at a time.
I also took a step in the right direction as I continue to adjust to life with a hearing aid. After my initial euphoria with the device, I started having some issues with sounds being scratchy or over-modulated in different environments ranging from the gym to Church. After several days of struggling on my own and removing the aid in frustration when I just didn’t want to deal anymore, I contacted my audiologist, Dr Elika Cokely, who told me to stop in her office at my earliest convenience. Guess what? I wasn’t wearing the hearing aid properly! I guess I was afraid of pushing it in too far and hurting my ear drum. Just a little reassurance from Dr. Cokley helped me get over that and things are back on the right track. Sometimes asking for help is the hardest part of finding a solution to a problem.
To anyone who needs a little guidance along the 2020 fitness or healthy diet journey, don’t be shy! I’m always happy to answer questions or offer a little boost. Or reach out to the friends and family members who cheer you on all your adventures. Being armed with information, a good support system and maybe more than a little patience can only help when it comes mapping out all those plans for 2020 – and beyond! – to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

“HEAR”‘s to 2020!

Throughout the years, I’ve shared more than a few stories of pushing through injuries or putting them on the back burner until they couldn’t be ignored any longer. I guess I can file this post under the same category as I’m finally addressing a health issue I was diagnosed with back 16 months ago. Today marks day number six that I’m wearing a hearing aid.

Rewind to the summer of 2018, and that’s when I woke up one morning with what felt like a huge ball of cotton in my right ear. After a day of straining to hear out of the ear and several unsuccessful attempts at “popping” it like I would during a flight or an elevator ride in a tall building, I assumed I had a wax buildup and made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist. To my surprise, the doctor found no wax and sent me down the hall to his audiologist for a hearing test. My next surprise was learning I had significant conductive hearing loss in my right ear. A few days later, a CT scan confirmed what the doctor already suspected to be the cause: a rare condition called otosclerosis.

WebMD offers the simplest definition of this condition that affects a little more than three million Americans:

“Otosclerosis is a condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.”

In addition the main symptom of hearing loss, I also experience tinnitus – which alternates between roaring and ringing sounds in my right ear. (Click here to learn even more about otosclerosis.) With a definitive diagnosis, I had to figure out what to do. In full disclosure, I initially found myself a bit depressed and more than a little scared about being diagnosed with significant hearing loss at the age of 44. So, I did what many of us do when faced with unpleasant surprises: absolutely nothing.

My Newest Accessory

Fast forward to December of 2019, and I’d had about enough of straining to follow conversations in crowded places (which is practically everywhere when you live in New York City!) and asking people to repeat themselves. During a very informative consultation with another ENT -where another hearing test indicated my hearing loss had deteriorated since my initial diagnosis- I learned I had two options:

  1. Stapedectomy: a surgical procedure where an ENT removes the non-working stapes bone and replaces it with a micro prosthesis or
  2. Try a hearing aid.

I decided I had nothing to lose with giving the hearing aid a shot. Now my only regret is not having tried one sooner. The very first day I wore it, I attended a Church dinner for a volunteer group I joined last year. Halfway through the evening, I nearly started crying when I realized I was having a conversation with two women sitting to my right and I could hear them despite the din of the crowd and music playing in the background. Since then, I’ve had easier conversations with friends in a crowded wine bar; watched TV at a lower volume and even heard whispers in movies without much difficulty.

I am sharing this particular story in the hopes of preventing others from suffering in silence. If you’re experiencing  any of the symptoms I described, talk to your primary care physician or see an ENT. Getting a hearing aid can be a an overwhelming experience, and I realize I was fortunate on many fronts. My journalism background definitely helped on the information-gathering process, but I also had the guidance of a dear family friend who happens to be a retired ENT; advice from a childhood friend who has worn hearing aids for many years and I also found a very patient and compassionate audiologist. Now I have a 60-day trial period with my hearing aid and can make adjustments if needed. I’d like to think this will do the trick and that I won’t need surgery down the road. For now, it’s one day at a time.

If you have any other questions about my hearing loss journey, please don’t hesitate to ask. While I never expected to be wearing a hearing aid 20 days shy of my 46th birthday, I’m optimistic it will continue to have a positive impact on my quality of life. As I approach the start of a new year on this planet, I look forward to seeing and hearing more of what this crazy life has to offer. So, when life throws you a curve ball, don’t be afraid of getting the facts you need to take control of the situation and get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Hello 2020!

Jumping Into 2020!

Well, here we are already eight days into 2020. I hope the start of this New Year has been good to you so far and this Workout Wednesday and all the days ahead are full of good health, happiness and adventure!

So how are those healthy resolutions going? If you’re struggling a bit, don’t sweat it! Even the biggest fitness fanatics feel your pain. Since my kickoff to 2020 took place in sunny St. Lucia, I’m still trying to get my daily calorie intake back under control and return to my physical therapy and cardio routine. (I do hope to get the all clear from my physical therapist on my arm issues by the end of this month.)

As we all work to find our footing on the road to healthy living in the New Year, I’ll share one “trick” that’s helped me since turning the big 4-0 nearly six years ago. I now focus on setting goals and deadlines for reaching those goals instead of “stressing” over how well I’m changing my overall behavior. Sometimes making the commitment to eat green vegetables with every single meal or workout six days a week can be daunting, and the temptation to throw in the towel can sneak in if you indulge in one “naughty” meal or skip one workout. Instead of stressing over daily slip-ups, ask yourself one question:

Is there something I want to accomplish this year that requires stepping up my physical activity and making healthier choices in my diet?

As I’m sure you recall, I went to the ultimate extreme in 2019 by competing in the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. This year, inspired by my husband, my cousin and several friends who have caught the running “bug” at various stages in their lives (thank you, James, Annie, Rita Joan, Jeannine and Pamela!), I hope to enter my first 5K by the end of the summer. So James, who knows pretty much everything there is to know about running, has started coaching me with a treadmill workout plan for the next couple of months. (Stay tuned on that front!)

How about you? Is there a fundraising walk surrounding a cause you’re passionate about that you’ve always wanted to join? Maybe this is the summer you play for a team of touch football at the annual family get-together  instead of watching from the sidelines. Or maybe while on vacation, you take one or several long walks with your spouse or that friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Whatever it is, having a specific goal surrounding an event can keep you motivated since you know there’s a finish line to cross after all the hard work.

So if you’ve been doubting your ability to stick with your plans to make this your healthiest year yet, stop right now! Think about the positive steps you’ve taken so far and forget the slip-ups. Focus on today, one minute and one hour at a time. If you get to the gym today, kudos to you. If you don’t, pack the gym bag for tomorrow and try again. Remember, it’s the small steps that add up to big strides in our lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Merry & Happy Everything to All!

It seems only fitting to use this Throwback Thursday to share what’s become my annual holiday gift to my wonderful LauraLovesFitness followers. Like many of you, I find myself a bit overwhelmed this season thanks to Thanksgiving being as late as it could be, cutting back on the prep time for Christmas and Hanukkah.

Between the holiday hustle and bustle and my continued efforts at physical therapy to fix the damage I did to my arm during my bikini competition prep, I’ve decided to make this my last post of 2019.  Since the hardest part of my recovery is a six-week hiatus from my favorite workout, I thought I’d offer 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 season ahead. I close with a huge thank you for all the support throughout a big year filled with unprecedented events amidst the usual highs and lows. Here’s to ringing in 2020 with a bang (and a punch!) and welcoming all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

It’s Gobble, Gobble Time!

It happened again. I blinked and here were are on the eve of my favorite American holiday! That means it’s time to serve up my annual recipe of survival tips for another calorie-filled Thanksgiving:

  • Move it!  Remember, even ten minutes of exercise today and tomorrow are better than none! The bonus is you’ll have the mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the Turkey Day feast. Even if you’re hosting tomorrow’s holiday fun and can’t leave the house, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata first thing in the morning. If the weather permits, maybe you can even sneak out for some fresh air and a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. Your gym is open? Great! Try a morning group exercise class or attack some cardio and core work. A few solid planks can make you feel strong before filling your belly with delicious eats.
  • Eat breakfast! Be sure to eat something sensible on Thanksgiving morning to kick-start your metabolism. If you’re not feasting until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. Two ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in or a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and salsa. These protein-rich snacks will keep you feeling full longer than those high in sugar.
  • Portion Control: Use a salad or other small dish for your meal. Start with salad or veggies and then add the turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. There simply won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.
  • Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait 10 minutes before going back for round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
  • Keep Track of the Libations: This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of still or sparking water before moving on to the next cocktail.
  • Make Doggie Bags! Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

There’s really only one thing left for me to write: I offer my heartfelt wishes for everyone to enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I can add being happily married to the list of things I’m thankful for, including my family, friends and the ongoing support I receive from my “fitfam,” which includes all my loyal readers. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Remember, laughter, good food and even some good wine are all part of many holiday traditions and part of our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

All Too Familiar Territory

I am a firm believer we do indeed grow wiser with each passing year. For us fitness fanatics and serious athletes, however, that wisdom can be tested when setting our sights on a new or big goal. Unfortunately, I’ve failed that test yet again on the subject of do as I say and not as I do. That means I’m spending a good part of this Workout Wednesday back in physical therapy.

Rewind to mid-July of this summer, and I was exactly halfway through my 15-week prep process for my first ever bikini competition. After seven-and-a-half weeks of serious weight training, extended cardio sessions and strict dieting, I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder and left pectoral muscle. That twinge turned into serious pain almost overnight and spread down my arm, particularly in the bicep area. My coach got me in to see a master manual therapist who worked on the angry muscles, but the temporary relief wasn’t a permanent fix. My coach of course gave me the option of taking a break and possibly putting my competition plans on hold. Long story short, I made the decision to keep grinding on. I had the window of opportunity to train this summer and had no idea what would happen later this year or next in regards to my parents’ health or life’s other uncertainties. So, with some modifications to the upper body workouts, I kept training. As you all know, I made it to the show on September 28th and it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret being a part of.

Fast-forward to the beginning of November. The pain remained, but it had centered mainly in my bicep. When the discomfort started waking me up in the middle of the night, I knew I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.  I saw the same sports medicine orthopedist who helped me conquer a knee injury last year, and this time the diagnosis is biceps tendonitis. The doctor basically told me if I want to heal, I have to totally refocus my energy on physical therapy and stop kickboxing and other heavy duty upper body work for six weeks. If not, the severe bicep tendonitis could lead to a tear or rupture – and fixing either of those problems would require surgery.

I am well aware there is only person to blame for this mess: me. However, so many serious athletes face decisions like this all the time. There’s a drive to push through the pain and red line it just enough to reach that goal, to hell with the consequences. In the grand scheme of things, six weeks “off” is obviously a much better outcome than surgery. While I’m mad as hell at myself for letting it get this far, I know I’ll heal. And I’ll shift my be-a-good-solider focus to following my physical therapist’s instructions, taking my prescribed anti-inflammatories and babying the arm as much as possible. Some sacrifices now will only lead to a healthier Laura later.

At the end of the day, I realize not everyone makes such extreme choices. But when we do make a not-so-smart decision -in or outside of the gym – we have to accept the fact that we can’t go back in time and change it. We can only go forward, use what we’ve learned and hopefully not make the same mistake again. It’s just another part of the sometimes crazy learning process that comes with traveling the windy road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

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