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Maximize the End of 2018

Where does the time go?

It doesn’t seem possible, at least to me, but this Motivation Monday brings us to week 45 of 2018. If someone can explain how we only have seven weeks left in the year, please clue me in. I do find some comfort knowing many people share my sentiment that this year flew by faster than others in recent memory. Maybe it’s because here in New York, we had a not-so-hot spring, followed by a rainy summer and now we’re in the thick of darker, chillier days. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older with each week bringing more responsibilities and more headaches than we remember as kids. Whatever the reason, now’s the time to embrace a take-charge attitude when it comes to your health and making sure 2018 ends on a high note.

Some of you might be thinking, “Laura, you do realize we’re about five minutes away from the start of another holiday season, right?” I do indeed. In fact, with Thanksgiving only 10 days away, there’s no time like the present to make some plans to do what you can to make healthy choices before the onslaught of festivities, food and cheer fill our calendars and our stomachs!

Am I saying now’s the time to re-arrange your entire life when it’s going to be re-arranged by that barrage of holiday happenings? Heck no! I simply want to encourage everyone to remember as the days grow more hectic, it’s even more important to carve out even 10 minutes for yourself to keep yourself physically and mentally focused. Here are three easy tips on how to keep being good to yourself as the year winds down:

  • Maintain Healthy Shopping Habits: Be sure there are fruits, veggies and whole grains on your holiday food shopping list. It’s okay if you want to bake cookies for your kids’ class party or neighbors’ holiday get-together. Just don’t skimp on the healthy stuff to keep your immune system strong and help you make smart pre-party choices on the days you are going to be indulging in some treats.
  • Fit Fitness Into Your Routine: I can’t think of a better time of year to try one of those “express” group fitness class at the gym. Many offer options ranging from 30-minute abs and stretch to 45-minute glutes classes.
  • Add Some Lavender to Your Life: If you’re adding vanilla, cinnamon or evergreen scented aromas to your holiday decor, add a hint of lavender, too. The fragrance from the oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness and it’s also said to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Be sure to check in next week when I’ll offer my annual smart feasting tips for Thanksgiving. I’ll keep the festive themes going as we get through the season together. Remember, a few smart choices can help you stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – even as we gear up for the craziest time of the year!

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Congratulations, Runners!

On this Motivation Monday, I send huge kudos to the tens of thousands of FITASTIC men and women who laced up for yesterday’s TCS New York City Marathon. As my repeat readers know, despite my love for kickboxing, barre classes, Zumba and all types of exercise, I never caught the running bug. So I will forever be in awe of anyone who can run for any amount of time – and 26.2 miles is simply incredible.

In addition to some well-deserved celebrating and indulging in treats galore, I hope the more than 50,000 runners are also taking a well-deserved rest day after pushing their bodies to the ultimate extreme. While the rest of us may not have clocked 26.2 miles on our fitness trackers this weekend, it’s important to remember each and every one of us regardless of our fitness level needs at least one rest day each week. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining. That can lead to a gamut of problems ranging from stress fractures and joint pain to sleepless nights.

To put it simply, too much of a good thing – even exercise – can be bad. Why? Because working out, especially at high levels with high impact, breaks down your body tissue. Resistance training actually breaks down muscles causing microscopic tears and it is on rest days when the muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissue get the needed time to rebuild.

So if this Motivation Monday turns into a rest day, don’t sweat it. Sometimes your body and mind need some extra zzzz’s or an overdue chat with a loved one more than a heart-pounding workout. If you’ve made the commitment to exercise and watch what you eat, you also owe it to yourself to give your body time to rest and recharge. It’s all part of the winning formula to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

An Unexpected Hiatus

One of my all-time favorite photos from a winning post-season.

As I get older, I am constantly finding more reasons to repeat a well-known saying: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

As many of you already know from my social media posts, October 11th was a horrible day. I won’t share all the details, but I will say it was just after 10:30 am when life changed in an instant. I was with my parents on Long Island and just walking into a medical building to meet a new doctor for Mom. Holding one of my arms per usual, Dad stopped suddenly and uttered 10 terrifying words: “Laura, I can’t breathe. I think I’m having a heart attack.” He was. The next five or ten minutes were a blur, but if it wasn’t for several fast-acting good Samaritans and an automated external defibrillator provided by a doctor’s office on the first floor of that building we were walking into, those would have been Dad’s last minutes with us.

In the chaos that followed, Dad was taken to Winthrop Hospital in an ambulance, and Mom and I met up with him in the emergency department before he was taken away to have a stent placed in the main artery of his 82-year-old heart. He then spent five days in the ICU. By day three, he was walking around the floor and cracking jokes. Even more miraculous is the fact that Dad’s is one of the rare cases where the heart muscle suffered zero damage. His strength has always overwhelmed me, but never more than in this instance.

So many reasons to smile at the finish line that day!

Of course, during those five long days, everything stopped except for being with Dad. There was no gym. Normal healthy eating habits were impossible to maintain with so many hours spent in the hospital. And we won’t even talk about sleep. While life was anything but normal, we tried to find some sense of it where we could. That meant following through with my plans to participate in my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on October 14th. Dad told me he’d feel better knowing I finished the four-mile trek. So, I did. James pounded the pavement with me, and we happily joined the sea of pink making waves around Central Park. As with all the Avon39 walks before, I walked in honor of warrior survivors like my Mom and in memory of those who lost their brave battle, including my friend Elizabeth.

A little more than two weeks later, breast cancer awareness month is winding down and Dad continues to make strides including a good follow-up visit with his cardiologist. He has even started in-home physical therapy. As I continue to keep an eye on his progress, I also worry about Mom taking care of herself as we all continue to recuperate from the emotional strain of this unprecedented time.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, this not-so-typical Motivation Monday post is another reminder about how precious life really is. As a journalist and producer who’s used to meeting and setting deadlines, it’s not always easy to adapt when plans go awry. It’s even harder to accept being powerless. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of the things you can control. Like telling the important people in your life you love them. Pursuing your passions. Not taking one day for granted.

It’s been a hell of month. I wrap up this final October post with a huge thank you to Dad’s cardiologist, and to all the physicians, nurses, aides and entire staff who took care of Dad at Winthrop. We are also beyond grateful for the overwhelming number of prayers and good wishes that continue to come via texts, emails and phone calls from family and friends as far away as Italy and Canada. In addition to keeping Dad’s spirits up, the good vibes have helped Mom and I though the exhausting days, too. Onward we go toward Dad’s full recovery; some rest for Mom; the re-launch of my healthy routine and all the other chances we have to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy October!

I always love kicking off a new month on a Motivation Monday! October is full of activity. It’s my mom’s birthday month. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And it’s the time when fall’s signature squash is at its peak. Yes, I’m talking about pumpkins.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin ravioli and good ol’ pumpkin pie, now’s the time to get your fill. The good news is there are several good reasons to add some pumpkin to your diet this season – or anytime of year.

  • Post-Workout Power!  Bananas get lots of rave reviews as a natural source of energy thanks to being full of potassium. However, it may surprise you to learn one cup of cooked pumpkin packs 564 milligrams of potassium compared to 422 milligrams in one banana. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.
  • Good for Your Baby Blues…and Browns, Greens and Hazels, too!:  One cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Also, pumpkin is full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color including Beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
  • Keep Your Appetite in Check! This often forgotten source of fiber packs three grams in a one-cup serving with only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.

So, while it’s always a good idea to enjoy the pumpkin pie in moderation, there’s no reason not to indulge in some of the other healthy options provided by this seasonal favorite to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous !

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy Fall!

Happy first Motivation Monday of the fall of 2018!

Many of us mark the official change of seasons by packing up the beach gear and craving all those pumpkin-flavored treats. So I thought it was the perfect time to offer yet another reminder about how a little patience can go a long way when it comes to adjusting to a new season filled with new demands. That reminder isn’t just for my loyal readers. Putting the words “on paper” in this post is another kick in my own you-know-what to be better to my body in the days ahead.

The great news is I start the fall season with a discharge from physical therapy! After nearly two months of treatment for an overuse injury in my knee, my wonderful physical therapist Jun Zhang deemed it safe to let me back into the wild. However, just because I no longer have to meet with Jun at the Orthology studio in Chelsea, I still have work to do on my own. The stretches and strengthening exercises he taught me for my adductors and abductors will continue to be a part of my daily exercise routine. I also have to wait just a little bit longer before I can run back to the heavy bag at Best Kickboxing NYC. I’m going to “test” my knee over the next couple of weeks with jab / cross / weave drills to make sure my knee can handle the twisting needed for the tough muay thai inspired classes. Now that I’m so close to getting back to doing what I love, it’s almost harder to wait it out. But I will. I keep reminding myself of something I’ve told others so many times: going back too quickly could mean end up exactly where I don’t want to be – back in physical therapy.

I have shared a little about my physical therapy journey as a reminder that injuries can happen whether you’re a novice or a bona fide fitness fanatic. The key is to not ignore the pain in your body or the voice in your head telling you something’s not right. The longer you put off treatment, the longer it can take to get back in the game that you love. So, listen to your body and follow through with your prescribed treatment. In a world of instant gratification, it’s important to realize slow and steady will always be a way to win the continuous race to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

Less Than One Month To Go…

This Motivation Monday marks the less-than-one-month countdown until I lace up for my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park. So it’s time to pull out all the stops in trying to raise as much money as possible in the fight against a disease that claims too many lives in these modern times.

Full disclosure: I miss the long, weekend morning training walks of Septembers passed when I’d prepare for the 39.3-mile journey that was Avon39. However, though my walking buddy Sue and I face a shorter distance to complete our first Making Strides Walk, the mission remains the same – to raise money for research to put an end to a disease estimated to kill more than 40,000 women before the end of 2018. The dollars will also provide patients with transportation to and from treatments and even help with lodging for those who need to travel far from home to receive that essential care.

To all my generous donors so far, I offer a heartfelt thank you. For anyone considering making a donation, please click here to be taken to my personal page. Like any good fight, I truly believe we can win the battle against breast cancer with teamwork. Strength in numbers is an essential component in our collective efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

Remembering 9/11: 17 Years Later

Today, the old saying “time heals all wounds” is nothing short of senseless. Some might even call it offensive. Seventeen years after the day that changed the world as we know it forever, it’s impossible to imagine anyone who lost a loved one on 9/11 not experiencing sadness and pain.

No matter how much time passes, I am simply overwhelmed each year by the all-too vivid memories of what started out as a crisp and clear picture-perfect day here in New York City. As my longtime readers know, back then I was working as a reporter at News 12 Connecticut. My colleagues and I watched the newsroom’s multiple TV screens in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That moment when we realized it wasn’t an accident was the first and only time I can remember a newsroom being completely silent. Then, in what seemed like a blurred frenzy, our assistant news director shifted into auto-pilot and sent us out into the field with videographers and live trucks. There were no lessons from my journalism classes at Northwestern or past experiences as a reporter that could have prepared me for that unfathomable day. Before leaving the newsroom, I left a message on my parents’ answering machine telling them how much I loved them.

I don’t remember how many live shots I did that day or how many people I interviewed. I do remember the faces of the medical team anxiously waiting to treat injured survivors; the tearful embrace between an ash-covered man and the woman waiting for him on the platform; and all the cars that remained in the parking lot as midnight approached. I wondered how many people would never return to claim them.

In that pre-Facebook world, many of my friends tried to reach me on my cell phone – when the circuits weren’t down or busy – to see if I could help find any information about a loved one who worked in the city. Receiving those messages in between countless live reports broke my heart, and I’d learn later that several of those people being searched for were indeed gone. In the days that followed, I also learned a former friend and News 12 Long Island colleague, Glen Pettit, was killed. A talented videographer, Glen was also a NYPD officer. He was last seen with his camera on his shoulder running toward the towers to capture footage. Glen was 30 years old.

Along with the sadness, shock and anger felt around the country after the attacks, I also remember another unprecedented turn of events. Stores were selling out of Americans flags and random acts of kindness were reported everywhere. Seventeen years later, I realize all three of my Goddaughters – all born after that fateful day – never witnessed that kind of unity in the country they call home. Today, they see social media feeds where bullying takes on a whole new level as people lash out at others who don’t share their beliefs. Simply put, when I think about the state of our world today, it makes me want to cry all over again.

Never one to be political in this blog or on my social media channels, I can’t help write about what’s in my heart. As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, we’re bombarded with headlines surrounding the latest discord in Washington and looming disasters as hurricane season continues. We also continue to struggle with volatile issues ranging from gun control to the cost of healthcare. We even post scathing, combative messages for all the world to see about everything from Nike’s choice of a spokesperson to Serena Williams’ loss at the U.S. Open. What a mess. 

On this September 11th, as we all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 17 years ago, let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion.

God Bless America.

Welcome 2018!

Happy New Year!

This first post of 2018 comes from beautiful Grenada, and it comes filled with some simple thoughts.

I love the unlimited number of possibilities that arrive as we kick off a brand new year. New jobs, new relationships and new adventures you can’t even fathom lie ahead in a wonderful 365-day package. Of course, the more years that pass, the more things seem like they are out of my control. So here’s a timely reminder to embrace the things you can take control of – like taking care of your health.

So use these first few days of the new year to think of what you want to do to make this your healthiest year yet. I am not talking about making a laundry list as long as your arm. Think of three things you can do this week to get started. Need some ideas?

•Drink more water

Shut down the smart phone and other stimulants at least an hour before bedtime at least two times this week to get into a better pre- sleep mode

Take a 10-minute walk before or after work. Too cold outside? Walk up and down the stairs in your home or apartment building.

Start your day with a healthy breakfast. Quick ideas: 1 hard boiled eggs and an apple; non-fat plain greek yogurt; protein shake (i have been using Isagenix for nearly two years now)

Instead of watching tv, spend an hour with your family or catching up on the phone with a loved one or friend.

I will return after vacation with more simple healthy living ideas to kick start your 2018 on a good note. Just remember one important reality: Despite technology’s ability to fulfill our desires for instant gratification on so many levels, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient and know that making the commitment to yourself to make healthier choices is the first major step toward a wonderful 2018 and so many chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

9/11: 16 Years Later

It is nothing short of impossible to believe it’s been 16 years since the world changed forever. 

No matter how much time has passed since September 11, 2001, the memories that flood my mind each year at this time remain as vivid as if the tragic events happened yesterday. As many of my longtime readers know, I was a reporter at News 12 Connecticut on that crisp, sunny morning. While it’s been 12 years since I left the world of broadcast news behind, on this day I find myself reminded of the panic and urgency in the newsroom as we went out to cover a developing story that none of us could comprehend ourselves.

There were countless interviews and live shots with people waiting to learn the fate of loved ones who worked in the World Trade Center. There were stories from the people who did make it home, stepping off of trains with ash on their clothes and shock on their faces after witnessing the horror in lower Manhattan. In between the live reports, I also remember making and receiving panicked phone calls and texts. In a pre-Facebook world, there was no other way to try to check on the whereabouts of family and friends who lived or worked anywhere near Ground Zero or the Pentagon. In the days that followed, I remember learning one of my friends and former colleagues was gone. Glen was one of too many people taken from this world so viciously and long before their time.

Amidst the sadness and confusion, there were also stories of how Americans came together to help each other ease the pain. Sales of American flags skyrocketed and random acts of kindness could be witnessed everywhere. Then I think of the state of our nation today, and it makes me want to cry all over again.

Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on social media knows I have never, ever been political. I certainly don’t intend to start now. However, I will say this: I hope we start doing a better job when it comes to showing compassion and treating others the way we want to be treated. As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, people of all ages, races and creeds in Florida and the Caribbean are reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. Our neighbors in Texas continue their struggle in the wake of disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey. And this storm season isn’t over yet. Before the hurricanes hit, we saw never-ending news coverage about people around the country arguing about whether statues should remain standing or if movies like Gone with the Wind should be banned. Meanwhile, we are faced with volatile situations ranging from our relationship with North Korea to the status of the healthcare system. Let’s face it: Things are just a mess. 

On this September 11th, as we all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 16 years ago, let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion.

God Bless America. 

 

 

Pardon the Interruption….

If you’ve been stopping by here for awhile, you know I sometimes stray from my usual themes. This happens to be one of those  Motivation Mondays. 

Over the weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the biggest challenges I’ve struggled with since turning the “Big 4-0” a few years ago: saying goodbye.

There are the goodbyes we say to our loved ones. Some will suffer from drawn-out illnesses of the body or the mind that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. Others are taken too young and too tragically to ever fully comprehend or find any semblance of “closure.” Then there are the goodbyes we say to certain places that meant so much for so long. For me, that goodbye became a reality at the end of last week. That’s when a demolition team reduced the place my parents and I called home for 37 years to rubble in a matter of hours. Even though we knew the tear-down was coming, I was overwhelmed by the sense of finality once it happened. 

It’s amazing how the heart and mind can find so much comfort in stone, brick and siding. Of course, it’s not the materials that make a house special. It’s the memories created within those sturdy walls with help from countless friends and family members who walked through the doors throughout the decades. Those special times are what made the house a beautiful home. Here are just a few of those beautiful moments for which I will be forever grateful:

  • More than 30 Christmases  
  • Learning how to swing a bat and throw a baseball thanks to the guidance of my Dad and my beloved Nonno on the front lawn while Nonna sat with a watchful eye under a shady tree.
  • Learning how to make passatini and other cooking adventures with Mom.
  • Giggling with Grandma Julia while we were supposedly napping during her visits from Florida for the holidays.
  • Getting rid of the training wheels and learning how to ride my bicycle in the driveway, with help from my “big brother” Robbie.
  • Running through the sprinklers to stay cool on summer days with my childhood gal pals, who are now my lifelong friends.
  • BBQs in the backyard and bocce matches on the front lawn.

As the list of memories grew in my mind, I realized that’s where they’ll live forever. (We also happen to have fun reminders of so many happy occasions thanks to the dozens of old photo albums that now live in my parents’ new home!) This is why I’m able to type the last words of this post with a smile on my face. Because saying goodbye doesn’t erase the past. It just helps accentuate when a new chapter can begin. And new chapters are the perfect time to re-commit the heart and soul to make the most of each and every day on this never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

*Please note, I intentionally left a photo out of this week’s post to emphasize the fact that sometimes the best place to find an image that can help the heart feel better is in the mind. 

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