Get Your Grill On!

June got off to a cloudy, humid start here in New York. However, after the long, hard winter and with Memorial Day behind us, I have no doubt many people spent some time firing up the grills and getting the gang together. So I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to offer some timely reminders on how to enjoy BBQ season without completely falling off the health and fitness wagon.

1) Don’t Skimp on the Pre-BBQ Prep: You never want to arrive hungry. That’s a surefire way to dig right into the chips and dips or other high-calorie platters. Have a snack with some protein about an hour before you head to the celebration. My go-to is usually a fat-free Greek yogurt with a handful of almonds or berries or a low-sugar Granny smith apple.

2) Weigh Your Options: If it’s on the menu, grilled shrimp is a great protein choice. Chicken has less calories than a cheeseburger or hot dog. By the way, I’d never tell anyone NOT to have a cheeseburger or hot dog if that’s what you really want. Just fill your paper plate with veggie or salad options first so you don’t have too much room for more than one burger or dog.

3) Be a Kid Again: Popsicles are a lower-calorie dessert option than cookies, cupcakes and other sweet treats. Maybe you even bring a box or two along with some yummy fruit salad or other healthy option for your host or hostess.

4) Lighten Up the Libations:  Orange, cranberry and pineapple juice are great mixers, but they’re loaded with sugar and unwanted calories. A better bet is to pick your poison and mix it with seltzer and lots of ice. Then add a couple of slices of fresh oranges, lemons, limes or even some pineapple chunks for flavor. The same goes for soda and energy drinks. Pick the zero-calorie versions when mixing them with alcohol. A At home, I always have a pitcher of Crystal Light in my fridge. When I add vodka, I measure the serving with a shot glass to keep tabs on how just how much alcohol I’m drinking. Finally, whether you’re partying at home or at a friend’s house, throw back water, seltzer or diet soda for every other drink to stay hydrated and keep the calorie intake under control. Of course, if you plan to enjoy some adult beverages, be sure to designate a driver.

5) Fitting in Fitness:  Maybe there’s a group exercise class you can take before heading to that weekend BBQ, or you can always take a long walk when you get home from the fun. If you’re heading to the beach, there’s no reason you can’t take a long walk and bang out some planks and push-ups right on your beach blanket.

With a little common sense and some self-control, there’s no reason why June (or any other month) can’t be filled with opportunities to kick back with friends and family and still stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

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The Power of Disconnecting

Hooray for the unofficial start to summer!

It’s hard to believe the unofficial kickoff of the summer of 2018 has come and gone. I hope everyone enjoyed a Happy Memorial Day and the rain that affected so many people didn’t put too much of a damper on your holiday fun.

My normal Motivation Monday post was delayed by a day thanks to the holiday and thanks to the fact that I spent the day returning from a five-day escape from reality in Grand Cayman. I’m happy to report that escape was 100 percent successful because of three powerful reasons:

  1. No laptop, no problem: Yes, I actually shut down my Mac and left it home. I haven’t done that in years. Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware the reality of disconnecting for one day – let alone several- is a luxury most of us can’t afford more than maybe once a decade if we’re lucky. And thanks to smart phones and other advances in technology, most of us are expected to be available 24/7. I just happened to be in between projects. So I was able to check email on my iPhone a couple of times a day and live without Microsoft word for a bit longer than usual. (Of course, James did have his computer which I always could have used in an “emergency.”)
  2. Swimming with Sting Rays: One of My Very Few Workouts on Vacation!

    Social media shut down:  I did cave once after posting a bye-bye photo at the airport last Tuesday morning. However, aside from that one slip, there were no worries about taking a post-worthy selfie or cute couples shot for the remainder of the trip. We took photos when we felt like it and it didn’t matter if we missed capturing an image of each and every frozen drink or delicious seafood dinner. What did matter was spending quality time with one of the people who keeps me grounded even on the busiest or most difficult days living in the concrete jungle of New York City – my fiance, James.

  3. Multiple rest days: I only made it to the fitness center once. Do I feel guilty about it? A little. However, the long walks along Seven Mile Beach were a welcome change to my usual Tabata training and extended cardio sessions. I can honestly say my body feels better after the rest and I am confident my muscles are ready to tackle the kickboxing and barre classes I have planned for the week ahead.

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

So now that the “lazy days of summer” have unofficially arrived, I guess this is my way of encouraging everyone to truly engage in the memorable moments as they happen. Enjoy catching up with family and friends by talking – not texting – at a barbecue or backyard party; savor the sight of a sunrise or sunset and try to find 10, 20 or dare I say 30 minutes to disconnect whenever possible. The emails, texts and all those social media channels will be waiting for you when you’re ready to tune back in. Remember, slowing down can be a powerful tool when it comes to staying on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Tricks, New Treats

Loved meeting these fun, fab and fierce fitness chicks!

One of the perks of getting my NASM and AFAA certifications several years ago is that it “forces” me to get a certain number of credits every couple of years to keep those fitness certifications current. This year, I’m beyond pumped those necessary credits led me to find the Everlast Striking Certification Workshop: level 1.

As you repeat readers may recall, I was lucky enough to discover the rush provided by muay thai kickboxing not long after birthday in 2017. I’m still not quite sure how I dealt with the stress of living in New York and life in general for 43 years before discovering the physical and mental rush that could be experienced thanks to kicking and punching a heavy bag! (Talk about inexpensive therapy!) After a full Sunday in the Everlast workshop lead by fitness guru Aaron Drogoszewski, not only did I acquire the credits needed to maintain my fitness certifications, I learned even more about the techniques that have become a huge part of maintaining my physical and mental strength for the past 16 months.

Thanks to Aaron Drogoszewski for an amazing workshop!

What was extra fun about the workshop is that in addition to learning how to execute the six basic punches (jab, cross, hooks and upper cuts) along with the roundhouse kick with more accuracy and efficiency, we also learned how to cue and coach others through the moves. It was fun – and also one heck of a workout – to work with a partner and switch roles between trainee and trainer. The bottom line is there’s nothing like gaining extra knowledge from the experts to help take your game – whatever that may be – to the next level. I look forward to sharing some of the techniques with friends looking to add something new to their fitness routine.

In addition to Aaron’s instruction and motivation from my new fitfam friends, I couldn’t have made it through the day without the right fuel. Lucky for me, I received a “goodie box” of new KIND protein bars just in time for the workshop. (I did some spokesperson work for KIND a couple of years ago, and I was thrilled the team remembered me.) Not only did the double dark chocolate nut bar taste great and keep me satisfied with its 12 grams of protein, I love the fact that the bars contain no artificial sweeteners and have a low glycemic index. (They’re also gluten free!) I know I’ll be keeping one or two of these bars in my gym bag or purse at all times so I don’t get tempted by the not-so-healthy vending machine options when hunger hits.

So on this Motivation Monday, remember this: you’re never too much of an expert to get some new moves and new snack ideas to help you keep you on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Even Fitness Fanatics Need a Healthy Re-Boot Sometimes

A handful of people have asked me about the recent, healthy glow to my skin. So I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday post to share my secret: I just spent nine days eliminating one of the biggest toxins in so many American diets – sugar.

I made a serious commitment to eat clean and cut out some of the crap I’d let sneak back into my life a little more than I should have. That meant eliminating alcohol and dairy. (Check your food labels – many dairy products contain hidden sugars.)  After my go-to chocolate-flavored Isagenix shake for breakfast, it was nothing but clean food choices for the rest of the day: raw veggies galore, leafy lettuces, green apples, whole grains, Ezekiel bread, lean proteins (chicken and shrimp were my go-tos), hard-boiled eggs and lots and lots of water and caffeine-free herbal tea. (Yes, I even skipped my daily iced coffee fix with non-fat creamer.) I snacked smarter, too. I kept the raw almond consumption to a smart portion of 8 to 10 at a time while adding a green apple or hard- boiled egg for extra satiety.

The result? Each morning, I found myself feeling better rested than I can remember without what I call a sugar-induced fog. I also found the reflection in the mirror looking back at me with less of the puffiness than  what can appear after a night of having that extra glass of wine or super sugary treat for dessert.

As we kick off a new week, I offer this idea: – is there something you can cut out of your diet today, tomorrow and maybe the next day that’s become more of a “comfort crutch” than a nutritional necessity? Whether it’s eliminating the soda, the bread, the sweets or the booze, sometimes just a few days of being extra good can help you find new zest for the healthy habits you’ve been trying to maintain.

Will I be drinking my iced coffees and sipping Proscecco and Sangria as we continue moving into the warmer spring days? Absolutely! But scaling back once in a while to save up for a special occasion can make those indulgences even more enjoyable. There’s no time like the present to take stock of the one or two things in your fridge or pantry that could be holding you back from your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

‘Tis the OTHER Season for Sneezin’

It really doesn’t seem fair. After suffering though one of the dreariest winters in years, many of us are spending every possible moment outdoors minus the winter coats and soaking up some much needed vitamin D. Unfortunately as the mercury rises, so do the tree and grass pollen counts. That means we’ve started a whole new season of agony for the 50 million allergy sufferers around the country.

So on this Motivation Monday, I offer a few survival tips that have helped this life-long allergy sufferer continue to enjoy those outdoor workouts and other fun times in the sun:

  • Smart scheduling: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will make things more bearable.
  • Wear sunglasses: Wearing shades (or even goggles) can create a barrier for your eyes while you’re outside. I also make sure to use eye drops before heading outdoors. My Dad told me about Bausch + Lomb’s Alaway eye drops several years ago. Using these drops twice a day has prevented me from scratching my eyes out even on high pollen count days. (Even though you don’t need a prescription to get the drops, you may want to check with your doctor if they’re okay for your eyes.)
  • Don’t forget your meds: In my younger years, I got allergy shots for nearly a decade. Over time, they helped lessen the severity of my allergy attacks, but I’m still sensitive to all kinds of pollen. Luckily there are so many over-the-counter allergy medicines that can offer relief. While I don’t like taking a lot of medications, I’d rather take something for a few months to help me stay alert and active than miss out on enjoying the outdoors. Speak with your doctor about what treatments might work best for you. To prevent the onset of symptoms, it helps to take your medication at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors. If you wake up and then workout outside, ask your doctor if taking your medication at bedtime can help.
  • Clean up ASAP: When you get home, shed the pollen-infused clothes, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.

Of course, there will be days when the pollen counts are simply too high for allergy sufferers to be comfortable outdoors for extended periods of time. The bottom line remains the same: listen to your body. If you’re trying to so something good by exercising outdoors but feeling nothing but misery, be smart. Stop; head indoors; wash up and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you sign up for an air-conditioned group exercise class or bang out some Tabatas at home to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring-ify Your Hydration

Easy Ways to Wow Your Water!

After a weekend escape from the concrete jungle to help my parents with some spring cleaning, I’m enjoying an extra spring in my step on this Motivation Monday courtesy of some much-needed vitamin D. It’s amazing how uncovering the patio furniture and sweeping up the leaves and other remnants of a long, hard winter can do wonders for the mind and spirit. (The bonus: tackling the first stages of a spring spruce up after a killer ILoveKickboxing class helped me burn a few extra calories so I could enjoy some of Mom’s cooking without a side of guilt!) The weekend  also marked the first time since last fall that I was able to sit outside to write a blog post. All that fresh air did wonders for my soul!

While I stayed busy helping Mom and Dad, I lost some of my usual writing time. So I hope you’ll forgive this short and sweet shot of inspiration to kick off the new work week. As we all continue shifting our routines for spring, it’s the perfect time to freshen up some of our healthy habits. That includes how we stay hydrated.

As far as I’m concerned, water remains king when it comes to healthy beverages. However, after awhile the same ol’ H20 can be more than just a little bland. Instead of reaching for calorie-loaded sports drinks, why not try these three, easy ideas to add a little “wow” to your water:

  1. Expand Your Citrus Horizons: Who says lemons should have all the fun? Add a squeeze of lime, grapefruit or even a clementine for some extra zest in your water.
  2. Chill Out: Mix in some frozen apple chunks, grapes, blueberries or strawberries for instant yum.
  3. Go green: Add slices of cucumber and a few sprigs of mint for a more savory flavor option.

Once you find your favorite flavor infusion, make a pitcher to keep in the fridge so you can have a refreshing drink at home or fill up your reusable water bottle to bring to the office and wherever your workouts take you. Remember, adding a little zest to even the healthiest of habits can help you stick with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring Cleaning for the Soul!

FINALLY Feels Like Spring! (And Yankees Baseball Season)

After enjoying some beautiful weather over the weekend, this marks the first Motivation Monday where I feel like spring has actually sprung! So I thought it was the perfect opportunity to offer a reminder about making time for one seasonal activity that can do wonders for your mind and spirit. (Depending on the intensity level, you may even break a sweat.)

I’m talking about spring cleaning! I recently spent several hours not only attacking some serious dust bunnies around my apartment, I also started eliminating some of the piles of paper in the “hidden” areas of my apartment. Despite being part of the digital age in my cozy 585-square foot co-op, somehow the receipts, old invoices and other paperwork manage to get an extended lease on life throughout the winter. After a few hours of cleaning and giving the paper shredder a good workout, I felt so much lighter. There really is something cathartic about getting rid of the  “stuff” that simply has no place in your life anymore.

Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Clean Out Those Closets and Drawers: I know it may hurt, but maybe this is the spring you finally get rid of that college T-shirt with the permanent sweat stains. I’m not suggesting you toss your school pride in the trash, but maybe this is the year you add a piece of alumni gear to your wardrobe.   While you’re at it, why not treat yourself to a few bright-colored, moisture-wicking items to those freshly de-cluttered drawers?
  • Don’t Forget the Pantry!  If you still have leftover holiday candy taking up space on the shelves, now’s a good time to bring those treats to the office where they’re guaranteed to be gobbled up quickly. (Better than you being tempted to eat an entire box of empty calories, right?) Of course, anything existing beyond an expiration date should just be tossed.
  • Freshen Up the Fridge: This is also a good time to add some healthy variety to your diet. Lots of colorful fruits and veggies are hitting their peak which is good news for your daily menu. As you head to the grocery store or local farmer’s market, remember to fill your basket with a variety of color ranging from red to green to make sure you’re taking in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. (Those are the plant chemicals known for helping to fight and prevent disease.) Need a few ideas? Try rainbow chard, arugula and strawberries.

In addition to moving your workouts outdoors and trying some new fitness classes, cleaning out the clutter in your life is a surefire way to make this a spring filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Hippity-Hoppity Motivation Monday!

If you need some motivation to get moving on this particular Motivation Monday, let me direct your attention to the empty Easter basket in your house.

If you were lucky enough to get your own personal visit from the Easter bunny or perhaps you simply swiped some of your kids’ loot, you joined thousands of others in a sugar-filled holiday celebration. After Halloween, Easter is the second-largest candy-giving holiday. So if you enjoyed savoring some sweetness, now’s the time to work it off!

Still need a shot of motivation to kick the candy coma and get your butt to the gym? Here are some calorie counts of some of the most popular treats:

  • Cadbury eggs – my all-time favorite! One egg = 170 calories; 6 grams of fat
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (probably my second favorite) One egg = 180 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Solid chocolate bunny (small, 1.75 ounces) = 298 calories; 18 grams of fat
  • Brach’s Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg: 1=43 cals, 1.2 g fat,6 g sugar
  • Jelly Beans: 20 candies = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (But oh, the sugar!)
  • Jordan Almonds: 13 almonds = 140 calories, 5 grams of fat
  • Peeps: 5 Peeps = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (Again, the sugar!)

For those celebrating Passover, here’s how a few menu items break down:

  • Dark chocolate covered matzah: 3 pieces – 200 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Coconut macaroons: 2 cookies = 142 calories; 7 grams of fat
  • Chocolate coconut macaroons: 1 cookie – 190 calories; 11 grams of fat

Remember, whatever and whenever you celebrate, enjoy the quality time with family and friends and don’t sweat the extra calories. There’s always post-holiday time to get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

The Countdown to Spring Continues…

Can’t Wait to Take the Action Outside!
Photo by: Leslie Hassler

The calendar says this is the last Motivation Monday of the winter of 2017. Here in New York and much of the Northeast, however, we’re bracing for yet another potentially messy storm to arrive on the first day of spring. If you’re like me and sick and tired of bundling up in the cold weather gear as March marches on, then I propose we shift our focus to the warmer days that will eventually arrive.

Thinking about ways to spice up your health and fitness routine for the new season ahead is a great way to shake off what’s left of the winter blues. However, instead of creating an overwhelming healthy to-do list, why not try this: change just one thing in your routine this week. Sometimes making a small adjustment to your daily grind is all you need to jump-start a chain reaction of fun, positive changes. Not sure where to start? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Have you been curious about those sign up sheets for outdoor bootcamp classes in a park near you?  Been curious about trying some Tabata training outdoors? Maybe they’ve added a new group exercise class or two at your gym. Now’s the perfect time to mix things up! Find a fitness buddy to join in the fun and get an extra shot of positive energy from spending a sweat session with a supportive pal. 
  2. Grab some new fitness gear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine. And if you still haven’t tried my go-to fitness essential – BFIT Rapid Electrolyte Spray – now’s the time to order a bottle or two. The zero-calorie, zero-sugar, great tasting sprays will help me stay hydrated and fueled during all my indoor and outdoor spring workouts. 
  3. Make a new playlist: Don’t be shy about asking your instructors about the music he or she plays to keep you going. Now with Spotify, Apple Music and other music sharing options, it’s easier than ever to find the right beats for your body.
  4. Move for a cause: Sign up for a walk or run that supports something that moves you and /or consider supporting family and friends in their own efforts. I’m sad this is the first spring in four years I won’t be training for another Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, but I am eager to learn about Avon’s new direction as it continues its efforts through the Breast Cancer Crusade. 
  5. Add a new fruit or veggie to your diet: Toss blueberries or strawberries into that morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal; add half an avocado to your egg white omelet or pair an apple with almonds, a non-fat plain Greek yogurt or your grab-and-go snack of choice.

Remember, sometimes adding one new thing to the mix is all you need to stay on track with turning your healthy goals into a reality. Here’s to the coming spring and a whole new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Sleepy Motivation Monday

It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us face the second Motivation Monday of March groggier than usual thanks to the start of Daylight Saving Time. So it’s also time for my bi-annual reminder to use this drowsy day to take stock of something that’s often overlooked in too many health routines: our sleep habits.

Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps us retain information and boost our mood. Search the Internet, and you’ll even find studies linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from my work to my workouts. I also find myself being annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.

Here are some ideas to make sure you get those all-important zzzz’s:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
  • Alcohol: My repeat readers know I enjoy a glass of wine or prosecco at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Obviously, having a hangover in the morning is never a good thing.
  • Caffeine: Some of my friends can have coffee at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like flavored teas and sweet treats.
  • Stress:  This is an area under never-ending construction in my own life. One thing that’s I’ve worked on during the past year is writing down my to-do lists and long-term product ideas at least an hour before getting into bed. Putting my tasks and even my worries “on paper” gives me a clearer outline of what’s ahead instead of letting it swarm around in my brain while I lie in the dark.
  • Shutting Down:  If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be over-stimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.

Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout and watch what you eat, you 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!

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