Hippity Hop To It…

I guess you can blame this late Motivation Monday post on the Easter bunny. More specifically, I blame it on recovering from a sugar hangover after going a little overboard on the Easter treats.

Whatever holiday you and your family have celebrated during the past week, I hope it’s been filled with family, friends, laughter and of course, good eats! Speaking of food, in case you need a shot of inspiration to get moving today, here’s a recap of how some of the popular holiday favorites register on the calorie scale:

Peeps: 4 Marshmallow Bunnies = 130 cals, 0 g fat, 29 g sugar

Cadbury Creme Eggs (my favorite!): 1 = 150 cals, 6 g fat, 97 g sugar

Cadbury Chocolate Eggs: 12 = 190 cals, 8 g fat, 27 g sugar

Cadbury Solid Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny: 1 – 890 cals, 48.6 g fat, 20 g sugar

Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (my second favorite!): 1 = 180 cals, 10 g fat, 16 g sugar

Reese’s Reester Bunny: 1 = 760 cals, 40 g fat, 72 g sugar

Brach’s Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg: 1 = 43 cals, 1.3 g fat, 6 g sugar

Jelly Belly Assorted Jellybeans: 35 = 140 cals, 0 g fat, 32 g sugar

Of course, for many of us (including yours truly), these treats come after a carb-loaded meal filled with traditional favorites ranging from pasta dishes to honey baked ham and potatoes. There may also be some wine or other libations involved.

Anyone who’s been following this blog for awhile will tell you the last thing I want you to feel reading this day-after-Easter post is guilty. The fact is holidays almost always include more food and drink than usual. Don’t sweat it. Instead, make some smart choices today and remember, celebrating special occasions with friends and family will always be one of the most joyous ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Do Your Own Thing

Knock Out Self Doubt!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Blame it on a super insane work week followed by a lazy weekend which included Palm Sunday, but here you have you have one of my shortest Motivation Monday posts in recent memory.

This shot of inspiration comes to you courtesy of my love for group exercise classes, namely Physique57 and ILoveKickboxing. No matter how hard a workout may seem, the key is to always do your thing. Forget what the person next to you is doing and focus on your own pace, your own form and your own breathing. Finding that inner focus not only insures you’re going to get to the most out of your exercise session, it also allows you block out some of the noise that we’re all bombarded with day after day. That kind of concentration can make the mental part of your workout that much more intense and the workout that much more rewarding when you make it to the finish.

For me, there’s nothing like being in a kickboxing class working one of the heavy bags surrounded by the sounds of punches and kicks against the canvas. However, even lifetime fitness fanatics aren’t immune to self-doubt at the gym. Sometimes, I find myself wondering: Am I hitting as hard as the warrior next to me? Are my kicks making the same “boom” on impact? Then with one solid punch, I put the focus on my workout and forget about the rest of the room.

Exercise is personal. The idea is to just keep moving and do what you can do. If you’re not racing through a set of mountain climbers as fast as the person next to you, don’t sweat it. The key is you’re moving, you’re sweating and you’re doing your pounding heart and your sweaty body some serious good. At the end of your workout session, only one thing matters: do you feel better than when you started?

Wherever and whenever you find the time to workout, remember your mind has the power to keep it a judgement free zone. With spring finally in bloom, take advantage of a new season of group exercise schedules and opportunities to take the activity outside. Find what works for you and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring Cleaning for Your Kitchen Cabinets

One favorite you’ll always find in my fridge!

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of April!

Ironically after last week’s post about when it’s time to skip the workout, I got hit with a virus and the whole week turned into a blur of sniffles and crazy work deadlines. That means today’s post will be extra short and sweet featuring one easy tip on how you can get your healthy eating plans in shape for the season. Many of us are getting into spring cleaning mode. So as you prepare to clean out the closets and drawers, don’t forget to give the pantry and kitchen cabinets a once over, too!

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.

While you purge those food-filled spaces, it’s also a good time to take stock of what’s in your fridge and what you can add for a little variety. This is the time of year when lots of colorful fruits and veggies are at their peak and can add some flair to 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 phytochemical. (Those are the plant chemicals known for helping to fight and prevent disease.) Here are a few ideas to freshen up your diet:

Rainbow chard: Getting bored with spinach? Try substituting your soups or stir-fries with this colorful veggie  packed with nutrients like vitamins C and K, potassium, and iron.

Arugula: This is my favorite leafy green. (Sorry, kale!) It’s a little bitter with hints of pepper and mustard flavors. One half cup of fresh arugula has 2 calories, vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Arugula also contains the antioxidant lutein, which is known to benefit the heart, eyes and skin.

Strawberries: One serving – that’s eight strawberries – has more vitamin C than an orange! They also contain powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants called anthocyanins. If you’re craving something sweet and don’t want the side order of guilt,  strawberries make a great dessert, too.

Mangos:  Another sweet treat, one cup of sliced mango has 107 calories and three grams of fiber. They’re also packed with antioxidant vitamins A and C and also contain vitamins E, B6, K, and potassium. Mangos contain plant chemicals called flavonoids, which may help control high blood pressure and help reduce the risk of heart disease.

What healthy foods do you look forward to enjoying at this time of year? Whatever is on your menu, now’s the time to look forward to a new month filled with healthy foods and all our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Starting off the Season Sick?

I don’t understand the science behind it, but I do know every year the change of seasons brings a rise in the number of people I hear coughing and sneezing everywhere from the gym to the grocery store. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some timely reminders about when it’s time to consider skipping a workout to beat a bug and prevent spreading your germs to your fellow fitness friends, too.

I like to follow what The American College of Sports Medicine calls the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful. In fact, a light workout can help to boost your immune system. This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age)  However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.

If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!

As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, do everyone a favor and take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. There’s a good chance you’ll be slightly dehydrated and feeling fatigued, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity bootcamp class the minute your fever breaks.

No matter what the season or how you’re feeling, here’s the one thing everyone should do before leaving the gym: take two to three extra minutes at the end your workout to head to the restroom and wash your hands! Getting rid of the sweat and grime before you touch your eyes or face is a surefire way to keep other people’s germs from getting into your system. Sometimes all we need is a little common sense and some soap and water to keep us on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Another Oops!

Hello readers!

Well there had to be a first time in 2017, and it happened today.  I accidentally posted my Motivation Monday post a day early. If you received a post a few hours ago in your mailbox, I encourage you to simply delete it and wait until the copy edited version tomorrow.

For now, I wish you all a great Sunday filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hooray for Spring!

Make it a Knock-Out Spring!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

How perfect is it that we get to kick off a brand new season on a Motivation Monday? 

Even though we officially welcome the spring of 2017 today, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who are unmotivated to move as we shake off the effects of Old Man Winter’s end-of-season punches. Trust me, I get it. It’s a lot easier to sit on the couch than bundle up in layers of cold weather gear, pull on the boots and trudge through the melting snow puddles to get to the gym. The good news is now that spring has arrived, better weather is on the horizon. Sometimes just knowing those brighter and warmer days are coming can be the boost your body needs. 

As we wait things out a little while longer, I encourage you to do this: change just one thing in your routine. Not sure what I mean? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Adding two to three kickboxing sessions to my weekly mix has made a huge impact on my fitness focus. Since I started taking ILoveKickboxing classes in February, no two workouts have been the same. I love the new adrenaline rush and the stress release I experience from punching and kicking the heavy bag. The classes have also made me stronger for my Physique57 classes and other workouts. So what workout have you always wanted to try? Go ahead and give it a shot! The benefits could be nothing but pure sweat and pure fun! 
  2. 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.
  3. 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 am getting so excited to participate in my fourth Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. In less than 100 days, I’ll lace up for the first time in Boston. If you’d like to make a donation, click here. (A HUGE thank you to all who’ve donated so far!) 
  4. Grab some new fitness wear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine.
  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. Happy spring, people! It’s time to get psyched for a new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Extra Tired on this Motivation Monday? You’re Not Alone!

If you’re a little extra groggy on this particular Motivation Monday, I feel your pain. Here in New York not only did we trudge around in bitter cold temperatures all weekend, but now we’re bracing for what could be a monster blizzard tonight into tomorrow. Despite the weather where you live, most of you reading this post also changed the clocks for the start of Daylight Saving Time. While we added some welcome sunlight to our days, we also lost an hour of something most of us never get enough of: sleep. So why not use this drowsy day to take stock of something too many people overlook: your 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 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. And 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 chocolate.
  • Stress:  This is an area under never-ending construction in my 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 overstimulating 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!

Winter Blues Be Gone!

iStock_000014614375SmallI don’t know about you, but I’m ecstatic to think that this is the last Motivation Monday before Daylight Saving time. At this time next week, we can all bask in the joy of more sunlight!

I really can’t put my finger on why, but this has felt like the never-ending winter. It’s not that the weather has been particularly harsh this season in New York. But somehow January and February were two very loooonnnng months.

The only thing I can attribute this to is a good old case of the winter blues. This year, I found a lot of my friends and family shared in a similar case of the blahs. Maybe it’s partly due to the state of chaos the whole country seems to be experiencing – at least if you read all the social media feeds. Or maybe it’s because I told myself this was the year I’d make some big decisions on what’s next in my career and…and here we are three months into the New Year and I haven’t figured things out yet.

As you readers know, I’m anything but your doom-and-gloom kinda gal. So on the positive side, I can say I am more grateful than ever that I have exercise in my life to help turn even the most blasé of blah days into manageable ones. For anyone else out there counting the minutes until the brighter, warmer days of spring, now’s the perfect time to keep exercise on your schedule. If it’s not on there already, consider the new month a chance to mix things up in your daily routine. Exercise does a mind and body good thanks to the endorphins that flow through the body when you workout and stick with you long after the group exercise class or weight training session is done. If you’re finding it hard enough to get your butt out the door after a long day of work or school to head to the gym, remember you can get that endorphin rush in the comfort of your own home!

In an effort to share a warm reminder that spring is just a few weeks away, I thought I’d re-post my “Tear-It-Up In Ten” workout video. Even though I demonstrate the circuit in Central Park, all the exercises can be done indoors and require no equipment. Hopefully, seeing some sunshine and greenery will also give you a glimpse at what we have to look forward to in the not-so-distant future. Remember – sometimes taking  your workout and your mind to another place is all you  need to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Earning my 39 on the Road!

The Trolls Fab Finish 2016

The Trolls Fab Finish 2016

Somehow we made it to the last Motivation Monday of February. As we prepare to welcome a new month with spring not too far in the distant future, I’m excited to share some news about what’s become an annual labor of love in my life. This marks the fourth time I’m training to  to lace up and join in the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. The big change for 2017: In 117 days from now, I hope to cross the finish line in Boston!

You may remember, I typically join in the two-day, 39.3 mile journey here in New York City. However, one of my Goddaughters will make her Confirmation the same weekend in October and she’s honored me by asking me to be her sponsor. By pounding the pavement in another city, I am able to share such an important day in her spiritual life and keep up my efforts to help kick breast cancer’s butt!

Forever in our Hearts

Forever in our Hearts

Why do I keep walking the Walk? For me, it’s a very personal journey. While 2017 marks my mom’s ninth year as a breast cancer survivor, it also marks the first time I’ll earn my 39 without my high school friend, Liz, cheering for each and every walker from the sidelines. Liz lost her brave battle with breast cancer less than one month after Avon 39 in New York this past fall. She was 43 years old. It’s impossible to believe the photo you see here marked the last time my fellow St. Mary’s Gaels Sue and Molly and I got to hug her. Even though Liz is gone, I also know she’ll be with me every step of the way in Boston and wherever else the Walk – and life – takes me in the future.

Since there are so many other amazing women waging their own battle against this awful disease and because I still dream of a world without breast cancer for my Goddaughters and all the daughters and nieces out there, walking 39.3 miles seems the least I can do to join in the fight. Of course, I can’t do it without your help! I have to raise a minimum of $1,800 to get to the starting line, but I hope to raise much more than that and make 2017 my biggest year yet!  You can make a donation by simply clicking here and you’ll be taken to my personal page on the Avon 39 website. (You even have the option of donating by mail.)

While proceeds help national research programs, some of the Boston area beneficiaries from 2016 include:

  • Boston Medical Center
  • Community Servings
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Silent Spring Institute
  • Tufts Medical Center

Be sure to look out for updates here on my blog and on my social media feeds. If you’re not following me yet, I hope you’ll check out LauraLovesFitness on Facebook and find me @FitnessLaura on Twitter and Instagram.

I close with a big thank you in advance for your support and a wish for a wonderful month ahead filled with new adventures and plenty of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Shot of Presidential-Sized Motivation

e American Background. Independence Backdrop.

Guess what? Remember those health and fitness resolutions you made at the start of the year? Well, you’ve reached a major milestone as this Motivation Monday brings us seven weeks into 2017! As I mentioned in previous posts, it takes about six weeks for new behaviors to take root as official habits. So, if packing your gym bag has become as routine as brushing your teeth before going to bed and you find yourself craving your daily dose of celery sticks – kudos to you!

To keep the momentum going, I encourage you to pat yourself on the back for all your hard work. I also offer this important reminder: success is never just about a number on the scale. Think about how many of these non-scale wins you’ve scored:

  • Do you have more energy throughout the day?
  • Are you sleeping better at night?
  • Do you find yourself craving healthy snacks and meals?
  • Do you feel more confident stepping out in that favorite pair of jeans?

Whatever you’ve accomplished, now’s the perfect time to set some new goals. Think about something that will keep you pushing through your weight training circuits; getting to that group exercise class on time and chopping veggies or prepping other healthy food for the work week. Maybe there’s a spring break trip, wedding, reunion or other special occasion in the not-so-distant future that you’d like to show up for feeling your best.  Of course, your motivation could stem from the desire to gear up for a new season of new activities. This could be the spring you start training for your first 5K or Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. Maybe you’d like to be able to play a sport with your son or daughter or simply have more energy for outdoor activities like hiking or cycling when the weather gets nicer.

In honor of President’s Day, I thought it would be fitting to wrap things up with some words of wisdom from some of our country’s notable leaders. As in years past, this is a non-partisan group of quotes. I simply chose words that inspired me. As we all set our sights on the health goals ahead, isn’t it great to think some motivational words from the past can inspire us on our current quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous?

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”George Washington 

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” –Abraham Lincoln 

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” -Teddy Roosevelt

 

 

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