On this Workout Wednesday, we’ve reached the middle of May and day number who-knows-what in this fight against COVID-19. States around the country are starting to re-open, but things here in New York City remain the same. As the monotony continues, I thought I’d share one thing that’s helped maintain my mental health in addition to my near-daily power walks through Central Park: Snapfish.
I don’t know about you, but while I’ve loved the simplicity of taking pictures on my iPhones for the past several years, I hate the fact those photos usually end up in a sea of disorganization on my laptop. So, I decided to tackle the tedious task of creating some actual “old-school” albums to be placed on a bookshelf. While I still have plenty to tackle, I’ve used Snapfish.com to slowly assemble memories from various vacations; four Avon39 Walks; highlights from last year’s NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix along with images captures during the 15 weeks of prep time leading up to the main event; and finally, two year-in-review compilations for 2014 and 2015. (James and I met in 2014, so I thought that was a happy place to start.) It’s been wonderful to receive the finished products in the mail, sit with a big glass of wine and re-live some happy memories. (Bonus: Snapfish has been offering great deals on albums and other photo creations almost daily since these quarantine days began.)
If there’s a creative project you’ve kept on the back burner because of all the normal chaos of life, maybe now’s the time to give it a whirl. Working on a crafty project can also provide a feeling of accomplishment on days when much of life has stood still. Speaking of getting things done, one of my besties texted me earlier this week to say she felt unproductive because the “only” things she got done that day were laundry, bills and some other paperwork. I reminded her completing any kind of chore on days when many of us would like to just pull the covers over our head and stay in bed is something to feel good about. Whether you get one or five things crossed off your to-do list today, give yourself the kudos you deserve. Things are hard right now, and we can only do our best each day we’re lucky enough to start anew.
If you’ve worked on a project that’s given you some joy during these challenging times, I’d love to hear about it! In the meantime, stay safe, soak up the warmer temperatures that are starting to creep into this otherwise unprecedented spring and do the best you can to stick with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I realize this is a completely out-of-the-ordinary day for me to share a post. Considering life has been pretty unusual during the past five moths, I figured I’d roll with it.
September 29th marked the beginning of life after the Brooklyn Grand Prix. I’m sure most people assumed I’d recover from the 15-week prep process by enjoying a little down time, taking a brief break from the weight room and re-introducing some libations and sweet treats into my life. However, as most of you probably know, I spent the seven days after the show gearing up for the true main event in my life – my wedding day! On October 5th, James and I surprised my parents – and the rest of our family and friends – with a beach-themed wedding on Long Island. The picture-perfect sunny day went off without a hitch and we started the next phase of our happily ever after. With the big day behind me, I’m now dealing with the ultimate physical and mental crash. After months of following a restrictive diet by the book; weight training six days a week; putting my social life on hold and planning a wedding day, my mind and body are basically screaming: “Okay, Laura, you pulled it off. Now it’s time to regroup a bit.”
Of course, I’m sure my fellow type-A personalities will agree sometimes taking your foot off the gas and regrouping can be the hardest part of reaching a long-awaited destination. As I mentioned many times throughout the process, I realized the contest prep lifestyle would never be sustainable if I wanted to get back to my normal social life. I’m totally fine with that. However, I’m now challenged by my mind making me second guess those second glasses of prosecco with dinner and the extra slice of leftover wedding cake. I even find myself worrying about adding too many “cheat meals” back into my daily life. That’s a pretty strange concept since before the contest-prep phase of my life, I always considered myself to follow a pretty healthy lifestyle. Now, having plain a nonfat Greek yogurt with some blueberries and almonds -none of which I ate during prep – is a “treat.” Also, I haven’t been on the scale and have no plans to hop on it anytime soon. Because my heart knows we should never be defined by just a number. Life is about finding our own balance to feel good, and doing our best to stay healthy. I just experienced the happiest day of my life, and I will do all I can to not sabotage that with feelings of guilt over celebratory meals with the people I love. Life’s too short for those kinds of regrets. I know I’d have bigger regrets if I started turning down social outings because I was worried about my diet.
This is also going to be a time of regrouping in my professional life. I truly don’t know what I want the next step to be, but I know I can’t stand still any longer. Maybe I’ll find a way to combine my love of health and well-being with my skill set as a journalist and producer. Maybe there’s an entirely different line of work out there just waiting for me to discover. Stay tuned.
Next week, I plan to share a bit more of my diet and fitness routine since the contest. I’d also love to know what lingering questions you readers may have about the whole process. Don’t be shy – ask away! As always, a huge part of keeping this blog going all these years is providing all kinds of information that’s helpful for everyone’s journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! I
Wowza. It’s been four days and I’m still at a loss for words that truly describe the experience. While I spent nearly 16 weeks preparing for my first bikini competition at the Brooklyn Grand Prix, the surprises I faced throughout the process and particularly on the big day made this journey all the more amazing.
I’ll start with show day. As you can imagine, I barely slept Friday night. Still, I was up and raring to go early Saturday morning equipped with my base coat of spray tan and a rolling suitcase filled with everything from a pillow and blanket to rice cakes and peanut butter. Arriving at the venue before 8 am, I met three women in the gymnasium that served as backstage. We were all first timers competing in the novice category, and three of us also signed up for the 40 and older masters’ division. As the day wore on, I didn’t look at these women as my competition. I got to know them as fellow warriors who shared the same ups, downs, cravings and jitters I experienced through the prep process. Thanks to the tanning and “glamming” process that takes place in an open space with very little privacy, Stacey, Kelley and Melissa saw more of me than some of the friends I’ve known since grammar school. By the time we lined up to take the stage for pre-judging nearly six hours after we arrived, we were practically holding each other up – both literally and figuratively.
Once on stage, I put on my biggest smile and truly had a blast. Nearly four months of posing practice came down to less than 20 seconds of doing my thing in front of the judges, which you can see in the video below. The extra boost was having my fiancé, James, in the audience along with my coach, Jen, and a whole row of friends whom I’ve known from various stages of my life. They cheered, they clapped and even held up signs. To my show squad: James, Jen, Elisa, Keith, Jeannine, Barry, Molly, Jim, Rita Joan, Adam, Sue and Andrew – a huge thank you. Your presence, along with all the texts, emails and messages I received that day and those leading up to it from family and friends near and far still overwhelm my heart. My eyes are actually tearing up thinking about it as I write this post. As I regain my composure, you can check out my stage swagger:
After pre-judging ended, there was nearly a three-hour break before finals. During that time, I happily enjoyed every morsel of my first hamburger in four months and some downtime with some of the squad. The day ended around 9:30pm, and when it was time to go home, I didn’t want treats. I simply wanted to take a long shower. Sweat mixed with two coats of spray tan, glaze and bikini “bite”(the glue they use to help your bikini stay in place) had my skin feeling like a potential biohazard. After the shower and one glass of bubbly – which went straight to my head – I slipped into a blissful sleep and woke up to the most amazing realization: I had nothing on my agenda for the first time in 16 weeks. The only thing I had to do was rest, enjoy a couple of cheat meals and get to Church.
During Mass, I had a major emotional moment as I acknowledged how blessed I was to make it through this journey. Back in May, I set my mind to attacking the prep process like the other projects and assignments I’d tackled as a journalist and producer and followed through on the directives to meet my deadline. I pushed on through the cravings for wine and chocolate; the pain of a few injuries and less-than-optimal workouts and more than a handful of days of potential mental sabotage when self-doubt threatened to get the best of me. The hardest part of it all was how I missed spending time with family and friends and skipping all the usual social outings that define my favorite season of the year. However, it was those same friends and family members who checked in on me – some every single day – to offer words of love and support.
So now for one final and heartfelt thank you. To my parents, family, friends, readers, followers and fellow “fitfam” members: while this journey was extremely personal, I couldn’t have made it without a strong community behind me. I know some of you never understood why I wanted to be in a bikini competition, but you respected my decision to turn a dream into reality.
I am beyond happy to have crossed this item off my bucket list. Will I be back on that stage again? Probably. I’ll share more about post-show life next week. For now, I leave you with the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience: if there’s a goal you’ve had on the back burner for too long, stop making excuses and take a first step toward making it happen. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so go big today. Taking a chance can be a game changer in this ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Wow. My peak week Transformation Tuesday has finally arrived. All the weight training, cardio, meal prep, self-denial and discipline come down to this. With only four days to go until the Brooklyn Grand Prix, my feelings run the gamut: I’m excited, nervous, scared, pumped, sore, tired and definitely “hangry.”
While this week involves grinding through a few more workouts and practicing some extra stringent discipline on the nutrition side, I’m also doing all I can to stay healthy and manage some serious fatigue. My coach wants me off my feet and resting as much as humanly possible when I’m not working, training, practicing my poses or cooking. In order to conserve some brain power for the main event, this post will be short and sweet, too.
A few details about this week: I’m eating my lowest carb meals until Thursday; there’s no more mustard in my meals or artificial sweeteners in my daily iced coffee and my water intake will start decreasing after tomorrow. Daily posing practice continues and I’ve started started stocking up on show day essentials ranging from safety pins to rice cakes. I’m also beyond excited to pick up my bikini tomorrow, along with some sparkly accessories. I’ve been seriously exfoliating my skin and will get my first two coats of my spray tan Friday evening. Then it’ll be time to try and get some sleep before arriving at the show site and getting dolled up for the stage. Of course, I’ll be sharing much more after the event is over. I do ask for a little patience as it may take an extra day or two for my brain cells to recover along with the rest of my body.
For now, I want to send an enormous final thank you via my blog for all the incredible support throughout these past fifteen weeks. While some of those weeks seemed to drag on longer than others, I realize now the whole summer truly went by in the blink of an eye. If you happen to be in Brooklyn on Saturday and want to check out the show, click here for information on the venue and ticket prices at the door. To my friends have already made arrangements to be there, I can’t wait to see you!
I also need to thank everyone who’s helped me advance to round three in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Please keep those daily votes coming! (Click here to be taken to my Maxim profile page.) This contest will go on long after the Brooklyn Grand Prix is behind me, so I appreciate you putting up with my constant barrage on social media to help me stay in it to win it!
And now…here’s to the final countdown in this unprecedented part of my relentless journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I am in a serious state of disbelief now that I’ve hit the less-than-two week mark until the main event. As I approach the final countdown to the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix, my emotions range from sheer excitement to sheer exhaustion. Before I know it, I’ll be up on stage wearing my sparkly bikini and platform heels, doing my thing for the judges. The reality is both exhilarating… and scary as hell.
Yesterday, I traveled to New Jersey for my second-to-last bikini fitting with seamstress extraordinaire, Sheri Frazier. (I can’t wait to pick up the final masterpiece next week!) Like many of the other commuters, my body felt the same tired, bleh effects associated with a typical Monday morning. Then I realized how close I am to show time and the adrenaline kicked in. It gave me just the amount of energy I needed to make my final selections with Sheri, make the trip back to New York City, get my 70 minutes of cardio in and get my food prep done.
As I climbed away on the stair master at the gym, I realized working toward this goal has given me a more laser sharp focus in general during these past 14 weeks. No matter what your goal may be, I say go after it. Making a game plan and setting it into motion can surprise you in the best of ways. Not only will you draw strength from places you never knew existed deep within your spirit, but hopefully you’ll have a similar experience to mine and be blown away by the amount of people there to rally around you. While you should find that support from your spouse or partner, family and lifelong friends, you may also find it in places you lease expect: classmates from grammar school; an old flame or even a childhood pen pal. As I come to the end of this journey, I am so thankful for all the unexpected moments that came amidst a rigid schedule of training and meal times.
I regard this week as the calm before the storm, as Sunday will mark the beginning of peak week. Based on what I’ve learned from my coach Jen and other veteran competitors, it’ll be more challenging than anything I’ve experienced in the process so far. However, Jen also gave me a positive way to look at what’s around the corner. She says there will be a couple of days where I feel my absolute worst before I look my absolute best. Jen also reminded me now’s the time to acknowledge the hard work I’ve put in, the sacrifices I’ve made and feel good about what’s to come. Last but certainly not least, this is the time I need to listen to my body more carefully than ever. This is definitely not the time to get injured or sick.
Thank you again for all the amazing support not only on this journey, but with another unexpected happening during this contest prep process. I know I’ve been bombarding many of you with texts, emails and social media messages to keep those votes coming in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Well, here’s another request for your daily vote. Please click here to help me make the cut for round three.
Here’s to another week of crushing our goals in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
The calendar makes it impossible for me to write my usual Transformation Tuesday post. It’s hard to analyze the daily struggles and little victories of the past week as I continue to prepare for the Brooklyn Grand Prix. Instead, I find myself overwhelmed yet again with the eternally vivid memories of the day that changed the world forever. It seems impossible that tomorrow will mark 18 years since the heartbreaking events of September 11, 2001. Despite the passage of time, each year this date creeps up on so many of us like it all just happened yesterday.
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. 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.
In that age before Facebook and Instagram, many of my friends tried to reach me on my cell phone – when the circuits weren’t jammed – 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. I learned later that several of those people being searched for were indeed gone. In the days that followed, I also learned a friend and former News 12 Long Island colleague, Glen Pettit, was killed. A videographer and 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 couldn’t keep Americans flags on the shelves and random acts of kindness were reported everywhere. Eighteen years later, I realize my three Goddaughters – all born after that fateful day – have probably 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 views on everything from politics to fashion. Honestly, 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 the destruction in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, despite more acts of senseless violence, we’re no closer on this anniversary than the last to resolving volatile issues in our country including gun control. With the 2020 campaign looming closer, I fear our divisiveness will only get worse. What a mess.
As we commemorate another September 11th this week, let us all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 18 years ago. Let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion.
God Bless America.
I guess you could call this my least favorite Transformation Tuesday of the entire year. That’s because now that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the unofficial end to my favorite season has arrived. While most New Yorkers enjoyed gorgeous weather for the majority of the holiday weekend, it’s been a devastating time for those affected by Hurricane Dorian. My thoughts and prayers remain with all those in her path.
As my bikini competition prep reaches the four-week-out mark, I have to share another unprecedented highlight of the summer of 2019: I wasn’t the only one crossing an item off the bucket list this season. As you read this post, my fiancé, James is experiencing a once-in-a lifetime journey of his own: the DuVine Cycling + Adventure Company’s French Alps Tour. He and five other cyclists (led by DuVine guides David and Ernesto) are riding from Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France. They’ll climb 50,000 feet and clock more than 400 miles in six days. The group will climb several mountain passes including Col de Glandon, Croix de Fer, Alpe d’hues Lauteret and Galibier. (You avid cyclists may recognize some of these names from the Tour de France.) I’m so proud of James’ discipline and dedication to his training over the past several months to get to the starting line. I can’t wait for him to get home and hear about every mile of his adventure!
The bonus to having James go after his own goal this summer was being able to push each other on days we wanted to just slug it on the couch rather than labor though another workout. That kind of support is one of the pillars in our relationship. And support is exactly what you need no matter what you set your sights on a turning a longtime dream into a reality. Whether they come from a partner, a parent, a bestie or an online social network group, small words of encouragement can go a long way when you’re just about at the end of your rope. It’s also nice to have someone to share in what may seem like the smallest of victories.
So as I trudge through the last four weeks leading up to the Brooklyn Grand Prix, I’ll be relying on James and my team more than ever. I’m also asking for one more layer of support: I’m now a contestant in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest and I’m hoping I can count on your vote! Please click here to cast your vote, and feel free to share the link with family and friends who might be willing to the same. Maybe you’ll even be so kind as to set a daily reminder on your phone so you can vote every day until September 12th.
I close this first post of September as I have so many the others during the summer: with a huge thank you to all of you for the unrelenting support. Here’s to a new month and new chances to cross an item off your own bucket list. What are you waiting for? Remember, each and every time we are lucky enough to open our eyes and face a new day is the perfect chance to tackle your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!