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Mental Health Monday

‘Tis the Season to Find Your Happy Place!

As we kick off yet another work week, I’m doing all I can to hold on to the feeling of calm I managed to capture by extending the 4th of July into a mini-vacation.

I hope someday someone will be able to put a scientific rationale behind that old saying “time flies when you’re having fun.” Until that happens, I offer an important reminder about a crucial component to keeping your health and fitness routine in check: don’t underestimate the importance of taking care of your mind. 

With the dog days of summer upon us, there’s no time like the present to take a look at your schedule and figure out how to pencil in some time to re-charge and re-boot. For me, it meant extending the holiday into a few extra days away from the office and escaping to one of my favorite places on the planet: Jones Beach.

Armed with my sunscreen, an umbrella, a beach blanket, a chair and plenty of water and healthy snacks, I claimed a small piece of waterfront property for myself and tuned out the world by listening to the most soothing sound I know. I captured 60-seconds worth of that sound on my iPhone so I could sneak a listen whenever the world gets a bit overwhelming. I’m sharing it here in the hopes of helping others do the same:

I admit, I didn’t use these precious beach days as an excuse to be a total slug. Instead, I used the sun-soaked backdrop as a different venue for my workouts. I traded my 30-minute elliptical session for 50-minute power walks and followed those steps with plank, squat and/or push-up Tabatas on the sand. (Other no-gym-equipment-required exercises for beach Tabatas include burpees, squat thrusts or mountain climbers.) After breaking a sweat, I was more than happy to cool off in the crisp Atlantic Ocean.

I realize a true getaway may not be in the cards for everyone this summer. However, whatever time you can take for yourself – whether it’s an afternoon, morning or evening of tuning out – do it! Whatever you do, make sure you totally disconnect at some point during the week. I mean get off the iPhone or Blackberry, don’t worry about uploading a photo to Facebook or tweeting about the healthy snack you just ate. Just chill! Use the longer days as a reason to enjoy some time outside in the evening with family or friends. Take a walk, have dinner out on your deck or bring a picnic to the park.

So, while I’m constantly motivating people to move more, I’m now challenging you to find a way to slow down a bit. Then let me know how you sneak some down time into your schedule. If we don’t take advantage of these “lazy days of summer,” we may miss the perfect opportunity to make mental health breaks part of our everyday journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Strong Finish Friday!

AMRAP Example

AMRAP.

No need to adjust your eyes. I had no idea what that “word” meant when I first saw it written in erasable marker on a mirror in the gym before one of my first Ultimate Fitness Experience classes. Since then, not unlike the burpee, it’s a word I’ve come to love and hate. It’s an abbreviation that stands for “As Many Reps / Rounds As Possible.”

The directive pushes you to do as much work as possible in a given amount of time. Here are just a few some examples of the high-intensity AMRAPs I’ve pushed through during the past month courtesy of our class instructor Roberto Murichi:

7-minute AMRAP: 21 sit-ups, 7 box jumps
For this workout, you push out as many rounds of 21 sit-ups followed by seven box jumps. You rest when you need to, but of course the idea is to sweat through multiple rounds.

20-minute AMRAP: 15 rear lunges, 15 push presses, 10 kettle bell high pulls
Same concept as above but different exercises for longer amount of time. I managed to get through six rounds. Adding it all up in terms of reps, that meant 90 rear lunges; 90 push presses and 60 high pulls.

If you’re not a complete fitness newbie, AMRAPs can be a great way to make the most of a limited amount of time. You can also progress or regress as needed. The first day of UFX, Roberto had us perform a four-minute Tabata using a combination of four rounds of squats followed by four rounds of sit-ups. That meant pushing out as many squats or sit-ups as we could (or AMRAPs) in a 20-second work period followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeating the cycle eight times. Maybe the first time you try this Tabata, you can barely perform seven squats in 20 seconds. Then a few weeks later, you’re banging out 15-18. Listen to your body about moving at a good pace for you.

Again, these workouts aren’t for the faint of heart or anyone who’s brand spankin’ new to exercise. However, if you’re looking to kick things up a notch, using the AMRAP practice in your workout can be a challenging way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy Easter Monday!

Whatever holiday you celebrated over the weekend, I hope it was happy!

I was all set to write about my first mammogram for today’s post. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling snafu by the imaging center, my Saturday appointment was postponed for a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. So, I decided to improvise with a short and sweet ode to chocolate.

The beginning of chocolate overload

I’ve been giving up sweets for Lent for as long as I can remember. While there’s obviously much more significance to Easter  Sunday than breaking my fast, I won’t deny that one of the things I look forward to on this holiday is overloading on the treats I’ve missed for a little more than 40 days. It starts with Cocoa Puffs for breakfast (good to know there’s whole grains in that cereal now!) and continues with Italian cheesecake, rainbow cookies and at least one Creme Egg for dessert following a big, pasta and other carb-filled lunch with my family.

So, along with the moderation-is-key “rule,” another part of my lifestyle mantra is this: Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bad to get back to the good. That means today I’ll push my body extra hard at small group training  (I’ll even welcome burpees if our instructor Roberto includes them in workout) and eat my normal healthy fruits and veggies and drink lots of water to get my body back on track. I can’t promise I won’t sneak in a leftover piece of milk chocolate or a peanut butter filled chocolate egg…but again, it’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

I’ll wrap up sharing a recent story on Foxnews.com that made me feel a little better about my guilty pleasure. Click here to learn about a study about chocolate and body fat.

Sometimes giving in to temptation (at least when chocolate is involved) is what you need to do so you can get it out of your system, and re-focus on the course to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why Laura Loves (and Hates) the Burpee

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With UFX Instructor and Fitness Guru, Roberto Murichi, at NYSC

Another Workout Wednesday has arrived! Just like last week, I’ll be spending this one at New York Sports Club getting my butt kicked in a small group training class called UXF, short for “Ultimate Fitness Experience.” Thanks to some great instruction from my friend and master personal trainer Roberto Murichi, my classmates and I are mastering some of the simplest exercises that can make an amazing impact on the body.

One of those exercises is the burpee. It’s one of those strength training exercises that also offers one heck of a cardio kick. Here’s the “basic” breakdown to the four-step exercise:

  1. Start off standing with feet hip-width apart, back straight and abs tight (draw in your navel toward the spine).
  2. Bend knees and drop your hands to the floor.
  3. Kick your feet back to a push-up position and immediately return your feet to the hands with knees bent.
  4. Jump straight into the air as high as possible. Repeat, moving as fast as possible. Make sure you keep your abs drawn in throughout the movement.

With each rep, you work your chest, arms, deltoids, thighs, hamstrings and abs. After ten reps, my heart rate is up and my legs are seriously burning. After Roberto made us run through a circuit that featured a combination of kettlebell swings and burpees, I felt like I pushed myself harder than I would have during a typical jaunt on the elliptical.

Aside from the full-body benefits, there’s another great perk associated with burpees: you don’t need equipment to get them done! You can do burpees in your living room, in a park or in your hotel room if you’re on the road for work.

In the end, I love this exercise because I can feel so many parts of my body working hard to get through each rep. Of course, this is the same reason I hate the exercise, too. (Usually, the “hate” factor starts after the first set of ten reps.) But if you’re looking for a full-body exercise to kick your workout into high gear, adding the burpee to your fitness program is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!


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