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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!

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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!

 

 

 

Park Bench Workout Encore

Outdoor picIt seems everyone here in New York has definitely caught the get-outside-and-workout bug. This Motivation Monday comes after a sunny, mild weekend and temperatures should be in the mid to upper 60s all week. Add the fact that we have sunlight till around 7 p.m. and you have all the inspiration you need to try something new. Maybe this is the week you ditch the same old indoor routine for just one day so you can get outside to get moving!

If you’re looking for something to amp up or compliment your normal run or brisk walk, here’s a second look at one of my favorite outdoor workouts.

  • What you need: your body weight, a park bench and water.
  • What you’ll get: a good sweat and a reminder to use Mother Nature as a motivator in your ongoing efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Allergy Season Survival Tips

coldI think it was about a month ago when I heard the first news stories telling allergy sufferers like me to brace for a killer season. The never-ending brutal winter kept the trees and other spring blooms dormant for a lot longer than usual, and then about two weeks ago – BAM! Everything exploded. Now, tree pollen seems to fall like rain, turning cars of every color a bright green shade while lawnmowers can be heard firing up in the ‘burbs to cut the newly awakened grass.

So I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to offer some tips on how to prevent allergy season from sidelining your long-awaited outdoor workout plans for spring.  Here are a few tricks that help me keep the itchy eyes, sneezing and that uncomfortable sensation of having cotton stuck in my throat to a minimum:

  • Mind the Time: 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 help.
  • Wear sunglasses: You can create at least a minimal barrier for your eyes by wearing sunglasses (or even goggles) if you plan to exercise outdoors for a long period of time. Using eye drops before you head outside can help, too.
  • Don’t forget your meds: I got allergy shots for several years when I was a kid. They helped make my acute reactions less severe over time, but I still battle through hay fever season every year. Today there are so many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines that can offer relief. (Important note: I don’t like to take a lot of medicine, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather take something for a few months that will keep me from scratching my eyes out!) Talk to your doctor about what treatments might work best to alleviate your symptoms. To prevent the onset of those symptoms, it helps to take your medication an hour before your outdoor workout. If you get out of bed and head outdoors immediately, ask your doctor if you can take your medication before bed so it’s in your system when you head outside.
  • Clean up: Get out of those sweaty and pollen-infused clothes, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible following an outdoor workout. 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.)

Probably the best advice I can offer is this: listen to your body. If you’re trying to get your heart rate up outdoors but all you’re feeling is misery, be smart. Stop. Head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you sign up for an indoor air-conditioned group exercise class or bang out a Tabata derby at home to keep you sneeze-free on your quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

More Outdoor Fun for a Workout Wednesday

Still Standing Another Heart-Pounding CrossFit UWS Workout!

Still Standing Another Heart-Pounding CrossFit UWS Workout!

Surprise! I’m back just in time for a Workout Wednesday! It turns out I never shared one of my latest and greatest outdoor workouts with you, and figured this was the perfect day of the week to put it out there. What made this Central Park workout extra fun was it included a team element. Here’s how CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi got a half-dozen “warriors” to break a sweat:

Active Stretch: 60-second hamstring stretch; 30 jumping jacks; 6o-second squat stretch; 30 front kicks

Warm Up: After 20 seconds of jumping rope (single-unders), we then had 90 seconds to complete two exercises:

  1. 20 park bench plyo push-ups
  2. 10 squats

Each of us finished the push-ups and squats before the 90 seconds were up. That gave us just enough time to grab some water before picking up our jump ropes and moving on to round two. (Three rounds total.)

Team Workout:

Roberto split us up into three teams of two. When the timer started counting down from 15 minutes, team member number one started a 200 meter run. Susan was my partner, and while she ran I had to bang out as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of the following exercises:

  1. Five burpee bench jumps: We used the park benches as our support point, just like we did for the warm up. When we brought our legs in following the push-up part of the burpee, we either did a box jump or a modified version stepping on and off the bench one leg at a time.
  2. 10 reverse lunges (double count)

Once Susan finished her 200 meter run, I started mine and she would pick up wherever I left off in the AMRAP. When I finished the 200 meters, Susan would start up again and I was back at the bench. The same sequence continued throughout the 15-minute workout. When time was up, Susan and I had plenty of sweat to prove we made it through 12 rounds of burpee bench jumps and reverse lunges. Add that to multiple rounds of the 200 meter run and I think it’s easy to see why we were riding a major endorphin high when the buzzer finally signaled the end of the workout.

We tied another team for 12 rounds, while the third team beat us out by one. At the end of it all, there were high-fives all around and lots of heavy breathing. Sometimes a little friendly competition and fresh air is all you need to mix things up and add another level to your ongoing efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Welcome Summer of 2013!

Looking forward to more summer Saturdays in the park with Roberto Murichi

Looking forward to more summer Saturdays in the park with Roberto Murichi

Ever feel like you’ve hit a rut in your fitness routine? Don’t worry – it happens even to the biggest fitness fanatics. The good news is sometimes all you need to get your mojo going again is a change of venue. Now that the summer season officially has officially started, there’s no time like the present to take some of your moves to a park, beach or other outdoor hot-spot near you.

I certainly have some extra kick in my step on this first Motivation Monday of my favorite season thanks to the leftover endorphin rush following a long overdue Central Park workout courtesy of  CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi.  Here’s how I kicked off a picture-perfect Saturday in New York City:

  • Active Stretch:  20 sec squat stretch; 20 front kicks; 20 seconds running in place (ironically abbreviated R.I.P); 20 back kicks. Three rounds total.
  • Warm up:  I had 10 minutes to complete as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of the following exercises (I managed to get through four):
  1. 100 single-unders (jump rope_
  2. 10 plyo bench push-ups
  3. 10 overhead squats

Roberto was kind enough to catch one of my rounds in action. (Before you take a peek, I admit my form wasn’t ideal for the first few push-ups, but for the next round I re-adjusted my hand position on the bench and I was able to bang them out without the arch in my lower back you see here.)

  • Workout: The “Chipper”:  Roberto set his timer to see how quickly I could complete the following circuit: 
  1. 400 meter sprint
  2. 40 bench jumps. I chose to do modified step-ups
  3. 40 kick-outs (I demonstrate both the step-ups and kick-outs in the park bench workout video posted earlier this month. Click here for a refresher.)
  4. 200 meter spring
  5. 20 step-ups
  6. 20 kick-outs

I finished the above in 8:03. Not my fastest, but not my slowest time either. The bottom line is I pushed myself to a serious break-a-sweat, heart-pounding limit and felt ready to take on the world when I was done. I hope this workout re-cap offers a serious shot of motivation to use this week and the entire summer season as a time to get out there and get moving. There’s no time like the present to explore your surroundings and spice up your workout routine as part of your ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Exciting Times at LauraLovesFitness!

Use Your Surroundings for a Great Workout!

Use Your Surroundings for a Great Workout!
Photo/Video by Ash Kalmar

As we kick off a new week, I’m excited to tell you about some new “stuff” going on with my blog.

I’ve recently connected with Jon Meterparel, one of New England’s signature on-air personalities in the world of sports. If you live in the Boston area, you probably know him as the play-by-play by voice of Boston College football and basketball and from his many days on the Dennis and Callahan show. Jon has been looking for “experts” to appear on his new website and today, I’m sharing what I hope will be the first of many videos that will be placed on JonMeterparel.com. Be sure to check out Jon’s website for some great sports stories and to also find advice from other experts on topics ranging from golf to gadgets.

Keep an eye on my Facebook posts and tweets to learn when this video will make its official “debut” at JonMeterparel.com. In the meantime, I need to give a major shout-out to Ash Kalmar who shot and edited this video with me on a glorious Saturday here in New York City.

I look forward to hearing your comments and your ideas for future fitness videos. Don’t be shy! Your support and feedback inspire me to continue looking for ways to keep all of us motivated on this lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Brisk & Exhilarating Workout Wednesday

Kicking off December with a brisk workout in Central Park

Kicking off December with a brisk workout in Central Park

It certainly doesn’t feel like December here in New York City on this first Workout Wednesday of the month! It’s been close to 50 degrees here the past few days, and I’ve enjoyed every breath of this balmy air on my morning walks to the office. However, it was nowhere near this warm on Saturday when I headed to Central Park for another great CrossFit UWS workout!

Armed with my Under Armour compression top, ear band and gloves, I was ready to go. Of course, after jump roping a few minutes and getting through one round of the warm up, my core temperature was adequately fired up and ready to push through another of Roberto Murichi’s killer workouts.

Here’s how it all broke down:

  • Static/Active Stretching:  After some static stretches for my calves and hip flexors, I spent between 5-6 minutes minutes jumping rope.
  • Warm up:  We had 10 minutes to complete as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of the following circuit:
  1. 50 m lunge walk
  2. 25 sit-ups
  3. 20 push-ups
  4. 15 back extensions (“Superman”s)

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted part of my note on my iPhone and don’t remember how many rounds I got through. I know it was more than two and less than 10. Regardless, I was more than warmed up and ready to move on to the the heart of the workout. The key with any AMRAP it to remember you can stop and take a breather at any time when your body tells you to.

  • Workout: I’ll call it “Three Crazy Minutes x Five.”  The basic concept: we had three minutes to get through as many rounds of the following circuit as possible (yes, another AMRAP): 
  1. 25 m sprint
  2. Three burpees
  3. Six squats (I used the park bench as a guide to make sure I “sat” down far enough so that each squat count!)
  4. Nine box jumps (also using the park benches as our jumping on/off point)

We would work our way through each of the exercises listed above until the three minutes were up. Then we had one minute of rest before moving on to the next round. We did this for a total of five rounds.

I never made it through the circuit three full times in three minutes. The most I could bang out were two circuits and then an additional 25 meter sprint and three more burpees before the glorious sound of the buzzer went off to let us know we had 60 seconds to rest. When those five rounds were up, the endorphins were flowing and I felt great!

Despite the holiday hustle and bustle and Old Man Winter knocking on our doors, I’m hoping to get a couple more of these Central Park workouts in before the end of 2012. If you’re interested in getting in on the fun, click here for more information.

Wherever your workouts take you this month, remember to stay active so you can round out the year knowing you’re doing all you can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Thanksgiving Eve: The One Day You Shouldn’t Skip the Workout This Week!

Another Awesome CrossFit UWS Workout!

with Ashleigh & John

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

I’d say this is the one day you really don’t want to skip the workout this week! If you have an abbreviated work or school day, why not add an extra ten minutes to your cardio session or take that 90-minute group exercise class.

If you can get outside and take advantage of the not-yet frigid temps, you could always try the awesome workout CrossFit UWS Head Coach Roberto Murichi pushed us through this past Saturday. This was the first time I was able to get to the Central Park class in several weeks, and it felt great to be back in action!

  • Static/Active StretchTwo rounds; four areas of focus:
  1. Hamstrings: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of “butt kickers” – similar to running in place, but instead of bringing your knees up toward your chest,  you bend them enough to try and kick your heels to your glutes.
  2. Quads: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of “high knees”- running in place with those knees coming up as high to the chest as possible.
  3. Hip flexor: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of jumping jacks.
  4. Chest: 30-second static stretch (clasp hands behind back and “pull”) followed by 30 seconds of “sun gods.” That’s simply raising your arms to shoulder level, keeping them straight and moving them around in circles.
  • Warm up: 100 meter sprint. 10 rounds. This was done in “relay” style with my two other classmates. With the combined effort, it took us just under 13 minutes to get through the 10 rounds.
  • Workout: Roberto broke things down into one-minute intervals where we’d bang out as many reps as possible of four different exercises. We continued with as many one-minute rounds as needed to get through the total number of designated reps as follows:
  1. 100 sit ups
  2. 75 squats
  3. 50 push ups
  4. 25 burpees
  • The “catches”: At the start of each minute, (which we were alerted to by a beep on Roberto’s iPad), we had to bang out five box-jumps using the park benches as our jump-on/jump-off origin. The other catch was that you had to finish all the reps designated for each exercise before moving on to the next. So, let’s say I got through 50 sit-ups in the first minute. When I heard the one-minute beep, I banged out five box jumps, then went back to sit-ups starting at #51. I couldn’t start the squats until all the sit-ups were done. It took me 12:50 to complete all the reps of all the exercises. (Which means my workout also included a total of 70 box jumps.)

Just a friendly reminder that these workouts aren’t designed for fitness novices. However, if you’re looking to take things up a notch, Roberto’s workouts are a great way to supercharge your routine! Click here for more information on the workouts and when they’re held.

Whatever you do on this Workout Wednesday, be sure to make it count! That way you can head into the Thanksgiving holiday knowing you’ve done all you can do to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: Back to the Basics

I said it on Monday, and I’ll say it again: what a difference a week makes!

I’m excited to tackle this Workout Wednesday with new energy. For me, getting back into my fitness routine has meant focusing on one of my lifelong addictions: cardio.

While I haven’t completely decided how today’s workout will break down, I do know there will be a combo of elliptical, recumbent bike and rowing machine training when I hit the gym after work. After my five-day hiatus, I started with a moderate 30 minutes and should have no problem hitting a full 60 minutes today. Adding a plank and push-up Tabata along with some SMR and stretching and no doubt I’ll sweat any work-related stress right out of my system. All of this will no doubt help me get back up to speed and ready to tackle another crazy Central Park workout.

So, today’s post is a reminder about the importance of cardiovascular exercise. In the simplest of terms, it’s crucial when it comes to reaching your goals of losing weight, reducing body fat or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of cardio activity include its ability to decrease:

  • Daily fatigue
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Non-insulin dependent diabetes and
  • Obesity

At the same time, cardio helps boost your:

  • Sense of well-being
  • Immune system
  • Blood lipid profile and
  • Overall physical performance at work and at play

While there are several levels to cardio training, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on some guidelines for beginners and anyone who may be getting back into a fitness routine after a hiatus.  (As usual, I base these guidelines using the what I studied through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.) Your cardio activity should focus on maintaining a zone one heart rate which is approximately 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Here’s what that means for you:

  1. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220.
  2. Multiply your max heart rate by .65.
  3. Multiply your max heart rate by .75.

To use myself as an example:

  1. 220-37 = 183
  2. 183 X 0.65 = 119
  3. 183 X 0.75 = 137
  4. Laura’s Zone One Heart Rate = 119 – 137

If you’re working within the parameters of zone one for cardio, it’s likely you are also in stage one of your overall exercise program. (NASM refers to this as the stabilization level.) If you’ve never worked out before, you may want to try to reach your zone one heart rate for a maximum five to ten minutes and then spend another 20 minutes simply walking at a good pace, climbing the stairs in your home or getting really dirty in the yard by cleaning up the garden.  Your goal should be to eventually maintain your zone one heart rate for at least 30 minutes.  This can take some time.  A “newbie” may need two months or longer to meet this demand, but remember: there’s no finish line here. You’ve made a commitment to exercise and start taking better care of yourself, so while you don’t want to just dial it in, make the journey work for you.

I hope this brief session of cardio 101 will help get your heart pumping safely and effectively so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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