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Healthy Business Travel Tips

Packing Up Some
Healthy Essentials

There was a lot of buzz in the LinkedIn world recently surrounding a Harvard Business Review story that examined the effects of business travel on a person’s health. It didn’t surprise me to read the data showed a direct relationship between the frequency of business travel and an array of physical and behavioral health risks.

Since you’re reading this Motivation Monday post as I kick off a week on the road hosting for the Health Channel in Miami, I thought it was a good time to offer some of my healthy survival tips when work takes me away from my favorite fitness classes and healthy fridge:

Book a Fitness-Friendly Hotel: Even if it’s not as well-equipped as your favorite gym at home, most hotels offer at least some forms of cardio equipment, free weights and maybe even a stability ball or two. If you do get stuck in a hotel that doesn’t have even a tiny fitness center (and I really hope you don’t!) here are some exercises you can do in your room that require no equipment at all:

Don’t Forget the Workout Wear: Whether you hit the hotel fitness center or bang out some burpees in your room, gym shorts, yoga pants, a couple of sports bra and pairs of socks all roll up into practically noting in a suitcase, even if it’s carry-on. So there’s no excuse not to take them along on the trip.

Pack Healthy Snacks: Along with the workout gear, you’ll always find a few small bags of raw almonds, and enough KIND snack bars and Isagenix IsaLean shake packets to last the duration of the trip in my suitcase. No matter how long I’m on location, I know I can start the day with a nutritious shake and when hunger hits later, I’m armed with good snack options.

Make Smart Choices: As someone used to 2am wake up calls for a 4am start and wrapping 16 hours later, I know how tempting it can be to go a little crazy with food as a “reward” for a job well done. While there’s no reason not to treat yourself, keep track of your portion sizes and perhaps choose to have a cocktail, but skip dessert; or skip an appetizer and a drink but indulge in something sweet after your meal. If you have to attend a client dinner or lunch, try the ever-other-drink rule for the duration of the meal. Start with a glass of wine or cocktail and then make your next drink water or seltzer. This way if you make it to the third drink, it’s only your second libation instead of a third.

I realize I’m a mini-business traveler compared to the true “road warriors” like my fiancé who has clocked hundreds of thousands of airline miles in his lifetime thanks to work. I do understand, however, how hard it is to feel “normal” again after just a few days on the road, let alone a week or more at a time. So the struggle is definitely real. But sometimes a little planning and adding a few healthy items to your suitcase for that time on the road is all you need to do your best to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
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Movin’ It at Home

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

Last week, I got a tweet from my high school pal Kathy asking about ideas for home workouts. She reminded me that with the kids out of school for the summer, it’s not always easy to escape to the gym to break a sweat. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some quick tips to keep you active all summer, even on the days when getting out of the house isn’t an option.

The secret to making a home workout work for you is using as many muscles as possible while quickly moving from one exercise to the next. This will keep your heart rate up and help you burn calories. All the exercises I present in this “one-minute-wonder” circuit use your body-weight.  The idea is to perform as many reps as possible of each exercise – with proper form! – in 60 seconds and then move directly on to the next one with no rest in between. The only “equipment” needed is a jump rope.

  1. Jump rope: if you don’t have a jump rope or not enough head room to use one indoors (and don’t have any outdoor space to work with), try jumping jacks or running in place
  2. Forward lunges: alternating legs
  3. Squats
  4. Push-ups (modified version is to be on your knees instead of your toes)
  5. Bridges (Click here for a refresher on some core moves)
  6. Crunches
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Side planks
  9. Tricep dips: We do these in my Physique57 classes all the time seated on the floor – you just need to lift your booty off the floor and brace yourself and use your triceps to dip up and down without touching back down. If you have stairs at home, steps are always a sturdy base for dips.
  10. Jumping jacks (or jump rope again)

Once you’ve made it through the 10-minute circuit, take up to a two-minute break and then start again. Or if you happen to have any cardio equipment at home, bang out the 10-minute circuit and then hit the treadmill, bike or elliptical for up to another 20-30 minutes. Aim for banging out this total-body routine three days a week on non-consecutive days.  As you get stronger, work toward repeating the circuit two to three times. As you progress, you can also add more intensity to some of the exercises. For example, you can turn squats into squat-to-jumps where you literally jump off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head when you come up from the squat position. Push-ups can also be replaced with burpees. Of course, if you have any favorite summer stay-cation home moves, I’d love to hear about them!

Whether you’re working out at home, in the park or at the gym, be sure not to skimp on the stretching and allow your body time to warm up and cool down. Add plenty of water and sweet summer fruits and veggies to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect plan in place for a whole summer filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Over the River and Through the Woods…”

The plank: No gym necessary!

The plank: No gym necessary!

Same with the push-up

Same with the push-up

Side Planks, too! Photos by Lauren Bachner

Side Planks, too! Photos by Lauren Bachner

‘Tis the season for shopping and eating, and for many, it’s also also a time for traveling. If this weekend’s plans take you “over the river and through the woods” to somebody’s house for a few days of holiday cheer, you don’t have to leave your commitment to exercise at home. Packing a few fitness essentials and making a few modifications can keep you on track.

  • Sneakers. Having them along for the trip means there’s no excuse not to go for your usual daily run (weather permitting) or take a long walk with that relative or friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with since the last family get-together. It also means you’ll have an easy way to burn some calories pre- or post-feast time.
  • Workout clothes. There’s always room for an exercise bra, a pair of shorts or yoga pants, a moisture-wicking top and two or three pairs of athletic socks. These items take up practically zero space in any bag and you don’t have to worry about them getting wrinkled!
  • Fitness apps. If you’re traveling by train or car (and you’re not driving, of course), use the trip to download apps that give you exercise plans no matter where you decide workout. One of the most popular ones out there is FitnessPro. Being delayed at the airport is another perfect time for app downloads.
  • Now get moving! You brought your “stuff,” so there’s no excuse not to hit the floor of the guest bedroom or the den when it’s not filled with the TV crowd. Here are just some of the exercises you can do anywhere: bridges, planks, crunches, jumping jacks, squats, lunges and push ups. (If you’re driving and have the room, throw your yoga mat in the car so you can do the core exercises on the floor with greater comfort.)
  • Family Fitness Plan: If your family is willing to give you control of the remote for a bit, maybe you could all meet in the living room to give your Zumba DVD a try. If they happen to have a Wii, XBox 360 or PlayStation system, why not try a Dance Dance Revolution competition to get everyone moving and have a few laughs in he process!

The bottom line is even though you may miss your favorite group exercise class or one day of weight training at the gym, there are ways to stay active when you’re away from home. The bonus is you get to make memories while spending time with family and friends.

This marks my last post of 2012. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with my family and friends on Long Island. I’m even more excited about starting the New Year with new energy and new strength to take on whatever this roller coaster ride called life throws at me.

I close the year with a big thank all my readers for supporting me through a year of ups and downs. I hope you’ll be back in 2013 so we can start the next part of our journey together on the endless road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: No Excuses!

iStock_000018191976XSmallYes, I know we’re smack in the middle of Hanukkah and only 13 days away from Christmas. I also realize we’re busy juggling everything from work or studying for final exams to taking care of the kids and managing the social calendar that’s probably chock full of holiday gatherings. Despite all this, it’s no time to skimp on getting your daily dose of physical activity.

If you’re saying, “but Laura, I can’t get to Zumba this week because my f avorite class is on the same night as my company’s holiday party” or “if I don’t go shopping after work tomorrow, I won’t have time the rest of the week,” listen up! That hour you normally dedicate to exercise might be filled this week, but if you have 10 minutes to spare a few times a day, you do have time to get moving! (Since 10 x 3 =30, getting in that half-hour of activity isn’t as tough as you think!)

Seriously, you owe it to yourself to find 10 minutes to move. It will help keep your mind healthy during the hustle and bustle of these frenetic December days, too! What can you do in 10 minutes?

  • Climb stairs: If you have them at home, you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas in the morning to make this happen. Take the stairs at the train station instead of the escalator. If you work in an office building, take the stairs instead of the elevator as often as possible.
  • Jump rope: This is a piece of workout gear everyone should have. You can pick one up anywhere from your local sports-gear shop to any Target or Walmart. Jumping rope on a soft surface like a carpet or low-cut grass will give your knees a bit of protection. If you’re brand new to jumping rope, try skipping over the rope alternating feet in 30-second increments and work up to more minutes as you go. Before you know it, you’ll want to keep skipping beyond those 10 minutes!
  • Divvy up the DVD time: Have a favorite 30-minute workout DVD? Break it up into 10 minute segments.
  • Transform your house into a gym: Any wall can be used for standing push-ups; stairs are great for calf raises and triceps dips and any floor is the perfect spot for planks and crunches!
  • Walk, walk and walk some more: I always say one of my favorite things about living in New York City is I simply do my best to walk anywhere and everywhere I can. At this time of year, that includes leaving work and meeting up with friends for some holiday cheer. If you’re driving to work, the grocery store or the mall, park a little further from the entrance. At lunch time, spend less time checking email or social media sites and take a 10-minute walk outside the office. The fresh air will do your brain some good, too!

Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, if you’ve got 10 minutes, you’ve got all the time you need to do something that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

More Core, Please!

Recently, I’ve gotten lots of questions from friends who also happen to be avid runners about what to do about hip or lower back pain. Since I’m not a medical professional, my first concern is to find out how long they’ve had the problem; if it’s affecting their everyday activities and if they’ve seen a physician for an opinion. Then I then move on to some questions about their training program.

One of the first things I ask: “So tell me about your core work?” That’s usually when I get the sheepish response that sounds something like: “Well, I could probably do more of that.”

You know what? We ALL could!

So, on this workout Wednesday, I go beyond the crunch to show you some of the other “classic” core moves I incorporate in my client’s fitness programs as well as my own. (I must give a special shout out to the talented Lauren Bachner for capturing the start and finish of each exercise.)

An added bonus: these exercises all fit into the stabilization endurance level of training. This is the level where all fitness newbies should start and all fitness veterans should re-visit to maintain core and joint stability. Aim for two sets of 12-20 reps:

  1. Ball bridge:Once you’ve mastered the two-leg and one-leg floor bridge, this is a great progression of a key core exercise. Training tips: make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes to get your knees in line with your hips and shoulders. Once you’re established the bridge, hold the position for two seconds before lowering your pelvis.
    Hype Gym, New York, NY
    Photos by Lauren Bachner
  2. Prone Iso-Abs (Plank): This remains my all-time favorite core exercise.  Here, I show you the “basic” plank along with a progression, where you add a leg lift. Training tips: In either version, be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes before you raise your body off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe.  Hold plank position for two to three seconds before dropping to the ground to re-start. 
  3. Side Iso-Ab (Side Plank): I admit, I need to perform this version of the plank more often – and you should too! Training tips: Your elbow should be directly below your shoulder and be sure to draw in your navel and contract glutes before lifting your hips and legs off the ground. Hold the plank for two to three seconds before lowering back to start position. 

Please note, I’m not picking on runners. In fact, as someone who isn’t a runner, I have great admiration for people who lace up and pound the pavement in all types of weather. However, a common mistake many runners make is not incorporating enough core work into their fitness program. Your core, the muscles connecting your legs to your hips, spine, and rib cage, works to stabilize your torso when you run and therefore has a significant impact on running form and endurance. A weak core can lead to injuries, particularly in your lower back.

The bottom line is whether you’re a runner, cyclist, dancer, swimmer, or just like to be classified as a “gym rat,” everyone needs a strong core. Why?  Because the core is the region of the body where all movement begins. If you have a weak and unstable core, your body simply can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

So what are YOUR favorite core moves? Let me know! I’m always looking to share different exercises and activities that can help exercise lovers of all ages and skill levels have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

More Core

Photo by Leslie Hassler

Thanks to an inquiry from Erin, a friend from my “old” life as a TV reporter, I kick off month five of LauraLovesFitness.com by re-addressing one topic that is crucial to an effective and safe exercise program: core training.

Erin is getting back into her exercise groove and hopes strengthening her core will help alleviate some of the lower back pain she experiences doing everyday things like carrying her little ones around. As you other busy moms can relate to, she doesn’t have tons of time to dedicate to core training so she’s looking for no-nonsense core exercises.

Before I offer my three favorite exercises, here are a couple of important reminders:

  1. If you have severe lower back pain, make sure you get to a doctor and rule out any serious injury before starting core training or any type of exercise program.
  2. In case you forgot why core training is so important for women and men of all ages: the core is the region of the body where all movement begins and where we find our center of gravity. So, in the simplest terms, if you have a weak or unstable core, your body can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I present my core favorites:

  • The Bridge – strengthens the glutes and stabilizes the lower back muscles.
  • The Plank – makes all your core muscles work to keep your spine in line.
  • The Crunch – works those abs!

If you’re like Erin and getting started on a program, attack the first week with one to two sets of each of the above-mentioned exercises, aiming for 12 to 20 reps. Before you start any of the exercises, make sure to draw your belly-button in toward your spine and continue to do throughout the duration of the exercises. Don’t rush through the reps to get a high number done. It’s better to perform 12 reps in perfect form than 15 sloppy ones. Perform the entire core circuit (all three exercises) on two to three non-consecutive days during the week. In week two and beyond, continue to add reps until you can do three sets of 25 reps.

What’s great about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere. As you progress in your routine and want to add an extra challenge, a stability ball may be just what you need. When you do get to the point when 25 reps get too easy (and you WILL get there!), here’s a link I like from SHAPE magazine that can help take you to the next level.

There are many other ways to strengthen the core, including boxing (one of my all-time favorite activities!), but hopefully these exercises offer a good starting point. I’d love to hear what kinds of exercises you use in your core routine as part of your efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Little Things Mean A Lot

You’ve probably heard this a few times in your life: the little things mean a lot. The familiar expression can easily be applied to fitness. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking the car a bit farther away from the entrance to the grocery store, the little things can add up and have a great cumulative effect.

Photo by Leslie Hassler

There is one important aspect of training that can benefit from two small technical maneuvers. I’ve already written about the importance of core training, and can promise it’s a topic that deserves re-visiting many times in the future. The core is the center of gravity for the body and the origin of all movement. Comprised of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and the thoracic and cervical spine, if the core is unstable or weak, the entire kinetic chain will be thrown off thanks to muscle imbalances. That’s when compensations occur and ultimately, you end up being a prime candidate for injury.

In order to train the core effectively, you want to first focus on the muscles needed for stabilization. (The six core muscles that fall into the stabilization category are: the Transversus Abdominus, Internal Oblique, Lumbar Multifidus, Pelvic Floor Muscles, Diaphragm and Transversospinalis.) There have been several studies indicating people who do not focus on stabilization of the core before working on strengthening the muscles in the core’s movement category (e.g. Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Erector Spinae) can suffer from lower back pain. The research shows this happens because of unwanted motion of the individual vertebrae.

The good news is there are two simple practices that can help you stabilize your pelvis properly before performing any core exercises:

  1. The “drawing-in maneuver:” Whether it’s a supine march, floor bridge, ball crunch or cable rotation, before you do anything, you want to pull your belly button in toward the spine. (Go ahead – give it a try right now!)
  2. Keep your neck in a neutral position: I usually tell people to try to imagine having an orange in between their head and neck so that you will look straight up at the ceiling when performing core exercises, like crunches. If you let your chin jut out, you can put extra stress on the cervical spine.

Don’t underestimate the impact a couple of simple steps can make on your core training. Like so many other parts of life, it’s the little things you do in your exercise routine that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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