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This Super Simple “Move” Can Help You Stay in the Game

On this Motivation Monday, I send my usual shot of encouragement to all of you who are still busy crushing those healthy living goals for 2018. However, since I also know at least a dozen people battling nasty colds or the flu, I’m also sending lots of get well wishes to anyone who’s been sidelined by a bug. Since my neighborhood has joined the ranks of others around the country registering very high on the Weather.com “Sick Score” on a daily basis, I know I’m talking about a lot of people.

Whether waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in Church for Sunday Mass or clocking some miles on the elliptical machine, I’ve been surrounded by people sneezing and coughing at all different levels of ferocity. So I thought this was the perfect time to remind everyone of one move that can play a huge part in protecting you against picking up someone else’s germs and getting sick: wash those hands!

Sure, I’ll be the first to encourage exercise as a natural immunity booster, especially at this time of year. Working out is also a great way to improve your mood and beat the dreaded winter blues. But let’s face it: as much as I love going to the gym, it is one of the dirtiest places you can hang out. Since not everyone wipes their sweat and grime from machines or mats as they make their way around the floor, washing your hands could be the smartest move you make before walking out the door. If you’re taking the time to meticulously count your reps, time those Tabatas and monitor your heart rate, you owe it to yourself to add one or two minutes to the end of your workout with a quick but effective clean up. Consider it part of your cool down.

Here’s the official reminder from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to effectively wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

During your workout – and anytime really – do your best to avoid touching your eyes and nose. They are easy gateways for germs to pass through and take over your body. Finally, if you do get sick, click here for a few reminders on when it’s time to consider an extra rest day so you don’t spread your germs to the rest of your fitness friends.

Remember, armed with some basic hygiene and common sense, we can all navigate our way through another cold and flu season and stay on track with all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

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Make 2016 Your Most FITASTIC Year Yet!

imageWe made it to the very first Motivation Monday of 2016! It’s a first of many kinds for me as I’ve never sent Happy New Year wishes from the Caribbean before today. Knowing how eager people are to kick their health and fitness resolutions into high gear, I didn’t want to let another day go by without sharing some tips to help your goals take shape.

When I get home, I’ll have to reserve my barre space at Physique57 a little earlier than usual and wait longer for an elliptical or to start a weight set at New York Sports Club. I love seeing so many new faces at the gym at this time of year, but I hate the fact that usually by March, many of those enthusiastic newbies are long gone. So, I kick off 2016 with a these ideas to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. Leave the past where it belongs: I know we all want to erase the “sins” of the holidays that came in the form of chocolate, cheese and cocktails. Don’t  waste your energy regretting the times you overdid it last year. I have my own memories of indulging in that second piece of lasagna and too many chocolates to count. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust your attitude:  Thinking of exercise as a “chore” is a surefire way to put the brakes on your new routine. Instead, think of exercise as “Me Time.” No matter what’s going on in my life, the time I spend working out is the one time my brain goes into neutral and the only thing filling it is some good music. Use  exercise as a break from the ordinary, and before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to sweating out whatever ails you.
  3. Reality check: Saying you’re going to exercise seven days a week is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure. The first day you miss, you’ll be discouraged, and could find yourself saying, “Well, there goes the week!” A more realistic approach would be to aim for a minimum of three days each week for the first month. As you start experiencing the endorphin rush and other benefits from exercising, you’ll want to spend more than three days working out. Discouragement aside, everyone should take a  minimum of one day off  each week to let the body rest.
  4. Do what works for YOU:  You woke up Christmas morning to find Santa left the latest exercise program under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs have been hanging out with the dust bunnies under your bed since VHS went out of style. Why not return the program and put the money toward a new pair of sneakers and moisture-wicking workout wear? Grab a friend and start those power walks or sign up for that Zumba class at your local community center. Have no idea what to try? Splurge and hire a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
  5. Avoid severe diet restrictions: If you deny yourself something you truly enjoy for too long, it’s only a matter of time before you break down and go overboard. So, the chocolate bar you could have had last week turns into five chocolate bars, washed down with a chocolate shake and a side of cupcakes two months later.

I leave you with this reality: there will be “off” days. Even as a lifelong fitness enthusiast, there are times I simply don’t want to workout and all I want to eat is cheese and chocolate. As you read this post, there’s a good chance I’m having my first high-calorie frozen cocktail of the day. Stuff happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the crumbs, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On!

Stay Strong - You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

Stay Strong – You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

As a lifelong fitness lover, I always get excited at the start of a New Year. It’s wonderful to see a fresh crop of faces sweating it out on the elliptical machine next to mine at New York Sports Club or squatting away at the barre in my Physique57 classes. In the back of my mind, however, I can’t help but wonder how many of these glistening faces will disappear come March. I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday as a chance to encourage everyone to pause for a few moments and assess how things are going so far – and also forgive yourself for any slip-ups.

When I talk to people about why they abandon their fitness journey, most of their reasons can be put in two categories:

  1. Getting discouraged easily: Maybe these thoughts crossed your mind over the weekend “I’ve worked out every single day since January 1st. I haven’t had one piece of chocolate or even a glass of wine, but I don’t see the hint of a six-pack yet.” Well, consider this your reality check. First of all, I’ve never been a proponent of embracing extreme restrictions to make healthy lifestyle changes. Denying yourself the things you like for too long can only end in disaster, such as devouring a whole cake or pizza instead of one slice. Second, it’s important to remember it takes a minimum of six weeks for anything to become a habit. Whether that’s fitting those five servings of fruits and veggies into your daily diet or finding your groove in spinning class, be patient. Stick with your plan and focus on the positives you have experienced since making some healthy changes. (Don’t stop reading now, some of those positives are mentioned below.)
  • Doing too much too soon:  Similar to my mantra about restrictions, I’m also not a fan of over-the-top workout plans for newbies to the fitness world. Which of the following scenarios sounds better to you?:
  1. Banging out a series of squats, planks and even modified push-ups and feeling a healthy “burn” in the muscles afterward and being able to tackle another workout the next day or
  2. Plowing through 50 burpees and/or pull-ups in far-from-perfect form only to suffer lower-back pain and be out of the game for five days

Sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately too many people take the less optimal choice and end up with plenty of pain and no gain. Choosing quantity over quality is a surefire way to put yourself at risk for injury…which leads to discouragement…which can ultimately lead to throwing in the towel on those fitness goals altogether. You already know slow and steady wins the race.  When it comes to running down your health and fitness goals, I like to think of it as more of a lifelong marathon.

Finally, it you’re plugging away with your workouts and healthy eating choices, keep it up and remember to focus on the positive! In fact, I’ll be so bold to tell you forget what the scale says and take stock of any of these positive changes:

  • A sharper focus at work or tackling that to-do list on the homefront
  • A new “glow” to your skin
  • Increased energy for everyday activities like playing with your kids
  • Not needing to catch your breath after walking up that flight of stairs
  • Getting a better night’s sleep

I leave you with one last reality: there will be “off” days. Even this fitness lover can admit there are times all I want to do is watch TV while sipping red wine and eating  chocolate. It happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the cookie crumbs, chop some veggies, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The (Hopefully-Not-So) Terrible Twos

iStock_000016093894SmallIt’s hard for me to believe LauraLovesFitness turned two-years-old over the weekend. It’s even harder to believe how much my life has changed since that very first post on July 13th, 2011.

Some of those changes have been difficult to work through, but I know I’m stronger today – both physically and mentally – because of them. Along with my faith and the unwavering support from an amazing group of people I’m lucky to call family and friends, there’s one other constant that has always helped me work through life’s challenges: my love for exercise. While there’s no doubt an extra piece of chocolate cake or glass (or two) of Prosecco made some of the tough days more bearable, it’s the endorphin rush from a good workout that never fails to boost my mood while keeping my immune system strong and my mind focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. Those endorphins are working overtime right now.

I lost my job last week. I know I’m one of so many Americans – including some of you loyal readers – who’ve been in this situation at least once, if not multiple times, over the course of a lifetime. While exercise itself isn’t going to help me land a job, my workouts have certainly helped me work through some emotions over the last several day. I have no doubt each stride on the elliptical and each rep I get through at Physique57 will help keep my energy level up as I look for new opportunities ahead. To that end, I’m using today’s post as one to share a snapshot of my professional life. I’ve posted videos with you before, but this time, I’m sharing my “sizzle reel” as one can never know where the next opportunity will present itself.

Of course, I also want to use this post as an opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have inspired me to keep writing during the past two years. Your “likes,” comments, questions and shares have motivated me to keep plugging away on some of my own down days. I do plan to continue writing, but based on these recent events and one other issue in my personal life, I’m looking at this summer as a potential hiatus from new posts. Or I may simply post something simple like a photo or quick workout idea on a random day during the week. While I’m still working out the details, I hope you’ll stay connected and continue to send any questions to the email listed on my contact page, post them on my Facebook page or tweet me.

As I’ve written about before, sometimes being strong means re-assessing your goals and priorities and knowing when to say no to certain things so that the important ones get the attention they deserve. So, I thank you for your understanding as I focus on the next steps I need to take to navigate yet another new part of my own lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Here’s to the Unofficial Kick-Off of Summer 2013!

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you’ve been making the most of the holiday weekend. Today’s post will be a short and sweet one as I continue to enjoy a getaway to Pompano Beach, Florida with my parents, aunt and uncle. Here’s what I wish for everyone today:

1) Take some time to stop and remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could continue to enjoy our way of life here in the USA.

2) Fit some fitness into your holiday fun. I’ll hit the elliptical, bang out a Tabata Derby and probably take a long walk on the beach today. (Click here if you need a few reminders on how to squeeze some exercise into your day.)

3) Whether you’re at the beach like me or just planning to be outdoors, don’t forget the sunscreen!

4) Regardless of whether you’re celebrating Memorial Day indoors or out, stay hydrated. If you do plan to drink anything with a kick, make sure to designate a driver to ensure everyone gets home safely after the Memorial Day fun.

5) Hitting a BBQ today? Don’t arrive hungry! Click here for some reminders on how to keep your healthy habits in check while you celebrate.

Wishing everyone a great holiday and here’s to the summer ahead and all the chances we’ll have 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!

Time to Kick Some…

Back in Fighting Form
Photo by Leslie Hassler

What a difference a week makes!

At this time last Monday, my body was making an unsuccessful last stand to fight off one of the worst colds I’ve had in recent memory. Today, I’m back in fighting form and feel ready to take on whatever the week throws at me. Why the drastic turnaround? I’m convinced it’s mainly because I listened to my body and took a break. I have no doubt I’ll face the rest of the season in better health than had I fought through the virus by continuing to push myself at the gym.

In all seriousness, for any bona fide fitness lover like me, it’s beyond difficult to force yourself to take a more than one or two days off from the gym. The cold I came down with last week kept me out of action for five whole days. However, on this beautiful sunny Sunday, despite some lingering congestion, I knew my body was ready to break a sweat again. I kept my workout on the moderate end: 30 minutes on the elliptical; 10 minutes on the recumbent bike; a plank Tabata and some SMR and static stretching to round things out. At the end of the hour, I felt great. I was totally refreshed and ready to come home, fire up the computer and write for a while. I was also revved up to take on the work week ahead.

So on this Motivation Monday, I offer another reminder about how important it is to listen to your body.  If it is telling you it needs a break, take one. The down time CAN do your body good. While I may not be ready to tackle one of my typical Central Park workouts for several more days, I know I’ll get there. So if you’re getting back in the game after an unexpected break, don’t sweat it. Take it one day at a time and remember,  you can always regroup, rebuild and regain your strength and endurance. Sometimes being out of the game can re-ignite the fire and the focus to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

It’s-All-About-Me Monday

Self-Doubt? Knock It Out! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Welcome to another Monday and a new shot of motivation to kick off the work week!

Today, I want to address one of the worst things we can do to ourselves when we make the decision to pursue a healthy lifestyle and start exercising. Do NOT waste your energy comparing yourself to others!

Whether you’re out for a power walk, sweating it out on the elliptical, lifting weights or taking a group exercise class, you should be working out at a pace that feels good for you. The reality is there will always be someone who can walk or run faster, lift more or be more graceful at Zumba than you. Who cares?

I’m still working on getting over my own insecurities. While my love affair with fitness dates back to my childhood, I got certified in the fitness industry “late” in life. Many of my new fitness friends have been personal training or teaching group exercise classes since the days I started my journalism career. That’s about 15 years ago. Others got certified at the same time I did, but they’re 10 years younger. They recover from some of the tougher workouts more quickly than I do at the age of 38. Comparing myself to any of these peers is pointless. Instead of feeling inadequate about my capabilities, I’ve decided it’s much more productive to turn to these fitness friends for motivation and information on everything from human movement science to exercise program design.

So, stop comparing yourself to that “ripped” girl or guy on the machine next to you. Focus on yourself. Do what you can, as best as you can and remember, you’ve made exercise a part of your life to make your heart healthier, your body happier and your mind a little saner.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder on why it’s important to be our biggest cheerleader when it comes to following through on the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Time for New Kicks!

As we kick off another work week, I realize we’re more than half-way through July. Which means I am almost a month overdue on updating one of my most important fitness tools: my sneakers!

Like many women, I love shoes. I love them even more when I find a great pair at one of the discount shoe paradises that have popped up all over the country. There is one type of shoe, however, that I will gladly pay full price for if I have to, and that would be my sneakers. Why? Because wearing the proper footwear while you workout is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from exercise-related injuries.

Here’s a little trivia that may come in handy if you’re ever on Jeopardy! and land a “Daily Double” in “The Foot” category: there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons in each foot.  That means there are 370 places vulnerable to injury in your feet alone.  Now consider that improper foot support can lead to compensations made by your knees and hips, and you are putting your body at risk for a world of hurt.

So, what’s the best footwear? It depends on your foot type. If you have a high arch, you need sneakers with good shock absorption. If your feet are flat and/or “roll” inward or outward, you need a sneaker with stability. An “average” foot needs a shoe with both cushioning and stability.

I don’t know your foot type, but I can tell you what works for me.  Since my fitness routine includes elliptical training, rowing, and strength training classes, Tabatas and Zumba, cross trainers keep me well-grounded and stable. I started wearing New Balance cross trainers five years ago. I currently have the 1011s, but it turns out, they’ve already moved on to the 1012s. I get a new pair every six months, and if I put it off for too long, I actually notice pain and discomfort in my knees while I’m on the elliptical or while doing squats and lunges.

As you repeat readers may remember, I’m not a runner. However, my fitness friends who do pound the pavement only lace up in running sneakers. When I played tennis back in high school (which seems like ages ago!), I had sneakers specifically for tennis practice and matches. Many basketball players like high tops for the extra ankle stability. If there’s one sport you play often, it’s a good idea to get a pair of sneakers specifically for that activity, and also have a more “universal” pair, like cross trainers, for days when you mix up your routine.

I look at it this way: I have far too many purses in my closet and most guys have more gadgets than they’ll probably ever need.  So why wouldn’t you spend the money to have at least one good pair of sneakers to protect you from getting hurt while you’re working so hard to stay healthy?

In the end, wearing the proper footwear is one of the easiest ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Healthy Business Trip

L-R: Tom Brown, Wheelchair Games Co-Founder; Trish LaBar, U.S. Army Veteran; Doug Beckley, U.S. Navy Veteran

I just wrapped up one of the best business trips I’ve been on in quite a while. I had the privilege of producing a satellite media tour for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and helped them promote the 31st National Veterans Wheelchair Games going on this week in Pittsburgh. It is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world and is co-presented by PVA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

This year, there are more than 600 American veteran heroes with physical disabilities participating in 17 medal events including archery, power soccer, quad rugby, basketball and swimming. Each participant competes with athleticism and a true strength of spirit many of us will never achieve. I was proud to be a part of today’s media outreach efforts for the Games as I believe there will never be enough we can do for those who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.

While the trip to Pittsburgh proved good for my spirits, it wasn’t too bad for my physical well-being either. Airports aren’t known for their healthy food options, but luckily, the JetBlue terminal at JFK offers more than burgers and pizza. I was able to find salad and even fresh strawberries for lunch.  Last night, our Pittsburgh studio liaison treated me to a fabulous dinner, where I was enjoyed sea bass with fresh spinach. (I did have one glass of Pinot Noir.)  I even managed to squeeze in 30 minutes on the elliptical, three sets of push ups (20 reps) and some core work on a yoga ball at the hotel’s fitness center.

So, for my fellow business travelers, here’s what I do to try to stay healthy on the road:

  • Pack healthy snacks. Even on overnight trips, I keep raw almonds and a couple of Fiber One bars in my bag. If I can’t eat for a while because I’m wrapped up in the project, or if the food options aren’t optimal, at least I have a satisfying snack to hold me over for a bit.
  • Pack workout gear.  If I find 30 minutes to spare, there’s no excuse not to go for a run, walk or quick workout in the hotel’s fitness center. (Breaking a good sweat feels especially good after sitting on a plane or train.)
  • Monitor portions. If meals are brought in for meetings or you’re going out for dinner, watch your portion sizes and perhaps choose to have a drink, but skip dessert or skip an appetizer and a drink but indulge in something sweet after your meal.

Pittsburgh Skyline

The key is to find what works for you. If you’re lucky enough to get a “natural high” from being involved in a project as rewarding as what I was a part of today, you’ll get the extra bonus of knowing you can be working and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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