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Blue Skies & Sunshine: Natural Mood Boosters!

It seemed surreal to rip another page off the desk calendar this morning as we kicked off a new month. As I looked at the 30 empty squares on that page, I realized this is the first time in my life I can remember not having one social event or family get-together on the horizon. Of course, based on the latest directives from our health experts and government officials, that’s the way it will stay.

While one day bleeds into the next, I find it harder to keep track of the date and time. However, the one part of my day that sets my mind straight is my solitary power walk or jog in Central Park. I’m sharing some sunny images from today’s jaunt to hopefully offer a spot of brightness for anyone struggling with a dark moment or entirely difficult day. We’re all going to have those moments as this time of uncertainty continues, but maybe finding the one thing that brings your mind back to a “healthy” place can help you through. Some popular ideas at the moment include journaling; photography; exercise; a power nap; a video chat with family or friends and early happy hour. Maybe one of these or all of the above get you to the next day. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!

I wrap up these brief thoughts on the first day of April with another huge thank you to the doctors, nurses and each and every health care professional, along with all the emergency responders and essential workers who continue to push on in this unprecedented battle. Let’s help them out by staying home. When we do head outside for those essentials at the grocery store or pharmacy and see one of these warriors in our midst, let us not underestimate the power of saying two little words: thank you. With some faith and compassion, we’ll get through this together and get back to our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Step Off the Scale!

iStock_000015952283SmallLet’s face it. We can all get way too caught up in the numbers game. Perhaps no digits are regarded with more dread than those reflecting our age and our weight. So on this Motivation Monday, I’m here to remind you of two important realities:

1) Age IS just a number. Considering the alternative, is blowing out an extra candle on your birthday cake every year really such a big deal?

2)  The scale is NOT always your  friend.  You give up wine and cupcakes for a week, and the number staring back at you hasn’t budged or had the audacity to creep up a digit or two. Well, that’s when you need to literally step off and take stock of the non-scale wins you can see and feel because of your efforts to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Think back to when you started working out. Whether it was last week or last year, don’t dismiss any of the gains you’ve made:

  • Can you do five more push-ups today than the first time you hit the gym last month? That’s a win!
  • How about my favorite exercise, the plank. You’re already able to hold that position for 30 seconds? Kudos to you!
  • Did you walk up the stairs from the train platform today and not feel winded by the time you hit the street? Major win!
  • Didn’t even blink carrying your kid on one arm and a bag of groceries on the other for 10 blocks? Win and win again!

Now think about what’s changed thanks to adding healthier food choices to your daily routine:

  • Are you getting more daily servings of fruits and veggies thanks to the 30-minutes you put aside to prep containers of grab-and-go produce? Win!
  • Do you have more energy during the day because you’re focused on eating every few hours instead of waiting until that one big meal at night? Good job!
  • Can you concentrate better at work or on that never-ending to-do list thanks to steadier blood sugar levels? Mental victory!
  • Feel like you rocked those “skinny jeans” or that outfit you’ve been saving for a special occasion last weekend? Chalk up another win for “Team You.”

We can be so hard on ourselves that we forget to stop and take note of the positive things that happen when we exercise and eat well. Whether it’s sleeping better or being a more attentive colleague, spouse or friend, we can help our bodies and our minds function as close to 100 percent as possible by making healthy choices. Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference when it comes to staying on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!



‘Tis the Season to Mind Your Mental Fitness!

Christmas gift and baubles on defocused lights backgroundThis Motivation Monday leaves us with just 15 shopping days until Christmas. The way things were in the stores in my neighborhood on Saturday, you’d think Armageddon was coming! As I made my way through the throngs of people searching for stocking stuffers and indulgent treats, I kept closing my eyes to block out the general feeling of impatience permeating the air in the overheated stores. What better time to touch on the importance of keeping our mental health in check during the hustle and bustle of this joyous but chaotic season.

Last week, I encouraged everyone to put just 10-minutes aside for a workout as a way of keeping the holiday stress level under control. Along with working and managing family responsibilities, many of us are also juggling decorating, extra cooking, party planning, card writing, waiting in lines in crowded stores and spending extra amounts of time with extended family. Add online shopping and recipe surfing to the everyday stimuli of emails, texts, Tweets and status updates and it’s no wonder our minds are in overdrive.

So while I implore you to fit that quick-hit workout into your daily routine, it’s equally important to steal another few precious moments to re-boot. Here a few tips to make it happen:

  • Focus on one thing at a time: If you set aside an hour to write holiday cards or wrap gifts, make sure that’s all you do during those 60 minutes. No texts. No emails. Worried about withdrawal? Use social media to alert your network you’ll be offline and in elf mode for a bit.
  • Step away from the computer: I understand the need to check email once before bedtime to make sure you didn’t miss any late-day developments on the work front. However, try to shut down at least 30 minutes before bedtime to get your brain in mellow mode.
  • Turn off the TV: Try to establish one night where you set the DVR and turn a show’s normal viewing time into decompress time with family or friends. Play cards or a board game and forget about the holiday craziness for awhile. It may turn into a night of getting the Christmas chaos under control, but it’ll be time to tackle the holiday to-do list with fewer distractions.
  • Make me-time a must: If you’re making the commitment to find 10 minutes (or more) in your crazy schedule to exercise, add just five more minutes to stretch. Then add up to five more minutes to your post-workout shower. At this time of year, I always have a lavender-scented body wash or moisturizer in my arsenal to help me decompress in that nighttime shower. Also, don’t underestimate the power of caffeine-free teas or scented candles.

As you work through this holiday season and make an effort to workout, don’t forget the importance of standing still for a few moments, too! Never underestimate the power of your mind on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Quick-Hit Motivation Monday

We ARE Stronger Than We Think! Photo by Leslie Hassler

We ARE Stronger Than We Think!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know one of the biggest reasons I’ve continued my lifelong love affair with exercise is that it keeps me balanced through times of stress. It never ceases to amaze me how breaking a serious sweat can set my mind straight no matter what’s being thrown at me. No doubt I’ll be relying on that outlet more than ever this week.

My father is having heart surgery tomorrow. While I’m confident everything’s going to be just fine, it’s obviously been a nerve-wracking time. So, on Saturday morning, I made sure I got a Physique57 class in before heading to Long Island to help my parents get ready for the week at the hospital. On Sunday afternoon, after Church, brunch and helping Mom get organized, I took myself to the gym for a 60-minute sweat session. The high-intensity workout on the elliptical trainer and recumbent bike followed by plank and rope Tabatas helped me shake off some tension and cleared my head. As I sit here and type away, I feel a bit lighter and the extended endorphin rush has only positive vibes running through my body. I know everything’s going to be just fine.

So on this particular Motivation Monday, I want to remind everyone that we’re stronger than we think. Life can throw a lot at us, and sometimes it feels like the toughest things hit us all at once. I learned my dad needed surgery two days after the company I worked for since 2005 filed for bankruptcy and let all its employees go. Since then, I’ve been getting up at the same time every morning, staying on a schedule, working out and leaning on friends and family for support. Sticking with that plan of attack is what will get me through the next two weeks, and the two after that and….well, you get the idea.

As a thank you to all of you who’ve been so supportive and left wonderful wishes for me here or on my social media networks, I offer this boost of confidence: Remember, whatever life throws at you this week, you can handle it. Focus on the positive, do what you can to stay healthy and remember, there are always brighter days on the horizon when it’ll be a little easier to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Mind Over Matter Monday

More Motivation to Move: Exercise & Peace of Mind
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Despite a hot and sticky weekend here in New York, I’m ready to face the work week with new energy. While that’s definitely due to a bit of rest and relaxation, it’s also because I made a point of fitting some fitness into my days off. So I thought it was the perfect time to address one of my biggest sources of motivation: exercise helps sharpen my mental focus.

For as long as I can remember, working out has helped me sort through what I like to call mental clutter. Clearing that clutter with a kick-butt cardio session, group exercise class or weight training circuit allows me to me to re-group and tackle whatever issue I need to spend time sorting out in my brain. It’s as if by sweating out the anxiety surrounding the need to address a situation, all I’m left with is an endorphin rush to actually sit down and sort things out.

Putting the serious “stuff” aside for a moment, I can simply say having an improved mental focus helps me get things done. Ever have a to-do list get all jumbled in your head? The tasks of the day, week or even month ahead seem daunting and overwhelming. For me, just 10 minutes in to a 30-minute elliptical session, things start to un-jumble. I listen to my favorite music, feel my heart beating and my breath coming faster and I feel as I’m gaining new confidence with each stride on that machine. Confidence that things will get done. Maybe not immediately following that workout, but I will meet my deadlines and somehow get it together.

It’s after these workouts when I return home, clean up and refuel with healthy food that I can then turn what was once a jumbled mess into a thought-out list on paper or here on my computer so I know exactly what I need to do. Having a plan is the first step in getting things done. Exercise helps me take that important first step.

On the “heavy” side, I can honestly say in times of worry, distress and grief, clearing the mind with a workout somehow helps my heart feel lighter, too. I realize exercise in itself can’t solve the big problems or make life-altering decisions for you. I also know it can take a burdened heart some time to catch up with a newly uncluttered mind. However, through the ups and downs of my life, exercise has always been a good place to start my search for emotional solace. (Okay, I won’t lie, chocolate helps sometimes, too!)

On Mondays, I know many of us look for motivation to put a fitness plan into action or to ensure we stay on course with the one we’ve worked so hard to make a part of our daily routine. So here are my two cents: Why not make this the day you start clearing the clutter so you can get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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