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Friendly Friday


I end this work week with a heartfelt thank you to all of you who make the journey here at LauraLovesFitness so much fun. I still can’t believe it’s been a little more than a year since this blog was “born!” Remember, it’s your comments and questions that motivate me to keep going!

Today, I must give a special shout-out to JoAnn, the woman behind RoundtoRavishing. JoAnn nominated me for a One Lovely Blog Award along with The Very Inspiring Blogger award. Be sure to check out her inspiring site that describes her journey to living a healthy life!

I’m grateful to accept these awards and happy to fulfill the obligations that come with them. Here’s how it works:

1. Display award logo: Done.

2. Link who nominated me: Here’s another link to RoundtoRavishing

3. Seven things about myself:

1. I exercise to stay sane.

2. I also exercise because I love red wine, Prosecco, pasta and chocolate.

3. My first job in television was working as the morning live reporter at WLFI-TV in Lafayette, Indiana.

4. My most embarrassing moment at that job: being spit on by an angry mama llama at the zoo on live TV while introducing her new baby to our morning viewers.

5. I am an only child.

6. I am a bona fide beach bunny, but am far more careful about my sun exposure today than when I was in my teens and 20s.

7. I am a die-hard Yankees fan.

4. Nominate 15 other blogs: Toughest part of this process as there are many wonderful bloggers to choose from:

  1. IEatThereforeITrain
  2. Physical Funness for the Motion Starved
  3. TheExerciseSpace
  4. CrazedInTheKitchen
  5. OntheRoadtoAll50
  6. The Foodery
  7. RedFoxFitness
  8. TheListProducer
  9. Mamaquest
  10. FitnessInTheCity
  11. LivePassionatelyTonight
  12. OnlyHereOnlyNow
  13. TheCustomerServiceRevolution
  14. ModNutrition
  15. I’dRatherWalk

5. Notify my nominees: I will work on that now…and wish everyone a weekend filled with plenty of opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

How Can I Help You Have Fun, Be Fit & Feel Fabulous?

Montauk 2010

I’m not sure where the summer is going, but here we are at the start of August.  Soon, I’ll make my last summer escape to a place I’ve been visiting every August since childhood: Montauk, NY.  August of 2011 is a bit different, however, as today also marks the two-week “anniversary” of the LauraLovesFitness kick-off.

This seems like a good time for me to take the pulse of my readers and see where you’d like things to go from here.  Basically, I want you to help me help you get what you want from reading this blog.  You’ve taken the time to visit the site, read the posts and some of you have even gone the extra mile by leaving a comment and sharing the things that work in your own life.  In order to make you want to keep coming back for more, I ask this one question: what fitness-related topic would you like to see addressed in a future post?

As you can tell from what I’ve written so far, I am a true believer that there are so many components to fitness that reach beyond the confines of a gym or your neighborhood bike trail.  Everything from our sneakers to our snack choices will affect our overall well-being.  Don’t be shy! If it’s something you’re curious about, it’s probably a topic someone else wants to know about, too.  I can’t promise I’ll have the answers immediately, but I’ll be more than happy to do a little research, ask opinions of even more experienced “fitness gurus” and let you know what I find.

Let me take this time to also thank all of you who have shown your support by signing up for an email subscription, liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter or spreading the word about my blog. (Please keep up the good work!) I look forward to receiving your questions and suggestions for future posts so we can work together to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Food & Fitness

Nutritionists and registered dietitians are the experts when it comes to healthy eating. I am neither, but as part of the fitness industry, I get plenty of questions about what people should and shouldn’t eat.  So, in order to address this topic early in my blogging adventures, here’s a 100% personal account of how I try to maintain a healthy diet.

I joined Weight Watchers in May 2007. Why? Because the post-divorce “diet” I started which included a dinner of half-a-jar of peanut butter with chocolate syrup and a side of vodka on ice was not a healthy regimen to maintain. Also, being in my 30s, I couldn’t rely on the workouts I started during my Northwestern days to counterbalance the bad food choices I was making too often.  Aside from worrying about gaining weight, I felt absolutely awful.

Today, I am a lifetime Weight Watchers member. I continue to go to meetings when I can and the program works for my lifestyle. Again, for me, it was not about losing a lot of weight, it was about learning to eat better.  I’m not here to offer a lesson about point values and food.  Instead, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned that helps me stay on track.

  • I never skip breakfast. During the work week, I’ll make my own parfait with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, sliced banana, strawberries or blueberries (there’s two – three servings of fruit for the day!) and a serving of high-fiber cereal.
  • Instead of having three big meals, I eat every three to four hours. This prevents me from being so hungry that I go overboard at the next meal.
  • Every Sunday, I spend 30-60 minutes chopping red peppers and celery and pack up the sticks up with baby carrots or cherry tomatoes in individual containers, one for each day of the week.  It’s an easy way to get in two servings of veggies while sitting at my desk. (The idea works just as well if you’re home.)
  • I have embraced whole grains! I like Weight Watchers breads for sandwiches, cook whole grain pasta at home and on “bad”nights when we order Chinese or burritos, we ask for brown rice.
  • Finally, I refuse to say “I will never eat (a fudge-covered Oreo/a bacon cheeseburger/lasagna) ever again!” First of all, life’s too short.  Second, in my experience, the longer you deny yourself something you really like, the better chance you have of over-indulging when you do finally “break down.”

Life's Short - Eat Dessert!

Now listen, I have my fair share of “bad food” days. I love dessert, especially chocolate, and I love Prosecco and red wine. But one bad day doesn’t have to mean “well, I blew it today, so I may as well throw the whole week out the window and start over on Monday.” On the contrary, every day offers a clean slate and a brand new chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fitting Fitness Into Your Vacation

Photo by Laura DeAngelis

This will be my last post for several days. Why? Because I’m getting out of the hot and steamy Big Apple for long weekend of relaxation in Newport, Rhode Island.  We all work hard, and we all need to get away now and then.  The good news is while you can leave reality behind for awhile, you don’t have to abandon your fitness regimen. If anything, a vacation gives you the opportunity to mix up your routine.  So, as a break from packing, I thought I’d offer some of my favorite ways to burn some calories while on vacation:

  • Walk, walk and walk some more!  Our hotel in Newport is about one mile from the beach, so we get some good strides heading to and from our daily hangout. Then there’s the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk, which offers such amazing scenery, you may forget you’re getting a good workout while you scramble on some rocks along the way.  Wherever you may be going, make the effort to leave the car behind and explore the town or neighboring area on foot. (Don’t forget to bring supportive footwear.)
  • If there’s a pool where you’re staying, do some daily laps.
  • Pack a Frisbee or paddle ball game to play on the beach. If there’s a beach volleyball game going on somewhere, don’t be shy – ask if you can join one of the teams.  No sand around? Find a park, claim your spot in the grass and have some fun!
  • Try something completely different.  If you’re near a lake, find out if you can rent a canoe or kayaks and paddle around for an hour or two. If you like it on your first day, you can go back for more during the duration of the trip.
  • Use the hotel’s fitness center. More and more hotels are offering some sort of workout space. Granted, it may consist of one stationary bike, one elliptical, one treadmill, some free weights and (if you’re lucky) a yoga ball.  Those options mean you can still get in some good cardio, and use the free weights as extra resistance for squats and lunges.  Then you can work the upper body with a minimum of bicep curls, lateral raises and overhead presses, and round things out with some core work.  All in the comfort of air conditioning!
  • If you’re lucky enough to be staying somewhere with a DVD player and some extra room, bring one or two of your fitness DVDs along for the trip.

Newport, RI

Whatever activity you jump on, remember to stretch the muscles you worked during that walk, canoe ride  or mean game of paddle ball.  Make sure you also stay hydrated, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Whether or not the coming weekend allows you the opportunity to get away from it all, I wish you some time to relax and re-charge your batteries so you can approach a new week with new energy to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fitness for the Mind

It’s no secret that exercise does a body good. But when’s the last time you gave your brain a good workout?

Our daily lives are filled with emailing, texting, Tweeting, blogging, DVR-ing, updating our Facebook status and searching the Internet for the latest information on the latest trends. In a world where we can easily suffer from sensory overload, I offer this fitness challenge for your mind: disconnect and re-boot.

Today is Wednesday. That means it’s no-TV night. You read correctly – every Wednesday, the TV stays off after work. No news, no “Sex & the City” re-runs, no Food Network…zip. Instead, after dinner, my husband and I decide what game to play. Whether it’s Gin Rummy, Backgammon, Monopoly, Uno or Scrabble, we focus on the game, focus on each other and leave all other distractions aside. That includes ignoring our text messages and any other electronic alerts.  Sometimes there are no games, and we’ll just sit and talk or maybe look through old photo albums and laugh. It’s amazing what some good conversation and laughter can do for your overall well-being.

Depending on our schedules, these weekly “dates” may only be filled with an hour of two or no-TV activity, but it’s enough time to remember that we were interesting people before we ever started stressing over what witty status update or Tweet we would post next.

I realize every household is different, with everyone on different schedules juggling different responsibilities. Establishing a weekly time to get together may not be realistic, but perhaps every two weeks could work. Maybe it only involves an hour of time together while walking around the neighborhood, cleaning out a closet or finding a fun card or board game that two or more people can play. If you live alone, it’s no different. Your mind could use a break from all the gizmos and gadgets that bombard you all day long, too.

The bottom line is this: despite our demanding schedules, many of us make a conscious effort to fit exercise into our lives to take care of our physical health.  So, why wouldn’t we make an effort to carve out some quality downtime to take care of our mental health, too?

Never underestimate the power of your mind.  It plays a huge role in your ability to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why Water is King

You’ve probably heard this before: you are what you eat. But here’s the thing – you are what you drink, too! The human body is two-thirds water.  As the hot and hazy days of summer continue, here’s some timely information we all need to remember regardless of our fitness level.

Drinking adequate amounts of water has many benefits including:

  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Alleviating fluid retention
  • Distribution of nutrients and oxygen to cells and organs
  • Improvement of metabolic function
  • Decreasing appetite

Personally, I find that last point a little hard to swallow. I do my best to drink the recommended 5-7 glasses of water each day, but I don’t know how much effect it’s had on my appetite. (Anyone who knows me knows I do love to eat!) However, will say when I’m hungry and nowhere near a healthy snack, drinking a glass of water can stave off my hunger long enough to avoid eating something I’ll regret later. (Chewing gum works for me in a pinch, too.)

Now let’s look at some of the physiologic effects of what happens when you don’t consume enough water and become dehydrated:

  • Decreased blood volume
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased core temperature
  • Sodium retention
  • Decreased sweat rate

To punctuate just how important water is to the body: the body can go for a long period of time without food, but can only survive for a few days without water.

Here are the guidelines of what we should be drinking when we exercise, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

  • Drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise. In warmer weather,  feel free to add an additional 8 – 16 oz.
  • During exercise, drink 20 to 40 oz for every hour of exercise.
  • If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you can re-hydrate with a sports drink containing up to 8% carbohydrate to replace both fluid and dwindling muscle glycogen stores.
  • When exercising for 60 minutes or less, water is best. (My personal choice).

That last bullet brings me to an important point made by Brent Brookbush and Rick Richey, the amazing NASM instructors who taught the Personal Fitness Workshop I took back in March.  If you have just one hour to spend in the gym or running through the park, or only time for a 45-minute spin or strength training class, why would you want to put all the calories back in your body that you’re working so hard to burn?

Now, I know there are some people out there who simply can’t stand water and need some flavor.  There are plenty of zero calorie flavored water options available. In my personal opinion (which is backed by many articles I’ve read on websites ranging from WebMD to ACSM), having a flavored drink with zero calories (or 5 calories if you add one of those flavor-crystal packets to your water bottle) is better than NOT drinking anything at all.

In the end, something as simple as drinking (water!) to your health is an easy way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Beat the Heat

Photo by Laura DeAngelis

Toward the end of this wonderful weekend, I headed to our rooftop deck to enjoy my weekly “guilty pleasure” of reading the latest People magazine cover to cover.  Despite my SPF 30 sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses and big water bottle, I only lasted an hour. The heat was just too much, and I was just lying around reading. Which made me realize this is the perfect time for a refresher course on heat-related emergencies.

With a little help from the textbooks I used to study for my AFAA and NASM exams (Fitness: Theory & Practice, Fifth Edition and NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Third Edition), here’s what you need to know if you or someone you’re working out with experiences any of the following:

Heat cramps: These are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal region, that could be a signal that a more serious emergency is imminent.

What to do: If you experience heat cramps, stop exercising, find some shade or move indoors where it’s cool and drink cool water.

Heat exhaustion: This is a step up in severity from heat cramps, and can occur when you’ve been exercising strenuously for a long period of time in extreme heat or humidity. Signs and symptoms:

  • Moist, pale, or cool skin
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Nausea
  • Weak pulse

What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen all tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels, but not to the point of shivering and drink cool water.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe heat emergency and usually happens when signs of heat exhaustion go unchecked.  In this situation, dangerously high internal body temperatures will cause your body’s vital systems to fail.  Signs and symptoms:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Little or no perspiration
  • Weakness
  • Rapid pulse

What to do: As with heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels. If you can find them, you can also put ice packs under the armpits and groin area.

A few preventive steps to remember:

  • Try to exercise outdoors before 9 am and after 6 pm.
  • Stay hydrated! Basic guidelines call for you to drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise, but you can drink an additional eight to 16 oz  if you’re exercising in warmer weather.
  • If you are being treated for cardiovascular or circulatory problems and are any medications, always check with your doctor before adding any outdoor activity to your routine.

I leave you with these two final and important tips:

  • Do not hesitate to call 911 in an emergency.
  • Listen to your body. It knows when something’s wrong.

While it’s the perfect time to get outside and get moving, use some extra care so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Power of Walking

We’re busy people.  Between work, family and social engagements, there never seem to be enough hours in the day.  Whether your day job involves chasing your kids and running the household, sitting behind a desk, standing on your feet for hours, or catching a flight to the next meeting, sometimes the idea of working out is just too much.

Except for the kid-chasing duties, any day at West Glen Communications, Inc. can involve almost all of the above.  When I’m not putting together the lineup or filming for “Health & Home Report,” I may spend a day (or night) “in the field” with corporate clients for a video shoot followed by an edit. Or I may be at the computer writing scripts about everything from the latest Beta blocker to a survey about diapers.

So, after the multi-tasking, problem solving and brain-power depletion, am I up for going to the gym every single day? No! And I’m here to tell you – as a certified fitness professional – that it’s okay to take a day off.  There are several reasons why you should, but here are my two “favorites”:

First, your body needs recovery time. In activities like resistance training, the goal is to place enough stress on your muscle tissues to cause the changes you want. But too much stress is never a good thing, especially when it comes to your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Second, I know firsthand that if you’re completely exhausted and force yourself to go to the gym, chances are you won’t focus on your form and you could end up injured. Then you’ll be out of the game for more than one day.

If you can’t stand the idea of being totally inactive, here’s an idea: Slip off those work shoes, lace up the sneakers (no flip-flops, please!) and take a walk!

If you live in a city like I do where you can walk from home to work or at least part of the way, give it a try. Between the fresh air and the people watching, it never gets old. If the traffic lights cooperate, you can get a good pace going and get your heart rate up.

General health guidelines call for 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity each day. That includes walking, using the stairs, gardening and mowing the lawn.  And guess what?  Studies show performing three 10-minute bouts of exercise can have the same benefits as one 30-minute continuous exercise session.  Need some combo ideas?

The High Line: A Great Place to Walk!

Morning: Walk 10 minutes from your home to the office, or walk to a subway or bus stop that’s a little farther away. Or take a couple of laps around your child’s school after dropping her off.

Lunchtime: Instead of grabbing a salad next door, walk 10 minutes to a different place. At home? Get out in the yard.

Evening:  Enjoy those last 10 minutes on foot in your own neighborhood, and bring someone special along. If you’re stuck working late  – there’s always a staircase to climb.

Whether you’re a power athlete or just getting started on a fitness routine, taking it easy is good for the body and the soul.

In the end,  just remember to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Get Outside And Get Moving!

Welcome to the first installment of LauraLovesFitness!

It seems only fitting I am launching my blog during my favorite time of the year. Summer gives us 13 whole weeks to take our favorite moves from the gym to the outdoors.  This is your chance to mix things up and turn that next trip to the beach or park into some muscle-moving fun. As you pack up the sunscreen and healthy snacks, toss a Frisbee into your backback or beach tote.  Or you could give paddle ball (my all-time favorite beach game!) a whirl. Keeping that little rubber ball in the air provides a great workout for everything from your glutes, quads, calves, core muscles and your arms. For a real challenge, try “switch hitting” with your paddle. The best part? When it gets too hot, you can take a dip and cool off!

A note of caution: if you’re suffering from a foot, ankle or knee injury, remember sand is an unstable surface. While that creates extra calorie-burning opportunities as your body works harder to stay balanced, it puts extra pressure on an injured area.  I am currently struggling to recover from a stress fracture in my left foot and had to be extra careful on a recent trip to Florida.  What helped me?  Wearing my sneakers (along with orthotics) while walking on the beach. They may not look as cute as flip-flops, but they did help me maintain stability and also took some pressure off the injured metatarsal and inflamed joint.

If your idea of outdoor fun is more along the lines of a picnic in the park, Frisbee and paddle ball can be played on the grass, too. Or why not test your skills at whiffle ball or croquet? Check out your local sports store for plenty of portable games that provide fun for multiple skill-levels. You’ll also feel better digging into the picnic fare knowing you burned some calories beforehand!

Regardless of where you decide to play, remember a few basics:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, preferably water.
  • Don’t forget the waterproof, sweat-proof sunscreen. While sore muscles from a game of beach volleyball can be rewarding, a sunburn never feels good!
  • Finally – don’t forget to stretch! After giving those arms and legs a good workout, static or active-isolated stretches can help the body recover. Remember: static stretches need to be held for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Here’s to a fit and fabulous summer!

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