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Do Your Own Thing

Knock Out Self Doubt!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Blame it on a super insane work week followed by a lazy weekend which included Palm Sunday, but here you have you have one of my shortest Motivation Monday posts in recent memory.

This shot of inspiration comes to you courtesy of my love for group exercise classes, namely Physique57 and ILoveKickboxing. No matter how hard a workout may seem, the key is to always do your thing. Forget what the person next to you is doing and focus on your own pace, your own form and your own breathing. Finding that inner focus not only insures you’re going to get to the most out of your exercise session, it also allows you block out some of the noise that we’re all bombarded with day after day. That kind of concentration can make the mental part of your workout that much more intense and the workout that much more rewarding when you make it to the finish.

For me, there’s nothing like being in a kickboxing class working one of the heavy bags surrounded by the sounds of punches and kicks against the canvas. However, even lifetime fitness fanatics aren’t immune to self-doubt at the gym. Sometimes, I find myself wondering: Am I hitting as hard as the warrior next to me? Are my kicks making the same “boom” on impact? Then with one solid punch, I put the focus on my workout and forget about the rest of the room.

Exercise is personal. The idea is to just keep moving and do what you can do. If you’re not racing through a set of mountain climbers as fast as the person next to you, don’t sweat it. The key is you’re moving, you’re sweating and you’re doing your pounding heart and your sweaty body some serious good. At the end of your workout session, only one thing matters: do you feel better than when you started?

Wherever and whenever you find the time to workout, remember your mind has the power to keep it a judgement free zone. With spring finally in bloom, take advantage of a new season of group exercise schedules and opportunities to take the activity outside. Find what works for you and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Make Your “Me Time” Belong To You

Knock Out The Noise! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Knock Out The Noise!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

This short and sweet Motivation Monday post is all about you. Specifically, it’s a reminder that’s exactly what the time you make to exercise should be –  time for you and nothing else.

I can’t tell you how many times I’m surrounded by people on elliptical machines or even at the weight rack who focus on their texts or emails when they should be concentrating on their form, their breathing and the oh-so-wonderful benefit of clearing the mind. Snap your Instagram photo and move on to your exercise routine, people! Honestly, if you’re not a doctor or emergency worker on call or a mom with a sick kid at home, how many of us really need to respond to that new email right away? Will the world stop spinning if you update a client on a project 30 minutes after you receive the message instead of ten?

In a world where we search workouts that give us the biggest benefits in the shortest amount of time, we absolutely owe it to ourselves to make those precious minutes count. So here’s my challenge for you this week: whether you decide to take a 20-minute walk in the morning, squeeze in a 30-minute workout on your lunch break or commit to a total hour of a group exercise class after work, tell your colleagues, family and friends you’re simply not available during that window of time. Before you snicker and say, “Laura, that’s impossible,” think about this: if taking 10 minutes out of your day to bang out some burpees or take a brisk walk is going to make you calmer and think more clearly when challenged by deadlines; difficult clients or your kid’s core math homework, then you owe it to yourself to be strong and tell people when you need a few minutes of me-time.

Sometimes the hardest part of taking care of ourselves is telling even the people who love us the most what we need to be a healthier and happier person. Why not use this week – when we welcome a brand new season – to take a chance and see what happens. If the world doesn’t stop spinning because you waited 20 minutes to respond to a few texts, then I’d say you’ve taken a bold step forward in your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Get Ready to FALL into Fitness!

Here Comes the Fall!

Here Comes the Fall!

Is it me, or does the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day fly by faster with each passing year? I know the calendar says we still have 16 days until the official start of autumn, but for me, summer ends with Labor Day. Sigh. I hope everyone enjoyed the end of the season and that the new month is off to a strong start.

One thing I love about September is the fact that all the back-to-school buzz makes this the perfect time to re-focus your attention on getting your health and fitness routine in tip-top shape. Maybe you’re thinking: “Laura, are you kidding? I’m too busy trying to get the kids back on a regular schedule, I have no time to even think about working out!” Well, why not turn that challenge into an opportunity? As you help the family re-adjust to the non-summer-Friday work weeks and new start times for school and after-school activities, it’s also the time to fit some fitness into your own routine. Who deserves to carve out some time get that daily dose of much-needed endorphins? The answer is simple – YOU!

Here are some tips to set the pace for a FITASTIC fall ahead:

  • Seek Out New Schedules & Offers:  Group fitness schedules often change in September. Maybe this is the season that total body conditioning class finally fits into your schedule. Be sure to ask about any back-to-school specials, including friends and family rates. This is a great time to make exercise a family affair or schedule bi-weekly workouts with a buddy!
  • Fall Into Healthy Eating Habits: Packing lunch for the kiddies? Add just a few more minutes to the prep time and create some healthy snacks or small meals for yourself. I spend approximately 30 minutes every Sunday slicing and dicing veggies including peppers, celery sticks and carrots and then pack them in reusable containers. I can grab a portion anytime as a healthy snack or side dish or I can mix the veggies with brown rice for a mini-meal. Some of my other favorite go-to eats include raw almonds, green apples and hard boiled eggs.
  • Put It In Writing: If you drive your kids to school or your spouse to the train station, figure out if there’s time immediately following a drop-off or right before a pick-up for a workout. You could hit the gym for a group exercise class, drive a few more blocks to the park for a run or meet a friend for a brisk walk. Typing the activity in to your smart phone task list or putting an old-fashioned sticky note on the fridge is a great visual boost to keep that workout on the schedule.
  • Ten Minutes of Something is Better than Nothing!  As time seems to grow more precious each day, there are plenty of workouts geared toward gaining maximum results in less time.Click here for a refresher on my “Tear-It-Up-in-Ten Circuit”  Do you really only have five minutes to spare? No problem. Click here for a reminder on how you can burn some calories and get the heart pumping with the four-minute Tabata workout.
  • Wardrobe Prep Do you help your kids pick out their clothes before they go to bed? Then go ahead and put out your own morning workout gear, too! Put your clothes in the bathroom the night before. It’s usually the first room we visit after we wake up, so if your clothes are staring you in the face, it may be harder to ditch the workout. If you’re exercising after work, pack your gym bag the night before and leave it by the door to grab on your way out. (And don’t forget to grab one of your prepped snacks for some healthy fuel, too!)

Finally, it’s important to remember getting fitness on your schedule and healthy foods into your fridge are two big steps toward a healthier you in the season ahead. During my annual August blogging hiatus, I had many conversations with several different gal pals (who also happen to be great moms) about their frustration over falling off the fitness wagon over the summer. Between keeping the kids entertained and all the BBQs, they found themselves eager to get back into a leaner, meaner routine. I’ll tell you what I told them: leave the “sins of the summer” in the past, but keep the memories close in your heart. Just as the leaves are sure to fall in the days ahead, you’ll soon find yourself back on track with your efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

It’s Time for Spring Cleaning!

A little spring cleaning for your health & fitness routine can keep you smiling! Photo by Leslie Hassler

A little spring cleaning for your health & fitness routine can keep you smiling! Photo by Leslie Hassler

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of April! Now’s the time to embrace three staples of the season: Yankees baseball, spring showers and spring cleaning! As you carve out some time to de-clutter the closets and desk drawers, remember this is also the perfect opportunity to get rid of what’s sabotaging your health and fitness goals, too!

Here are my top three tips to help you take stock of what’s working, what’s not and what new things you can look forward to this season:

  1. Do NOT Skip Meals! It seems everywhere we look at this time of year, we’re bombarded by ads pushing us to get that bikini-body ready pronto. One of the biggest mistakes people make in trying to make that happen is skipping meals. If you’re thinking “Well, if I skip some meals, I’ll consume fewer calories and I’ll lose weight,” think again! The reality is you’ll probably end up consuming the same amount of calories if not more because when you do eat, you’ll be ravenous and consume extra calories you didn’t need. Also, when you don’t eat for long periods of time, your blood sugar levels drop which can leave you feeling fatigued, less focused and less productive in general. Instead, go ahead and use this time to develop the healthy habit of eating smaller meals every few hours to keep your blood sugar stable and control your appetite.
  2. Clean Out the Closets, the Drawers…AND the Pantry!  I know it may hurt, but maybe it’s time to get rid of that college T-shirt with the permanent sweat stains. I’m not saying you should toss your school pride in the trash, but why not treat yourself an order an alumni shirt online? While you’re at it, add a few bright-colored, moisture-wicking items to freshly de-cluttered drawers. We all like getting new duds for the season, so why should your workout wardrobe be any different? While you’re getting rid of old stuff in your closets or drawers, let’s not forget the dust bunnies collecting on those sweet or salty treats that have been hanging around in the pantry since the holidays. I know no one likes to waste food, so if you can bring the leftover boxes or bags of treats  to an office or school break room (and you know you have the will power to avoid digging in) let some other people enjoy them. (Assuming they haven’t stuck around past their expiration date, of course!)
  3. Mix Up Your Workout Routine! Don’t let boredom stop you in your tracks! Check for new group exercise classes at the gym or see what workout opportunities exist in the great outdoors. Whether you bang out some Tabatas in your backyard, play kickball with a community group or take an extra long walk in the evening, now’s the time to use Mother Nature as the ultimate motivator.

With a whole new month to look forward to, now’s the time to explore the many different ways we can all have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep It Simple

iStock_000018191976XSmallI think it’s safe to say most adults will agree with the old saying “timing is everything.” In fact, I credit good timing as the inspiration for this Motivation Monday post featuring some simple ways to make healthier choices.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the importance of taking small steps when trying to lose weight. That post included some easy ways to cut approximately one hundred calories from your meals. A few days later, the social media team at Chobani reached out to me about their new Simply 100 Crunch line. If you’ve been looking to spice up your snack options, these yummy yogurts can help you satisfy your sweet or savory cravings with a variety of protein-packed flavors.  Since I’m always promoting small changes that can add up to big results, I thought this Chobani connection happened at a perfect time.

The final piece of the puzzle in this perfect-timing scenario? Chobani even put together a dozen fun ways to help everyone “crunch the numbers” and burn 100 calories. Since I knew my writing time would be limited because of a business trip, I was happy to get some solid material to share with my readers! Before you jump into the fun graphic below, here are a few other quick tips to live a little lighter:

  • Drink up: It’s easy to remember to hydrate during the warm-weather months, but drinking water is important all-year round. The dry, forced heat in offices, schools or apartments can also make your skin dry, so drinking water can help – along with some good moisturizer, of course!
  • Keep a food journal: I started doing this in Weight Watchers years ago, and as a lifetime member since 2012, I continue to write down what I eat. Having the information on paper can help you see where you slipped up and make better choices.
  • Put fitness plans and progress in writing, too! Did you book that group exercise class for two days from now? Be sure to put a sticky note on the fridge or set a reminder in your smartphone so you get there. Also make notes when you add time to your cardio circuit or increase weight or reps during a class or weight training session. Seeing progress is one of the biggest motivators of all!

I hope you have fun with the ideas below and don’t be shy about letting me know some of the ways you’re living lighter in 2016! For recipe ideas and other tidbits, check out  thelightthatsright.com  Thanks again to Chobani for reaching out at the perfect time. There’s nothing like a little teamwork to help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

chobani_100cal_12version

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Don't Get Sidelined By Darker Days!

Don’t Get Sidelined By Darker Days!

If you’re finding it hard to be inspired on this Motivation Monday, you’re not alone. Blame it on the one thing most of us simply can’t escape: the end of Daylight Saving Time.

Even though we just wrapped up a week of ridiculously warm November temperatures here in New York, the one normal thing that took place each day was the disarming loss of sunlight before 6 pm. We’ve started the time of year when many of us leave home each morning in the dark only to leave work at the end of a long day and find ourselves enveloped in darkness once again. Add the inevitable drop in temperatures looming in the days ahead, and you have the perfect mix to want to ditch any exercise plans and head straight for the cozy couch.

So, I thought it was a good time to offer a few tips to help you stay on track this season:

  • Do NOT Leave Home Without the Workout Wear: If you normally exercise after work, make sure to bring your gym bag to the office. If you have to go home to change before your workout, you’ll only find yourself face-to-face with that comfy couch tempting you to take a load off – and stay there.
  • Get Physical at Lunchtime: If you usually hit the gym before heading to the office or after dropping the kids off for school, why not consider moving your workout to lunchtime? Even under a cloudy sky, it’s brighter at midday. Sometimes that’s all you need to get your butt into the gym. It’s also the perfect time to see if that group exercise class you’ve been curious about is offered at lunchtime.
  • Make More Workout Dates:  Plan to meet a friend for that morning power walk, lunchtime body conditioning or evening barre workout. Wanting to avoid the “guilt” of standing up a friend can keep you committed to your scheduled exercise plans.

I leave you with this final tip: remembering how good you feel after a workout may provide the biggest incentive to stick with your routine even on the darkest days ahead. Never underestimate the power of that post-exercise endorphin rush as you continue on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Small Victories

VictoryOn this Motivation Monday, I hope to quash some of the negativity that tries to sabotage your plans on the windy road to health and wellness.

Monday has the unfortunate stigma of being the least favorite day of the week. However, it’s also the springboard allowing us to start fresh on so many levels. First and foremost, it’s time to forget what didn’t happen last week. Maybe you didn’t get to the gym as many times as you planned. Don’t sweat it. Instead, celebrate the fact that you did get there at some point. Even if you didn’t, pat yourself on the back for the times you:

  • Took the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Added a few more steps to walk from the parking lot to your office building by parking the car further from the entrance
  • Carried some extra bundles and/or your kid up the stairs without stopping to rest

The same goes for eating. Okay, so you had a little more wine than you wanted over the weekend. However, you ordered the grilled fish instead of a cheese-covered entrée to go with that wine. That’s a win. Maybe you indulged in dessert, but did you share it? If so, you found a way to cut down on some of the decadent calories. Remember, healthy habits take time to take root in our often all-too comfortable routines. So instead of beating yourself for what you didn’t do, feel empowered by the better decisions you did make.

Finally, don’t be shy about rewarding yourself for those little victories. Perhaps you set a goal to stay away from the wine this work week and make a date to enjoy an extra good glass with a gal pal next weekend. That way, you get to savor the flavor and enjoy the wonderful wellness booster known as laughter and good conversation. And what better way to reward yourself for making it to one extra group exercise class than with a new tank top or other fun workout wear?

Remember, just like other good deeds, taking care of your body and your mind should be recognized and rewarded. Celebrate your small victories because before you know it, they’ll add up to healthy lifestyle changes in the never-ending journey 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!

Quick Hits

iStock_000018191976XSmallOnly one way to say this: it was a hell of a week. So on this Motivation Monday, I’m offering a simple post with three simple tips to get you even more excited about the start of spring!

  1. Leave the winter behind: Did you pretty much hibernate all season, skip gym classes or miss those daily runs thanks to dangerous weather conditions? Maybe you indulged in more than your fair share of calorie-loaded comfort foods. Don’t sweat it. Leave the sins of the past where they belong, take note of any updates to the spring schedule at your gym and stock up on some colorful produce and healthy food options. It’s time to get your mind focused on a fresh start!
  2. Don’t forget your core: It’s been awhile since I reminded everyone about the importance of incorporating core strengthening exercises into any fitness routine. I know everyone’s excited to start pounding the non-snow covered pavement for long runs and enjoy some outdoor calorie-burning fun like basketball and softball. If you’ve been less active than normal all winter, do your body a favor and don’t forget to incorporate some planks, crunches and bridges into your daily routine. You can do them when you first roll out of bed, when you’re watching TV or just add five more minutes to your workout at the gym. Click here for a reminder of some of my favorite core exercises.
  3. Workout for your skin: Spring makeovers are all the rage right now. I’m here to remind you of another great benefit of exercise – it’s a natural way to make your skin more radiant! Exercise improves circulation which increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your skin. It’s also been shown to reduce wrinkle-causing inflammation.

So, there you have it. Three easy reminders on how some easy tweaks to your spring routine can help you stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring Cleaning for Your Fitness Routine

Photo by: Leslie Hassler

Get Psyched to Get Back Outdoors! Photo by: Leslie Hassler

This Motivation Monday brings us just four days away from the official start of the spring of 2015! To be more specific, spring starts on Friday, March 20th at 6:45 P.M. EDT; 5:45 P.M. CDT; 4:45 P.M. MDT, and 3:45 P.M. PD. Yes, I’m pretty excited about it. Then again, after the brutal winter most of us just lived through, who isn’t?

In anticipation of the start of the long-awaited season filled with sunshine and rising temperatures, here are five tips to give your health and fitness routine a spring makeover:

  1. Set a Realistic Schedule: If you’re fitness routine took a backseat this winter, don’t sweat it. Write down your plans for walks and other outdoor cardio, trips to the gym and group exercise classes. Just don’t write something in for every day of the week or you’ll get frustrated the first day you miss a workout. Start with three days and work up from there.
  2. Stretch: We’re all excited to get outside and move, but hitting a high-intensity boot camp or basketball game without any type of warm up can be a recipe for disaster. If you’ve been less active than usual during the winter months, focusing on your flexibility training is more important than ever. One idea: warm up with 10 minutes of light cardio, then some dynamic stretches. These include lunges, touching your toes and walking your hands forward, swinging your legs while standing and twisting from side to side. Post-workout, do some static stretches to help your muscles recover – just remember to hold those stretches for 30 seconds.
  3. Try Something New: Break up your routine and soak up some fresh air with tennis, golf or team up with friends on the weekend for endorphin- and laugh-infused games of dodge ball, kickball or even ultimate Frisbee. You don’t have to be a seasoned athlete to have fun and burn some calories at the same time!
  4. Clean Out More Than Your Closets: Still have tins of treats from the holidays or boxes of chocolate from Valentine’s Day? Get rid of them. Feel guilty about throwing stuff out? Bring it to the office or some other place where a crowd will devour it quickly. Replenish supplies of raw almonds, beans, quinoa, brown rice, herbal teas, spices and other non-perishable healthy staples.
  5. Give Your Workout Wardrobe a Makeover: It’s always fun having new duds, so why not get rid of the cotton college t-shirts and sweats and replace them with bright tanks, shorts, cropped pants and other workout wear made from moisture-wicking fabric. For my fellow fitness chicks, it’s a good time to think about replacing your sports bras. If you’re working out a lot, a sports bra has a similar lifespan to your footwear – about six months.

Hang in there just a few more days, and soon we’ll all be launched into a brand new season filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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