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Family, Friends & Fitness

iStock_000018191976XSmallCongratulations! This second Motivation Monday of 2015 brings you 12 days into the New Year. That means you’ve done your best to stick with your health and fitness resolutions for a whole dozen 24-hour cycles!

If you’ve had one or two “bad” meals or even days since we kicked off the New Year, don’t sweat it. Nothing great is ever achieved without facing a few obstacles along the way. If you’re struggling to stay on track, here’s an idea – activate the buddy system! How?

  • Lean on a fitness friend: Pencil in some quality time with your bestie by planning a couple of morning or evening walks; shooting hoops or signing up for the same group exercise class. Sometimes knowing you have a friend waiting for you at the gym is all you need to show up.
  • Cold-Weather Hater? Try sweating through a fitness DVD or online workout with your spouse or significant other right in the comfort of your den.
  • Tech Support: Set the DVR to record your favorite show(s) and go ice skating with the kids or take the dog for an extra-long walk.
  • Friendly Competition: Instead of hitting the bar for happy hour, find a few co-workers interested in de-stressing with a barre workout or other group activity. Here in New York City, there’s a great place called Chelsea Piers which offers everything from hitting golf balls to organized group events for games ranging from dodgeball to sand volleyball.
  • Ask a Pro: Have no idea where to start? Treat yourself to a few sessions with a personal trainer to get you on the right track toward injury-free fitness.

In addition to exercise, talk to your family about embracing healthier food choices together. I’m not expecting your kids to start asking for kale and brussel sprouts, but they probably wouldn’t mind building their own colorful and yummy non-fat Greek yogurt parfaits with berries, almonds and honey drizzle. I know a lot of parents keep cookies, chips and other treats in the house and often end up eating more than the kids. Think about this: if you’re making meals at home, you’re the one ultimately shaping your kids’ idea of what a “normal” diet looks like. Packing healthy snacks for lunch and after school activities while saving sweet or salty treats for special occasions can instill healthy habits at an early age. Here are a few portable kid-approved snack options that taste pretty good to grown-ups, too:

  • One serving Wheat Thins with one “Laughing Cow” cheese spread wedge
  • Baby carrots and celery sticks with peanut butter
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Greek yogurt with honey
  • Low-fat string cheese

Remember, embracing healthy habits and maintaining them is a lifelong journey. Aren’t trips more fun when you have company? While it’s great to find support from the huge #FitFam presence here in the blogosphere and on social media, never take for granted the strength you can gain from the people you love most to help you stick with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!






Don’t Let The Dark Sabotage Your Healthy Habits!

Food can't fix emotionsLet me be the first fitness fanatic to admit this can be a tough time of year to stay motivated. When it gets dark as early as 5 pm, it’s easy to want to skip the workout, head straight to a warm home and fill up on comfort food and couch-potato time. So on this particular Motivation Monday, I offer some tips to keep your health and fitness goals on track during this colder, darker time of year.

  • Mix things up: If you’re using every excuse in the book not to go to that 7 pm spin class, check your gym’s group exercise schedule for an alternative. Maybe it’s time to give the morning workout routine a try. If you have to drop the kids off at school, leave the house dressed in your workout wear and head straight to the gym after you say your goodbyes. This way you get your daily dose of exercise before the rest of the day interferes and while you still have sunlight to give you that natural boost of energy.
  • Lean on Your Fitness Friends: Whether you want the extra motivation to stick with your evening workouts or need help adjusting to a new morning or lunchtime routine, a workout buddy can help keep you on track. Sometimes just knowing you have a friend holding a spot for you is just enough of a push to keep you from throwing in the towel.
  • Beat the Nighttime Snack Monster: Darker, colder nights can save you some money if you decide to spend more time catching up with the DVR and less time at your favorite happy hour haunts. However, that extra couch time can lead to a steady surge of snack attacks. Before you give in to temptation, make sure you’re really hungry and not just bored. For the times you really do need a little something, be sure you have a good stockpile of healthier alternatives at home. Clementines, apples and frozen grapes can satisfy a sweet tooth and 94% fat-free popcorn is always a crowd pleaser. I’m also a big fan of Skinny Cow fudge bars. They’re the only low-fat dessert option that satisfies me after only one serving.

One final note, if you feel a little more sluggish and fatigued than usual these days, you’re not alone. The lack of sunlight and drop in temperatures can be a depressing mix for even the perkiest of people. Remember, no matter what the season, exercise is one of the best natural mood boosters and a surefire activity to keep you on track with your year-round efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Best Laid Plans…

The extent of my "heavy lifting" over a fun fall weekend!

The extent of my “heavy lifting” over a fun fall weekend!

As you loyal readers know, I’ve been posting new material for Motivation Mondays since this blog started back in July 2011.  While I didn’t plan to push this week’s post to land on Tear-It-Up Tuesday, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, realize there are only so many hours in a day and accept the way things work out. The bottom line is we can probably all do a better job at NOT beating ourselves up when we don’t cross out every single item on our to-do list every single day of the week.

That being said, I’ve finally “forgiven” myself for not getting to the fitness center during my business trip to Los Angeles. I did pack my workout wear, but when I factored in a five-hour flight, three-hour time difference and production call time of 3 am, I had to choose between getting the rest I needed to do my job well or sacrificing the few zzzz’s I could get for a workout. At the end of the day, the project went well, my boss and the clients were happy and by not running myself into the ground, I also warded off some serious cold germs provided by my fellow passengers during the flight home.

When I returned, it was just in time to enjoy a fun fall Saturday with a dear gal pal and her family and then round off the weekend spending quality time with Mom and Dad. Could I have banged out a post when I got back to the city on Sunday? Probably. Would it have been coherent? Probably not. Obviously if I had a work deadline, I would have sucked it up and got things done. However, when things that are supposed to be fun start stressing you out,  it’s time to step back and ask yourself: “Is the world going to spin off its axis if this doesn’t get done for another 24 hours?”

So, instead of fretting over writing, I used the time to get organized, rest and recover. You know what? I had extra energy to kick off my Motivation Monday with a Physique57 class and then attack the computer. Now I’m ready to take on whatever the week ahead throws at me – physically and mentally.

Let’s face it, most of us have too much on our plates on any given day of the week. When crunch time gets extra crunchy, we sometimes have to make choices to make a whole laundry list of “stuff” a little easier to carry. Maybe your favorite group exercise class falls on the same night your child needs help studying for a spelling test or the only night you and your spouse or best friend have time to catch up on a long-overdue date or phone call. Make the choices that work for you in that moment and remember tomorrow’s coming…with a whole new set of opportunities to help us have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Quick Hit Workout Wednesday

Workout or Chill Out? Each Has its Benefits for Your BodPhoto by Leslie Hassler

Workout or Chill Out?
Each Has Benefits for Your Body
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I really don’t know where the time is going, but here we are kicking off the eighth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

As the nickname suggests, this is the one day each week where I tend to push it even harder than usual at the gym. Also, the fact that I’ve found a new group exercise class to add to my arsenal of calorie-busting, muscle-boosting workouts makes Wednesday one of my favorite days of the entire week!

As I spent most of yesterday traveling back from Texas and didn’t have time for a typical workout, I’m even more eager to get back in action today. It’s amazing how good you can feel after one day of rest. In fact, there are countless studies out there proving why you need to take at least one day off each week. It’s during the rest that your muscles recover and actually have time to grow.

If you need more evidence that taking a day or two off can actually be beneficial for your well-being and possibly help you amp up your energy levels, I’m sharing a recent article from I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

There are certain weeks when life will throw some curve balls at you and put the brakes on your typical fitness routine. The key is taking things one day at a time and making this day work for your life at this moment. If this Workout Wednesday turns into your rest day for the week, remember, down time is a crucial component in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: “Romper Room” Style


Smile & Remember:
Fitness CAN Be Fun!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

So here we are, four weeks after the start of 2013 and you’re sticking with those plans to make this year a healthy one. Way to go! If you’ve had a few off days, don’t sweat it. (Remember, this is the gal who abandoned her chopped veggies for a steady infusion of chocolate treats during a five-day vacation in Amsterdam!)

On this Workout Wednesday, I wanted to tell you about the new group exercise class I’ve become addicted to. If you’re looking for me on a Wednesday night, chances are you’ll find me front and center at the “UXF Burn” class offered at the New York Sports Club not far from where I live. NYSC describes the class as a 45-minute combination of cardio and strength training that can burn up to 600 calories in one class. However, I think the words of my high-energy instructor Lou offer a better definition of what makes the cross-training experience such a rush: “It’s Romper Room for adults.”

Lou starts us off with the necessary warm-up and then gets our hearts pumping with some killer cardio circuits for the first 25 minutes of class with a wide variety of moves including jumping jacks, ice skaters and high-knees. We then keep our heart rates up as we move through high-rep / moderate-weight circuits to work every muscle group with exercises ranging from squats with bicep curls to lat rows and kickbacks. Last week, instead of the whole class doing the same strength-training routine at once, she divided us into two sides for a “face-off.” Each side of the class had a series of six exercises to complete in 90-second intervals before switching sides. These included:

  • Bridge with chest press using a 15-20 pound weight
  • Jump rope
  • Double crunches
  • Dips using a step
  • Pikes

“Romper Room” indeed! The variety of exercises and the non-stop movement between each one makes this class fly by in record time for me. I can honestly say I have so much fun during this class I almost forget I’m actually working out, at least until the sound of my pounding heart fills my ears and sweat blinds my eyeballs!

I realize you may not have access to a class exactly like this one, and you may not even have any interesting in seeking one out. However, I hope telling you about my excitement over the addition to my routine serves as a reminder that exercise can be fun and even fitness veterans like me are always looking for new ways to enjoy working out. Whether it’s jumping rope or trying a new group exercise class  filled with moves that make you feel like a kid again, remember, variety is a key component to staying on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Exercise is Nothing to be Embarrassed About

Knock Out Any Thoughts of Slacking Off!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Everywhere I turn, people are asking me for some extra words of encouragement to make sure they stay active during the hustle and bustle of the season. So on this Workout Wednesday, instead of posting a specific high-intensity workout, consider this an extra dose of motivation to make time for that favorite group exercise class or morning run.

I also want to address a related topic brought to my attention by one of my loyal readers, Toni (check out her blog at I thought she’d want to remain anonymous based on the issue she raised, but she said I could share her name. Toni recently told me she’s embarrassed to workout in front of her fiancé at home. My response? Exercise is nothing to be embarrassed about! In fact, my take is that her future husband would probably be impressed by her effort to do something positive and healthy for herself. Who knows, it could even motivate him to get off the couch and get moving, too!

Unless you’re a professional bodybuilder or fitness model, there’s no need to feel judged by your workout routine. Instead, be proud of yourself for wanting to add exercise to your life for a healthier and happier you. I can also tell you when I’m at the gym, I’m not looking at who’s lifting what and how many times they’re able to lift it. I’m also not looking at what the woman on the elliptical machine next to me is wearing. Sure, there will always be people more “buff” than me on a nearby treadmill or standing next to me in “Club Strength” class. There will also be people who are on a steady, safe pace to lose weight. However, they’re not the focus of my workout. I am.

Simply put, I say there’s no room for judgment at the gym. It’s a place to go to improve your cardiovascular health, strength, agility and endurance. It’s also a great place to find those much-needed endorphins. If you’re not comfortable in your gym, maybe it’s time to try a friend’s gym and see if it’s a better fit for you. If you simply “hate” the gym (and I know a lot of people who do,) then you should definitely find comfort in your own home. The real key is feeling comfortable in your own skin. Without that, it doesn’t matter if you’re working out in your living room in front of your family or a crowded gym full of strangers, you simply won’t stick with your routine.

So, leave the self-doubt at home. If you are working out at home, leave it in the closet. Focus on your breathing, focus on you form and focus on the fact that you’re dong something positive to continue on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Mix-It-Up Monday

The leaves will soon change color, and it’s also the perfect time of year to make some changes to your fitness routine.

They say variety is the spice of life. That’s definitely true when it comes to making fitness a part of your daily routine. The trick is making sure your program doesn’t become too routine.

So on this Monday I offer another simple motivational tip to not only help you get moving, but make sure you stay in motion: be sure to mix things up! The beginning of a new season is the perfect time to look for some new activities to freshen up your workout routine.

Many health clubs change their group exercise schedule in the fall. If you’re a gym rat like me, be sure to check the latest schedule and see if there’s a new class that sparks your interest. Maybe you’ve always wanted to give Zumba a try or take out your stress on a heavy bag during a non-contact boxing class. Of course, just make sure the classes are convenient for your schedule. That way you’ll be sure to add it to your calendar for a set time each week. Before you know it, getting to that class will be as routine as brushing your teeth. If you’re more of a workout-on-your-own type, this could be the time to treat yourself to a personal training session or two and get some new exercise programs from a pro.

If you don’t like being confined by four walls and you’re wondering what to do now that your days walking along the beach are coming to an end, don’t sweat it! Mother Nature makes this a wonderful season to be outside for some great workouts. I’ve been writing about the Saturday morning CrossFit UWS class in Central Park that has added a serious punch to my exercise routine. Wherever you live, chances are there are outdoor “boot-camp”-style classes or maybe a soccer, kickball or dodgeball club that you can join. Check your local paper or just do an online search. These options offer the added benefit of being social. Join with a friend or two and turn the workout into an opportunity for a weekly or bi-weekly catch-up afterward. If you sign up solo, it’ll be hard not to make a few new friends while you’re getting your heart rate up and moving your muscles.

If you sign up for a club or make a commitment to get to a new class, why not reward yourself with a new piece of fall fitness gear. Even something as simple as having a new hoodie or pair of kicks to “show off” can motivate you to get out and get moving!

Whatever your fitness level, mixing things up is one of the best ways to kick boredom to the curb and stay on track with your goals 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!

Find Your Focus

Knock Out Distractions & Make Your Workouts Count!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I’m proud to be a native New Yorker and absolutely love living in the Big Apple. However, one of my biggest pet peeves about living and working here is walking down the street and colliding with someone engrossed in texting or checking his or her smartphone. What’s even more annoying than dodging a shoulder shove on a crowded city street? Seeing people waste their energy on their smartphones when they should be focusing on their workout!

As we kick off another Workout Wednesday, I offer a simple but important tip: focus on making your workout count!

I love the fact that my iPhone carries all the tunes I need to keep moving. However, the same amazing device also gives me 24/7 access to texts, emails and yes, my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, training my body has included training my brain to ignore all the distractions a smartphone has to offer.

You’ve made the effort to exercise, so remember, this is your precious time to focus on getting healthier and stronger. In our time-crunched world, many of us are lucky to get those 30 recommended minutes of cardio in on a near-daily basis. If you only have 20 or 30 minutes to commit to that power walk or weight training circuit, you owe it to yourself to get everything you can out of each of those minutes. That means focusing on what you’re doing. The text can wait, and you don’t need to tweet every time you complete a set.

Of course, I realize some people really do have to be “on” all the time, like those who work in emergency services or in the medical field and who may be on call during a workout. I also understand parents may need to keep an eye out for an emergency text from a spouse, partner or babysitter. For the rest of us, however, is the world seriously going to end if it takes another 30 minutes to respond to an email with a well thought-out response?

Working in public relations, I’m acutely aware of the fact that my job has nothing to do with saving lives. My boss knows I’ll check my work email eventually after I leave the office, but not while I’m focusing on my form or my breathing during an elliptical session or push-up Tabata and especially not during my all-time favorite Club Strength class. If taking a group exercise class will keep you from checking that smartphone, then find one you like and take it a few times a week. That way, you can truly focus on doing your body and mind some serious good during those precious minutes.

You made the effort to get to the gym, the park or the hiking trail. You owe it to yourself to focus on making that effort count so you can 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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