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Maximize the End of 2018

Where does the time go?

It doesn’t seem possible, at least to me, but this Motivation Monday brings us to week 45 of 2018. If someone can explain how we only have seven weeks left in the year, please clue me in. I do find some comfort knowing many people share my sentiment that this year flew by faster than others in recent memory. Maybe it’s because here in New York, we had a not-so-hot spring, followed by a rainy summer and now we’re in the thick of darker, chillier days. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older with each week bringing more responsibilities and more headaches than we remember as kids. Whatever the reason, now’s the time to embrace a take-charge attitude when it comes to your health and making sure 2018 ends on a high note.

Some of you might be thinking, “Laura, you do realize we’re about five minutes away from the start of another holiday season, right?” I do indeed. In fact, with Thanksgiving only 10 days away, there’s no time like the present to make some plans to do what you can to make healthy choices before the onslaught of festivities, food and cheer fill our calendars and our stomachs!

Am I saying now’s the time to re-arrange your entire life when it’s going to be re-arranged by that barrage of holiday happenings? Heck no! I simply want to encourage everyone to remember as the days grow more hectic, it’s even more important to carve out even 10 minutes for yourself to keep yourself physically and mentally focused. Here are three easy tips on how to keep being good to yourself as the year winds down:

  • Maintain Healthy Shopping Habits: Be sure there are fruits, veggies and whole grains on your holiday food shopping list. It’s okay if you want to bake cookies for your kids’ class party or neighbors’ holiday get-together. Just don’t skimp on the healthy stuff to keep your immune system strong and help you make smart pre-party choices on the days you are going to be indulging in some treats.
  • Fit Fitness Into Your Routine: I can’t think of a better time of year to try one of those “express” group fitness class at the gym. Many offer options ranging from 30-minute abs and stretch to 45-minute glutes classes.
  • Add Some Lavender to Your Life: If you’re adding vanilla, cinnamon or evergreen scented aromas to your holiday decor, add a hint of lavender, too. The fragrance from the oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness and it’s also said to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Be sure to check in next week when I’ll offer my annual smart feasting tips for Thanksgiving. I’ll keep the festive themes going as we get through the season together. Remember, a few smart choices can help you stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – even as we gear up for the craziest time of the year!

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Hooray for Spring!

Make it a Knock-Out Spring!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

How perfect is it that we get to kick off a brand new season on a Motivation Monday? 

Even though we officially welcome the spring of 2017 today, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who are unmotivated to move as we shake off the effects of Old Man Winter’s end-of-season punches. Trust me, I get it. It’s a lot easier to sit on the couch than bundle up in layers of cold weather gear, pull on the boots and trudge through the melting snow puddles to get to the gym. The good news is now that spring has arrived, better weather is on the horizon. Sometimes just knowing those brighter and warmer days are coming can be the boost your body needs. 

As we wait things out a little while longer, I encourage you to do this: change just one thing in your routine. Not sure what I mean? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Adding two to three kickboxing sessions to my weekly mix has made a huge impact on my fitness focus. Since I started taking ILoveKickboxing classes in February, no two workouts have been the same. I love the new adrenaline rush and the stress release I experience from punching and kicking the heavy bag. The classes have also made me stronger for my Physique57 classes and other workouts. So what workout have you always wanted to try? Go ahead and give it a shot! The benefits could be nothing but pure sweat and pure fun! 
  2. Make a new playlist: Don’t be shy about asking your instructors about the music he or she plays to keep you going. Now with Spotify, Apple Music and other music sharing options, it’s easier than ever to find the right beats for your body.
  3. Move for a cause: Sign up for a walk or run that supports something that moves you and /or consider supporting family and friends in their own efforts. I am getting so excited to participate in my fourth Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. In less than 100 days, I’ll lace up for the first time in Boston. If you’d like to make a donation, click here. (A HUGE thank you to all who’ve donated so far!) 
  4. Grab some new fitness wear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine.
  5. Add a new fruit or veggie to your diet: Toss blueberries or strawberries into that morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal; add half an avocado to your egg white omelet or pair an apple with almonds, a non-fat plain Greek yogurt or your grab-and-go snack of choice.

Remember, sometimes adding one new thing to the mix is all you need to stay on track with turning your healthy goals into a reality. Happy spring, people! It’s time to get psyched for a new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On…..

iStock_000018191976XSmallIt happened again. I blinked and here we are on the last Motivation Monday of January! Four weeks into 2017, I offer big kudos to everyone sticking with those plans to make this your healthiest year yet.

If you feel like your motivation is starting to wane, here’s a boost to keep you going. In only a couple of weeks, some of the new things you started will feel like part of your daily routine. If you’re discouraged about the number on the scale, forget the numbers and think about how many of these non-scale-related wins you’ve experienced so far this year:

  • Do you have more energy?
  • Do your clothes fit better?
  • Do you see a new glow in your skin?

Remember, healthy living isn’t a sprint. It’s a lifelong marathon and there will be days when even the most disciplined among us stray off course. It’s part of being human. To help you stay on track, I offer three tips to keep in mind for the days, weeks and months ahead:

  1. Start your day with the right fuel. I believe in the power of a healthy breakfast, but I’m also highly aware of how little time many of us have to even think about scrambling some eggs or waiting around for Ezekiel bread to toast. That’s why I love starting my days with a chocolate Isagenix shake. It takes the guess-work out of determining what will give me the nutrients I need, and I can either make it in the blender or use my portable shaker. Not a shake person? Grab a hard-boiled egg or non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Bonus Tip: adding fresh fruit to your yogurt is a lower-sugar option to the flavored varieties. All of these protein-packed options will keep you full longer than starchy, sugary items like frozen waffles or pancakes.
  2. Never leave home without healthy snacks. There’s nothing worse than going grocery shopping with a rumbling stomach or being greeted at the shopping mall with the scent of cinnamon tempting your nostrils from the food court. What will you find in my bag? Either a bag of almonds or KIND bar. I love these snacks because they’re yummy and because they contain no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols and provide a balanced combination of healthy fats, protein and complex carbs.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. Sure, I’m all about moderation. But I also have a hard time not going overboard when certain temptations are lurking in my kitchen cabinets. That’s why I don’t keep things like cookies or candy in the house. I freely admit I’m incapable of eating just one cookie or one piece of chocolate. (I envy those who can!) If you’re like me, then seriously, just don’t buy it. For the parents out there, it’s never too early to get your kids started on healthy snacking. Push the apple slices and peanut butter snacks on a normal basis and save the treats for special occasions.

Here’s to wrapping up the first month of 2017 on a positive note and to welcoming February and all the new chances 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!

Big Goals & Baby Steps

VictoryWay to go – you made it to the second Motivation Monday of 2016! So, how was your first week of the New Year?

I received many inspiring messages during the week from friends around the country telling me about their health and fitness goals for 2016. Not surprisingly, the majority of those goals had to do with losing weight.

Some had a specific target in mind for shedding those pounds. Karen, for example, wants to be 25 pounds lighter by June in time for her first cruise. With healthy weight loss clocking in at around two pounds per week, she’s set a realistic goal for a six-month period. And that’s the key – keeping it real.

So I thought this would be the perfect time to offer some tips on how to keep reality in check and not feel overwhelmed by your goals.

  1. Drop and give me a plank! You’re sticking to that resolution to add 10 minutes of extra time to your daily walk. Good for you! Now drop and give me some planks to attack your core strength. Click here for a refresher video on how to add planks and other full-body exercises to your routine in just four minutes thanks to Tabata training.
  2. Start your day with the right fuel. I believe in the power of a healthy breakfast. Aim for a “clean” meal of scrambled eggs with a slice of toasted Ezekiel or other sprouted bread. On the run? Grab a hard-boiled egg or non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Extra Tip: adding fresh fruit to your yogurt is a lower-sugar option to the flavored varieties. These protein-packed options will keep you full longer than starchy, sugary items like frozen waffles or pancakes.
  3. Never leave home without healthy snacks. There’s nothing worse than going grocery shopping with a rumbling stomach or being greeted at the shopping mall with the scent of cinnamon invading your nostrils from  from the food court. What will you find in my bag? I love KIND snacks, especially the bars. They contain no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols and provide a balanced combination of healthy fats, protein and complex carbs. The bonus? They’re yummy!
  4. Out of sight, out of mind. Yes, I’m all about moderation. But I also have a hard time not going overboard when certain temptations are lurking in my kitchen cabinets. That’s why I don’t keep things like cookies or candy in the house. I freely admit I’m incapable of eating just one cookie or one piece of chocolate. I envy those who can. If you’re like me, then seriously, just don’t buy it. For the parents out there, it’s never too early to get your kids started on healthy habits. Push the apple slices and peanut butter snacks on a normal basis and save the treats for special occasions.
  5. Steer clear of quick fixes. Any diet plan that’s too restrictive is bound to backfire. I would never tell someone not to enjoy their favorite indulgence every now and then. The key is training yourself to monitor portions and make whole food choices. If you don’t, once the juice cleanse or shake-diet is over and done with and you reintroduce real food into your life, you risk going right back to consuming too many calories and the weight can creep right back.

Remember, this is NOT a sprint. Healthy choices take time to develop into habits, and those habits will continue to become a part of lifelong marathon. Celebrate each and every healthy choice you make and active step that you take as part of your effort to stay the course on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Gobble Gobble Prep Time

Thanksgiving feastIs anyone else blown away by the fact that this Motivation Monday marks the 10-day countdown to Thanksgiving 2014? In anticipation of the delicious, calorie-loaded holiday, I thought it would be a good time to offer a few easy reminders on how to burn a few extra calories at the gym and keep the diet in check. Paying closer attention to your healthy habits in the days leading up to a holiday or other special occasion is a great way to have less guilt when you do sit down to gobble up the goodies and celebrate!

Move Just a Little Bit More: Three easy ways to burn a few more calories on a daily basis:

  1. Add one Tabata to your workout. Click here for a refresher on the four-minute high intensity workout formula.
  2. Jump rope for 30-second intervals (60 for the more advanced fitness fiends) between exercises. If you’re lifting weights, add a jump rope intermission as you move from one machine to the next or every other move.
  3. Add more steps to your day by taking the stairs and parking your car further away from the entrance to your office or even at the shopping center.

Fast Food Fixes: As seen on a recent episode of the Working Woman Report, here’s a little show-and-tell about how a little prep can go a long way in making healthier food choices.

As we move into this fun, festive and food-filled time of year, it’s good to know some simple choices can help us enjoy the season and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

A Special Workout Wednesday Team Effort

One favorite you'll always find in my fridge!

One favorite you’ll always find in my fridge!

I hope everyone’s enjoying this first Workout Wednesday in October! With the mercury rising into the 80s today here in New York City today, I wish I was at the beach but I’ll gladly take the sunshine!

I returned from my morning cardio session to find a link ready to share to my guest appearance on another website today. Robin Plotkin is a registered dietitian,  nutrition expert and creator of RobinsBite.com. She lives in Dallas, TX and after meeting in Cyberspace through the land of Twitter, she asked me to share my food buying and eating habits to be featured in her “Inside the Fridge” series.  Click here to read my guest post.

I close with a big thank you to Robin for the opportunity to appear on her website and a wish for all of you to use the new month as a time to add some new healthy habits to your lifestyle so you can continue on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Different Kind of Workout Wednesday

Of course, there's workout wear tucked away for my trip!

Of course, I packed some workout wear!

This particular Workout Wednesday marks a first for me. Depending on what time you read this, I’ll either be getting ready for or in the midst of flying to Amsterdam! As I write this post, I’m beyond excited to meet up with my lifelong buddy Ania and her pal Tiffany for what’s sure to be a fun-filled adventure!

While I’ll be skipping the workout today, I do plan on making use of our hotel’s fitness center during the trip. While I’m gone, if you need a shot of motivation, don’t hesitate to scroll down to the “Search This Site” box on the right side of this page. If you type in anything from abdominals to Zumba, hopefully you’ll find something helpful from one of my previous 200+ posts.

I leave you with links to some “oldies but goodies” that offer tips on key training concepts. I hope they’ll help as you continue your hard work on turning those New Year’s resolutions into routine behavior:

My next post will appear on Monday, January 28th. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments or email me with any questions or with any topics you’d like me to touch on in the weeks ahead. Wishing everyone a great week and I look forward to returning with even more energy to continue on this journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Friday’s Food for Thought: Back-to-School Edition

We all survived the post-Labor Day back-to-school, back-to-the-grind work week!

I wrap up this fitting-fitness-into-your-fall-schedule-themed week with some simple reminders about how to get your healthy eating habits back on track. Remember, diet and exercise go hand in hand. If you want your body to perform at its best, you need to give it the right fuel.

As a happy follower of the everything-in-moderation lifestyle, none of my “diet tricks” involve extremes:

  1. A Little Prep Goes A Long Way: Every weekend, I stock up on easy-to-chop or no-chop-needed produce like baby carrots, celery, peppers and cherry tomatoes. At some point on Sunday, I pack up five ready-to-grab containers and so I have no excuse for not having veggies with my lunch every day at work. Same goes for fruits. I chop strawberries and bring a large container to work on Monday and divvy out portions each morning with non-fat plain Greek yogurt and high fiber cereal. Add a pre-workout banana, and this all adds up to a no-brainer approach to getting multiple servings of fruits and veggies during the day!
  2. Take the guesswork out of staying hydrated: Save your dollars and the planet by stocking up on a few reusable water bottles. Keep one in your backpack, briefcase, purse, gym bag and/or at the office. Reports differ on how much water each individual needs, but the general rule is eight, eight-ounce  glasses each day. I keep a 16-ounce water bottle in my office and I fill it at least three times while I’m at work. So, between my post-work workout and at least one glass of water with dinner, I hit my daily intake without even thinking about it.
  3. Don’t wait until you’re famished to eat: I have to eat every 3-4 hours or I get sluggish. I also make sure to eat a snack about an hour before my workout so you don’t burn out too quickly. My new favorite pre-workout snack is a chopped medley of one banana and three or four pineapple strips. I enjoy the mix with a side of string cheese and big glass of water.
  4. Keep healthy snacks handy: There are few places I’ll go without a Fiber One bar or some raw almonds. If you find yourself sans snack, chew on a piece of gum or have a glass of water to take the edge off before scarfing down something less healthy.
  5. Be realistic: When a craving gnaws at you, it’s not always a bad thing to give into it. Ignoring a guilty pleasure for too long can end up being worse. It’s amazing how the desire for one cupcake on Monday can turn into inhaling a colossal sized one meant for four people to share by Friday.

I leave you with this final thought: 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 do is drink red wine and eat chocolate. It happens. Don’t let one bad day throw you off course. Just wipe off the crumbs, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance 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!

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