I am a firm believer we do indeed grow wiser with each passing year. For us fitness fanatics and serious athletes, however, that wisdom can be tested when setting our sights on a new or big goal. Unfortunately, I’ve failed that test yet again on the subject of do as I say and not as I do. That means I’m spending a good part of this Workout Wednesday back in physical therapy.
Rewind to mid-July of this summer, and I was exactly halfway through my 15-week prep process for my first ever bikini competition. After seven-and-a-half weeks of serious weight training, extended cardio sessions and strict dieting, I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder and left pectoral muscle. That twinge turned into serious pain almost overnight and spread down my arm, particularly in the bicep area. My coach got me in to see a master manual therapist who worked on the angry muscles, but the temporary relief wasn’t a permanent fix. My coach of course gave me the option of taking a break and possibly putting my competition plans on hold. Long story short, I made the decision to keep grinding on. I had the window of opportunity to train this summer and had no idea what would happen later this year or next in regards to my parents’ health or life’s other uncertainties. So, with some modifications to the upper body workouts, I kept training. As you all know, I made it to the show on September 28th and it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret being a part of.
Fast-forward to the beginning of November. The pain remained, but it had centered mainly in my bicep. When the discomfort started waking me up in the middle of the night, I knew I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer. I saw the same sports medicine orthopedist who helped me conquer a knee injury last year, and this time the diagnosis is biceps tendonitis. The doctor basically told me if I want to heal, I have to totally refocus my energy on physical therapy and stop kickboxing and other heavy duty upper body work for six weeks. If not, the severe bicep tendonitis could lead to a tear or rupture – and fixing either of those problems would require surgery.
I am well aware there is only person to blame for this mess: me. However, so many serious athletes face decisions like this all the time. There’s a drive to push through the pain and red line it just enough to reach that goal, to hell with the consequences. In the grand scheme of things, six weeks “off” is obviously a much better outcome than surgery. While I’m mad as hell at myself for letting it get this far, I know I’ll heal. And I’ll shift my be-a-good-solider focus to following my physical therapist’s instructions, taking my prescribed anti-inflammatories and babying the arm as much as possible. Some sacrifices now will only lead to a healthier Laura later.
At the end of the day, I realize not everyone makes such extreme choices. But when we do make a not-so-smart decision -in or outside of the gym – we have to accept the fact that we can’t go back in time and change it. We can only go forward, use what we’ve learned and hopefully not make the same mistake again. It’s just another part of the sometimes crazy learning process that comes with traveling the windy road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
As I get older, I am constantly finding more reasons to repeat a well-known saying: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
As many of you already know from my social media posts, October 11th was a horrible day. I won’t share all the details, but I will say it was just after 10:30 am when life changed in an instant. I was with my parents on Long Island and just walking into a medical building to meet a new doctor for Mom. Holding one of my arms per usual, Dad stopped suddenly and uttered 10 terrifying words: “Laura, I can’t breathe. I think I’m having a heart attack.” He was. The next five or ten minutes were a blur, but if it wasn’t for several fast-acting good Samaritans and an automated external defibrillator provided by a doctor’s office on the first floor of that building we were walking into, those would have been Dad’s last minutes with us.
In the chaos that followed, Dad was taken to Winthrop Hospital in an ambulance, and Mom and I met up with him in the emergency department before he was taken away to have a stent placed in the main artery of his 82-year-old heart. He then spent five days in the ICU. By day three, he was walking around the floor and cracking jokes. Even more miraculous is the fact that Dad’s is one of the rare cases where the heart muscle suffered zero damage. His strength has always overwhelmed me, but never more than in this instance.
Of course, during those five long days, everything stopped except for being with Dad. There was no gym. Normal healthy eating habits were impossible to maintain with so many hours spent in the hospital. And we won’t even talk about sleep. While life was anything but normal, we tried to find some sense of it where we could. That meant following through with my plans to participate in my first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on October 14th. Dad told me he’d feel better knowing I finished the four-mile trek. So, I did. James pounded the pavement with me, and we happily joined the sea of pink making waves around Central Park. As with all the Avon39 walks before, I walked in honor of warrior survivors like my Mom and in memory of those who lost their brave battle, including my friend Elizabeth.
A little more than two weeks later, breast cancer awareness month is winding down and Dad continues to make strides including a good follow-up visit with his cardiologist. He has even started in-home physical therapy. As I continue to keep an eye on his progress, I also worry about Mom taking care of herself as we all continue to recuperate from the emotional strain of this unprecedented time.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, this not-so-typical Motivation Monday post is another reminder about how precious life really is. As a journalist and producer who’s used to meeting and setting deadlines, it’s not always easy to adapt when plans go awry. It’s even harder to accept being powerless. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of the things you can control. Like telling the important people in your life you love them. Pursuing your passions. Not taking one day for granted.
It’s been a hell of month. I wrap up this final October post with a huge thank you to Dad’s cardiologist, and to all the physicians, nurses, aides and entire staff who took care of Dad at Winthrop. We are also beyond grateful for the overwhelming number of prayers and good wishes that continue to come via texts, emails and phone calls from family and friends as far away as Italy and Canada. In addition to keeping Dad’s spirits up, the good vibes have helped Mom and I though the exhausting days, too. Onward we go toward Dad’s full recovery; some rest for Mom; the re-launch of my healthy routine and all the other chances we have to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
This first Motivation Monday of August officially brings us to the start of the dog days of summer. Just when you thought the New York City summer couldn’t be any quieter, these are the days we Manhattanites savor shorter lines and fewer crowds at the gym, the supermarket and all those happening hot spots. This Motivation Monday also happens to bring me closer to my annual escape from the sizzling concrete jungle to the beautiful beaches of Montauk. I can practically smell the sea air now.
This year’s trip seems to be arriving at a truly perfect time as I shake off the remnants of a nasty bug that literally threw me off-balance for nearly three weeks. Who knew a virus could set up shop in your inner ear and make you feel seasick 24-hours a day? Needless to say the dizzy spells and nausea seriously interfered with my normal workout routine. It was tough for this exercise junkie to take a break from what provides a daily boost to my physical and mental well-being. However, it’s equally if not more important to listen to your body when something’s wrong. While some prescription medicine slowly brought balance back to my life, the remedy came with some not-so-optimal effects including many sleepless nights. I now look forward to finishing the healing process at the beach – my absolute favorite place on the planet.
Finally, this is also when I say ciao for the rest of the month. As my longtime readers already know, I use this time as an opportunity for a little writing hiatus as the calendar marches toward Labor Day. So, I close with a thank you to all my readers for your ongoing support and wish you a grand finale to the summer of 2015. I look forward to re-connecting in September and taking advantage of all the new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
The 26.2-mile journey through the five boroughs of the Big Apple is the largest marathon in the world. More than two million spectators cheered on the participants ranging from first-timers to world-renowned record holders.
There were two big reasons this year’s marathon held special meaning for New Yorkers and for people all over the country. First, thanks to Superstorm Sandy, last year’s event was cancelled. Second, the presence of the runners, spectators and volunteers was a testament to our resiliency following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. The fact that the crowd didn’t let extra security measures or fear stop them from being a part of this event shows how the strength and endurance of a community can help us through whatever hardships life throws our way.
As you repeat readers already know, despite my lifetime love affair with fitness, I’m not a runner. Unfortunately, running is one activity that never gave me anything aside from knee pain and overall discomfort. So I admit, I’m a little jealous of the official “runner’s high” this body and mind will never experience. Because of that, I have nothing but admiration and respect for those who lace up and pound the pavement in any kind of weather to chase that high while doing their bodies a world of good. For those who take it to the next level and push their bodies to amazing limits by running mile after mile in marathons, I will forever be in total awe.
So whether this was your first marathon or your 10th, I hope all you inspirational souls are enjoying a well-deserved day of rest. Maybe you can even manage to fit a massage into your schedule today or sometime this week! Your discipline and commitment to training are big time motivators for all fitness enthusiasts to never give up the quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!