Happy World Sleep Day!
It certainly doesn’t feel like it here in New York City, but here we are two days before the official start of spring. How’s everyone holding up?
As we all continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, I did want to offer what’s usually a semi-annual reminder about one of the most critical but often overlooked components to staying healthy: sleep. As if getting quality sleep wasn’t hard enough before 2020, many people – including yours truly – are suffering from a new condition some health experts have identified as “Coronasomnia.” While not surprising, this new classification only highlights the importance of trying to find ways to unwind and give your body a chance to rest and recover, especially during these stressful times.
We all know how hard it is to focus or find energy to do even the most basic tasks when we don’t get enough solid zzz’s. But research shows lack of sleep can contribute to other less-than-optimal health issues including weight gain, a rise in blood pressure and even increase your risk for heart disease.
So while there is no surefire way to get better sleep, I’ll offer some of the tips and tricks that work for me:
- Sip carefully: It’s no secret I love my libations, but while a glass or two of wine can help soothe the spirit after a stressful day, too much can wreak havoc on your system and end up doing just the opposite.
- Kill the Screen Time: I know. Throughout these monotonous days, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much to do than mindlessly scroll through a feed or read the latest statistics on the virus or other stressful news. I’ve been working hard to shut off any blue-light devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try reading a real book or magazine instead.
- Pamper Yourself: Maybe it’s a hot shower or bath with lavender scented soaps. Or lighting a calming candle and sipping some herbal tea. Or putting on your favorite fuzzy slippers. Whatever creature comfort gives you peace, cling to it and unwind!
- Get Moving: Exercise always does a body good, but just wrap up the workout at least one hour before bedtime.
- Let It Out: Jot down some thoughts or list of worries in a journal or on a piece of note paper. Or sing out loud to your favorite “angry” song. Talk to a best buddy. Just get the negative “stuff” out of your system.
If you’ve found the secret to better sleep in these challenging times, please don’t keep it to yourself! As we move toward a new season together, sharing ideas is a great way to keep pushing forward and not lose sight of our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Mind Over Matter
At the start of this journey to my very first bikini competition, I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, last week marking the transition from six to five weeks out from show day was one hell of a long haul.
I thought I hit a wall before, but this was more like a full-body slam into a mountain. The numbers on the scale stopped moving, and that plateau really messed up my head. One day, the number even went up. That’s hard to digest when you’re following every step of a nutrition and training plan to the letter. As I stepped off the scale every morning with a heavy heart, the workouts started to feel like torture sessions. And sleep? Forget about it. I was up half the night partly because I was hungry and partly because I was stressed over things seemingly going in the wrong direction. Then a totally new problem started (spoiler alert: here’s the ugly): constipation. Overall, I felt pretty lousy and less than motivated. I felt self-doubt creeping into my brain fully understanding the temptation to simply say “Screw this!” and throw in the towel.
Luckily, I have a great coach, fiance and support team who helped me get over the mental roadblock. In addition to positive feedback and a reality check on the difficulty of maintaining such discipline, my coach Jen offered one directive that really helped me get a grip. She told me to stop weighing myself every day. She also reminded me (along with my amazing support team) progress is measured by way more than just a number blinking at you from a digital read out. She also asked me a question composed of the six best words I’d heard in almost 12 weeks: “Do you like a good steak?” Do I ever! So, Saturday I enjoyed a “feast” of lean red meat, sweet potato and arugula. This “re-feed” not only sent my taste buds into orbit, but I also slept better than I had in days and woke up refreshed.
Then came Sunday: my total rest day. Mother Nature has been super kind to me this summer as I’ve been able to enjoy some quiet time by the sea pretty much every week since this all started. This week’s beach time was a little chillier than usual and a mighty sand-pelting wind sent me home early, but those two hours of “vitamin sea” therapy gave me time to breathe and reflect on the challenges I’ve overcome so far. I left the beach with some added strength for my mind and spirit that will help me get through the next five weeks. I’ve come this far. No way I’m giving up now.
So onward I go knowing full well there will be more hurdles, aches, pains, hunger pangs, serious cravings and plain old difficult days ahead. This is when I’ll really rely on the power of upbeat music, motivational quotes, self-affirmation and any other source of positive energy to get me through. Eye on the prize. To all of you who reached out this past week via text message, emails or posts on social media, I offer an extra hearty thank you. You helped more than you’ll ever know to get over that mountain and back on a somewhat steadier path in this unprecedented journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
A Sleepy Motivation Monday
It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us face the second Motivation Monday of March groggier than usual thanks to the start of Daylight Saving Time. So it’s also time for my bi-annual reminder to use this drowsy day to take stock of something that’s often overlooked in too many health routines: our sleep habits.
Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps us retain information and boost our mood. Search the Internet, and you’ll even find studies linking inadequate sleep to weight gain. On a personal note, when I rack up too many consecutive nights without enough shut-eye, it’s harder to concentrate on everything from my work to my workouts. I also find myself being annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.
Here are some ideas to make sure you get those all-important zzzz’s:
- Exercise: Physical activity can help you sleep. However, if I exercise less than two hours before going to bed, the endorphins keep me up. Aim to wrap a workout three hours before bedtime.
- Alcohol: My repeat readers know I enjoy a glass of wine or prosecco at the end of the day. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect of calming the nerves and end up wrecking your night. Obviously, having a hangover in the morning is never a good thing.
- Caffeine: Some of my friends can have coffee at 8 pm and still fall asleep at 10:30 pm. If I have caffeine after 3 pm, I’m looking at a rough night ahead. The key is to pay attention to how your body reacts. Make sure you check for “hidden” caffeine in things like flavored teas and sweet treats.
- Stress: This is an area under never-ending construction in my own life. One thing that’s I’ve worked on during the past year is writing down my to-do lists and long-term product ideas at least an hour before getting into bed. Putting my tasks and even my worries “on paper” gives me a clearer outline of what’s ahead instead of letting it swarm around in my brain while I lie in the dark.
- Shutting Down: If you scan the Internet, you’ll find plenty of research on how watching TV in bed and using smart phones and other portable devices can be over-stimulating when your body is trying to wind down. Aim to power down at least 30 minutes before closing those tired eyes for the night.
Remember, if you’ve made the commitment to workout and watch what you eat, you owe it to yourself to give your body time to rest and recharge. It’s all part of the winning formula to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Sticking With Those Healthy Resolutions!
Three weeks into the New Year and here we are celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a long weekend, be sure to make every second count!
On this Motivation Monday, I want to offer a boost to anyone struggling to stick with those healthy resolutions. Remember, it takes at least six weeks for a habit – good or bad – to become routine. So be patient with yourself and keep taking things one day at a time. I hope the video below also offers some ideas to make this your healthiest year yet! Thanks to KIND Snacks, Oscillococcinum and S+ by ResMed for the opportunity to represent their brands and to the team at Vidicom for a great production day.
Here’s to another great week ahead filled with lots of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Five Dos & Don’ts for Healthy Living
On this particular Motivation Monday, I feel the need to keep things as simple as possible.
After a four-day mini-marathon helping my parents start cleaning out the house they’ve lived in for the past 35 years and my mom’s birthday, my muscles and my brain are just a bit fried. So, for the sake of everyone facing a manic Monday, I thought I’d offer some basic elements for how I keep my healthy lifestyle in check.
Here are my top five dos and don’t for healthy living:
1) DON’T skip meals for an entire day in anticipation of a big event at night. DO eat small, sensible meals every few hours before the celebration so your blood sugar levels stay consistent and you don’t over-do-it once you arrive. One hour before the party, try to have a satisfying snack with some protein. My go-to: string cheese and a couple of clementines or an apple.
2) DON’T sabotage all your efforts at the gym by drinking sugary drinks while you workout. Unless you’re running up and down a court or field for 90 minutes or more, stick with water to stay hydrated. Can’t stand plain water? DO feel free to add a drop or packet of zero-calorie flavor crystals to your water bottle or opt for no-calorie versions of the popular sports drinks.
3) DON’T go to the gym when you have symptoms of something beyond the sniffles. If you have a serious cough or stomach issues, do everyone a favor and skip the workout and stay home. DO, however, maintain a consistent exercise schedule with a combination of cardio and strength training to help boost your immune system and fight off the bugs when they try to bring you down.
4) DON’T let exercise become an obsession. Pain beyond the typical aches and pains following a tough workout or extreme fatigue are warning signs that it’s time to rest! DO take at least one rest day each week to let your muscles recover and give your entire body a re-charge.
5)DON’T skimp on sleep. Many people fail to realize that exercise, healthy eating and getting the proper rest are all necessary for staying on top of your game. DO wrap up your workout at least two hours before bedtime and stop texting, emailing and all your other social-media activity at least 30 minutes before lights out.
Remember, sometimes keeping things simple is the best way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
LauraLovesFitness Turns One!
Wow! I have NO idea where the year went, but here we are 365 days after my very first post at LauraLovesFitness.com. It’s been a wonderful ride so far and I’m excited to see where the blogging adventure leads to in the days ahead.
Since July 11th, 2011, I’ve published 149 posts on topics ranging from key concepts in core training to the power of positive thinking and the importance of taking care of our mental health while focusing on our physical fitness. There have been express workout routines, music lists, interviews with icons in fitness and show biz, lo-cal cocktail recipes and reassurances for why it’s okay to take a day off from the gym AND indulge in a cupcake once in awhile.
Whether I was sharing my reasons for loving everything from small group training to Tabatas or offering a personal account of why you shouldn’t ignore warning signs like pain and severe fatigue, I wrote each and every post with the same purpose: to motivate people to take better care of themselves. Not everyone likes to exercise. Not everyone wants to choose celery sticks over cheesecake. Yet, if I’ve inspired just one person to go out and find some sort of physical activity that makes him or her feel good or pack frozen grapes instead of chocolate covered ones for that trip to the beach, that’s all I need to truly celebrate my blog’s first birthday!
Here are a few links to some of my personal favorites from the past year. (If you have others that you particularly enjoyed, please let me know!)
- An interview with fitness guru Chris Freytag about the importance of sleep
- Why I love the foam roller
- Why I can’t believe it took me until this year to discover Zumba!
- Motivation for your Workout Wednesday – or any day of the week
- My instant connection with a sledgehammer
Of course, I can’t let this special occasion go by without saying thank you for the support from my family, friends and all my readers. Whether you signed up for a subscription on day one or stop by occasionally to leave a “like,” post a comment or question, I appreciate anyone who takes some time out of a busy day to check in. Moving forward, I’d love to know which topics you’d like to read more about as well as the ones you’d prefer to see less frequently.
I’m also using this as an opportunity to invite fellow bloggers to appear as guests on this site. (If you’re interested, here’s a link to my contact information.) Sharing knowledge in different areas of expertise in the world of fitness, nutrition and overall health and well-being can only help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Give Yourself a Break
Wow! I can honestly say this is one week that couldn’t come to an end soon enough.
Between work and happenings outside of work, I felt like I simply couldn’t catch my breath. One thing in particular that got to me was the fact that for the first time since I started this blog, I wasn’t able to write a new post for Wednesday. Life got in the way, and I was actually angry with myself for not getting it done. Then halfway through that busy workday, I stopped and remembered a famous quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Then I took a deep breath and got over it.
It amazes me how hard we can be on ourselves. We make never-ending to-do lists and get flustered when we can’t cross off the 30th item in a 24-hour period. When the fun things become chores, that’s when it’s time to step back and realize you may not be able to get everything done at the exact moment you want. And really, unless someone’s life is at stake, it’s not the end of the world.
For me, that means my love affair with exercise sometimes has to take a backseat to other things, like much-needed sleep. Yesterday, I set the alarm for 5:30 am hoping to get my heart pumping before a day at the office followed by a personal training session. There was no way I could workout afterward at a late hour, especially on an empty stomach! However, when the alarm went off, my body practically screamed at me to stay in bed. So I did. I’m convinced that extra snooze time helped me write coherent scripts and meet my production deadlines at the office and be a more focused trainer for Lauren at the gym afterward.
This week didn’t go as planned on many levels. So, I did the best I could to face the unexpected challenges with the energy I had to face them. All that means is during the weekend ahead, I’ll make a new list with a new plan for more workouts, more blog posts and hopefully, some more sleep. The reality is taking a deep breath and “forgiving” yourself for what you couldn’t get done can sometimes help you climb what feels like an uphill battle to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!