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The New Normal

The Grind Continues

Nineteen days have passed since I stepped off the stage and started showering off the spray tan, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. While my daily routine isn’t as physically taxing as it was in the days, weeks and months leading up to my first bikini competition, I’ve been struggling with some anxiety and stress as I now have no excuse not to focus on the “what’s next?” in my life. I think it’s easiest to break down the state of my psyche into three areas:

  1. My weight: Since holding water can change the numbers daily, I’ve gained between six to eight pounds since show day. I knew I could never maintain my stage weight. Aside from living on a low-calorie diet, by competition time you’re not just a little “hangry,” you’re dehydrated, too. A big part of peak week is cutting back on your water intake so you look as “cut” as possible on stage. While I realize my weight today is a healthier, more sustainable number (which still comes with its own demand for discipline), it’s amazing how your mind can get the best of you if you let it. I shared this in last week’s post, and it’s something I find myself repeating to myself almost daily again this week: we should never define ourselves by just a number. Instead, we should focus on how we feel and most importantly, if we have the energy to do the things we enjoy with the people who matter the most.
  2. My diet: Of course, there’s a very simple reason for the weight gain: I’ve been enjoying the things I denied myself during 15 weeks of contest prep! The day after the show, I savored every morsel of sunny-side up eggs, crispy bacon and buttered rye toast. For dinner, it was filet mignon tidbits on top of a bed of buttery mashed potatoes and two glasses of Prosecco. However, in between, I was back to a prep meal: four ounces of chicken, a half-cup of brown rice and a cup of spinach. Since then, I’ve been trying to strike a balance between eating those clean prep meals during the day and enjoying a non-restrictive, but healthy dinner. (Yes, wine is usually involved…and probably some version of dessert, too.) James and I have resumed going out to dinner or ordering in a few nights a week. Most nights, I’ll be “good,” nursing one libation to go along with a grilled chicken paillard covered with greens. Other nights, I’m not-so-good, enjoying two drinks along with yummy cheat foods including sliders; mac-and-cheese and chicken parmesan. Nothing is off limits anymore, but I’m still working on getting my groove back to the no guilt, everything-in-moderation lifestyle I followed in the 45 years leading up to the competition.
  3. My workouts: What’s been the best part of post-show life? A return to kickboxing! After months of work in the weight room, I was ecstatic to feel more power than ever before when I unleashed hell on the heavy bag despite not attending a class since May 20th. I’ve also kept up with my weight training, and plan to stick with it. While I’ve never been a fan of leg days, I’ll make sure to keep a couple of them in my weekly routine. However, instead of five sets of goblet squats, leg presses or deadlifts, I’ll probably do four. Making some gains in the off-season can only help me start another prep period even stronger than the first time around.

The hardest part of my post-show life is the daily struggle to not be so hard on myself. If I need to go to bed a little earlier or crave another carb-loaded meal, I need to “forgive” myself and let it go. Luckily my husband, parents and friends are helping make the adjustment from pre- to post-show life more bearable. I know I accomplished a lot in 15 weeks and put my body and mind through something unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Now it’s time to be thankful for what’s happened and plan for what’s next. It just goes to show striking a healthy balance for the body, mind and soul is an ongoing challenge in our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

Regrouping

Cheers To What’s Next!

It’s no secret I haven’t been here much the last couple of months. I guess my mind has been on hyperdrive since hitting the 45-year-old mark in February. I hate to say something as trite as my absence here is reflective of my own version of a mid-life crisis, but it’s a little bit of that and then some. The interesting thing is the more people I talk to at this age and stage of life, the more I realize I’m not alone.

No major event has rocked my world. Dad is getting back on his feet after a shaky fall and winter. Mom is feeling good and gearing up for her other total knee replacement surgery. My main “dilemna” has been an internal one and it boils down to a simple but seemingly impossible question that makes me reach for the ZzzQuil® on more nights than I probably should: what’s next for me?

I realize I’m lucky to be an independent contractor and even more fortunate to have the support from my fiancé and friends to continue my new and growing role as caregiver to my parents. However, the reality is I am also at a crossroads in that I know I want to find something new to do with my skills. So I’ve been vacillating between looking for more on-camera opportunities as a lifestyle host and questioning what’s holding me back from pursuing completely new opportunities in the one thing in my life that’s always kept me grounded and never feels like “work.” I’m talking about the world of health and fitness.

So as I navigate through these crossroads, I ask for your patience and some positivity. Maybe one day soon I’ll be encouraging my fellow New Yorkers to sign up for a kickboxing class taught by yours truly. Perhaps I’ll be asking for good vibes as I start new health and wellness related coursework. Perhaps this blog morphs into something bigger where I can address a wider range of topics that have seemed to take over my physical and mental well-being in this decade supposedly known as the “Fabulous 40s.” The bottom line is I am both overwhelmed and exhilarated about the opportunities I hope to find in the days, months and years ahead. I know whatever path I choose, however many times I stumble or take another detour, a good sweat will always help bring me back to the a strong starting position. Armed with that strength and the support of my readers and my entire “fitfam,” I hope the excitement will conquer the fear and keep the sleepless nights in check.

You longtime readers have been here through many ups and downs over these past eight years. As I embark on another unsure and unmarked path, I thank you for sticking around if the installments become sporadic at times. Even if you don’t find my posts here, you know the chances are you can find me tearing away at a heavy bag or searching online for the next big thing…and all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Christmas Tradition Continues….

This marks the first Motivation Monday to fall on Christmas Eve since 2012. I can’t think of a better day to share a seven-year-old signature gift from LauraLovesFitness. Keeping up with tradition, this fitness-inspired twist on a holiday classic will also be my last post of 2018. Today I give you a kickboxing addict’s version of…

The 12 Days of Fitness

On the first day of fitness, my workout gave to me…my favorite kind of therapy.

On the second day of fitness, my workout gave to me…two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the third day of fitness, my workout gave to me…three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the fourth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the fifth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the sixth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the seventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the eighth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the ninth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the tenth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the eleventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…eleven side planks, ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

On the twelfth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…twelve reps of lunges, eleven side planks, ten burpee push-ups, nine jab-cross combinations, eight back-fist punches, seven side kicks, six speed bag intervals, five roundhouse kicks! Four minutes of tabatas, three sets of squats, two boxing gloves and my favorite kind of therapy.

Whatever you and your family are celebrating as another year winds down, I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday week ahead. I close with a huge thank you for all the support throughout another year filled with highs and lows. Here’s to ringing in 2019 with a bang (and a punch!) and ushering in all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Congratulations, Runners!

On this Motivation Monday, I send huge kudos to the tens of thousands of FITASTIC men and women who laced up for yesterday’s TCS New York City Marathon. As my repeat readers know, despite my love for kickboxing, barre classes, Zumba and all types of exercise, I never caught the running bug. So I will forever be in awe of anyone who can run for any amount of time – and 26.2 miles is simply incredible.

In addition to some well-deserved celebrating and indulging in treats galore, I hope the more than 50,000 runners are also taking a well-deserved rest day after pushing their bodies to the ultimate extreme. While the rest of us may not have clocked 26.2 miles on our fitness trackers this weekend, it’s important to remember each and every one of us regardless of our fitness level needs at least one rest day each week. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining. That can lead to a gamut of problems ranging from stress fractures and joint pain to sleepless nights.

To put it simply, too much of a good thing – even exercise – can be bad. Why? Because working out, especially at high levels with high impact, breaks down your body tissue. Resistance training actually breaks down muscles causing microscopic tears and it is on rest days when the muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissue get the needed time to rebuild.

So if this Motivation Monday turns into a rest day, don’t sweat it. Sometimes your body and mind need some extra zzzz’s or an overdue chat with a loved one more than a heart-pounding workout. If you’ve made the commitment to exercise and watch what you eat, you also 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!

Back in Action…Well, Sort Of

My August “Fashion” Accessory

Happy September!

I realize I’m probably “showing my age,” but I’m absolutely blown away at how each summer seems to fly by faster than the last. It’s even harder to believe my annual month-long hiatus from blogging has come to an end, too. I hope your August was filled with at least a few lazy days, plenty of laughter and some precious moments with friends and family. Let the memory of those happy days give you a boost when the back-to-reality blues come knocking at your door.

Since everyone seems to be in back-to-school mode, I thought it was the perfect time to offer what I learned in a different kind of summer school: physical therapy. Fortunately, I am close to wrapping up my PT sessions, but I’m still uncertain of the date I’ll be able to return to my ultimate happy place: the kickboxing studio. So the lesson I hope you take away from this first post of September boils down to this: do what I say, NOT what I do. Seriously.

Since 2011, I’ve written multiple posts about the importance of listening to your body and taking a step back if it tells you something’s wrong. And what exactly did LauraLovesFitness do in this situation? I didn’t listen. I ignored the pain that started as a small twinge in the medial region of my right knee after a kickboxing class back in February. Sure, I’d take a day off, maybe two, here and there, but I never rested long enough to give my body a real break. After several months, that twinge had turned into a steady, searing pain that began impacting life away from the heavy bag. It started bothering me during long walks, at Physique57 classes and even after periods of sitting. When the pain started waking me up at night, I knew it was time to do something. Fortunately, a MRI ruled out a tear in my meniscus or any ligaments surrounding the knee. However, I was diagnosed with bursitis and tendonitis due to a probable strain in my adductor followed by overuse. That meant I had to take a step back from kickboxing and get my butt to physical therapy.

Now, after five weeks of manual therapy, ice massage, various stretching and strengthening exercises and wearing kinesiology tape (also known as elastic therapeutic tape or K-tape), I’m finally feeling like myself again. For someone used to going a million miles a minute, it’s been frustrating as hell and I miss kickboxing more than any other workout in my life. The bottom line is I have no one to blame but myself. If I could go back in time, I would have addressed the pain not long after it started, made sure I was executing the moves in my workout with proper form and taken the rest I needed.

So, as I continue to heal and look forward to a return to kickboxing, I encourage everyone to take things nice and slow as we transition from the “lazy days of summer” into more intense routines. Many are shifting from long walks at the beach back into more intense fitness classes or weight training sessions at the gym. Be sure to warm up and cool down; stretch; hydrate and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t keep doing it! If you don’t start feeling better after a few days of rest, consider seeing a doctor to make sure you haven’t done something that needs more than just ice and elevation.

I close with a hearty thank you to Dr. Andrew Rosen at Upper East Orthopaedics and Jun Zhu Zhang at Orthology in Chelsea for their expert care and for understanding my need to get back to the heavy bag. Here’s to healthy and happy September ahead and making smart choices along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Tricks, New Treats

Loved meeting these fun, fab and fierce fitness chicks!

One of the perks of getting my NASM and AFAA certifications several years ago is that it “forces” me to get a certain number of credits every couple of years to keep those fitness certifications current. This year, I’m beyond pumped those necessary credits led me to find the Everlast Striking Certification Workshop: level 1.

As you repeat readers may recall, I was lucky enough to discover the rush provided by muay thai kickboxing not long after birthday in 2017. I’m still not quite sure how I dealt with the stress of living in New York and life in general for 43 years before discovering the physical and mental rush that could be experienced thanks to kicking and punching a heavy bag! (Talk about inexpensive therapy!) After a full Sunday in the Everlast workshop lead by fitness guru Aaron Drogoszewski, not only did I acquire the credits needed to maintain my fitness certifications, I learned even more about the techniques that have become a huge part of maintaining my physical and mental strength for the past 16 months.

Thanks to Aaron Drogoszewski for an amazing workshop!

What was extra fun about the workshop is that in addition to learning how to execute the six basic punches (jab, cross, hooks and upper cuts) along with the roundhouse kick with more accuracy and efficiency, we also learned how to cue and coach others through the moves. It was fun – and also one heck of a workout – to work with a partner and switch roles between trainee and trainer. The bottom line is there’s nothing like gaining extra knowledge from the experts to help take your game – whatever that may be – to the next level. I look forward to sharing some of the techniques with friends looking to add something new to their fitness routine.

In addition to Aaron’s instruction and motivation from my new fitfam friends, I couldn’t have made it through the day without the right fuel. Lucky for me, I received a “goodie box” of new KIND protein bars just in time for the workshop. (I did some spokesperson work for KIND a couple of years ago, and I was thrilled the team remembered me.) Not only did the double dark chocolate nut bar taste great and keep me satisfied with its 12 grams of protein, I love the fact that the bars contain no artificial sweeteners and have a low glycemic index. (They’re also gluten free!) I know I’ll be keeping one or two of these bars in my gym bag or purse at all times so I don’t get tempted by the not-so-healthy vending machine options when hunger hits.

So on this Motivation Monday, remember this: you’re never too much of an expert to get some new moves and new snack ideas to help you keep you on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Another Year Older…

It doesn’t seem possible this Motivation Monday marks the first of my forty-fourth year on Earth. Especially since I feel like I only wrote about turning 43 about five minutes ago. But here I am, another year older, thanks to the unstoppable force of time. Each year, I realize it’s one of many unstoppable forces that make up a lifetime.

I think most would agree birthdays present the perfect opportunity for reflection. Reminiscing about the many experiences that will forever define my forty-third year, it was no surprise I found the most defining moments didn’t surround producing any particular shoot for a client or the various business travel delays getting there. The times that will always matter most are the ones spent with family and friends. Of course, not all those occasions can be joyous, especially when saying good bye to those we love who won’t be sharing in another birthday celebration. However, I know each of those experiences gives us some sort of strength that we build upon and take into the next year – and beyond.

I was blessed to spend the weekend celebrating with both my parents. Their love remains one of the strongest beacons in my life and will be no matter how old I get. Meanwhile, this birthday also marked another “first.” This was the third time I started a new year with James by my side, but it marked the first we shared as an engaged couple. Add all the birthday love I received via phone calls, emails, texts and social media posts from family and friends near and far, and the fact that I feel healthier and stronger at 44 than I did at 43…and I know I am one lucky lady!

That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few bumps in the road. Each year, the number of people in my life challenged by attacks on their physical and mental well-being grows. Whether it’s the sudden death of a loved one; a terrible diagnosis; a job lost or financial stress; the end of relationships or other family trouble, things just seem to get more complicated as we get older. In a world filled with so much uncertainty, the one thing I can control year after year is how I take care of my body. Exercising and eating healthy continue to help keep my immune system strong even when events and emotions seem overwhelming. Of course, the other “thing” that continues to work for me is embracing the everything-in-moderation mentality. That’s why I refused to feel zero guilt about all my birthday treats that started on Friday and added up throughout the weekend. Today starts a new week and a chance for me to get back on track with the non-birthday treat regimen.

As I start my new year, I encourage everyone to remember taking control of your health is something anyone can do at any age or fitness level. Don’t be afraid to strike out and try something new. There’s no doubt the road ahead can trip us up at any time. So instead of looking back, let’s use the lessons of the past to move toward the future and all the opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

These Dark 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 and the beginning of the darker days that will continue through spring of 2018.

Here in New York, we were spoiled with unusually warm temperatures right through the end of October. Then over this past weekend, we were hit with a sudden blast of cold temperatures and brisk winds that reminded us we do indeed live in the Northeast. Add the fact that many of us leave for work in the morning and step out of the office at the end of the day enveloped in darkness, and you have the perfect mix to want to ditch any exercise plans and spend as much time as possible on the cozy couch.

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

  • 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 come face to face with the temptation to 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. And maybe there’s a new group exercise class offered at midday that could add some variety to your routine.
  • Make More Workout Dates:  Make plans to meet a friend for that morning power walk (just be sure to wear reflective gear if it’s dark!), lunchtime kickboxing class or evening barre session. 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!

The Last One Standing

Stay true to you…the rest will follow!

This Motivation Monday post follows the same theme as that old tale about the tortoise and the hare.

I was recently reminded how rewarding it can be to be like the tortoise. In one of recent kickboxing classes, I was the last one to finish the “pyramid” during a rather intense 12-minute warm-up. Rather than feeling defeated, I felt energized knowing I maintained the integrity of my workout. I didn’t cheat by skipping a rep while sweat poured down my face and my heart raced. As we all headed to the heavy bags, I felt extremely focused and ready to tackle the high-intensity  drills and combinations.

What is the pyramid? It’s a non-stop switch-off between squats and squat thrusts. You start out doing 10 squats, then one squat thrust. Next, you move down to nine squats, and bump up the squat thrusts to two. Then you bang out eight squats followed by 3 squat thrusts, and you keep the inverse actions going until you finish at one squat and 10 squat thrusts. Out of the eight warriors starting our day with a bang, I was the last one to finish the pyramid. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t care.

This is just another example that sometimes you just have to block out the noise of comparing yourself to others to focus on your own goal. Many of my classmates, mostly women, are at least 20 years my junior. I look to these fierce fitness chicks for motivation, and there’s definitely something to be said about friendly competition, but I stop myself short of wanting to be exactly like any of them. I’d rather push my body to its own limit, knowing I maintained proper form and did the best I could do. There’s no use pushing yourself so hard you end up hurt and out of the game for who knows how long.

The bottom line is whatever you choose for your exercise routine, staying true to yourself is the best way to stay on course with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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