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One Strange Summer

Forever My Happy Place – Even When The World is in Chaos

Sunscreen? Check.
Water? Check.
Umbrella? Check.
Mask? Check.
And with that, I ventured out to Jones Beach for my first day by the sea to unofficially kick off one very strange summer.
Before I continue, let me apologize for the premature launch of this post earlier today in its unfinished form. I had the best intentions of posting these thoughts yesterday, the last Workout Wednesday of May. However, like many other best laid plans during these difficult days, I got caught up in I’m not exactly sure what, the day came and went and so did the deadline for this post. Better late than never, I suppose.
Back to the beach. It looked totally different from the moment I drove into the field six parking lot. Orange cones took up every other parking spot. There were hand sanitizer stations set up in several places along the boardwalk and near the restrooms.  Police patrolled the beach via SUV and ATV and encountered the occasional crowd of more than 10 teens and asked them to separate their towels and blankets by 10 feet. When leaving our beach chairs and blankets, the majority of people I came in social-distance contact with wore masks or had them hanging around their necks at the ready.  It felt as if we were all on our best behavior to ensure our happy place would remain open for the season.
On the not-so-crowded Tuesday, the solitude I always relish at the beach felt even more profound. There was no music escaping from a contraband radio or two on the few blankets nearby. I took in the roaring sound of the ocean, often closing my eyes and taking deep breaths of the rich, salty air. After countless days in our one-bedroom apartment in the concrete jungle,  this escape was like a vitamin B12 shot for my psyche. I still felt uneasy and uncertain as normalcy here in New York seems an eternity away. However, just as the sea always retreats from the sand then crashes back again, I felt a glimmer of new hope that we will get to the other side of this eventually.
As we’ve unofficially kicked off this unprecedented summer of 2020, I wish you all continued good health. For those who’ve lost loved ones over these past weeks, my heart goes out to you. To all the healthcare and essential workers who continue to show unbelievable fortitude and compassion, thank you. To all those who’ve continually checked in on us since this all started, hugs. Here’s to staying safe and getting back to those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Month, New Hope

Even though it feels like the world has been standing still for the past 60-plus days, we’ve made it to the first Workout Wednesday of May. While we’re no way near being “done” with all the challenges and fears facing our households and communities as a whole, I find daily strength in the glimpses of hope that we will make it to the other side. The sounds of gratitude for our healthcare workers booming from windows and balconies around this city and all over the country. Acts of kindness extended toward the elderly and the other vulnerable populations. Creative and colorful masks on the faces of my fellow Manhattanites. And my biggest shot of daily positivity comes from my near-daily walks through Central Park. The budding trees and scents of magnolia are signs that Mother Nature continues her work this spring just as doctors, nurses and scientists continue theirs to help us get through this crisis.

Another happening that gave me some peace of mind this past week was getting the COVID-19 antibody test. Aside from outdoor exercise and quick trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, my husband and I have spent nearly all our time inside our apartment. According to the test results, it looks like we’ve been doing things the right way as my test results were negative. That means I haven’t had the virus. Of course, it also means I could still get the virus in the future, so nothing will change for now in our daily routine.

For anyone thinking about getting the antibody test, I can tell you other than the quick prick of my vein, it was a painless process. Hats off to the entire staff at our nearby CityMD who made it that way. I arrived at the urgent care facility 15 minutes before the 7am open, and there were already seven people ahead of me – all wearing masks and gloves and standing at least six feet apart on the sidewalk. Once the doors opened, a kind and courteous associate let each of us in at a slow but steady pace to allow us to check in and then sit in the waiting room at a safe distance apart. After about 30 minutes, I was taken to an exam room by a compassionate nurse who checked my temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen and asked a few questions about my health history and whether I’d experienced any Coronavirus symptoms. Other than overall fatigue and a headache that wouldn’t go away for more than a day about six weeks ago, I’ve felt just fine. After the nurse left, a tired but kind doctor arrived to draw my blood. He told me I was his 10th antibody test patient already that morning. The day before, he drew 200 viles of blood for the same test. Then it was back to the front desk for a quick check out and I was done. The whole visit took one hour and 15 minutes and my test results were available via the online portal 48 hours later. (A nice surprise since I was told it could take up to five business days to get the results.) For anyone thinking about getting the test and has access to it, I say you have nothing to lose and perhaps only some peace of mind to gain.

So again, does this mean I’m ready to change my routine? Absolutely not. I’ll continue to listen to the facts and advice presented by our health experts and will follow the “rules” issued by our governor and mayor. I’ll continue to do my best to exercise daily and eat as much healthy food as possible, but also try not to beat myself up over the extra wine or comfort food that seems to end up in my evening routine. And of course, I’ll continue to bang a pan with gusto at 7pm and cheer on our healthcare workers – not just on this National Nurses Day, but every day this global fight continues.

Whatever is working for you at this point, keep on going. Lean on family or friends for support. If you feel you need more than just extra prayer time or a happy hour chat with your gal pals to get through a rough patch, take advantage of the mental health hotlines offered by so many communities right now. Here in New York, the Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Helpline is: 1-844-863-9314. Let’s use the hope that comes with a new month to stay strong, stay safe and stay on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Getting Rid of Some Extra Weight

Before the shape-up session….

On this first day of May, I’m happy to share some exciting news. I lost five pounds over the weekend.

Well, technically the process started on Friday and continued with a couple of hours of work on Saturday and Sunday. In the end, the tally may have been closer to six pounds. This transformative process was made possible thanks the power of a paper shredder and my resolve to cut out the clutter in my life.

This first Motivation Monday post of the new month is a reminder of how good it feels to get rid of those unwanted pounds that sit on your desktop and peek through the drawers and doors of cabinets around the house. They come in the form of expired coupons, statements, receipts and even those sentimental holiday cards. Even though managing everything from banking to health care is becoming an increasingly paperless experience, it’s amazing how the pounds can still sneak up on you. As the owner of a cozy New York City coop, I know all too well how good we can get at hiding them. Since my home also doubles as my workspace (when I’m not on location), if things are in order, I find I’m much more productive. When things get messy, so does my schedule. 

…and after. Ready for a productive week!

While it’s crucial to carve out some to exercise and stock up on healthy groceries, it’s equally important to find some precious moments to eliminate the clutter that can weigh down the mind. Along with the papers, that includes the pile of clothes you’ve been meaning to go through to sort out donations. It can even include the vanity in your bathroom filled with expired medications or lotion bottles with just a drop left. 

Now that spring has sprung, I encourage everyone to pencil in some time for a good mental health session courtesy of some old-fashioned spring cleaning. Side effects may include the proud feeling of accomplishment in lightening up your living space. Another bonus: when you get rid of the old, you also make room for a few new feel-good items including a couple of bright-colored duds for your workout wardrobe or even a new light-weight, smell-like-spring body wash or lotion. 

The bottom line is sometimes adding a couple of serious get-rid-of-the-clutter sessions to your healthy living routine can be a great May activity to help you stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

Winter Blues Be Gone!

iStock_000014614375SmallI don’t know about you, but I’m ecstatic to think that this is the last Motivation Monday before Daylight Saving time. At this time next week, we can all bask in the joy of more sunlight!

I really can’t put my finger on why, but this has felt like the never-ending winter. It’s not that the weather has been particularly harsh this season in New York. But somehow January and February were two very loooonnnng months.

The only thing I can attribute this to is a good old case of the winter blues. This year, I found a lot of my friends and family shared in a similar case of the blahs. Maybe it’s partly due to the state of chaos the whole country seems to be experiencing – at least if you read all the social media feeds. Or maybe it’s because I told myself this was the year I’d make some big decisions on what’s next in my career and…and here we are three months into the New Year and I haven’t figured things out yet.

As you readers know, I’m anything but your doom-and-gloom kinda gal. So on the positive side, I can say I am more grateful than ever that I have exercise in my life to help turn even the most blasé of blah days into manageable ones. For anyone else out there counting the minutes until the brighter, warmer days of spring, now’s the perfect time to keep exercise on your schedule. If it’s not on there already, consider the new month a chance to mix things up in your daily routine. Exercise does a mind and body good thanks to the endorphins that flow through the body when you workout and stick with you long after the group exercise class or weight training session is done. If you’re finding it hard enough to get your butt out the door after a long day of work or school to head to the gym, remember you can get that endorphin rush in the comfort of your own home!

In an effort to share a warm reminder that spring is just a few weeks away, I thought I’d re-post my “Tear-It-Up In Ten” workout video. Even though I demonstrate the circuit in Central Park, all the exercises can be done indoors and require no equipment. Hopefully, seeing some sunshine and greenery will also give you a glimpse at what we have to look forward to in the not-so-distant future. Remember – sometimes taking  your workout and your mind to another place is all you  need to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Overwhelmed? I Feel Your Pain!

Weekend paperwork

Weekend paperwork

With this Motivation Monday post, I throw my support behind anyone struggling to get it all done. I’m with you. Lately it seems to take me longer to cross the tasks off even the most organized to-do lists. So, I offer a reminder  that sometimes you simply need to take a deep breath, remember you’re human and accept the reality that the world won’t end if one or two things have to wait until tomorrow.

Where is this all coming from? Last week, I posted about renewing my adult CPR/AED certification with the American Red Cross. I left that requirement until one of the last weekends I could get it in and still get my paperwork in for my NASM personal trainer re-certification. Two days ago, I blocked out time to take a NASM Integrated Flexibility Training online workshop so I could obtain the last continuing education units (CEUs) needed to actually get re-certified. The deadline is only a few weeks away. I got through the material, passed the online test and  rushed all my paperwork to the post office. Now I wait for it all to be processed, approved and then hopefully receive my new NASM certificate in the mail sometime next month.

I got it all done, but I have never been one to wait until the last-minute to get important items like these off my plate. But the clock seems to tick at a faster place lately, the work days bleed into the all-too short weekends and then the cycle repeats on Monday. I am looking to the energy of the new season to figure out new ways of doing things. That includes possibly re-vamping plans on how I schedule everything from my workouts to overdue catch-ups with friends and family.

Through any stressful time, working out and eating healthy always help me keep my cool. However, I hate to admit, over the past month, the frequency of my workouts has taken a hit thanks to longer-than-expected work days and overall fatigue. But there are peaks and valleys in every relationship – including the one we have with the gym.

So here’s to the new week with the NASM re-certification application crossed off my to-do list and the chance to find new energy to tackle what lies ahead. If today gets a bit manic, like Mondays often do, take a breath, close your eyes for a moment and remember this one thing: you are stronger than you think. Sometimes we all need a little reassurance to stay on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

Sometimes We Need a Push…to Slow Down

Getting Some Perspective by the Sea

Getting Some Perspective by the Sea

On this Motivation Monday, I’m not offering my typical boost to take things up a notch in your fitness routine. Instead, I’m offering the important reminder that sometimes you actually need to take a step back, or at least to the side.That’s the road I have to travel right now and I have no one to blame but myself. The bottom line is I’m paying the price for not following my own advice.

It’s been more than two years since I was sidelined by an injury. Unfortunately, the small discomfort that started during a set of push-ups around the time of my 40th birthday has turned into a minor tear affecting the function of my left shoulder. So I have no choice but to modify my activity or risk making things worse and possibly face surgery later. I’m kicking myself for not listening to my body in the spring, but I can’t go back now. However, I can follow my doctor’s advice and move forward carefully and intelligently. I may be down, but I’m nowhere near out.

The biggest disappointment in all this is that I can’t practice the PILOXING® choreography I so desperately want to master so I can begin teaching classes as soon as possible. A huge part of the boxing, Pilates and dance-inspired 60-minute workout features jabbing and punching. Those two moves can’t be a part of  my fitness routine for the next four to six weeks. Instead, I will incorporate the shoulder-strengthening exercises prescribed by my doctor and focus on healing. So, my grand PILOXING® plans are now on hold.

Fortunately, after a few calming hours listening to the sounds of the sea at Jones Beach, I was able to put things in perspective. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and remembered delays aren’t deal breakers. I won’t let this setback break my spirit or stop me from pursuing my goals. I will continue to workout over the summer, and in the end, hopefully I’ll train a bit smarter than I did during the first half of the year.

We all know the best laid plans often go awry. Hopefully this post serves as a reminder that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You simply have to accept the fact that sometimes you have to take a step back or to the side to move ahead. Embrace the new direction and focus on the fact that at some point, you’ll be back to full steam ahead in your mission to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Fresh Start

istock_000015612296smallI think I lost 10 pounds since last week.

Don’t worry, I didn’t start some crazy diet or workout eight hours every day. The weight I lost was in my mind, and it melted away thanks to a little spring cleaning. Well, in full disclosure, it was really more like spring cleaning on steroids.

I decided to spruce up my apartment with a fresh coat of paint. Anyone who’s been through it knows you might as well be preparing to move. While I wrapped up my fragile knickknacks and made room for the painters to work, I also cleaned out my closets, desk drawers and other storage spots that were surprisingly chock full of papers and plain old junk. I also came across some bittersweet memories – photos and other memorabilia of special people who aren’t around anymore. Even putting those items in a special box and tucking it away in a closet was cathartic. The memories will be there if I want to relive them down the road.

Starting my mornings with a workout gave me a solid shot of those forever-welcome endorphins which only made me more enthusiastic about loading pounds of paper into the shredder and putting other items aside to donate. As I finish putting my photos and books back in their nooks and paintings back on the wall, I feel a little lighter after getting rid of the “stuff” I simply didn’t need anymore. I think I’m truly ready for spring. (Now if Mother Nature will just cooperate, it’ll be a great season!)

So on this Motivation Monday, I encourage you to take stock of what’s around you. Something as simple as eliminating the clutter in your life can have a huge impact on your psyche. Removing any kind of negative energy – things, people, habits – can only be good for your overall health and well-being. Remember, creating positive surroundings can give you a boost when you’re not working out and only help you stay  the course on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“March”ing Ahead

iStock_000014614375SmallLike most people, I am beyond over this miserable winter.

This particular Motivation Monday post goes live after a weekend filled with another round of ever-changing weather reports for yet another winter storm filled with uncertain snowfall totals and other foul-weather calamities. Which means many of  you could be cooped up at home today, and quite possibly with kids who are missing yet another school day thanks to Old Man Winter. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and remember, exercise is one of the best ways to produce some endorphins which can keep the “winter blues” at bay. And let’s face it – with this winter still very much in full effect, we need all the help we can get!

The good news is you don’t need to leave the house to get those mood-elevating endorphins flowing through your system. In fact, if you’ve been meaning to give Tabata training a try or have been thinking about adding it back into your fitness routine, a forced day indoors is the perfect time to make it happen!

Click here for a refresher on Tabata training and how you can get one or two in around the house today.

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Some of my favorite basic exercises that work perfectly for Tabata training and need no equipment:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Plank
  • Squats
  • Side planks
  • Bridges
  • Crunches
  • Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Push-Ups

Since Tabatas are done in four-minute intervals, I present this challenge: why not try to bang out two or three consecutive Tabatas (giving you roughly 10-15 minutes of activity) two or three times throughout the course of the day? By dinner time, you could easily bang out 30 minutes of exercise (or more!) while keeping a steady level of endorphins running through your body as a bonus!

If you have other survival tips for keeping the body and mind in good form during this winter that just won’t quit, I’d love to hear about them! Here’s to keeping those spirits up and holding out hope for a warm and sunny spring filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Sea of Changes

There's No Place Like the Beach for a Rest Day!

There’s No Place Like the Beach for a Rest Day!

Last week I wrote about how unexpected events may alter the days I post new material here at LauraLovesFitness.com. However, it turns out I was inspired to share some thoughts for this Motivation Monday by one of my weekend activities. Ironically, it’s the one that involved no strenuous activity whatsoever.

On day seven of the heat wave that made living in New York City nearly unbearable, I decided to get on a train and head back to Long Island to visit my parents. That led to another smart decision: to take a rest day from the gym and replace it with a couple of hours of fitness for my mental health. All I needed was the ocean.

Despite my lifelong love affair with the beach, the power of the sea never ceases to surprise and overwhelm me. I’ve tallied hundreds of hours on the beach over the course of my lifetime so far, but at times it feels like each sandy visit is my first. The waves crash onto the shore with a mighty roar. The water retreats to gather more energy for another crash, leaving only white foam on the shoreline along with a mist that serves as an elixir for more than just my lungs. The salty air also helps calm my nervous mind and unburden my heavy heart.

These moments of clarity remind me of the many blessings in my life: my family, my friends and the countless good memories I’ve shared with these special people. I also realize how lucky I am to have my health. Despite the new challenges in my life and some of the fear I feel, the sea reminds me I can handle it all. The sea constantly draws on its own strength to turn a ripple in the deepest waters into a mighty wave that unleashes its power on the shore only to retreat and start the dance all over again. I’ve done the same thing in my own life many times – and I know I can do it again. My faith tells me that. My strength tells me that. The ocean tells me that.

So if there’s a day when you need a break instead of the heart-pounding workout, remember – it’s okay. Sometimes a mental health hour in your favorite place could be just the “workout” you need to calm a jittery heart and beat down any fears tugging at the heart and soul. Creating a little time for yourself may be all you need to re-focus your energy on the better days ahead filled with endless chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Back to Reality and Stronger Than Before!

DSC06989

Laura Loves Aruba!

It’s hard to believe seven days ago at this time I was sitting on the beach in Aruba. In fact, the only times you wouldn’t find me sitting under a small but shady hut on the soft, white sand staring at the turquoise sea during my three-night getaway were:

  • Between 7 – 8:30 am ET when I was at the hotel fitness center getting my cardio, core and Tabata training in before turning into a slug for the remainder of the day
  • The 45 – 60 minutes I’d abandon my lounge chair and stroll along the gorgeous stretch of paradise known as Palm Beach
  • Happy hour or any other hour of the day when I simply had to satisfy my craving for some kind of frozen concoction
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The Swim-Up Bar: One of the Best Creations Ever

There was only one item on my agenda for this particular vacation: rest. While the trade winds, swaying palms, blue skies and starry nights created the perfect peaceful setting, there was one other factor that made this a true escape. I refused to pay the crazy international rates for roaming charges to keep up with texts, tweets, status updates or emails. My iPhone remained in airplane mode the entire trip. I used it only to take pictures or listen to music while working out or chilling out.  In other words, I shut myself down for three-and-a-half glorious days.

IMG_0248While going on vacation no doubt offers enormous benefits for both our physical and mental well-being, I realize we can’t just escape to our happy places at the drop of a hat. We all have financial burdens, professional and / or family obligations and part of being a grown-up is dealing with our responsibilities. So, if a getaway isn’t in the cards for you right now, why not look at another escape plan? Find a minimum of one to two hours this week where you turn the world off.

IMG_0217Yes, it’s a bold idea, but you can do it.  I’m sure some of you parents or physicians are shaking your heads at me right now, but I know even doctors get a day off from being on a 24-hour call. If you must have your pager or cell phone with you for work, only take the call that’s from work. Leave the texting and other typing behind. Parents, you can “warn” your spouse or another family member you’re going off the grid for a bit.

Seriously,  you can find an hour to shut down. Then take those 60 minutes and use it to focus on a workout, focus on the backs of your eyelids or focus some attention on a family member or friend. You’ll escape a bit of the daily grind that burdens us all. In our over-stimulated world where we not only watch a TV show, but tweet and post about what’s going on almost simultaneously, wouldn’t it be nice to give some of our senses a break for a change?

IMG_0223I came back from Aruba rested and ready to tackle new goals, new workouts and chase down new dreams for this spring and beyond. I’m going to do my best to find times in the work week to slow down – even just a bit –  so the daily grind doesn’t get the best of me. At the end of the day, if you’re making an effort to eat well, exercise and take care of yourself, you simply cannot neglect the importance of down time as part of the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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