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A Whole New World

Well, hello September. I hope this Workout Wednesday post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe and stealing some moments of sunshine as another summer winds down. I thought I’d kick off another almost-fall season here at LauraLovesFitness with an update on how my world has changed in a way I never could have imagined.

I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s been roughly six months since New York City basically went into shut down mode. Only a few weeks before, I had decided to make a major career change and leave the world of corporate video production and hosting to become a personal trainer. When the gyms closed, I had no idea what I’d do next. I never could have imagined just a few months later I’d be using the journalism skills I learned during my years at Northwestern as part of the New York City Health + Hospitals Test and Trace Corps.

My official title is contact monitor. From Sunday through Thursday, I reach out to those who have tested positive for COVID-19 (cases) along with contacts they’ve identified. Sometimes I’m the first person to alert a neighbor he or she has been in close contact with a case. The purpose of each and every call is to conduct wellness checks, encourage the case or contact to follow the appropriate isolation or quarantine guidelines and also provide resources. That includes everything from providing the phone number for the city’s mental health hotline to setting up food or medication deliveries and informing my neighbors about the free hotel rooms available for those who need a place to isolate or quarantine safely.

It has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far. I’m able to do my work remotely, though there are other members of Test & Trace who go out into the community when multiple attempts to reach people by phone fail. Thanks to help from translators, I’ve communicated with my neighbors in many languages, including Spanish, Bengali, Russian and Mandarin. I talk to nervous parents of pediatric contacts as young as three years old and happily tell a 75-year-old case they can get back to the “new” normal on their last day of isolation or quarantine. While I do this work from my laptop, I “meet” with my supervisor and the rest of the contact monitors in my team for a virtual chat each morning. We also reach out to each other to vent after a particularly emotional call or on a day when we just need some extra support. We all look forward to the day when the 20 of us can meet in person.

As we muddle our way through a September like no other, my heart goes out to students, parents, teachers and administrators across the country who have either started or are gearing up for a first-of-its kind academic year. I also think of the gym owners and fitness professionals and those still struggling with whether they feel “safe” enough to return to their favorite workout spot. Then there are the struggling restaurant and small business owners; out-of-work Broadway actors and crew members; healthcare and essential workers; and pretty much everyone still doing their best to keep it together day after challenging day. Last but certainly not least, I think of all the victims of 9/11 and the families and friends who continue to mourn them as we approach the 19th anniversary of that horrific day.

No doubt we’re all in for a strange fall season. Here’s to hoping things improve a little each day and we simply do the best we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

See you in September!

Vitamin “Sea” Therapy

Some longtime readers may recall August is typically when LauraLovesFitness goes hiatus. That goes for 2020, too. However, unlike previous years, I just realized I never left you with a one-last-thought-for-July post before taking the break. Since it’s hard to remember the last time anything in 2020 resembled normal, I imagine you may forgive the omission.

As this strange summer winds down, I hope you and your loved ones continue doing all you can to stay safe. As many of us long for the barbecues and happy hours of summers passed, I also realize parents, teachers and of course students across the country are also struggling with how to navigate a bizarre school year ahead. Meanwhile, back here in Manhattan, we have no idea when gyms or city staples including Broadway theaters and music venues will be able to re-open safely. While New York City’s numbers have improved when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths related to the virus, this is no time to get over confident and stop following the protocols. Wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others when you are out in public.

I have heard from many people who continue a daily struggle with anxiety, fear and boredom as we continue to move through a year unlike any other. I hope some daily exercise – walking, cycling or even dancing in your living room – will help you get some endorphins flowing. Also, remember there are many mental health counselors available via Zoom or other telemedicine platforms these days. For my fellow Manhattanites, you can reach a counselor by calling 888-692-9355. You can also text “well” to 65173.

I’ll wrap up this last Workout Wednesday post of August with a huge thank you for sticking with me through my random musings over these past several months. I hope to return with some updated information here on the blog about me (my bio is extremely outdated!) and my newest career adventure. Stay tuned, stay safe…and cheers to better days ahead for all of us and new opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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!

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