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Holiday Hodge-Podge

With one day to go before the start of Hanukkah and only two weeks until Christmas, I’m impressed you even have time to read this Motivation Monday post. I’ll keep things short and sweet so you can resume all your peak holiday hustle-and-bustle activities.

Here are my top five stocking-stuffer ideas for the fitness friends on your list:

  1. BFit Labs Electrolyte Sprays. I never leave home without a bottle! Each electrolyte-packed spray of Berry Blast or Very Vanilla contains 0 calories, 0 carbs and 0 food dyes.
  2. Moisture-wicking socks: I am a huge fan of Balega running socks. Wearing them helped keep my feet blister free during four Avon39 Walks –
  3. Sparkly Soul Headbands: No headaches, no slip, no kidding! These sports and fitness headbands come in a wide range of fun designs.
  4. Dry shampoo for quick touch-ups after a workout.
  5. Grippy socks: for barre workouts and other sneaker-feee activities.

Remember, giving gifts that promote a healthy lifestyle is a great way to show the most important people in your life that you support their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Keep On Keepin’ On…..

iStock_000018191976XSmallIt happened again. I blinked and here we are on the last Motivation Monday of January! Four weeks into 2017, I offer big kudos to everyone sticking with those plans to make this your healthiest year yet.

If you feel like your motivation is starting to wane, here’s a boost to keep you going. In only a couple of weeks, some of the new things you started will feel like part of your daily routine. If you’re discouraged about the number on the scale, forget the numbers and think about how many of these non-scale-related wins you’ve experienced so far this year:

  • Do you have more energy?
  • Do your clothes fit better?
  • Do you see a new glow in your skin?

Remember, healthy living isn’t a sprint. It’s a lifelong marathon and there will be days when even the most disciplined among us stray off course. It’s part of being human. To help you stay on track, I offer three tips to keep in mind for the days, weeks and months ahead:

  1. Start your day with the right fuel. I believe in the power of a healthy breakfast, but I’m also highly aware of how little time many of us have to even think about scrambling some eggs or waiting around for Ezekiel bread to toast. That’s why I love starting my days with a chocolate Isagenix shake. It takes the guess-work out of determining what will give me the nutrients I need, and I can either make it in the blender or use my portable shaker. Not a shake person? Grab a hard-boiled egg or non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Bonus Tip: adding fresh fruit to your yogurt is a lower-sugar option to the flavored varieties. All of these protein-packed options will keep you full longer than starchy, sugary items like frozen waffles or pancakes.
  2. Never leave home without healthy snacks. There’s nothing worse than going grocery shopping with a rumbling stomach or being greeted at the shopping mall with the scent of cinnamon tempting your nostrils from the food court. What will you find in my bag? Either a bag of almonds or KIND bar. I love these snacks because they’re yummy and because they contain no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols and provide a balanced combination of healthy fats, protein and complex carbs.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. Sure, I’m all about moderation. But I also have a hard time not going overboard when certain temptations are lurking in my kitchen cabinets. That’s why I don’t keep things like cookies or candy in the house. I freely admit I’m incapable of eating just one cookie or one piece of chocolate. (I envy those who can!) If you’re like me, then seriously, just don’t buy it. For the parents out there, it’s never too early to get your kids started on healthy snacking. Push the apple slices and peanut butter snacks on a normal basis and save the treats for special occasions.

Here’s to wrapping up the first month of 2017 on a positive note and to welcoming February and all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

9/11: 15 Years Later

img_2647I hope you’ll forgive this diversion from my weekly dose of Monday Motivation. It’s hard for me to write about healthy snacks or fitting fitness into your back-to-school schedule when my mind has been flooded with memories of the day that changed our world forever. At some point this past week, I simply lost count of how many times I uttered or heard the phrase “I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since 9/11.”

Time may march on, but each year the memories are just as vivid as they were on that bright, beautiful day in 2001. I remember the shock, the silence and then the chaos that erupted in the News 12 Connecticut newsroom where I worked as a reporter at the time. I remember the nonstop news coverage and the countless live shots from the Fairfield train station. That’s where a triage team waited to treat injured survivors – only to look more and more despondent with each passing hour that none arrived. It’s also where I interviewed people with dust on their clothes, still in shock from what they had escaped in lower Manhattan. I remember calling my parents to tell them how much I loved them. And I remember the phone calls I received from panicked friends who wondered if I had any information about people working in the World Trade Center.

In the days that followed, I met too many people who lost people they loved. I learned Glen Pettit, one of my News 12 Long Island colleagues and a NYPD officer, was killed. I held back tears while interviewing people who held on to the hope a son, daughter, husband or wife would return home. I held back tears while speaking with members of the Stamford fire department who wanted to do more to help their brothers in the city. In the fleeting moments when I was alone, I let the tears flow freely. Yet in the midst of the sadness, fear, anger and confusion, I also remember people treating each other with kindness and banding together in a way I’d never seen before. Quite frankly, I haven’t seen it since.

Yankee Stadium: 15 Years Later

Yankee Stadium: 15 Years Later

Fifteen years later, I found solace going to Mass before taking the subway to Yankee Stadium. I originally felt somewhat guilty accepting the tickets my Dad offered for this game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. However, I came to realize doing something I loved on a sunny Sunday afternoon was a testament to the fact that our American way of life survived that terrible day. It turns out, the Devil Rays were the team the Yankees played two weeks after 9/11 as the nation tried to return to some semblance of normalcy, which included resuming the season for America’s pastime.

Before the start of yesterday’s game, with tears in my eyes and pride swelling in my chest, I witnessed a moving ceremony featuring the booming sounds of the NYPD Emerald Society’s Pipe and Drum Corps. I watched Yankees manager Joe Girardi shake the hands of wounded veterans from Walter Reed Hospital who were honored in front of home plate. I listened to the powerful voice of firefighter Frank Pizzaro as he belted out our national anthem while New York City’s bravest unfolded an American flag in center field beside the Port Authority Police Department’s Color Guard. I cried, I applauded and then as I cheered for the Yankees through what turned out to be a loss, I thought: the human spirit is a truly amazing thing. And it is in times of sorrow and struggle that banding together makes us stronger than standing alone. So in the company of that packed stadium, I found another way to honor the promise made 15 years ago…we will never forget.

God Bless America.

 

Fitness for a Cause

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Photo by Lauren Bachner

This Motivation Monday post will be a short and sweet reminder that fitness can be used for so many good reasons. In addition to keeping the ticker in tip-top shape and helping us maintain a healthy weight, it’s also a great resource to get people involved in good causes.

Last Monday my fellow St. Mary’s Gael, Danielle, nominated me to take part in the 22 push-up challenge. The goal is to bang out 22 push up for 22 days to honor those who serve in our military and raise awareness about suicide among our nation’s veterans.

I think the push up is of the most empowering full-body exercises anyone can do. Getting through them knowing you’re bringing attention to an important issue only adds to the endorphin rush at the end of the set. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen the past week’s worth of push-up videos. Below is a link to my favorite one of the week when I dropped and did my 22 at the Yankees game on Saturday afternoon.

If you want to make sure I’m keeping up my end of the bargain, I hope you’ll check out my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page and Instagram account (@FitnessLaura) to watch my daily videos. And if you’ve been looking to add a kick to your fitness routine this spring, why not consider going the distance for our veterans. You’ll find all the rules for the challenge at 22kill.com

So, who’s up for the challenge? Remember, breaking a sweat for a good cause is one of the best ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

A Sleepy Motivation Monday

iStock_000008015531LargeEach year at this time, Daylight Saving offers what I consider to be a double-edged sword. Our days are filled with more minutes of sunlight as the winter winds down.  However, as most of us set our  clocks ahead before turning in on Saturday night, we lost an hour of sleep.  So on this drowsy Motivation Monday, instead of offering a boost to prep your veggies or stretch more often, I encourage you to take stock of something that’s crucial to our overall health but often overlooked: your sleep habits.

Why do we need sleep? Research shows along with helping us stay energized, sleep helps regulate our mood and learn and retain valuable information. There are even studies out there 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 and I definitely get more annoyed by the little things that usually roll off my back.

Here are some ideas for incorporating those all-important zzzz’s into your healthy routine:

  • 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: Anyone who’s read this blog for some time knows I enjoy a glass of wine to unwind 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. Of course, having a hangover the next day after too many libations is never a good thing.
  • Caffeine: I have some friends who can have a cup of coffee after dinner 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 herbal teas and chocolate.
  • Hunger:  The bottom line is you don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to be too full either. I try not to snack at night after dinner, but if I do, I go for a single-serve bag of 94% fat-free popcorn, a skinny cow fudge pop or a few clementines or mandarins. Frozen grapes are great for taming those sweet cravings, too.
  • Stress:  This is something I am constantly trying to manage a little better. One thing that’s helped the past few months is writing down all the things I have to do the next day before getting into bed. Whether it’s Physique57 class, conference calls, deadlines or things I need at the grocery store, it helps to have it all out in front of me and then I can unwind.
  • 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 overstimulating 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!

To Workout or Not to Workout…

coldThe inspiration for this Motivation Monday message came to me at Church. Everyone sitting around me at Sunday morning’s family Mass was either sneezing or coughing, especially the kids. When I got home, I washed my hands and thought now’s as good a time as any to offer reminders about when to consider skipping the gym to help your body get over a bug and keep your fellow fitness friends from getting sick, too.

The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful.  This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age)  However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.

If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!

As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, do everyone a favor and take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. There’s a good chance you’ll be slightly dehydrated and feeling fatigued, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity bootcamp class the minute your fever breaks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! It’s true that one the benefits of exercise is that it boosts the immune system. However, what’s also true is that depending on what’s going on in your life, your body may need an extra hour of sleep one morning more than it needs to be pushed to the max at a kickboxing class.

Remember, a minimum of one day of rest each week is important, but when you’re sick, you may need two or more. Don’t sweat it. Just rest up, drink your fluids and before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Make 2016 Your Most FITASTIC Year Yet!

imageWe made it to the very first Motivation Monday of 2016! It’s a first of many kinds for me as I’ve never sent Happy New Year wishes from the Caribbean before today. Knowing how eager people are to kick their health and fitness resolutions into high gear, I didn’t want to let another day go by without sharing some tips to help your goals take shape.

When I get home, I’ll have to reserve my barre space at Physique57 a little earlier than usual and wait longer for an elliptical or to start a weight set at New York Sports Club. I love seeing so many new faces at the gym at this time of year, but I hate the fact that usually by March, many of those enthusiastic newbies are long gone. So, I kick off 2016 with a these ideas to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. Leave the past where it belongs: I know we all want to erase the “sins” of the holidays that came in the form of chocolate, cheese and cocktails. Don’t  waste your energy regretting the times you overdid it last year. I have my own memories of indulging in that second piece of lasagna and too many chocolates to count. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust your attitude:  Thinking of exercise as a “chore” is a surefire way to put the brakes on your new routine. Instead, think of exercise as “Me Time.” No matter what’s going on in my life, the time I spend working out is the one time my brain goes into neutral and the only thing filling it is some good music. Use  exercise as a break from the ordinary, and before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to sweating out whatever ails you.
  3. Reality check: Saying you’re going to exercise seven days a week is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure. The first day you miss, you’ll be discouraged, and could find yourself saying, “Well, there goes the week!” A more realistic approach would be to aim for a minimum of three days each week for the first month. As you start experiencing the endorphin rush and other benefits from exercising, you’ll want to spend more than three days working out. Discouragement aside, everyone should take a  minimum of one day off  each week to let the body rest.
  4. Do what works for YOU:  You woke up Christmas morning to find Santa left the latest exercise program under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs have been hanging out with the dust bunnies under your bed since VHS went out of style. Why not return the program and put the money toward a new pair of sneakers and moisture-wicking workout wear? Grab a friend and start those power walks or sign up for that Zumba class at your local community center. Have no idea what to try? Splurge and hire a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
  5. Avoid severe diet restrictions: If you deny yourself something you truly enjoy for too long, it’s only a matter of time before you break down and go overboard. So, the chocolate bar you could have had last week turns into five chocolate bars, washed down with a chocolate shake and a side of cupcakes two months later.

I leave you with this reality: there will be “off” days. Even as a lifelong fitness enthusiast, there are times I simply don’t want to workout and all I want to eat is cheese and chocolate. As you read this post, there’s a good chance I’m having my first high-calorie frozen cocktail of the day. Stuff happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the crumbs, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Gobble, Gobble With Less Guilt!

Thanksgiving feastOn this Motivation Monday, I offer a few words of inspiration to get your week started on a strong note: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

I love Thanksgiving. Just like the Fourth of July, it’s a 100% all-American holiday with no gifts required. What makes this day so special is the opportunity to pause and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. What better way to slow down than to sit down and enjoy some quality time with family and friends? Of course, that time ends up being stuffed with food and drink, and maybe a little football, too.

Since this is an abbreviated work week for many of my repeat readers, I wanted to get these annual survival tips posted in time for the calorie-loaded holiday ahead.

  • Get moving: Don’t skimp on getting some activity into your daily routine this week. Ten minutes are always better than nothing, and mentally, you’ll feel good knowing you made an effort prior to the Turkey Day feast. On Thursday, even if you’re hosting the holiday fun and can’t leave the house, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata first thing in the morning. If you can get some fresh air, take a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. Your gym is open? Great! Try a morning group exercise class or attack some cardio and core work. A few solid planks can make you feel strong before filling belly up with yummy food!
  • Do NOT skip breakfast: Be sure to eat something sensible on Thanksgiving morning to get your metabolism going. If you’re not feasting until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. Two ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in or a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and salsa. These protein-rich snacks will keep you full longer.
  • Size DOES matter: Use a salad or other small dish for your meal. Start with salad or veggies and then add the turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. There simply won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.
  • Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait about 10 minutes before going back for round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
  • Mind the libations: This is a good day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of water of diet soda before moving on to the next cocktail.
  • Give away leftovers: Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

I close with a heartfelt wish for you to enjoy a Happy and healthy Thanksgiving! On this holiday, I give thanks for so many things including my family, my friends, my health and for the support I receive from my “fitfam,” which includes you loyal readers. Remember, a few extra calories are worth it if it means spending time with the people you love. Laughter, good food and even good wine can be good for the heart and the soul as part of our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pumpkin Power!

pumpkinsPumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin beer, pumpkin ravioli…it seems everywhere you go, pumpkin is on the menu. I look forward to a big slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving (which is surprisingly not too far away), but it turns out there are several good reasons to enjoy pumpkin more than once a year!

On this Motivation Monday, I offer just a few of the health perks found in fall’s signature squash:

  • Post-Workout Power!  You’ve probably heard the rave reviews for bananas as a natural source of energy. However, one cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the refueling nutrient potassium with 564 milligrams compared to a banana’s 422. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.
  • Good for Your Baby Blues…and Browns, Greens and Hazels, too!:  One cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin. Also, pumpkin is full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color including Beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
  • Keep Your Appetite in Check! This often forgotten source of fiber packs three grams in a one-cup serving with only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.

So, while it’s always a good idea to enjoy the pumpkin pie in moderation, there’s no reason not to indulge in some of the other healthy options provided by this seasonal favorite to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous !

Fall Fitness Fun

iStock_000003725849LargeHappy October!

After a soggy start to the month here in New York, I say bring on the crisp, cool days of autumn! As the leaves start to fall and we lose a little more daylight with each passing day, it’s also a time to welcome some new ways to get the heart pumping.

If you’ve been craving a little spice in your fitness routine, all you have to do is turn to Mother Nature for inspiration. Here are a few ways to add some fun to your fall fitness routine:

  • ‘Tis the season for kayaking, canoeing, rowing and horseback riding! If you live near the water, look for clubs that offer fall water sports. Along with enjoying some scenery, you’ll get the added benefit of squeezing some cardio and upper body strength training. Horseback riding helps build lower body strength while taking in the beauty of a brightly-colored trail. If you’re a city dweller like me, consider trying a rowing class or at least adding a 500-meter sprint on the rowing machine to your gym routine.
  • Make those chores work for you! Did you know a 150-pound person can burn up to 135 calories by raking leaves for 30 minutes? Turn raking leaves into a family activity to have some fun with the kids, too!
  • Outdoor bootcamps, anyone? Check out opportunities to workout in local parks or other outdoor hot spots before the colder temps and darker days chase us indoors. Depending on the intensity of the class, these full-body workouts can burn up to nearly 500 calories an hour.
  • Adjust the time you workout: I don’t know about you, but as it gets darker, it’s harder for me to get motivated in the evenings. While I’m adjusting to the lack of sunlight, I try to get my workouts over with pre-work if possible. Check if there are morning group classes that fit your fancy. Not only can the group dynamic offer a boost of motivation, but you’ll start the day with a shot of endorphins to keep the energy up at work or wherever the day takes you. Also, by working out in the morning, you can welcome the tired feeling that creeps up on you earlier than usual and spend your evenings relaxing or enjoying down time with family and friends.

So what’s your fall fitness plan? Let me know! Whatever you do, remember this: sometimes all you need is a little help from Mother Nature to help you find new ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

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