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Do Your Own Thing

Knock Out Self Doubt!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Blame it on a super insane work week followed by a lazy weekend which included Palm Sunday, but here you have you have one of my shortest Motivation Monday posts in recent memory.

This shot of inspiration comes to you courtesy of my love for group exercise classes, namely Physique57 and ILoveKickboxing. No matter how hard a workout may seem, the key is to always do your thing. Forget what the person next to you is doing and focus on your own pace, your own form and your own breathing. Finding that inner focus not only insures you’re going to get to the most out of your exercise session, it also allows you block out some of the noise that we’re all bombarded with day after day. That kind of concentration can make the mental part of your workout that much more intense and the workout that much more rewarding when you make it to the finish.

For me, there’s nothing like being in a kickboxing class working one of the heavy bags surrounded by the sounds of punches and kicks against the canvas. However, even lifetime fitness fanatics aren’t immune to self-doubt at the gym. Sometimes, I find myself wondering: Am I hitting as hard as the warrior next to me? Are my kicks making the same “boom” on impact? Then with one solid punch, I put the focus on my workout and forget about the rest of the room.

Exercise is personal. The idea is to just keep moving and do what you can do. If you’re not racing through a set of mountain climbers as fast as the person next to you, don’t sweat it. The key is you’re moving, you’re sweating and you’re doing your pounding heart and your sweaty body some serious good. At the end of your workout session, only one thing matters: do you feel better than when you started?

Wherever and whenever you find the time to workout, remember your mind has the power to keep it a judgement free zone. With spring finally in bloom, take advantage of a new season of group exercise schedules and opportunities to take the activity outside. Find what works for you and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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A Little Support Goes a Long Way!

My Support Team

My “Support Team”

It happens at this time every year. The temperatures go up and the clothes come off. Everywhere I look, there are people running, biking and boot-camping either on the city streets or throughout Central Park and the other outdoor hot spots all over New York City. I always love seeing people getting their daily dose of endorphins, but there is one sight that pains me: a woman with too big of a bounce in her, uh, step…because she’s not wearing a supportive sports bra!

On this Motivation Monday, I apologize for leaving the guys out of the conversation, but I’ve seen enough to know it’s never a bad idea to remind women about the importance of having the right support above the belt. I often write about replacing your sneakers every six months to ensure you have a solid base for your workouts. Well, breast tissue needs protection, too.

Breasts have zero muscle, but without proper support, the skin and ligaments near the breasts which give them their size and shape can break down and eventually cause sagging. (The kicker: once those ligaments stretch out, they don’t bounce back!) Whatever your size, you will experience some sort of bouncing during exercise. So every woman needs to wear a sports bra whether she’s power walking, full-on running or exercising in any way that involves some bounce.

So, what sports bra works for me? As my repeat readers already know, I’m not a runner. (For all those reading this post who are runners, I’d recommend looking for a combination compression / encapsulation bra for maximum support.) Since I am addicted to things like the elliptical machine, barre classes and Tabata training. For these activities, I’ve recently become a huge fan of the Athleta line of sports bras. The Full Focus (seen in lime green in the photo above) and Double Dare (in fuchsia) bras are made of soft, moisture-wicking material and offer comfortable, yet solid support for everything in my routine from pulsing and squeezing at the Physique57 barre to mountain climbers. The Double Dare bra even has a double vent in the back to keep me feeling cool on the city’s hottest days.

For less intense activities, like a leisurely stroll or serious stretch session, I like tanks with built-in shelf-bras. Then there’s my other new low-impact favorite: the Coobie bra, seen in the above photo with a striped design. I think this may actually be the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn to date!

Once you find the right sports bra, you can usually expect it to have a six-month lifespan with some good ol’ TLC in the washing and drying department. So, if it’s been six months since you bought your last pair of sneakers, then it might be a good time to make a trip to the workout wear department to find a new sports bra, too. Remember, having the right support for every part of your body is a crucial component on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season for Tabatas!

holiday-party-picAs if the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided on the same day wasn’t enough to get people in a holiday frenzy, now we’re faced with a shorter shopping season than usual before Christmas. Faced with this added hustle and bustle to the 2013 holiday season, I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to touch on the importance of keeping your mental health in check throughout the last month of 2013. To me, there’s no better way to do just that than by breaking a good sweat!

Obviously, working out will help burn some of the extra holiday calories that come in all shapes and sizes ranging from homemade cookies to rich wines and sweet, seasonal cocktails. Weight maintenance aside, the endorphins that stay with you after a workout can also help you maintain a level of calm as you battle the crowds in overheated stores or spend extra amounts of time with the extended -and sometimes non-harmonious- family. (Bonus: if you’re visiting family for the holidays, there’s no better excuse than a run or walk to escape for awhile! Just don’t forget your sneakers!)

I bet some of you are saying, “Laura, between working, shopping, taking care of the kids, baking, cooking and going to all the holiday parties, there’s just no time to exercise.” Well, guess what? You OWE it to yourself to find 10 minutes somewhere in the day to get moving. Why? Simply because 10 minutes of anything are better than zero minutes of nothing! As some of you repeat readers already know, one of my favorite ways to make the most of abbreviated workout time is the Tabata.

Side Plank: One of my favorite Tabata moves Photo by Lauren Bachner

Side Plank: One of my favorite Tabata moves.                   Photo by Lauren Bachner

Need a Tabata review?  The four-minute high-intensity “formula” is pretty simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. So if you truly only have 10 minutes today, why not give this a try. Bonus: You never even have to leave the house!

  • 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  • Rest only long enough to set your timer, then bang out one squat Tabata. (Need a timer? I use UltraTimerHD)
  • Rest for 60 seconds
  • Bang out one more 4-minute Tabata  (Choose from mountain climbers, push-ups, planks, side planks or crunches.)
  • Recover/stretch for 60 seconds or longer.
  • Congrats! You spent 10 minutes doing SOMETHING for your body!

(On the rare occasion the chaos dies down enough to give you a little more time, why not try to build a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout.)

While I love Tabatas, I realize they may not be your thing. So taking a power walk around the block a few dozen times, running up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building or dare I say meeting a friend for a group exercise class or game of basketball may be the fitness fix you need to feel a little stronger physically and mentally. Remember, while this is known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” don’t ignore your body’s need to escape some of the chaos so you can continue to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Movin’ It at Home

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

Last week, I got a tweet from my high school pal Kathy asking about ideas for home workouts. She reminded me that with the kids out of school for the summer, it’s not always easy to escape to the gym to break a sweat. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some quick tips to keep you active all summer, even on the days when getting out of the house isn’t an option.

The secret to making a home workout work for you is using as many muscles as possible while quickly moving from one exercise to the next. This will keep your heart rate up and help you burn calories. All the exercises I present in this “one-minute-wonder” circuit use your body-weight.  The idea is to perform as many reps as possible of each exercise – with proper form! – in 60 seconds and then move directly on to the next one with no rest in between. The only “equipment” needed is a jump rope.

  1. Jump rope: if you don’t have a jump rope or not enough head room to use one indoors (and don’t have any outdoor space to work with), try jumping jacks or running in place
  2. Forward lunges: alternating legs
  3. Squats
  4. Push-ups (modified version is to be on your knees instead of your toes)
  5. Bridges (Click here for a refresher on some core moves)
  6. Crunches
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Side planks
  9. Tricep dips: We do these in my Physique57 classes all the time seated on the floor – you just need to lift your booty off the floor and brace yourself and use your triceps to dip up and down without touching back down. If you have stairs at home, steps are always a sturdy base for dips.
  10. Jumping jacks (or jump rope again)

Once you’ve made it through the 10-minute circuit, take up to a two-minute break and then start again. Or if you happen to have any cardio equipment at home, bang out the 10-minute circuit and then hit the treadmill, bike or elliptical for up to another 20-30 minutes. Aim for banging out this total-body routine three days a week on non-consecutive days.  As you get stronger, work toward repeating the circuit two to three times. As you progress, you can also add more intensity to some of the exercises. For example, you can turn squats into squat-to-jumps where you literally jump off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head when you come up from the squat position. Push-ups can also be replaced with burpees. Of course, if you have any favorite summer stay-cation home moves, I’d love to hear about them!

Whether you’re working out at home, in the park or at the gym, be sure not to skimp on the stretching and allow your body time to warm up and cool down. Add plenty of water and sweet summer fruits and veggies to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect plan in place for a whole summer filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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