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Let the New Year Roll On!

GenericHappyNewYearWe made it to the very first Motivation Monday of 2015!
Five days in to the New Year, I thought I’d offer my two cents to help you turn your health and fitness resolutions into lifestyle habits that will last all year-long – beyond! First, let me applaud all those who’ve decided 2015 is the year you’ll fit more physical activity and healthier food into your already action-packed schedule. Making that commitment is a huge first step toward a more FITASTIC you.
Laura’s Top Three Stick-With-It Tips
1. Break Your Big Goals Down: While I’m a firm believer in dreaming big, tackling big tasks can be overwhelming unless we establish some small steps to advance to the finish line. For example:
Daunting: “I need to lose 40 pounds by March.”
Doable: “By spring, I want to fit into my clothes more comfortably and have more energy.”
Setting an attainable long-term goal allows you to focus on what you want to accomplish today and in the week ahead. Again, make sure that focus isn’t all about weight loss. You don’t want a weigh-in steering your motivation to stay on track with healthy habits that can make a world of difference in the long run. So, instead of saying “I’m going to try to lose 2 pounds this week,” why not set one or two goals along the lines of:
1) “I will eat five servings of fruits and veggies every day this week”
2) “I am going to add 10 minutes of exercise to my day at least 3 days this week.”
This is probably a good time for me to remind you that healthy weight loss occurs at a pace of between 2-3 pounds each week. This slow and steady pace means you’re adapting eating habits that are sustainable as opposed to starving yourself or denying yourself certain foods. Fueling your body with nothing but juice and kale for six weeks as opposed to learning healthy habits about portion control and foods that keep you satiated is almost always a recipe for disaster. Once you go back to normal food, the pounds almost always find their way back to your waistline, and usually more than before.

2. Put Healthy Activities On Your Daily To-Do List. Between my iPhone, old-fashioned day planner and countless note pads in my apartment, I’m an avid list maker. I always have “Cardio at NYSC” or Physique57 Class” on my daily task lists, and it feels great to cross out the endorphin-portion of my day when it’s done. So, put “exercise” on your calendar – even if it’s “10-minute walk” penciled into your lunch hour. (Remember, 10 minutes of something is always better than ZERO minutes of nothing all day!) If it’s a rest day, put other healthy tasks on your list such as “buy produce” or “prep veggies and other snacks for lunches.” You’ll be surprised by the boost you get from crossing out something as simple as “buy bananas” on that list on your fridge. Consider it a visual affirmation that you did something good for yourself on any day of the week!

3. Be Realistic.  Enthusiasm is the key to getting anything done, but don’t let it get the best of you. If you put “work out” on your planner for seven straight days, you may be setting yourself up for failure. As soon as you miss that first day, you may think, “Well, I just blew the whole week!” A more realistic approach would be to aim for three days each week for the first month. As you start experiencing the endorphin-rush and other benefits from exercising, trust me, you’ll want to increase the frequency of your workouts. Just remember no matter how much you love working out, everyone should take a  minimum of one day off  each week to let the body rest.

Finally, I leave you with this reality: there will be “off” days. Even as a lifelong fitness enthusiast, there are days I simply don’t want to workout and all I want for dinner are wine and chocolate. It 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!

Don’t Give Up Now!

iStock_000018191976XSmallIt’s hard to believe this is the last Motivation Monday of February. However, I’m having an even harder time coming to grips with the fact that we’re nine weeks into 2014!

Unfortunately just like every other year at this time, I have less of a wait for the elliptical or chest press machines at New York Sports Club and there’s even a bit more space at the barre at Physique57. Why? Because this is the time when lots of people find themselves standing on the precipice of throwing in the towel on those health and fitness goals. If you’re one of them, I hope this post will help you stay the course. If you’ve become a bit discouraged, bored or burned out, now’s the perfect time to step back and assess the good things that have been happening since you made your New Year’s resolutions.

All too often in this hectic life, we can dwell on the negative. So let’s start clearing the mind of those self-sabotaging thoughts such as “I’ve been working out and eating better for almost two months and I still can’t fit into those skinny  jeans I bought five years ago.”  Step back, take a deep breath, give yourself a good reality check and turn your attention to the positive. Ask yourself if your healthier habits have caused any of the following side effects:

  • Increased energy throughout the day
  • Sharper focus at work and/or getting things done around the house
  • Healthier glow to your skin
  • Not feeling winded after daily activities like carrying groceries or one of your kids up a flight of stairs
  • Better posture
  • Better overall mood and less irritability
  • A stronger immune system kept the cold and flu bugs at bay or helped you feel better faster even if you did get sick during the peak winter months
  • More solid shut-eye

If you’ve experienced any or all of the above, then you have some tangible reasons to stick with your routine. Remember, the health and fitness journey is a road that stretches for an entire lifetime. Along that road, each and every one of us will encounter wrong turns, speed bumps and nasty potholes, but those are the times to remember there are smooth patches, too. If you experienced some dangerous curves just this weekend enjoying a few too many calories and slacking off on the exercise, don’t sweat it. This is a brand new day, the start of a brand new week and a fresh slate of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On!

Stay Strong - You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

Stay Strong – You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

As a lifelong fitness lover, I always get excited at the start of a New Year. It’s wonderful to see a fresh crop of faces sweating it out on the elliptical machine next to mine at New York Sports Club or squatting away at the barre in my Physique57 classes. In the back of my mind, however, I can’t help but wonder how many of these glistening faces will disappear come March. I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday as a chance to encourage everyone to pause for a few moments and assess how things are going so far – and also forgive yourself for any slip-ups.

When I talk to people about why they abandon their fitness journey, most of their reasons can be put in two categories:

  1. Getting discouraged easily: Maybe these thoughts crossed your mind over the weekend “I’ve worked out every single day since January 1st. I haven’t had one piece of chocolate or even a glass of wine, but I don’t see the hint of a six-pack yet.” Well, consider this your reality check. First of all, I’ve never been a proponent of embracing extreme restrictions to make healthy lifestyle changes. Denying yourself the things you like for too long can only end in disaster, such as devouring a whole cake or pizza instead of one slice. Second, it’s important to remember it takes a minimum of six weeks for anything to become a habit. Whether that’s fitting those five servings of fruits and veggies into your daily diet or finding your groove in spinning class, be patient. Stick with your plan and focus on the positives you have experienced since making some healthy changes. (Don’t stop reading now, some of those positives are mentioned below.)
  • Doing too much too soon:  Similar to my mantra about restrictions, I’m also not a fan of over-the-top workout plans for newbies to the fitness world. Which of the following scenarios sounds better to you?:
  1. Banging out a series of squats, planks and even modified push-ups and feeling a healthy “burn” in the muscles afterward and being able to tackle another workout the next day or
  2. Plowing through 50 burpees and/or pull-ups in far-from-perfect form only to suffer lower-back pain and be out of the game for five days

Sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately too many people take the less optimal choice and end up with plenty of pain and no gain. Choosing quantity over quality is a surefire way to put yourself at risk for injury…which leads to discouragement…which can ultimately lead to throwing in the towel on those fitness goals altogether. You already know slow and steady wins the race.  When it comes to running down your health and fitness goals, I like to think of it as more of a lifelong marathon.

Finally, it you’re plugging away with your workouts and healthy eating choices, keep it up and remember to focus on the positive! In fact, I’ll be so bold to tell you forget what the scale says and take stock of any of these positive changes:

  • A sharper focus at work or tackling that to-do list on the homefront
  • A new “glow” to your skin
  • Increased energy for everyday activities like playing with your kids
  • Not needing to catch your breath after walking up that flight of stairs
  • Getting a better night’s sleep

I leave you with one last reality: there will be “off” days. Even this fitness lover can admit there are times all I want to do is watch TV while sipping red wine and eating  chocolate. It happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the cookie crumbs, chop some veggies, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

2014, Bring It On!

iStock_000027032354SmallHappy New Year! I hope the first few days of 2014 have been good to you. More importantly, I hope you’re using the New Year as  an opportunity to really start being good to yourself!

I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously pumped about the year ahead. Maybe it’s because the fortune teller I  met back during a bestie’s birthday weekend in Jamaica told me 2014 would be my “best year yet.” (I don’t place too much stock in all the thoughts she shared, but that was the one that stuck with me!) Maybe it’s because I’m one month away from hitting that milestone known as the “Big 4-o.” Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m glad 2013 is over and done with. Whatever the case, I’m beyond excited about all the opportunities ahead to be healthier and happier than ever!

Speaking of opportunities, this first Motivation Monday of 2014 presents another exciting first for me. I’m thrilled to be today’s guest on the Lifestyle Accountability Show. I met Bate Brothers Adam and Devon via Twitter and was honored when they asked if they could feature me on their daily health and well-being podcast. Please click on the following link to listen to the interview where we discuss everything from my favorite healthy foods to the pitfalls I’ve encountered on my never-ending fitness journey:

http://www.lifestyleaccountability.com/laura-loves-fitness-shares-inspiring-story/

I hope you’ll find the information helpful to make this YOUR healthiest and happiest year yet!

I close with a thank you to the Bate Brothers and to all of you for checking out the interview.  Feel free to share away on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you’d like to spread the word about the show and all the sources of inspiration at LifestyleAccountability.com. Here’s to the remaining 359 days ahead of us in 2014 filled with so many chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Flexibility Fix

Guess what? You’ve made it to the sixth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

In about another week, the exercise and healthy eating habits you started in January should start feeling more like a part of your daily routine. So whatever you do, don’t give up now!

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t Forget to Stretch!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I’m actually a little miffed with myself that it’s taken me until this point in the new year to remind you about one of the most crucial yet often overlooked part of a well-balanced exercise program: flexibility training. One of my biggest regrets in my life-long love affair with fitness is that it took me far too long to incorporate a healthy amount of flexibility training into my own routine. Since many of you are still working out some kinks in your exercise program, I didn’t want this habit-forming time to end without reminding you to take care of the kinks in your body, too!

What kind of kinks am I talking about? Well, unless you’re a runway model, chances are your posture isn’t the best thanks to countless hours spent sitting at a desk crouched over a keyboard or stuck behind the wheel commuting or shuttling the kids around town. If you’re on your feet all day or paint houses or work in construction, you can also suffer from tightness thanks to repetitive motions.

While I can’t assess the exact points of tension in your body, one of the most common problem areas are the latissimus dorsi, or lats, in your back.  I know when I’m on deadline at work and don’t take enough breaks to step away from the computer, my lats start screaming for some TLC.

So on this Workout Wednesday, here’s a look at one stretch for this sore spot that I think is worthy of an encore performance: the static latissimus dorsi ball stretch.

  1. The prep: Kneel in front of the stability ball with one arm on the ball and the other hand on the ground. (Training tip: For the arm that’s on the ball, make sure your thumb is pointed up.)
  2. The move: Draw your navel upward and reach forward with the arm that’s on the ball. You will feel a stretch along the side of your torso into the lower back.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to start position, switch sides and repeat.

Photos by Lauren Bachner
At Hype Gym

For an active variation on this stretch, you would prepare for and execute the stretch the same way. However, once you reach your arm forward, hold the stretch for 2 seconds, then roll back to the start and repeat for 5-10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

As we move forward in 2013, don’t be surprised to find I re-visit the importance of flexibility training in any fitness program. Taking care of those tight muscles is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Happy 1st Workout Wednesday of 2013!

Oh Yeah - You Got This!Photo by Leslie Hassler

Oh Yeah – You Got This!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Happy New Year, everyone! If you’re like a lot of people, you probably just wrapped up a holiday season filled with friends, family and yes, a lot of food. In between the cheer, there’s also a good chance you made up your list of  New Year’s resolutions and some kind of health and fitness goals rank in the top spots. So I couldn’t think of a better time for my first post of 2013 to appear in Cyberspace than the first Workout Wednesday of this new year!

While I love seeing so many new enthusiastic faces at the gym in January, I hate the fact that many of those newbies are long gone by March. So, I kick off 2013 with a few tips that I hope will help anyone who has decided THIS is the year they’re finally going to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. What’s Done is Done. Don’t waste your energy regretting the occasions you overdid it during the holidays. I have my own memories of indulging in a  one too many cocktails or homemade cookies. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust the Attitude. Think of exercise as a “chore,” and you’ll be done with your new routine in no time. Instead, turn exercise into “Me Time.” No matter what kind of stress I’m dealing with at the office or at home, the time I spend working out is the one time my brain goes into neutral. Whether I can spend a quick 30-40 minutes or a luxurious 90 at the gym, the only “noise” filling my mind during those precious minutes is my favorite music. So, 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. Step Back for a Reality Check. Saying you’re going to exercise seven days a week is one of the easiest ways to set yourself up for failure – especially if you haven’t worked out one day in the past several months. The first day you miss, you’ll be discouraged. That makes it too easy to say, “Well, I just blew the whole week, so forget it!” A better approach is 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. Find the Right Fitness Fit. Santa left you the latest version of the “Insanity” DVD program under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs still have the plastic wrap on them and they’ve been hanging with the dust bunnies under your bed since last year. Why not return the new program and put the money toward a cool pair of sneakers and some moisture-wicking workout wear? Grab a friend – who you’ve also resolved to spending more time with! -and start those power walks or sign up for exercise classes together at your local gym or community center. Have no idea what to try? Splurge and hire a personal trainer to get you started on the right track.
  5. Avoid Extreme Food 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 red wine and chocolate. It 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!

Fitness Focus

Every time a national holiday comes around, I find myself wishing there were more three-day weekends on the calendar. If you’re fortunate to be off on this President’s Day, I hope you do at least one nice thing for yourself today. For those of you who are either wrapping up or about to embark on some quality time with family and friends thanks to February recess, here’s to a whole week’s worth of nice memories!

Knock Out Self-Doubt! Photo by Leslie Hassler

In light of this being a holiday weekend, I thought I’d keep things pretty light today. So, I offer this post as an opportunity for you to assess how your 2012 health and fitness goals are coming along. When I arrived at New York Sports Club for my cardio workout this morning, I was greeted by a sign advertising special membership rates to help people with their “re-resolutions.” That’s when I realized it’s about that time again: the time when you no longer have to wait in line to use a treadmill or elliptical machine after work or arrive ridiculously early to claim a spot in your favorite group exercise class. If you’re enthusiasm about working out is waning, it’s a good time to re-evaluate the reasons why you made the commitment to take better care of yourself in the first place.

I know from first-hand experience how things like weddings, college reunions and other special occasions can be great motivators to get your butt into gear when it comes to working out and eating healthy. However, when the party’s over (literally), you’re right back where you started. So, if you don’t find a long-term source of motivation, you could be setting yourself up to fall right off the health and fitness wagon for more than a day or two. Since it takes up to six weeks for a behavior to become a habit, you need to find a more meaningful reason to make the behavior stick so eventually packing a gym bag every night or leaving your sneakers near the door for a morning run will be just as routine as brushing your teeth. That being said, make sure the focus of your motivation always comes back to you. Yes, this is one time when being selfish really can be a good thing. Instead of saying “I’m going to exercise because of the kids,” why not try “I’m going to exercise because I want more energy to play with my kids.”

One final and important note: don’t let vanity be your only source of motivation. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing to want to drop a jean size so you have more energy and feel healthier overall, it’s not okay to say “I want to be the same size as (insert name of friend or celebrity here).” Stop short-changing yourself and remember all the unique qualities that make you the person you are. Positive affirmations are an underutilized source of strength that can help all of us stay focused on the lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Make Your Fitness Resolutions Stick!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and some good times filled with family, friends and good food.

Kick Your Resolutions in the Butt! Photo by Leslie Hassler

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve made your list of New Year’s resolutions and there’s a good chance something related to health and fitness take up the top spots. 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 2012 with a few tips that I hope will help anyone who has decided THIS is the year they’re finally going to make those fitness resolutions stick long after Old Man Winter has made room for Spring.

  1. Leave the Past Behind. Don’t waste your energy regretting the times you overdid it during the holidays. I have my own memories of indulging in a  second piece of lasagna and/or chocolate cake. Today is a new day.
  2. Adjust Your Attitude. Think of exercise as a “chore,” and no doubt you’ll be done with your new routine in no time. 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 my music. So, 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. Be Realistic. 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, I just blew the whole 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. Find What Works for You. You woke up Christmas morning to find Santa left the latest version of P90X under your tree. Meanwhile, all your exercise DVDs have been hanging with the dust bunnies under your bed since VHS went out of style. Why not return the new 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 Hip-Hop or 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 or get a book that breaks things down for you in simple English.
  5. Avoid Extreme Food 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. It 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!

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