Blog Archives

The Dark Days Ahead

I truly don’t know where the month went, but here we are on the last Workout Wednesday of October. Election Day is only six days away. In three nights, we turn the clocks back for the end of Daylight Saving time. And every day, I see the alarming statistics and hear stories that prove we’re nowhere near the end of struggling with a pandemic. While I’ve always considered myself an upbeat and optimistic person, 2020 continues to put us all to the test on just how much we can take.

In an effort to focus on the positive, I’d like to turn your attention to a crucial element in our health and wellness routine: self-care. I realize some of you are smirking and thinking, “Sure, Laura, and just when would you like me to fit that into my schedule?” Well, my repeat readers know when it comes to fitness, I’ve always believed 10 minutes of exercise is better than zero. The same can be said for finding moments of me-time -which may be more important than ever.

Here are a five things you can do in 10 minutes or less to de-stress:

  1. Leave your computer/work station and go into a different room for a change of scenery. (Close the door for extra solitude if you can.) If you have access to outdoor space, step outside for some fresh air.
  2. Make a cup of tea.
  3. Practice deep breathing / meditate.
  4. Stretch!
  5. Eat some dark chocolate.

Just so you know, I’m making more of an effort to follow my own advice as I continue my work as a contact monitor for the Test & Trace Corps. (My colleagues and I get two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch during our shifts.) The number of cases is on the rise again in New York City and our call volumes have increased in recent weeks. Each day, we hear stories from our fellow New Yorkers different in age, gender, race and creed – but many share the same fears and frustrations. So many parents, teachers and students feel overwhelmed as they struggle to navigate this unprecedented school year. Healthcare workers continue their tireless efforts to care for the sick and worry about bringing anything home to their own families. Essential workers grind through their shifts and remote workers miss the socialization of office life. And many of our city’s seniors are scared and lonely, and need ongoing assistance with necessities including food and medication. After listening to these often emotional stories almost daily for the past 14 weeks, I’ve learned if don’t make time to shut off my mind for even just a few moments during the day, sleeping at night will be nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, I miss my extended family and friends and find myself feeling sad about the strange holiday season ahead. My hope is that each of us find one or two things that give us some peace and comfort throughout the darker, colder days ahead. For me, that means buying some warmer workout gear to keep up my running efforts as the days get colder and incorporating more mini-moments of Zen into the day.

I also encourage everyone to strive to follow a healthy diet, bundle up for those outdoor exercise plans, wash your hands often and of course, wear a mask! Here’s to getting a game plan in place for the new month ahead and hopefully finding more than just a few moments to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

One Strange October

Highlights of Octobers past… Boston, 2017

And so we turn the calendar to a Breast Cancer Awareness Month like no other.

As we kick off October, I find myself feeling more out of sorts than usual because I’m not gearing up for what’s been a favorite fall highlight since 2014. There’s no breast cancer awareness walk on my calendar. I completely understand why  fundraising walks around the country for all types of causes have been put on hold until at least 2021, but this absence only punctuates another aspect of “normal” that no longer exists thanks to COVID-19.

My repeat readers probably recall my journey in the fight against breast cancer started as a tribute to my Mom, a warrior survivor; and my dear high school friend Elizabeth, who sadly lost her battle with the disease in 2016. The experience changed dramatically in 2018 when the annual 39.3-mile trek as part of Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer morphed into a much shorter walk through Central Park as Avon began a new partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign. The mission, however, remained the same: to raise awareness about a disease that is still the leading cancer-killer of women worldwide and support patients and their families through the fight. This year, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative has made changes for less crowd-centric fundraising efforts and the main push kicks off today.

2016

Like so many people, I’m trying to navigate a much different October path this year. My passion for helping in this fight remains, but there comes a point when each of us has to step back and acknowledge “I can’t do it all.” I would have loved to join the Pink Forward Step Challenge, but between my new job in the contact tracing world; caring for my elderly parents; planning for an upcoming move and trying to stay healthy – physically and emotionally – well, sometimes you just have to say no.

What I can do is make a donation to this year’s Making Strides of Central park 2020 campaign. However, I encourage those only with the means to do so to consider doing the same. I realize it’s been an extremely difficult year for so many people, especially on the financial front. I hear about these hardships almost daily as I reach out to COVID cases and contacts around my beloved city.

2015

While everything looks very different, the passions that drive our heart and soul can remain strong and steadfast. Finding a different way to channel that energy will continue to be a challenge as we push forward through these difficult days. All we can do is try our best each and every day and not give up hope for better times ahead and more chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

The Reluctant Runner

Always happy AFTER the run!

This Workout Wednesday marks exactly two weeks since my gym re-opened in New York City. While I’m beyond thrilled for the trainers and staff who are back in action after the five-month furlough, I have yet to step foot inside those concrete walls. To be honest, I’m just not ready in this ongoing COVID-19 world. To my fellow fitness fanatics who have been back to those favorite indoor workout haunts, I’d love to hear about your experiences so far.

While I look forward to your feedback, I’ll stick with my running efforts. I can’t say it’s been easy, and not just because of the shin splints I developed back in May after getting a little too aggressive with my speed and mileage in too short a period of time. (Another reason to kick that no-pain-no-gain mantra to the curb!) It’s been more of a mental challenge, and the reason is simple: I just don’t like to run.

Staying motivated to do anything you don’t particularly like is a struggle, but I do try to focus on the positives. First, running provides the calorie burn I crave so I don’t feel guilty about that second glass of wine with dinner. Second, tracking my progress using the Strava app since late April has helped. While I’ll always consider myself the tortoise and not the hare, I have noticed an uptick in my speed and the distance I can travel before my legs and lungs start screaming. Finally, while I can’t say I’ve experienced that “high” described by true runners who love the sport, I definitely have more energy to face the workday after getting those four miles in (along with one or two core-focused Tabatas and push-ups) first thing in the morning. Since my contact monitor job does involve sitting for much longer periods of time than I’m used to, getting the blood going first thing in the day has definitely had its perks.

I really do look forward to a time when I’m back in the weight room and back in front of a heavy bag. In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself of the good I’m doing for my heart, body and spirit by sticking with the running / power walking regimen. As we all continue to muddle through a less-than-optimal year for all our pre-COVID “normal” activities, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves -and each other – and to be grateful for each day we wake up to do what we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

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!

Hello, July!

Yesterday should have been the beginning of my favorite month of the year. Despite the slow re-opening of businesses and activities here in New York, we are nowhere near pre-Coronavirus life. The city streets and scenes are very different from the ones I fell in love with when I arrived in 2008. And being my normal, candid self, I still find find these days to be a little scary.

Many businesses remain shuttered, and who knows how many will remain closed for good. Broadway will remain dark until the New Year. The New York City Marathon is officially cancelled. Beaches are open at half capacity, but the last time I visited my “happy place,” I was quite alarmed at the amount of large groups I saw ignoring social distancing and sharing everything from beach blankets to beer cans. Finally, and perhaps a huge source of extra anxiety is the fact that gyms remain closed. Despite my best efforts, my new running hobby has yet to give me the same stress release I experience when punching a heavy bag or lifting weights.

Meanwhile, anger over racism and socioeconomic injustice has reached a boiling point. People are enraged, scared and beyond restless after months of being shut in. And super close to home, my mom continues her slow yet steady recovery from open heart surgery while my Dad continues to grapple with his own health issues. Because of their age and vulnerability, I worry that one wrong move on my end could make them sick with a virus that’s still killing people every day. It’s no wonder I’m struggling with my own new health issue: insomnia.

However, it IS July. So I tell myself to snap out of it, turn the page and use whatever vitamin D therapy I can to focus on the brighter times ahead. I will keep the power walks and quasi-runs going to give my mind and body some sort of endorphin boost. I’ll keep praying. And I’ll remind myself of the the good that does exist in this upside-down world. Like the fact that my dear childhood friend married the love of her life last week at the Church we grew up in, masks and all. Then there’s the selfless goodness seen in the kind and compassionate eyes of the doctors, nurses and aides who took such good care of my mom during her seven-day stay in the hospital. Last but certainly not least, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by love during moments with my husband or my parents in person – and the virtual hugs I get from family and friends via emails, texts or phone calls.

Thank you for still being here to read my extremely random thoughts during these past few months. I hope you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy. As we head into a Fourth of July weekend like none before, I wish you peace, love and whatever joy you can find to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On…

Three of nine albums made during quarantine….so far!

On this Workout Wednesday, we’ve reached the middle of May and day number who-knows-what in this fight against COVID-19. States around the country are starting to re-open, but things here in New York City remain the same. As the monotony continues, I thought I’d share one thing that’s helped maintain my mental health in addition to my near-daily power walks through Central Park: Snapfish.

I don’t know about you, but while I’ve loved the simplicity of taking pictures on my iPhones for the past several years, I hate the fact those photos usually end up in a sea of disorganization on my laptop. So, I decided to tackle the tedious task of creating some actual “old-school” albums to be placed on a bookshelf. While I still have plenty to tackle, I’ve used Snapfish.com to slowly assemble memories from various vacations; four Avon39 Walks; highlights from last year’s NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix along with images captures during the 15 weeks of prep time leading up to the main event; and finally, two year-in-review compilations for 2014 and 2015. (James and I met in 2014, so I thought that was a happy place to start.) It’s been wonderful to receive the finished products in the mail, sit with a big glass of wine and re-live some happy memories. (Bonus: Snapfish has been offering great deals on albums and other photo creations almost daily since these quarantine days began.)

If there’s a creative project you’ve kept on the back burner because of all the normal chaos of life, maybe now’s the time to give it a whirl. Working on a crafty project can also provide a feeling of accomplishment on days when much of life has stood still. Speaking of getting things done, one of my besties texted me earlier this week to say she felt unproductive because the “only” things she got done that day were laundry, bills and some other paperwork. I reminded her completing any kind of chore on days when many of us would like to just pull the covers over our head and stay in bed is something to feel good about. Whether you get one or five things crossed off your to-do list today, give yourself the kudos you deserve. Things are hard right now, and we can only do our best each day we’re lucky enough to start anew.

If you’ve worked on a project that’s given you some joy during these challenging times, I’d love to hear about it! In the meantime, stay safe, soak up the warmer temperatures that are starting to creep into this otherwise unprecedented spring and do the best you can to stick with your 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!

 

Turning the Page…

 

Blue Skies & Sunshine: Natural Mood Boosters!

It seemed surreal to rip another page off the desk calendar this morning as we kicked off a new month. As I looked at the 30 empty squares on that page, I realized this is the first time in my life I can remember not having one social event or family get-together on the horizon. Of course, based on the latest directives from our health experts and government officials, that’s the way it will stay.

While one day bleeds into the next, I find it harder to keep track of the date and time. However, the one part of my day that sets my mind straight is my solitary power walk or jog in Central Park. I’m sharing some sunny images from today’s jaunt to hopefully offer a spot of brightness for anyone struggling with a dark moment or entirely difficult day. We’re all going to have those moments as this time of uncertainty continues, but maybe finding the one thing that brings your mind back to a “healthy” place can help you through. Some popular ideas at the moment include journaling; photography; exercise; a power nap; a video chat with family or friends and early happy hour. Maybe one of these or all of the above get you to the next day. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!

I wrap up these brief thoughts on the first day of April with another huge thank you to the doctors, nurses and each and every health care professional, along with all the emergency responders and essential workers who continue to push on in this unprecedented battle. Let’s help them out by staying home. When we do head outside for those essentials at the grocery store or pharmacy and see one of these warriors in our midst, let us not underestimate the power of saying two little words: thank you. With some faith and compassion, we’ll get through this together and get back to our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pressing On..

So, how’s everyone holding up?

It’s hard to believe this is the second Workout Wednesday where gyms remain closed here in the Big Apple and in many states across the country. On a positive note, it’s encouraging to see how many gyms and trainers are offering online workouts and exercise ideas. As these days of isolation continue, I encourage everyone to take that daily walk or run as permitted. As I continue to recover from a shoulder injury, I know the quick dose of fresh air from walking has helped keep the endorphin production going. And I think it’s safe to say we can use all the endorphins we can get right now.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon with my list of favorite at-home exercises – no equipment needed:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Calf Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Core work: crunches; planks; side planks; toe touches; dead bugs; push ups; glute bridges
  • Shadow boxing
  • Bicep curls; tricep kickbacks; front and lateral raises (use soup cans or bottles for weight)

Times Square

This post is really just my way of jumping into the “fitfam” positivity pool that’s streaming across so many social media platforms. I am beyond grateful to all of you who’ve sent private messages, texts and emails to check on us here in the city and also inquire about my elderly parents on Long Island. So far, we’re all healthy and taking the necessary precautions to hopefully stay that way.

I also want to offer a huge thank you to all the doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, first responders and all those who remain on the front lines of this pandemic. I also thank the other essentials workers who are showing up to keep mass transit running; stock shelves at the grocery stores; help people get their medicine at the pharmacies; provide food at the restaurants still offering takeout and delivery; man the front desks at apartment buildings; pick up the garbage and recycling and deliver the mail. Finally, a shout out to the reporters and news teams who are practicing the true rules of journalism by providing facts instead of spreading fear.

Eighth Avenue & W. 54th Street

Until the next time….let’s all stay calm, wash those hands, practice social distancing and continue to share prayers and good vibes with family and friends. While no one knows how long these difficult days will last, the good news is we will get back to life as we knew it and back to our original plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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