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My Newest Workout Boost: “Stripping”

IMG_2745On this Motivation Monday, I’m excited to tell you about a new addition to my fitness routine. I tried it for several days last week and experienced the same positive results each time. What did I do? I “stripped” before each workout, and I “stripped” again halfway through each sweaty ordeal.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain exactly what I’m talking about: a rapid electrolyte replacement oral thin film strip made by Sportsfood, Inc. Just like the company’s website says, the strips are small and thin, and dissolve instantly in your mouth. Once dissolved, each strip immediately begins to replace the all-important electrolytes – sodium and potassium – your body loses when you sweat. The kicker: the strips contain no calories, no sugars, no carbs and no food dyes.

I admit I was skeptical when I first tried the strips. I took two strips about five minutes before my Physique57 workout started. (Note: the strips have a slightly salty taste, but they dissolve so fast, I didn’t find anything unpleasant about them.) I used another two after the warm up, thigh sprints and one side of the glute work was done. (That’s about 30 minutes into class.) While I still felt the burn from the intense workout, my muscles didn’t tire out quite as quickly and that means I banged out more reps than ever before. I used the strips again before a 60-minute cardio-only session at New York Sports Club the next day and I had the same results. I was able to extend my time on the elliptical machine, stationary bike AND rowing machine – which means I extended my normal workout by an additional 15 minutes.

IMG_2697The bottom line is while I will always drink my water before, during and after any workout, the strips definitely gave my body an “edge” I haven’t experienced before. Please note, this is not an “energy” strip – they don’t contain caffeine or stimulants. They are strictly made up of the electrolytes our bodies need to live. From an active standpoint, sodium and potassium help maintain water balance and prevent muscle cramps and fatigue.

Remember, being hydrated is the single most important factor in activities of any intensity level. That includes activities that aren’t strictly fitness-focused. I can’t wait to pack these strips in my beach bag to keep me moving during a long walk on the sand or even before some heavy lifting of yard furniture and other seasonal items at my parents’ house.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I don’t normally write rave reviews about products, but tend to discuss certain workouts or unexpected food finds that I find helpful. I hope that assures you that I’m only writing about this particular product because I do consider it a bona fide find for my diet and exercise regimen.

If you want to learn more about the product, please visit the Sportsfood website. If you’re interested in giving them a try, here’s a bonus for you LauraLovesFitness followers: use “Laura” as your coupon code and get 15% your order. Of course, if you do try them, I want to hear from you! As always, exchanging ideas on how we all stay active and healthy can only help on this never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why I’m Extra Happy it’s Workout Wednesday

iStock_000018985469SmallTwo words make this a much-needed day for a big-time calorie burn: Fat Tuesday.

If you’re like millions of people around the world, you spent yesterday indulging in some “sinful” treats ranging from chocolate chip pancakes to libations of different octane levels. My office added to the sugarfest by asking our resident bakers to whip up some goodies for all of us to enjoy as a late-afternoon treat.

While I’ll be extra glad to break a serious sweat at tonight’s “UXF Burn” class, there are a few reasons I refuse to be consumed by guilt over my behavior on this annual day of decadence:

  1. It happens once in a 365-day period.
  2. For the past seven years, Fat Tuesday has fallen on the same day of the week as my favorite group exercise class. I’m just sure to kick things up an extra notch at NYSC’s Club Strength on this specific Tuesday where I tend to throw moderation out the window.
  3. Workout Wednesday immediately follows Fat Tuesday.

If you went a little overboard yesterday, you have some extra motivation to make today’s workout count! Not sure you need the boost? Consider this: pancakes rank at the top of the Fat Tuesday favorite-food list almost every year. If you enjoyed this crowd-pleaser at a restaurant like IHOP last night, remember each pancake weighs in at approximately 180 calories and six grams of fat. According to CalorieKing, burning off the calories in just one fluffy combination of sugar, flour and eggs would require 50 minutes of walking, 21 minutes of jogging, 15 minutes of swimming or 27 minutes of cycling. If you enjoyed a stack of four or five…well, you can do the math.

All that being said, I wrap up this post with a common LauraLovesFitness theme: life is simply too short to deny yourself the things you really enjoy. For me, that will always include chocolate and red wine. On the rare occasions I do splurge and enjoy those decadent items on the same day, I simply make it a point to get back on track with my healthy food choices the next day and add an extra ten or fifteen minutes to my workout. Finding a balance for all the things that bring you happiness is a challenging but critical part of our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Death By Abby”

If that title sounds daunting, it should. In honor of another Workout Wednesday, I share the latest and greatest killer workout courtesy of Roberto Murichi, UFX instructor extraordinaire.

The workout concept is pretty basic: a one-minute timer starts counting down as we push out three burpees immediately followed by three kettlebell push presses. With the remaining time in that 60-second window, we begin our quest to conquer 200 sit-ups.

When the timer “dings,” a new 60-second countdown begins and we start all over again with the burpees and move on to the push presses. Then we add on to our previous round of sit-ups and continue to push toward 20o. Every minute marks a new start on the exercise trio. Roberto gave us a max of 20-minutes to reach the 200 mark. I finished in just under 12 minutes. (And second to classmate Zac.)

Here’s what one round looked like:

This killer workout has endless possibilities when it comes to the exercises you can include. Sticking with the 200 sit-up goal, options for the other two exercises include squat thrusters, box jumps or even pull-ups. Whatever exercises you choose, I guarantee you’ll finish feeling like you got your butt kicked pretty hard!

Tonight marks my last UFX class for awhile. I can’t thank Roberto enough for opening my eyes to new workout options and for his motivation and energy! I look forward to keeping in touch with my small group training classmates and meeting up to keep the workouts alive and continue along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Strong Finish Friday!

AMRAP Example

AMRAP.

No need to adjust your eyes. I had no idea what that “word” meant when I first saw it written in erasable marker on a mirror in the gym before one of my first Ultimate Fitness Experience classes. Since then, not unlike the burpee, it’s a word I’ve come to love and hate. It’s an abbreviation that stands for “As Many Reps / Rounds As Possible.”

The directive pushes you to do as much work as possible in a given amount of time. Here are just a few some examples of the high-intensity AMRAPs I’ve pushed through during the past month courtesy of our class instructor Roberto Murichi:

7-minute AMRAP: 21 sit-ups, 7 box jumps
For this workout, you push out as many rounds of 21 sit-ups followed by seven box jumps. You rest when you need to, but of course the idea is to sweat through multiple rounds.

20-minute AMRAP: 15 rear lunges, 15 push presses, 10 kettle bell high pulls
Same concept as above but different exercises for longer amount of time. I managed to get through six rounds. Adding it all up in terms of reps, that meant 90 rear lunges; 90 push presses and 60 high pulls.

If you’re not a complete fitness newbie, AMRAPs can be a great way to make the most of a limited amount of time. You can also progress or regress as needed. The first day of UFX, Roberto had us perform a four-minute Tabata using a combination of four rounds of squats followed by four rounds of sit-ups. That meant pushing out as many squats or sit-ups as we could (or AMRAPs) in a 20-second work period followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeating the cycle eight times. Maybe the first time you try this Tabata, you can barely perform seven squats in 20 seconds. Then a few weeks later, you’re banging out 15-18. Listen to your body about moving at a good pace for you.

Again, these workouts aren’t for the faint of heart or anyone who’s brand spankin’ new to exercise. However, if you’re looking to kick things up a notch, using the AMRAP practice in your workout can be a challenging way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

(Sledge)Hammer Time!

“Action” shot taken by Roberto Murichi

During my 38 years on this planet, I never had any reason to pick up a sledgehammer. That all changed recently, and of all places, it happened at the gym.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I kicked off a small group training class called “UFX” at New York Sports Club back in March. Each and every workout put together by our instructor Roberto Murichi has been unique and challenging. Each one starts with Tabatas. The idea is simple: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times for a total of four minutes.

The day I first tried sledgehammer swings, the exercise was just one of five stations Roberto set up for us that day. Roberto captured about 40 seconds of my work with the 12-pound “Thor Hammer” on my iPhone. (You’ll also see a few seconds of my classmate Louis working hard at the squat station.)

Needless to say, after four minutes of sledgehammer swings, my heart was racing, the sweat was pouring and my shoulders and arms were screaming at me a little bit. From watching the short clip, you can also see how the swings force you to maintain core strength to control the motion and hit the tire as your target.(I then had to move on to Tabatas for squats, rings, ropes and sit-ups for a total of 20 minutes of work.)

While I’d be hesitant to use sledgehammer swings as part of workout routine for a fitness newbie, I do believe they’re a great exercise for the more conditioned gym-goer looking to take things up a notch. I’ve also learned the sledgehammer has been a conditioning tool for fighters since the birth of combat sports. Whether you plan to step into the ring or not, adding sledgehammer swings to a workout can help improve work capacity, develop core strength and also build grip and forearm strength. Oh, and the cardio kick doesn’t hurt either!

Of course, like any other new piece of equipment or new set of moves, be sure to get some instruction before you simply pick up a hammer and start swinging. If you do belong to a gym and see a hammer sitting in a corner, don’t be shy. Ask a personal trainer if he or she can help you use the sledgehammer correctly. Don’t forget, understanding how to execute new exercises with proper form is a crucial part of the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Tabata Training

This week marks the start of round two of the “Ultimate Fitness Experience” small group training class. For the next four weeks, Roberto Murichi will continue to push us to perform kick-butt exercises including burpees, kettlebell swings and push-ups. While I’ve been writing about my experiences in the class, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to describing a key component: the Tabata Method.

= 1 Tabata

4 Minutes of Rings 

The idea behind the Tabata is this: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times.

Sounds simple, right? Well, after a couple of cycles of pushing out as many push-ups, squats or sledgehammer swings as you can, no doubt you’ll feel your heart racing and the sweat starting to pour.

Tabata training gives you lots of mix-and-match options. You can perform a single exercise for one 4-minute Tabata, followed by another exercise and another four-minute Tabata. Or you could try four cycles of squats followed by four cycles of push-ups. Last week, Roberto set up five stations of five different exercises and we had to get through one Tabata at each station. The scenario offered 20 minutes of hard work:

  • Rings
  • Sledgehammer swings
  • Squats
  • Sit-ups
  • Ropes

There’s lots of debate surrounding whether Tabatas and other types of high-interval training are okay for the fitness beginner. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you my strength and endurance gains took a serious hit last year thanks  to a foot injury that put me on the sidelines for several months. When I started working back up to my normal routine, I had a hard time getting through Tabatas. So, for all you fitness newbies, click here for an article I found featuring some suggestions about Tabatas for beginners.

Like any other activity, mixing things up in your workout is a great way to stay motivated to keep moving. Whether it’s Tabata Training, a new group exercise class or a new path for your next run, adding some variety to your exercise routine is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Small Group Training

On this Workout Wednesday, I thought I’d tell you about a new adventure I just started to add a little variety to my own routine.

Every Monday and Wednesday night for the next eight weeks, you can find me at New York Sports Club getting my butt kicked in a small group training class called called UXF, short for “Ultimate Fitness Experience.” Six of us signed up for the one-hour class led by my friend and personal trainer extraordinaire Roberto Murichi. One class down and I can’t wait to go back for more! Along with getting a killer workout, I’m also using this class to expand my knowledge as a personal trainer by learning from someone who’s been in the industry for the past decade.

A “Basic” Butt-Kicking Exercise!

The Push-Up

After a warm up that included eight rounds of bicycle crunches, squats and push ups – performing as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest – Roberto set up five stations for us to rotate through as a circuit. The exercises ranged from using ropes to lifting with kettlebells. We worked at each station for 60-seconds straight, then moved on to the next. (There was one rest station. Each of us breathed a serious sigh of relief when it was our turn to move to that spot!)

After several rounds, it was easy to see how this class offers a killer combination of strength training and cardio. As we move forward, the exercises will change, and the number of rounds will increase. Roberto will “score” each of us at an upcoming class and he’ll do the same thing when we wrap at the end of April. I can’t wait to see how my numbers compare!

Photos by Lauren Bachner

Along with the intense exercises and Roberto’s expertise as a motivational fitness instructor, there’s something else I love about this class: the small group dynamic.There’s some sort of instant bond that seems to develop when you get a half-dozen people together who are at different stages of training. One of my small group classmates has been working with Roberto in one-on-one sessions for the past two months. His wife also signed up for the class, but in her case, it marks the first time she’s stepped foot inside the gym during the same time frame.

While each of us may be starting at a different fitness level, we all share similar goals of improving our strength, endurance and agility. The bottom line is we’re all looking to do what we can to be physically fit.

I look forward to spending the next eight weeks sweating it out with my new classmates and encouraging each other to get through those seemingly never-ending circuits. Whether you sign up for a small group training class; take the same Zumba classes every week; join a running club or workout with a personal trainer, it’s nice to have fitness friends to help you on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Your Workout Wednesday Following Fat Tuesday

No doubt I’ll be starting this Ash Wednesday in a bit of a post-chocolate haze.

Ever since my days at Northwestern,I’ve celebrated many a Fat Tuesday with millions of other people around the world in a bit of decadent indulgence.

Need to Un-Do Some Decadence?

Since I give up desserts and sweets for Lent, I tend to “stock up” on Fat Tuesday. In my 20s, that often meant enjoying a dinner of chocolate chip pancakes with extra butter and chocolate sauce and a thick chocolate shake to wash it all down. A decade later, while I don’t ingest all that richness at one sitting, I do enjoy a few sugary treats throughout the day and some kind of chocolate ice cream concoction as the grand finale.

However, there are three reasons I refuse to be consumed by guilt over this day of decadence:

  1. It’s a one-time event in a 365-day period.
  2. For the past seven years, Fat Tuesday has fallen on the same day of the week as my favorite group exercise class. I’m just sure to kick things up an extra notch at NYSC’s Club Strength on this specific Tuesday where I tend to throw moderation out the window.
  3. Workout Wednesday immediately follows Fat Tuesday.

So, if you went a little overboard yesterday, consider it some extra motivation to make today’s workout count! Not sure you need to be motivated? Consider this: pancakes rank at the top of the Fat Tuesday favorite-food list almost every year. If you enjoyed this crowd pleaser at a restaurant like IHOP last night, remember each pancake weighs in at approximately 180 calories and six grams of fat. According to CalorieKing, burning off the calories in just one fluffy combination of sugar, flour and eggs would require 50 minutes of walking, 21 minutes of jogging, 15 minutes of swimming or 27 minutes of cycling. If you enjoyed a stack of four or five…well, you can do the math.

All that being said, there’s another tradition I follow pretty religiously every year on this specific Workout Wednesday. It’s the perfect day for intense cardio training. I’m talking about taking things a step beyond a “typical” 30-minute jaunt on the elliptical. Click here for a refresher on how to take things to the next level with interval training. If you haven’t tried interval training before – it’s a good day to start!

I’ll end with a common LauraLovesFitness theme: life is simply too short to deny yourself the things you really enjoy. For me, that includes chocolate, cupcakes, ice cream and red wine. On the rare occasions I do splurge and enjoy one or more of those decadent items on the same day, I simply make it a point to get back on track with my healthy food choices the next day and add some extra time to my workout. Finding a balance for all the things that bring you happiness is a challenging but critical part of our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Laura Loves ZUMBA®!

with Tanya Beardsley, International Zumba Education Specialist

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m so excited to write this blog post that I’m having a hard time typing my thoughts coherently. After a sluggish start to 2012 (thanks to my New Year’s cold), I’m now ready to tackle the fitness adventures awaiting me in the year ahead – and it’s all because of Zumba® Fitness!

It was only a couple of months ago that I actually took my first Zumba® class thanks to some encouragement from Ebonny Fowler. Ebonny is the Fitness Services Manager at the New York Sports Club I work out at most often, and she’s offered some great support as I continue to chart my course in the fitness industry. After just one class, I had only one question: why in the world didn’t I try this amazing dance-fitness program based on international rhythms years ago? (Anyone who knows me knows I love to dance as much as I love to exercise, so the combination of the two for a workout couldn’t be a more perfect fit for me!)

Fast forward to January 7, 2012 and there I was sweating it out at the Shorefront Y of Brighton Beach with nearly 50 other women and men of all ages for Basic Instructor Training. There were so many things that made the day amazing – the positive energy; the booty-shaking, body-sculpting beats; the new friendships – but the most incredible part of this training day was our instructor. Tanya Beardsley is an International Zumba Education Specialist and the Co-Host of the Zumba DVD Series. Aside from her ability to create a workout featuring fun and fiery choreography combining the Zumba mix of Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia and Reggaeton, Tanya’s passion to make other peoples’ lives better through fitness was nearly palpable and most definitely infectious. Like any good teacher, Tanya inspired me to want to learn even more so I can truly help others in their fitness journey when I start teaching classes.

This whole experience reminded me of something very important. It’s never too late – and you’re certainly never too old- to find something that moves or motivates you. (Actually, no matter how young or old you are, I’ll warn you a days’ worth of Zumba drills, along with one master and one mini-class will leave you needing a day of rest afterward!)

I’m beyond excited to kick off this new week as a Licensed Zumba Instructor. I look forward to keeping in touch with Tanya and the new fitness friends I met at the course. (We’re already planning to travel to an annual convention together in the future!) More than anything, I look forward to the work ahead in memorizing music and creating fun routines that will hopefully help more people have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Blame It on the Potato Skins

I had planned to come home after work and write another post about some sort of foam roller or core exercise, but the potato skins got in the way.

With Deanna Earlier This Year on the High Line

Work has been a bit overwhelming lately. Lots of deadlines, lots of demands. After a busy morning at the office, I was at a studio filming the December edition of “Health & Home Report.” When we wrapped filming the show, my boss let me shoot a couple of fitness-related videos for future shows. (Be on the lookout for those in early 2012!)  Afterward, my makeup artist and dear friend, Deanna, decided to catch up over a glass of wine before heading home. That one glass turned into two and we both noticed they had loaded potato skins on the menu. Neither of us had indulged in either – a second glass or loaded skins – in quite awhile. Ultimately, Deanna and I decided both went extremely well with some quality conversation and laughter among friends.

So I find myself once again writing about familiar territory. You simply can’t plan everything all the time. You make a plan to go to the gym after work, but then you get a call from that friend you haven’t seen in months who is unexpectedly in town thanks to a business meeting. There’s no reason to feel “guilty” about blowing off your cardio kickbox class to get together with that friend.

For the same reason, I refuse to feel guilty about the loaded skins I shared with Deanna. I know tomorrow, I’ll “start over” with my healthy breakfast parfait featuring non-fat Greek yogurt, berries and “Newman’s Own Honey Flax flakes.” It will be a new day, filled with new opportunities to make health-conscious choices. To that end, I’ve already packed my sneakers and workout wear so I have no excuse for not attending the Zumba demo at the New York Sports Club two blocks from my office.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best laid plans can sometimes go awry, but not always for the wrong reasons. While an unexpected get together with family or friends may throw off your normal “routine,” it can open the door to laughter and good conversation. These are two crucial components in our everyday quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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