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Happy 7th Birthday, LLF!

It never ceases to amaze me how a date punctuates the passage of time. Especially as the number of years I’ve spent on this planet continues to climb. Now here we are on this particular Motivation Monday which kicks off a week commemorating the seventh “birthday” of this blog. I’m not sure how LauraLovesFitness.com keeps getting older, but I realize the years continue to pass thanks to all you wonderful readers who constantly inspire me to continue these weekly installments.

It was July 13, 2011 when I published my very first post. It would be impossible to discuss everything that’s happened in this world since then. When it comes to my own little world, through the end of relationships and jobs the beginning of new ones; the painful and sometimes sudden loss of family and friends; and the overall scary situations I think this country is dealing with on a nearly daily basis, my determination to stick with and even amp up my health lifestyle goals has helped me maintain some level of sanity when everything seems to be spinning out of control. A good sweat, some hard punches and kicks to the heavy bag or heart-pounding Tabatas at the gym (or the beach when I’m lucky enough to be on vacation) always seem to set my body straight.

It’s hard to believe seven years ago, I had never heard the word Tabata before, nor did I have any idea how good a kick-butt muay thai kickboxing session could make me feel. I also never knew starting the day with an Isagenix shake would become a solid way to start my day off on the right foot nutritionally no matter where work took me at any given hour of the day or night. While the ingredients may have changed a bit over the years, having a few go-to items in your daily routine when life is anything but can make all the difference when trying to keep this unpredictable thing called life from going off the rails.

So, as my “baby” blog enters a new year, her’s a look back at a few of my favorite posts from the past year:

My Project Runway Experience  (A once-in-a-lifetime experience made possible thanks to my involvement with Avon 39. Sadly, the 39.3-mile walk in the fight against breast cancer no longer exists in 2018. However, I do look forward to continuing the battle with my four-year walking partner, Sue, this fall. Stay tuned…)

Bring on March….Please! (A very candid look at my difficult struggle with the “winter blues” as we kicked off 2018.)

Another Milestone (A total break from the norm as I reflect on how my Dad’s retirement after 51-years as an internist impacted my life – and so many others.)

I close with a heartfelt thank you to all my LauraLovesFitness “fans.” If you aren’t already following me on social media, I hope you’ll consider doing so as we move into year number seven. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram with the handle @FitnessLaura, and I also maintain a LauraLovesFitness page on Facebook. I hope to start posting more videos on my LauraDLovesFitness YouTube channel. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of or less of in the year ahead, please let me know. There’s nothing like the power of teamwork to keep us all on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Summer Sizzle Safety Tips

This is more than the first Motivation Monday in July. It’s also the fourth day the heat index has the temperature feeling like the upper 90s here in New York. As the heat advisories and alerts continue for the sweltering concrete jungle, I could think of no better time to offer some important reminders about staying safe in heat.

Whether you’re going for that daily run, signing up for an outdoor bootcamp session or meeting a friend for a power walk, here are some warning signs to look out for if you or your workout buddy start feeling out of sorts in the heat:

  1. Heat cramps: These are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal region, that could be a signal that a more serious emergency is imminent. What to do: If you experience heat cramps, stop exercising immediately. Find some shade or move indoors where it’s cool and drink water.
  2. Heat exhaustion: This is more severe than heat cramps, and can occur when you’ve been exercising strenuously for a long period of time in extreme heat or humidity. Signs and symptoms include: Moist, pale, or cool skin; headache or dizziness; muscle cramps; heavy perspiration; nausea; weak pulse. What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen all tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels, but not to the point of shivering. Also, be sure to get some cool water into your system.
  3. Heat stroke: This is the most severe heat emergency and usually happens when signs of heat exhaustion go unchecked.  In this situation, dangerously high internal temperatures will cause your body’s vital systems to fail.  Signs and symptoms include: Altered level of consciousness; rapid, shallow breathing; little or no perspiration; weakness; rapid pulse. What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels. If you can find them, you can also put ice packs under the armpits and groin area.

Now that we’ve identified the emergencies, here are a few reminders on how to keep them from happening in the first place:

  • Mind the Time: Try to exercise outdoors before 9 am and after 6 pm.
  • Stay hydrated! Basic guidelines call for you to drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise, but you can drink an additional eight to 16 oz  if you’re exercising in warmer weather. At this time of year, you’ll never find me leaving the house without two things: my refillable water bottle and BFit Labs electrolyte sprays. (My repeat readers will know I’ve been using the zero-calorie, zero sugar, gluten-free sprays for several years.) If you want more information or are interested in giving them a try, just click here.
  • Health Check: If you have cardiovascular or circulatory problems and are taking medication, always check with your doctor before adding any outdoor activity to your routine.

I leave you with two important tips:

  • Always call 911 in an emergency.
  • Listen to your body. It knows when something’s wrong.

Of course, I encourage everyone to enjoy plenty of outdoor fun this summer. Using some extra care can keep you safe while moving ahead with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

These Are A Few of My Favorite (Summer) Things…

Here’s to the Season Ahead!

Hooray for the first official Motivation Monday post of the summer of 2018!

As I am just back from a week hosting the Health Channel, I hope you’ll forgive this short and sweet post. But now that my favorite time of year has finally arrived, I thought it was the perfect time great to offer a few things that help me make the most of the season.

Favorite Guilt-Free Treats: Frozen grapes, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple and mangoes. All of these fruits are packed with vitamins, including A and C, along with antioxidants. They also provide a sweet, juicy way to stay hydrated.

Favorite Summer Accessories: The pretty, purple MIRA insulated water bottle one of my besties gave me last Christmas; BFit Rapid Electrolyte Spray; Athleta sports bras and moisture-wick shorts and tanks; “At the Beach” skin products from Bath & Body Works; Organic coconut oil to help repair my sun-kissed hair.

Favorite Summer Songs:  Having some motivational music along for a workout can sometimes mean the difference between throwing in the towel or sweating through one or two more steps or reps. If you’re looking to mix things up, here are some seasonal classics that continue to add a little spring to my summer steps:

  • “Summertime,” Will Smith
  • “All Summer Long,” Kid Rock
  • “Cruel Summer,” Bananarama
  • “Summertime, Summertime,” Nocera
  • “Summertime Sadness,” Lana Del Ray & Cedric Gervais
  • “Summer Thing!” Afrojack featuring Mike Taylor
  • “Summer Girls,” Dino
  • “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
  • “Boys of Summer, ” Don Henley
  • “Summer in the City,” The Lovin’ Spoonful

Now get out there, and find a few things that make you feel your best so you can savor every second of the summertime opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Healthy Business Travel Tips

Packing Up Some
Healthy Essentials

There was a lot of buzz in the LinkedIn world recently surrounding a Harvard Business Review story that examined the effects of business travel on a person’s health. It didn’t surprise me to read the data showed a direct relationship between the frequency of business travel and an array of physical and behavioral health risks.

Since you’re reading this Motivation Monday post as I kick off a week on the road hosting for the Health Channel in Miami, I thought it was a good time to offer some of my healthy survival tips when work takes me away from my favorite fitness classes and healthy fridge:

Book a Fitness-Friendly Hotel: Even if it’s not as well-equipped as your favorite gym at home, most hotels offer at least some forms of cardio equipment, free weights and maybe even a stability ball or two. If you do get stuck in a hotel that doesn’t have even a tiny fitness center (and I really hope you don’t!) here are some exercises you can do in your room that require no equipment at all:

Don’t Forget the Workout Wear: Whether you hit the hotel fitness center or bang out some burpees in your room, gym shorts, yoga pants, a couple of sports bra and pairs of socks all roll up into practically noting in a suitcase, even if it’s carry-on. So there’s no excuse not to take them along on the trip.

Pack Healthy Snacks: Along with the workout gear, you’ll always find a few small bags of raw almonds, and enough KIND snack bars and Isagenix IsaLean shake packets to last the duration of the trip in my suitcase. No matter how long I’m on location, I know I can start the day with a nutritious shake and when hunger hits later, I’m armed with good snack options.

Make Smart Choices: As someone used to 2am wake up calls for a 4am start and wrapping 16 hours later, I know how tempting it can be to go a little crazy with food as a “reward” for a job well done. While there’s no reason not to treat yourself, keep track of your portion sizes and perhaps choose to have a cocktail, but skip dessert; or skip an appetizer and a drink but indulge in something sweet after your meal. If you have to attend a client dinner or lunch, try the ever-other-drink rule for the duration of the meal. Start with a glass of wine or cocktail and then make your next drink water or seltzer. This way if you make it to the third drink, it’s only your second libation instead of a third.

I realize I’m a mini-business traveler compared to the true “road warriors” like my fiancé who has clocked hundreds of thousands of airline miles in his lifetime thanks to work. I do understand, however, how hard it is to feel “normal” again after just a few days on the road, let alone a week or more at a time. So the struggle is definitely real. But sometimes a little planning and adding a few healthy items to your suitcase for that time on the road is all you need to do your best to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Time to Stock up for Summer

Bring on Summer!

I’ve decided if I keep writing about summer-related topics, Mother Nature will eventually get the hint and it will start to feel like we’re approaching the midway mark for the month of June. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer a list of the must-have items to for a season filled with outdoor workouts and sunshine-filled fun with family and friends.

1. Don’t Ignore Those Tootsies! As we speed toward the halfway mark of 2018, now’s the time to think about the last time you got a new pair of sneakers. If you’re a serious runner or involved in high-impact exercise and it’s been six months or longer, it’s time to consider getting a new pair. Every fitness routine needs the proper footwear to ensure you’re getting the right amount of stability and support.

2. Protect the Girls!  Ladies, it’s also time to take stock of the last time you invested in a supportive sports bra. 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 level of bounce 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 gets you moving. (In case you’re wondering what I wear for kickboxing, barre workouts and Tabata training, I’m a huge fan of the Athleta line of sports bras. )

3. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! As a former coconut-scented tanning oil addict who now gets annual scans of the many moles on my body, I implore you to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. There are so many lightweight SPF 30 and higher sunscreen options available today. That means there is no excuse for not wearing sunscreen for a long summer stroll or a super-sweaty session of beach volleyball. If the skin on your face is super sensitive like mine, you may want to give La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid a try. It’s been my go-to for years.

4. Smart Snacks: Planning to spend a good part of the day away from your healthy home base? Arming yourself with sensible snacks is a surefire way to avoid making less-than-optimal choices. While scenic, those mood-boosting long walks often don’t have much to offer by way of fuel except for hot dog vendors or vending machines filled with sugary drinks and candy bars. So be sure to pack some healthy, portable options such as almonds, apples or low-sugar protein bars. My go-to: KIND snack bars.

5. Portable Hydration: Last but certainly not least, don’t go anywhere without a reusable water bottle. (You can even fill it with ice cubes and enjoy chilled water as they melt.) Since we lose essential  potassium and sodium when we sweat, my repeat readers know I never I never leave home without a bottle of BFit Rapid Electrolyte Spray. (Zero calories, zero carbs and zero food dyes.)

Remember, a little prep and having the right items in your arsenal can make all the difference when it comes to sticking with your summer plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Get Your Grill On!

June got off to a cloudy, humid start here in New York. However, after the long, hard winter and with Memorial Day behind us, I have no doubt many people spent some time firing up the grills and getting the gang together. So I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to offer some timely reminders on how to enjoy BBQ season without completely falling off the health and fitness wagon.

1) Don’t Skimp on the Pre-BBQ Prep: You never want to arrive hungry. That’s a surefire way to dig right into the chips and dips or other high-calorie platters. Have a snack with some protein about an hour before you head to the celebration. My go-to is usually a fat-free Greek yogurt with a handful of almonds or berries or a low-sugar Granny smith apple.

2) Weigh Your Options: If it’s on the menu, grilled shrimp is a great protein choice. Chicken has less calories than a cheeseburger or hot dog. By the way, I’d never tell anyone NOT to have a cheeseburger or hot dog if that’s what you really want. Just fill your paper plate with veggie or salad options first so you don’t have too much room for more than one burger or dog.

3) Be a Kid Again: Popsicles are a lower-calorie dessert option than cookies, cupcakes and other sweet treats. Maybe you even bring a box or two along with some yummy fruit salad or other healthy option for your host or hostess.

4) Lighten Up the Libations:  Orange, cranberry and pineapple juice are great mixers, but they’re loaded with sugar and unwanted calories. A better bet is to pick your poison and mix it with seltzer and lots of ice. Then add a couple of slices of fresh oranges, lemons, limes or even some pineapple chunks for flavor. The same goes for soda and energy drinks. Pick the zero-calorie versions when mixing them with alcohol. A At home, I always have a pitcher of Crystal Light in my fridge. When I add vodka, I measure the serving with a shot glass to keep tabs on how just how much alcohol I’m drinking. Finally, whether you’re partying at home or at a friend’s house, throw back water, seltzer or diet soda for every other drink to stay hydrated and keep the calorie intake under control. Of course, if you plan to enjoy some adult beverages, be sure to designate a driver.

5) Fitting in Fitness:  Maybe there’s a group exercise class you can take before heading to that weekend BBQ, or you can always take a long walk when you get home from the fun. If you’re heading to the beach, there’s no reason you can’t take a long walk and bang out some planks and push-ups right on your beach blanket.

With a little common sense and some self-control, there’s no reason why June (or any other month) can’t be filled with opportunities to kick back with friends and family and still stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

New Tricks, New Treats

Loved meeting these fun, fab and fierce fitness chicks!

One of the perks of getting my NASM and AFAA certifications several years ago is that it “forces” me to get a certain number of credits every couple of years to keep those fitness certifications current. This year, I’m beyond pumped those necessary credits led me to find the Everlast Striking Certification Workshop: level 1.

As you repeat readers may recall, I was lucky enough to discover the rush provided by muay thai kickboxing not long after birthday in 2017. I’m still not quite sure how I dealt with the stress of living in New York and life in general for 43 years before discovering the physical and mental rush that could be experienced thanks to kicking and punching a heavy bag! (Talk about inexpensive therapy!) After a full Sunday in the Everlast workshop lead by fitness guru Aaron Drogoszewski, not only did I acquire the credits needed to maintain my fitness certifications, I learned even more about the techniques that have become a huge part of maintaining my physical and mental strength for the past 16 months.

Thanks to Aaron Drogoszewski for an amazing workshop!

What was extra fun about the workshop is that in addition to learning how to execute the six basic punches (jab, cross, hooks and upper cuts) along with the roundhouse kick with more accuracy and efficiency, we also learned how to cue and coach others through the moves. It was fun – and also one heck of a workout – to work with a partner and switch roles between trainee and trainer. The bottom line is there’s nothing like gaining extra knowledge from the experts to help take your game – whatever that may be – to the next level. I look forward to sharing some of the techniques with friends looking to add something new to their fitness routine.

In addition to Aaron’s instruction and motivation from my new fitfam friends, I couldn’t have made it through the day without the right fuel. Lucky for me, I received a “goodie box” of new KIND protein bars just in time for the workshop. (I did some spokesperson work for KIND a couple of years ago, and I was thrilled the team remembered me.) Not only did the double dark chocolate nut bar taste great and keep me satisfied with its 12 grams of protein, I love the fact that the bars contain no artificial sweeteners and have a low glycemic index. (They’re also gluten free!) I know I’ll be keeping one or two of these bars in my gym bag or purse at all times so I don’t get tempted by the not-so-healthy vending machine options when hunger hits.

So on this Motivation Monday, remember this: you’re never too much of an expert to get some new moves and new snack ideas to help you keep you on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

‘Tis the OTHER Season for Sneezin’

It really doesn’t seem fair. After suffering though one of the dreariest winters in years, many of us are spending every possible moment outdoors minus the winter coats and soaking up some much needed vitamin D. Unfortunately as the mercury rises, so do the tree and grass pollen counts. That means we’ve started a whole new season of agony for the 50 million allergy sufferers around the country.

So on this Motivation Monday, I offer a few survival tips that have helped this life-long allergy sufferer continue to enjoy those outdoor workouts and other fun times in the sun:

  • Smart scheduling: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will make things more bearable.
  • Wear sunglasses: Wearing shades (or even goggles) can create a barrier for your eyes while you’re outside. I also make sure to use eye drops before heading outdoors. My Dad told me about Bausch + Lomb’s Alaway eye drops several years ago. Using these drops twice a day has prevented me from scratching my eyes out even on high pollen count days. (Even though you don’t need a prescription to get the drops, you may want to check with your doctor if they’re okay for your eyes.)
  • Don’t forget your meds: In my younger years, I got allergy shots for nearly a decade. Over time, they helped lessen the severity of my allergy attacks, but I’m still sensitive to all kinds of pollen. Luckily there are so many over-the-counter allergy medicines that can offer relief. While I don’t like taking a lot of medications, I’d rather take something for a few months to help me stay alert and active than miss out on enjoying the outdoors. Speak with your doctor about what treatments might work best for you. To prevent the onset of symptoms, it helps to take your medication at least 30 minutes before you head outdoors. If you wake up and then workout outside, ask your doctor if taking your medication at bedtime can help.
  • Clean up ASAP: When you get home, shed the pollen-infused clothes, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.

Of course, there will be days when the pollen counts are simply too high for allergy sufferers to be comfortable outdoors for extended periods of time. The bottom line remains the same: listen to your body. If you’re trying to so something good by exercising outdoors but feeling nothing but misery, be smart. Stop; head indoors; wash up and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you sign up for an air-conditioned group exercise class or bang out some Tabatas at home to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring-ify Your Hydration

Easy Ways to Wow Your Water!

After a weekend escape from the concrete jungle to help my parents with some spring cleaning, I’m enjoying an extra spring in my step on this Motivation Monday courtesy of some much-needed vitamin D. It’s amazing how uncovering the patio furniture and sweeping up the leaves and other remnants of a long, hard winter can do wonders for the mind and spirit. (The bonus: tackling the first stages of a spring spruce up after a killer ILoveKickboxing class helped me burn a few extra calories so I could enjoy some of Mom’s cooking without a side of guilt!) The weekend  also marked the first time since last fall that I was able to sit outside to write a blog post. All that fresh air did wonders for my soul!

While I stayed busy helping Mom and Dad, I lost some of my usual writing time. So I hope you’ll forgive this short and sweet shot of inspiration to kick off the new work week. As we all continue shifting our routines for spring, it’s the perfect time to freshen up some of our healthy habits. That includes how we stay hydrated.

As far as I’m concerned, water remains king when it comes to healthy beverages. However, after awhile the same ol’ H20 can be more than just a little bland. Instead of reaching for calorie-loaded sports drinks, why not try these three, easy ideas to add a little “wow” to your water:

  1. Expand Your Citrus Horizons: Who says lemons should have all the fun? Add a squeeze of lime, grapefruit or even a clementine for some extra zest in your water.
  2. Chill Out: Mix in some frozen apple chunks, grapes, blueberries or strawberries for instant yum.
  3. Go green: Add slices of cucumber and a few sprigs of mint for a more savory flavor option.

Once you find your favorite flavor infusion, make a pitcher to keep in the fridge so you can have a refreshing drink at home or fill up your reusable water bottle to bring to the office and wherever your workouts take you. Remember, adding a little zest to even the healthiest of habits can help you stick with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Hippity-Hoppity Motivation Monday!

If you need some motivation to get moving on this particular Motivation Monday, let me direct your attention to the empty Easter basket in your house.

If you were lucky enough to get your own personal visit from the Easter bunny or perhaps you simply swiped some of your kids’ loot, you joined thousands of others in a sugar-filled holiday celebration. After Halloween, Easter is the second-largest candy-giving holiday. So if you enjoyed savoring some sweetness, now’s the time to work it off!

Still need a shot of motivation to kick the candy coma and get your butt to the gym? Here are some calorie counts of some of the most popular treats:

  • Cadbury eggs – my all-time favorite! One egg = 170 calories; 6 grams of fat
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (probably my second favorite) One egg = 180 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Solid chocolate bunny (small, 1.75 ounces) = 298 calories; 18 grams of fat
  • Brach’s Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg: 1=43 cals, 1.2 g fat,6 g sugar
  • Jelly Beans: 20 candies = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (But oh, the sugar!)
  • Jordan Almonds: 13 almonds = 140 calories, 5 grams of fat
  • Peeps: 5 Peeps = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (Again, the sugar!)

For those celebrating Passover, here’s how a few menu items break down:

  • Dark chocolate covered matzah: 3 pieces – 200 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Coconut macaroons: 2 cookies = 142 calories; 7 grams of fat
  • Chocolate coconut macaroons: 1 cookie – 190 calories; 11 grams of fat

Remember, whatever and whenever you celebrate, enjoy the quality time with family and friends and don’t sweat the extra calories. There’s always post-holiday time to get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

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