After today, there will be only seven Transformation Tuesdays left in my first-time fitness journey toward the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. As show day creeps closer, I’m facing new challenges and changes in my nutrition and training programs.
I’ll start with my diet, since that still generates the most questions. I continue to eat five meals a day and while the food options haven’t really changed, I did make one switch that has been a game changer. I’m now eating almond butter because I can actually eat the prescribed serving size of one tablespoon and put the lid back on the jar. You may recall peanut butter became my kryptonite starting around week four. I simply couldn’t resist the temptation of having multiple spoonfuls. Now in addition to my breakfast portion, my coach moved a second almond butter serving to pre-bedtime. On such a restrictive diet, having a “treat” to look forward to at the end of a long day has made a world of difference for my mind!
There are other minor adjustments to some portion sizes to reduce my overall calorie intake. Here’s what this week looks like:
Monday / Thursday (Glute / Leg Days)
Breakfast (still my favorite meal of the day!):
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 3/4 egg whites
- 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens (spinach, broccoli, arugula or other leafy greens are my go-tos)
- 4 oz 99% lean turkey
- 5 oz sweet potato
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
- 1/4 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz tilapia (or sometimes, I’ll have egg whites again)
- 1/2 cup brown rice or quinoa
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup greens
Bedtime: 1 tbsp. almond butter (YAY!)
Tuesday / Friday (Upper Body) / Saturday (Lower Body)
These days are basically the same as above. However, my second meal includes only a half-cup of brown rice and the third includes four ounces of a sweet potato instead of five. Everything else is a carbon copy – including the bedtime almond butter treat!
Wednesday (Active Recovery Day) / Sunday (Total Rest Day) :
Since these are my low activity days, they are also my lowest calorie days. Breakfast never changes (thank goodness!), but the carb intake does. I’ll have a half-cup of brown rice as part of meals two and three, but meal four consists of just four ounces of chicken or turkey with as much spinach or leafy greens as my heart desires. For the last meal of the day, I’ll eat tilapia (or egg whites), a tablespoon of olive oil and a cup of greens. (And yes, I still get the almond butter for “dessert.”)
As to my gym time, while I’m happy to report I’ve got my groove back in the weight room, the amount of cardio has steadily increased. On the first Tuesday of this contest-prep training back in May, I spent 20 minutes on the treadmill for low-intensity steady-state cardio. Today, I’ll walk uphill with an incline of 10 at a speed of three miles per hour for 50 minutes. At this stage in the game, each upper body or lower body workout takes approximately 90 to 110 minutes from foam rolling to finish and the cardio sessions on either the treadmill or stair master are an additional three hours and ten minutes spread out over six days.
The grind continues for another 45 days. I know there will be more challenges, but I’m feeling more excited than ever to make it to the main event. I never could have made it this far without the overwhelming support I’ve received on so many levels. Thanks for sticking with me through one crazy summer and here’s to what lies ahead on all our journeys to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Time seems to be flying by faster than ever this summer. I imagine it’s a combination of being on a more rigid schedule than the past few summers and the fact that each Saturday, I see the numbers dwindle to how may weeks remain until the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. At 11 weeks and counting, I thought I’d answer the most common question people have asked me so far: “Laura, what are you eating?”
The truth is I’m eating more real food than I have in several years. I’ve come to realize before this prep began, I was relying on shakes and protein bars to get through the day. Now, I aim to eat five meals a day and I space them out every three to four hours. I attacked the nutrition part of the prep process like any other deadline or production timeline for other projects in my life. Give me an itinerary, schedule or instructions and I’ll follow them to the letter. So I asked my coach to offer some meal plans, and Jen gave me several easy-to-follow options. By the way, kudos to all of you who add up your macronutrients for the day (commonly referred to as “macros” in today’s nutrition lingo) and hit to the right number before bedtime.
Here’s a look at what the different days of the week look like for me based on my workout demands:
- 3/4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 4oz 99% lean ground turkey
- 1 cup greens (broccoli; spinach; arugula; asparagus)
- 2 oz avocado
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 oz 99% fat-free chicken breast
- 5 oz sweet potato
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz 99% lean turkey
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz tilapia
- 1/2 cup quinoa or brown rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup greens
Upper Body Day
Breakfast is the same. The only difference is a slightly lower number of carbs for the day. So for my second meal, I’ll have a half-cup of brown rice instead of a whole one. Everything else is pretty much the same.
Active Recovery / Rest Day
Again, breakfast is the same. (Luckily, it’s my favorite meal of the day!) If I’m too rushed to make breakfast, the smoothie I still love as an alternative includes:
- 1 cup Amazing Greens Super Greens
- 1 scoop Vega Sport Chocolate Protein powder
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 tbsp organic peanut butter
- Ice, 16 oz water.
For the rest of the day, the protein portions remain the same; but for my second and third meal, I’ll prepare a half-cup of brown rice. For the fourth meal, I get to enjoy three ounces of a sweet potato and finally, for the last meal of the day, it’s just protein, greens and a tablespoon of olive oil. (Sometimes I swap out the oil for 20 raw almonds.)
Needless to say, the most important tools in my kitchen are my food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons. I realize I am fortunate to have time to prepare meals ahead of time, sometimes for an entire day. I also try to get a day ahead if I know I’ll be out for an entire day, such as the glorious rest day I spent at Jones Beach.
Jen has warned me as crunch time winds down, my portion sizes will change. In the meantime, the workouts, the posing practice and the overall nervous excitement continue. Here’s to what’s next on all our journeys to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Another holiday weekend filled with 4th-of-July fun has come and gone. Suddenly, I find myself amidst the most crucial prep time in my journey to the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. I’ve now officially entered the 12-week mark from the competition on September 28. All the pros out there know this is the time when the physical and mental challenges hit a new level. I’m excited and nervous to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer.
I can tell you the holiday weekend was tougher than I expected. I planned on the holiday being my last real “cheat day” before the competition. However, on Friday and Saturday, I had some wine and even indulged in some chocolate chip cookies and more than a couple of servings of honey mustard pretzels. I realize these “slips” aren’t major, but I can tell you this: when you eat “clean” for weeks at a time, throwing a bunch of extra sugar and sodium into your diet can make you feel sluggish, fatigued and downright lousy. Aside from wanting to keep my weight in check, I simply don’t want to feel like that in the weeks ahead – especially when I need good fuel for my workout regimen.
The other slip in my schedule was not making time to practice posing. As I mentioned in my past posts, it’s the scariest part of the competition. I think many of us shy away from what we’re afraid of, but having a deadline to take action can also serve as the motivating factor needed to conquer that fear. As crunch time winds down, I’ll get back in my shoes and let the mirror be my guide to what I hope will be a more graceful presentation on stage. We’ve all heard that old saying about how we’re not defined by how many times we stumble or fall. It’s how we pick ourselves up move forward that makes all the difference.
As far as my workouts go, yesterday marked the start of week five on my coach’s program. Three things have changed in the past two weeks:
- An increase in the number of sets for certain exercises: For example, during week one, I was doing three sets of hip thrusts at 15 reps. I’m now up to five sets.
- An increase in what I’m lifting: As I continue to re-discover my groove with weight training, I’ve kept the increases between five to 10 pounds from week to week. One example: at my first attempt at dumbbell step ups during week one, I held five pound weights in each hand. Yesterday, I used 15-pound dumbbells.
- Where I can’t add weight, I add speed. Since my legs and glutes continue to scream during and after every lower body workout, I have decreased my rest time between sets when upping the weight just isn’t an option. One final note about those dreaded leg days, the stairs at my gym are also becoming extra painful. (The “bonus:” there are two sets of stairs between the locker room and the check-in desk.)
So on this Transformation Tuesday, I’d say my mental focus has undergone the biggest change within the past week. I look forward to using this sharper mindset to continue making my meals, hitting the gym and getting quality sleep. Thanks for all the support so far! It’s amazing how a little encouragement can go a long, long way when it comes to tackling our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Wow! We made it to July! I seriously can’t believe we’re past the halfway mark of 2019. Perhaps even more unbelievable is in four days, I’ll be just 12 weeks away from stepping on stage for the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix!
During this past week my coach, Jen, was kind enough to meet with me before a well-deserved vacation to start teaching me the ropes in what I consider the most terrifying part of this entire process: posing. Let’s just say I need all the help I can get!
This is completely different from maintaining poise and composure in front of a camera even in the sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold during my TV reporter days. This is about mastering a routine that includes four poses in a blur of 10 to 12 seconds. That’s the amount of solo time I’ll have in front of the judges. The poses themselves are totally foreign to me, and then there’s the added challenge of executing those moves wearing four-and-a-half inch platform heels and transitioning between each move as gracefully as possible. (Oh, and of course, I need to do it all with a smile!) Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed during that first hour of practice. However, Jen encouraged me to simply practice, practice and practice some more. If you want a good laugh on this first Tuesday of the new month, click the play button on this video to see how I did.
All you pros out there know I have a lot of work ahead of me! However, I hope sharing this not-so-perfect video serves as a gentle reminder that anytime you try something new, you can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate. Whether it’s a new job, maybe even a totally different career; a new fitness or nutrition program or a new hobby, we can put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We’re usually the first to beat ourselves up when we slip and fall. So, I’m going to try and remind myself to do what my coach and so many other people who’ve been through this competition prep have told me: trust the process. So, I may stumble and fall – literally! – practicing my posing routine, but I’ll get up and try again. I’ll keep the faith that with some serious effort on my part and the ongoing support from my family, friends, my coach and the fitfam universe, I can make this happen!
I close with a wish for everyone to have a safe and Happy 4th of July! (Click here for a reminder on how to get through what could be a long weekend of food-filled fun without totally falling off the healthy lifestyle wagon.) As for me, the holiday will be my last real “cheat” day before crunch time begins. That doesn’t mean I’ll go totally crazy with the food and drink. I’ll get to the gym super early, eat a couple of my prepared meals before heading to the annual pool party my family and I look forward to every year and I’ll choose my “cheat” foods with care. (I do see a cheeseburger and one or two cocktails in my holiday future…) I’ll also be sure to drink my gallon of water or more throughout the day.
Here’s to celebrating America’s birthday, a fitastic July and all the opportunities ahead to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Hello, faithful followers! As many of you already know from my sporadic social media posts, it’s been a hectic time with Mom having her right knee replaced exactly two weeks ago today. I’m happy to report her warrior spirit continues to help her make strides each day. (A big thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to send her good wishes before surgery and during her recovery!) I thought I’d use the first workout Wednesday of June to make a reappearance in the blogosphere – especially since we’re on the verge of ushering in the summer of 2019.
If Memorial Day weekend snuck up on you before you had time to stock up on some seasonal essentials, there’s no time like today to write up your shopping list. Being prepared is a surefire way to enjoy those summertime outdoor workouts and sunshine-filled fun with family and friends. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Don’t Ignore Those Tootsies! As we speed toward the halfway mark of 2019, 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 to all my fellow fitness chicks, you should wear a sports bra whether you’re power walking, full-on running or basically doing anything that gets your moving. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a huge fan of the Athleta line of sports bras. They offer support and moisture-wicking comfort whether I’m kickboxing, Tabata training and taking a long power walk along the Hudson River.)
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 (I was diagnosed with rosacea in my 30s), 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 prepared meals in a portable cooler can help stick with your healthy eating habits even while you’re at the beach. Many hiking trails or other walking venues don’t have much to offer in terms of fuel except for maybe the occasional hot dog vendors or some 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.
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!
The temperatures are nowhere near what I’d consider normal for May, but there are a few signs that prove we’re definitely in the midst of another spring: red, itchy eyes; runny noses and scratchy throats. Allergy season is here again and with lots of wacky weather around the entire country, many of us seize any opportunity we can to get moving outside when the sun finally breaks through. Of course, for serious allergy sufferers like me, that also means sharing the space with pollen.
Since the rain will eventually stop here in New York and the pollen counts will return to high levels in the not-so-distant future, this Motivation Monday provides the perfect opportunity to offer some timely survival tips for the season ahead:
- 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 shades: Wearing sunglasses can help create a protective barrier for your eyes while you’re outside. I also never step outside without being armed with eye drops. One of the first five things I do each morning is apply Bausch + Lomb’s Alaway eye drops. Using them twice a day has prevented me from scratching my eyes out even on the highest pollen count days. (While you don’t need a prescription for the drops, you may want to check with your doctor if they’re okay for your eyes – especially if you wear contacts.)
- Don’t forget your meds: In my younger years, I got weekly 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 and prescription allergy medicines that can provide relief. While I’ve never been a fan of taking lots of medicine, 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 wakeup and then workout outside, ask your doctor if taking your medication at bedtime can help.
- Clean up: 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.
The best survival tip I can offer to get through the season is this: listen to your body. It’s hard to say you’re doing something “healthy” if all you’re feeling during an outdoor workout is sheer misery. That’s the time to head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you turn to an air-conditioned group exercise class or pop in a workout DVD at home to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
It’s no secret I haven’t been here much the last couple of months. I guess my mind has been on hyperdrive since hitting the 45-year-old mark in February. I hate to say something as trite as my absence here is reflective of my own version of a mid-life crisis, but it’s a little bit of that and then some. The interesting thing is the more people I talk to at this age and stage of life, the more I realize I’m not alone.
No major event has rocked my world. Dad is getting back on his feet after a shaky fall and winter. Mom is feeling good and gearing up for her other total knee replacement surgery. My main “dilemna” has been an internal one and it boils down to a simple but seemingly impossible question that makes me reach for the ZzzQuil® on more nights than I probably should: what’s next for me?
I realize I’m lucky to be an independent contractor and even more fortunate to have the support from my fiancé and friends to continue my new and growing role as caregiver to my parents. However, the reality is I am also at a crossroads in that I know I want to find something new to do with my skills. So I’ve been vacillating between looking for more on-camera opportunities as a lifestyle host and questioning what’s holding me back from pursuing completely new opportunities in the one thing in my life that’s always kept me grounded and never feels like “work.” I’m talking about the world of health and fitness.
So as I navigate through these crossroads, I ask for your patience and some positivity. Maybe one day soon I’ll be encouraging my fellow New Yorkers to sign up for a kickboxing class taught by yours truly. Perhaps I’ll be asking for good vibes as I start new health and wellness related coursework. Perhaps this blog morphs into something bigger where I can address a wider range of topics that have seemed to take over my physical and mental well-being in this decade supposedly known as the “Fabulous 40s.” The bottom line is I am both overwhelmed and exhilarated about the opportunities I hope to find in the days, months and years ahead. I know whatever path I choose, however many times I stumble or take another detour, a good sweat will always help bring me back to the a strong starting position. Armed with that strength and the support of my readers and my entire “fitfam,” I hope the excitement will conquer the fear and keep the sleepless nights in check.
You longtime readers have been here through many ups and downs over these past eight years. As I embark on another unsure and unmarked path, I thank you for sticking around if the installments become sporadic at times. Even if you don’t find my posts here, you know the chances are you can find me tearing away at a heavy bag or searching online for the next big thing…and all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
We made it to the first Motivation Monday of spring! Now’s the time to get psyched for those outdoor workouts, new group fitness classes and maybe even splurge on some new workout wear. As we tweak our routines, it’s also the perfect opportunity to make a conscious effort to eliminate one horrible habit I see far too many people engaged in during a workout. It also happens to be my biggest pet peeve when I’m at the gym. I’m taking about texting while exercising.
Texting simply distracts even the most focused fitness fanatics. Being distracted doesn’t only lower your intensity level and lead to a less-than-optimal workout; it can be downright dangerous. According to a 2017 study published in Performance Enhancement & Health, texting during exercise:
- Impacted balance and stability by 45%, compared to not using a phone.
- Talking on the phone made balance 19% worse—less than texting, but still significant enough to contribute to injuries
Simply put, texting can raise the possibility of injury from everything from falling off a treadmill or rolling your ankle during that power walk.
Then there’s the fact that texting and taking up space on a machine is just plain inconsiderate. If something is so important that not replying immediately will put someone’s life in danger, step away from the machine, let someone else attack a set and work back in when you’re focused. Sure, emergencies will happen, but unless you’re on call as a physician or some kind of emergency responder, the world won’t end if you take 10 extra minutes to reply to a text.
If you know you’re easily distracted by that smartphone, you may want to consider signing up for more group fitness classes this spring. You’ll be forced to put that phone away for the duration of the class and you can focus on your form and intensity level. Don’t be shy about telling your family, friends and even co-workers if there’s a time of day that you’ll be unreachable. You’re making the effort to exercise and take care of yourself, so you also deserve a sliver of time that truly belongs to you. It’s having those few precious moments of me time that can help all of us be better partners, parents, caregivers and employees.
Smartphones provide tools that can help many of us in our health and fitness journey. They give us access to online workouts, heart-pumping music and apps to keep track of everything from our steps to our calories to whether we’re getting a good night’s sleep. But texts and emails shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s workout routine during any season of the year. So let’s make this the spring we stay focused on what we really need to attack our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
On this Motivation Monday, many of us are dealing with Old Man Winter showing off his strength and the aftermath of some crazy weather from the weekend. The good news is he will eventually give up the good fight and spring will arrive. This in-between time offers a chance to take stock of your health and fitness goals for a new season. I thought I’d use this opportunity to offer three simple tips for getting those healthy eating habits in shape for the season – and all the seasons to come.
- Don’t Avoid Your Favorite Foods: All or nothing is never a good option for creating realistic longterm behaviors. Whether your weakness is wine, chocolate, cheese or chips, cutting out our your favorites altogether can lead to a binge where you make up for all or more of the servings of the treats you denied yourself for too long. While I’m not a huge fan of total “cheat days,” going a bit overboard for a special occasion or having that glass of wine after a super stressful day, isn’t going to destroy all your hard work. Remember, one “naughty” meal doesn’t mean throwing in the towel on an entire week of trying to make good choices.
- Maintain A Schedule: Habits are formed based on repeated behavior – good or bad. And studies show you can train the body to want to eat at certain times by making those times more routine. I have to eat something every few hours to stay sharp and avoid the not-so-pleasant side effects of being “hangry.” So whether I’m working from home or on location, I make sure I have a few small meal options ready to grab – whether it’s an Isagenix snack bar; fat-fee Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds or a green apple. If you are someone who’d rather eat three meals a day, try and have them at the same time.
- Add Strength Training to Your Spring Fitness Routine: I know I’m excited about getting outside for power walks and maybe hitting the tennis courts again once the weather warms up. But remember, the body needs some strength training to maintain or build muscle – which can be lost if you’re focusing on losing weight. This doesn’t mean you have to walk into the nearest gym and pick up the heaviest weights. Starting with the basics including squats, lunges, planks and push-ups – can add some solid bodyweight exercises to the mix. For an “express” option of some simple but effective exercises, click here to revisit why I love Tabata training all year long.
Do you have any new healthy hobbies you’re looking forward to trying this spring? Let me know! Sharing ideas is one of the best ways we can all keep each other on track on the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Well, we made it to the last Motivation Monday of February. Aside from my birthday, I admit this has always been my least favorite month of the year. (Luckily, it’s also the shortest.) It’s cold, it’s dark and everyone seems to be in hibernation mode as many of us struggle with some degree of the winter blues.
So here’s a short and sweet reminder that we’re on the verge of starting a brand new month with lots to look forward to. Some of the highlights ahead in the not-too-distant future:
- Let There Be (More) Light! Daylight saving time starts in 12 days.
- The Spring Countdown Clock Ticks Away. We’re 23 days away from the official end of winter. Who else is pumped to take the workouts outside?
- Baseball. The 2019 MLB season kicks off in 31 days. Let’s go Yankees!
- More Fruits & Veggies, Please! March means more nutrient-packed fruits and veggies are at their peak season. Now’s the perfect time to look for healthy recipes to incorporate yummy broccoli, cauliflower, endive, artichokes, grapefruits, oranges, clementines and kiwi into your diet.
- Retail therapy. Jump start the season by picking up a new pair of sneakers or bright-colored yoga pants for the not-so-dreary days ahead.
What are you looking forward to in the new month ahead? Help me add to the list of reasons why we should be excited about brighter days ahead and so many chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!