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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!

 

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!

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!

Unprecedented Times

My Newest Desk Accessory. Can Anyone Else Relate?

To say we’ve arrived at a wacky Workout Wednesday is obviously an understatement. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we’re aware of each and every new COVID-19 case, death and local, national or international lock down as soon they pop up. It’s obviously good to stay informed, but never good to get to a point of paralyzing panic.

I’m not an expert on anything related to this virus, which is no doubt dangerous for the elderly or anyone with a less-than-optimal immune system. However, several people have asked me for my take on whether it’s “safe” to go to the gym right now. In my non-expert opinion, I offer the same top tips I’d offer during cold and flu season:

  • If you feel sick, do everyone a favor and STAY HOME!
  • Wipe down equipment with disinfecting wipes or spray before and after you use it. (Hopefully, your gym has plenty in stock. Kudos to the team at Cruch54th for doing such a stellar cleaning job!)
  • If you must take a group fitness class, try and keep your distance from others in the class. (Attendance is already down at many group classes throughout Manhattan.)
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands with soap and warm water when you arrive and before you leave the gym. You may not have time to shower after a workout, but there’s no excuse for not taking 20 seconds to wash your hands.

With more daylight to work with, you can always opt for a long walk or run in a park or other open space. Many body weight exercises and HIIT workouts can be done at home, including my all-time favorite Tabata workouts. For another option, click here to see my oldie-but-goodie park bench workout. (Just be sure to wash those hands ASAP when you’re done! Maybe even wear gloves while you are touching that bench, and throw them straight into the laundry when you get home.)

Finally, help keep your immune system strong by sticking with those healthy habits you promised to make a part of your daily routine in 2020:
  • Get healthy nutrition from fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of zzzzzs!

Am I concerned about the Coronavirus? Absolutely, but mainly for my parents and other elderly loved ones. So let’s be sure to take care of ourselves so we can be there for our family and friends if they need us. Wash those hands, stay informed and we’ll all get through this together. Let’s hope we can soon return to our regularly scheduled programming and all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Let There Be Light!

Counting the Days Till Another Beach Season…

And just like that, the last Workout Wednesday of February has come and gone!

It’s hard to believe we’re almost done with what many New Yorkers consider the winter that never quite arrived. (I do realize, however, those in the Midwest and other regions have suffered through Old Man Winter’s fury many times this season including this week.) For me, the best part of this upcoming change is the fact that we’re only nine days away from the start of Daylight Saving time. We may lose an hour of sleep on the overnight hours leading into March 9th, but we’ll gain so much more: mood-boosting sunlight!

As my longtime readers know, I’m one of the millions of Americans who suffers from  seasonal affective disorder. My winter blues have definitely gotten worse in my 40s, which I realize is a symptom of the life challenges that have been part of this decade so far. This winter may not have been as cold or snowy as others, but the cloudy, dreary skies have still lowered my motivation levels for everything from getting my butt to the gym to sitting down to write a blog post. Now that the wait for more daylight is down to single digits on the calendar, I’m noticing a little more energy fueling my system with each passing day.

If you’ve been dragging through the season, I hope you’ll find some comfort knowing you are most definitely not alone. Sometimes you have to embrace the lethargy and let it play out. Sometimes your body needs a nap or a binge-watching Sunday afternoon more than a heart-pounding workout. And sometimes, you need the comfort of mac and cheese more than a kale and quinoa salad.

Now’s the time to let all the “sins” of the season go and start thinking of the positive things you want to accomplish when there’s more hours of daylight to fuel your motivation to get them done. What will you put on that healthy to-do list for March? Maybe you add more outdoor walks to your weekly calendar. Maybe you dedicate one night a week to shutting off the TV and spending some quality time with family or friends. Whatever it is that signals a fresh start, a little planning now can go a long way as we welcome a new month and new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Onward!

Hooray for Discharge Day!

Well, here we are just two days shy of the second month of 2020. How’s your January winding down as far as turning those healthy goals into a reality? If you’re still trying to find your groove, hang in there. Remember, it can take up to six whole weeks for habits to take root in our daily behavior. So, don’t give up now! This is a good time to take stock what’s working and what’s not. For example, if you’re more likely to workout in the morning rather than at night, stop stressing out when you don’t get to the gym after work. Instead, embrace that early-bird energy and keep setting your alarm appropriately to make time for that morning endorphin rush.

I know how hard it is to wait for habits to develop. Living in a world where everything is available at the push of a button, click of a mouse or swipe on a smart phone, it’s not easy to be patient. But patience is crucial when traveling on the lifelong marathon that is healthy living. So be sure to count the small victories. They can only add up to big changes in the not-so-distant future.
Speaking of moving forward, I just took a giant leap in a journey that began in November. That’s when I started physical therapy to address two arm issues I put on the back burner during my bikini competition prep. On Tuesday, my wonderful physical therapist, Don Zerio at Spear Physical Therapy, officially discharged me from treatment! Seven weeks ago, it was hard to imagine lifting anything with my arm without feeling pain. However, thanks to Don’s know-how and compassion, my discipline and yes, patience, I am blissfully pain free! Now, I’ll continue the journey on my own by not doing too much too soon and focusing on taking baby steps to get back to “normal” with my weight training and kickboxing routines. One day at a time.
I also took a step in the right direction as I continue to adjust to life with a hearing aid. After my initial euphoria with the device, I started having some issues with sounds being scratchy or over-modulated in different environments ranging from the gym to Church. After several days of struggling on my own and removing the aid in frustration when I just didn’t want to deal anymore, I contacted my audiologist, Dr Elika Cokely, who told me to stop in her office at my earliest convenience. Guess what? I wasn’t wearing the hearing aid properly! I guess I was afraid of pushing it in too far and hurting my ear drum. Just a little reassurance from Dr. Cokley helped me get over that and things are back on the right track. Sometimes asking for help is the hardest part of finding a solution to a problem.
To anyone who needs a little guidance along the 2020 fitness or healthy diet journey, don’t be shy! I’m always happy to answer questions or offer a little boost. Or reach out to the friends and family members who cheer you on all your adventures. Being armed with information, a good support system and maybe more than a little patience can only help when it comes mapping out all those plans for 2020 – and beyond! – to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Hello 2020!

Jumping Into 2020!

Well, here we are already eight days into 2020. I hope the start of this New Year has been good to you so far and this Workout Wednesday and all the days ahead are full of good health, happiness and adventure!

So how are those healthy resolutions going? If you’re struggling a bit, don’t sweat it! Even the biggest fitness fanatics feel your pain. Since my kickoff to 2020 took place in sunny St. Lucia, I’m still trying to get my daily calorie intake back under control and return to my physical therapy and cardio routine. (I do hope to get the all clear from my physical therapist on my arm issues by the end of this month.)

As we all work to find our footing on the road to healthy living in the New Year, I’ll share one “trick” that’s helped me since turning the big 4-0 nearly six years ago. I now focus on setting goals and deadlines for reaching those goals instead of “stressing” over how well I’m changing my overall behavior. Sometimes making the commitment to eat green vegetables with every single meal or workout six days a week can be daunting, and the temptation to throw in the towel can sneak in if you indulge in one “naughty” meal or skip one workout. Instead of stressing over daily slip-ups, ask yourself one question:

Is there something I want to accomplish this year that requires stepping up my physical activity and making healthier choices in my diet?

As I’m sure you recall, I went to the ultimate extreme in 2019 by competing in the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. This year, inspired by my husband, my cousin and several friends who have caught the running “bug” at various stages in their lives (thank you, James, Annie, Rita Joan, Jeannine and Pamela!), I hope to enter my first 5K by the end of the summer. So James, who knows pretty much everything there is to know about running, has started coaching me with a treadmill workout plan for the next couple of months. (Stay tuned on that front!)

How about you? Is there a fundraising walk surrounding a cause you’re passionate about that you’ve always wanted to join? Maybe this is the summer you play for a team of touch football at the annual family get-together  instead of watching from the sidelines. Or maybe while on vacation, you take one or several long walks with your spouse or that friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Whatever it is, having a specific goal surrounding an event can keep you motivated since you know there’s a finish line to cross after all the hard work.

So if you’ve been doubting your ability to stick with your plans to make this your healthiest year yet, stop right now! Think about the positive steps you’ve taken so far and forget the slip-ups. Focus on today, one minute and one hour at a time. If you get to the gym today, kudos to you. If you don’t, pack the gym bag for tomorrow and try again. Remember, it’s the small steps that add up to big strides in our lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

All Too Familiar Territory

I am a firm believer we do indeed grow wiser with each passing year. For us fitness fanatics and serious athletes, however, that wisdom can be tested when setting our sights on a new or big goal. Unfortunately, I’ve failed that test yet again on the subject of do as I say and not as I do. That means I’m spending a good part of this Workout Wednesday back in physical therapy.

Rewind to mid-July of this summer, and I was exactly halfway through my 15-week prep process for my first ever bikini competition. After seven-and-a-half weeks of serious weight training, extended cardio sessions and strict dieting, I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder and left pectoral muscle. That twinge turned into serious pain almost overnight and spread down my arm, particularly in the bicep area. My coach got me in to see a master manual therapist who worked on the angry muscles, but the temporary relief wasn’t a permanent fix. My coach of course gave me the option of taking a break and possibly putting my competition plans on hold. Long story short, I made the decision to keep grinding on. I had the window of opportunity to train this summer and had no idea what would happen later this year or next in regards to my parents’ health or life’s other uncertainties. So, with some modifications to the upper body workouts, I kept training. As you all know, I made it to the show on September 28th and it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret being a part of.

Fast-forward to the beginning of November. The pain remained, but it had centered mainly in my bicep. When the discomfort started waking me up in the middle of the night, I knew I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.  I saw the same sports medicine orthopedist who helped me conquer a knee injury last year, and this time the diagnosis is biceps tendonitis. The doctor basically told me if I want to heal, I have to totally refocus my energy on physical therapy and stop kickboxing and other heavy duty upper body work for six weeks. If not, the severe bicep tendonitis could lead to a tear or rupture – and fixing either of those problems would require surgery.

I am well aware there is only person to blame for this mess: me. However, so many serious athletes face decisions like this all the time. There’s a drive to push through the pain and red line it just enough to reach that goal, to hell with the consequences. In the grand scheme of things, six weeks “off” is obviously a much better outcome than surgery. While I’m mad as hell at myself for letting it get this far, I know I’ll heal. And I’ll shift my be-a-good-solider focus to following my physical therapist’s instructions, taking my prescribed anti-inflammatories and babying the arm as much as possible. Some sacrifices now will only lead to a healthier Laura later.

At the end of the day, I realize not everyone makes such extreme choices. But when we do make a not-so-smart decision -in or outside of the gym – we have to accept the fact that we can’t go back in time and change it. We can only go forward, use what we’ve learned and hopefully not make the same mistake again. It’s just another part of the sometimes crazy learning process that comes with traveling the windy road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Seven Weeks To Go…

I hope you will forgive the mini-hiatus. Since I didn’t take my usual break over the summer so I could share my weekly adventures of bikini competition prep, I needed a brief reprieve from writing. On this Transformation Tuesday, I’m back just in time for what I consider the pre-holiday, holiday rush.

Thanksgiving lands as late as it can on the calendar this year. That means the onslaught of decking the halls, shopping and celebrating (which most likely involves eating and drinking) arrives in just two weeks and continues at lightning speed for the last four full weeks of 2019. So now is the perfect time to take stock of your healthy habits and consider taking them up a notch before the holly, jolly and high-calorie time of year kicks off.
For this short and sweet return to the blogosphere, I offer a few tips to help you feel better when the holiday season officially arrives. Exercising a little caution now could help with feeling not-so-guilty later when the holiday splurging begins.
  1. Drink water: Hydration is crucial year round, regardless of the weather. Not only does water helps regulate our body temperature and distribute nutrients and oxygen to our cells and organs, drinking water can actually alleviate fluid retention and decrease appetite. I’ve been doing my best to keep up my competition prep habit of drinking at leas one gallon of water each day. To make it easier to track how much water you drink in a day, treat yourself to an early Christmas or Hanukkah present and get water bottle that measures for you.
  2. Make Necessary Adjustments to Your Workout Schedule: The end of Daylight Saving means darker days are here till the spring of 2020. For many people – including yours truly – fewer hours of sunlight can wreak havoc on motivation to workout at the end of the day. If that includes you, consider switching to a pre-work workout. With so many on-demand fitness programs, you can even roll out of bed and right onto a yoga mat in your own living room to break a morning sweat. You can also consider designating a workout buddy to help you stay accountable for getting exercise sometime during the day. Finally, this is also a chance to check your gym’s group fitness schedule for that class you were curious about but never got to while you were outside running or walking during the summer and early fall.
  3. Be Prepared: I’m doing my best to continue cooking chicken, turkey, brown rice and veggies in bulk so I have several go-to healthy meals available each day. Just like you may know what time you’re working out on any given day, it can help to also have a game plan for what your meals will look like. Make sure you have healthy snacks with you at work or in your purse or gym bag. Raw almonds and green apples travel well. If you have access to a fridge, hard boiled eggs; non-fat plain Greek yogurt and of course, full meals with a healthy balance of protein, carbs and veggies can always be close by.
This year has been a whirlwind of unprecedented events, but it’s still impossible to believe we have less than two months left until we usher in a whole new decade. Here’s to wrapping things up knowing we made every effort possible to have fun, be fit and feel fab!

Loose Ends

Cheers to the Day We Don’t Need The Walks Anymore!

As I continue to recalibrate in this post-bikini competition life, I imagine you’ll forgive this short and sweet Transformation Tuesday post. As this unprecedented transformative phase continues, I’ve come to realize it’s good to embrace change in this life. Sure, it can be scary, but it can also open the doors to so many opportunities and experiences you never even knew existed.

One welcome form of normalcy came over the weekend when I joined a sea of pink zig-zagging its way through Central Park for another American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Each year, I find myself in awe of the warrior spirit that pushes a great deal of walkers to complete the course with the assistance of a cane or the steady arm of a loved one. We differ in age, race, religion and political beliefs. However, on that Sunday morning, we were united with survivors, sons and daughters of survivors and those who lost a loved one to a disease that I hope will one day be nothing more than a footnote in an old textbook. To that end, it’s not to late to make a donation for this year’s Walk. If you’d like to join the fight as another Breast Cancer Awareness month winds down, simply click here to be taken to my Making Strides page. Every dollar counts in the fight against breast cancer and to help those battling the disease with everyday challenges. To all my generous supporters to date, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

The other event most likely coming to an end this week is my unexpected run in the Maxim Magazine Next Cover Girl contest. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support that helped this 45-year-old make the quarterfinals in a competition filled with beautiful women more than half my age. I ask you to continue casting those free daily votes for two more days so I make a strong finish in my group. (The quarterfinal round ends on the 24th at 11 pm ET.) Simply click here to view my link on the Maxim page. Thanks again for making this a surprising and fun ride!

As the fall marches on with lightning speed and we continue to adjust to cooler temperatures and a little less daylight every 24 hours, let’s get psyched for the challenges and surprises that lie ahead. Thank you to all my readers for sharing in so many big adventures in 2019. Cheers to what’s next in all our efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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