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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!

The New Normal

The Grind Continues

Nineteen days have passed since I stepped off the stage and started showering off the spray tan, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. While my daily routine isn’t as physically taxing as it was in the days, weeks and months leading up to my first bikini competition, I’ve been struggling with some anxiety and stress as I now have no excuse not to focus on the “what’s next?” in my life. I think it’s easiest to break down the state of my psyche into three areas:

  1. My weight: Since holding water can change the numbers daily, I’ve gained between six to eight pounds since show day. I knew I could never maintain my stage weight. Aside from living on a low-calorie diet, by competition time you’re not just a little “hangry,” you’re dehydrated, too. A big part of peak week is cutting back on your water intake so you look as “cut” as possible on stage. While I realize my weight today is a healthier, more sustainable number (which still comes with its own demand for discipline), it’s amazing how your mind can get the best of you if you let it. I shared this in last week’s post, and it’s something I find myself repeating to myself almost daily again this week: we should never define ourselves by just a number. Instead, we should focus on how we feel and most importantly, if we have the energy to do the things we enjoy with the people who matter the most.
  2. My diet: Of course, there’s a very simple reason for the weight gain: I’ve been enjoying the things I denied myself during 15 weeks of contest prep! The day after the show, I savored every morsel of sunny-side up eggs, crispy bacon and buttered rye toast. For dinner, it was filet mignon tidbits on top of a bed of buttery mashed potatoes and two glasses of Prosecco. However, in between, I was back to a prep meal: four ounces of chicken, a half-cup of brown rice and a cup of spinach. Since then, I’ve been trying to strike a balance between eating those clean prep meals during the day and enjoying a non-restrictive, but healthy dinner. (Yes, wine is usually involved…and probably some version of dessert, too.) James and I have resumed going out to dinner or ordering in a few nights a week. Most nights, I’ll be “good,” nursing one libation to go along with a grilled chicken paillard covered with greens. Other nights, I’m not-so-good, enjoying two drinks along with yummy cheat foods including sliders; mac-and-cheese and chicken parmesan. Nothing is off limits anymore, but I’m still working on getting my groove back to the no guilt, everything-in-moderation lifestyle I followed in the 45 years leading up to the competition.
  3. My workouts: What’s been the best part of post-show life? A return to kickboxing! After months of work in the weight room, I was ecstatic to feel more power than ever before when I unleashed hell on the heavy bag despite not attending a class since May 20th. I’ve also kept up with my weight training, and plan to stick with it. While I’ve never been a fan of leg days, I’ll make sure to keep a couple of them in my weekly routine. However, instead of five sets of goblet squats, leg presses or deadlifts, I’ll probably do four. Making some gains in the off-season can only help me start another prep period even stronger than the first time around.

The hardest part of my post-show life is the daily struggle to not be so hard on myself. If I need to go to bed a little earlier or crave another carb-loaded meal, I need to “forgive” myself and let it go. Luckily my husband, parents and friends are helping make the adjustment from pre- to post-show life more bearable. I know I accomplished a lot in 15 weeks and put my body and mind through something unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Now it’s time to be thankful for what’s happened and plan for what’s next. It just goes to show striking a healthy balance for the body, mind and soul is an ongoing challenge in our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

The Ultimate Post-Show High

The REALLY Big Day!

I realize this is a completely out-of-the-ordinary day for me to share a post. Considering life has been pretty unusual during the past five moths, I figured I’d roll with it.

September 29th marked the beginning of life after the Brooklyn Grand Prix. I’m sure most people assumed I’d recover from the 15-week prep process by enjoying a little down time, taking a brief break from the weight room and re-introducing some libations and sweet treats into my life. However, as most of you probably know, I spent the seven days after the show gearing up for the true main event in my life – my wedding day! On October 5th, James and I surprised my parents – and the rest of our family and friends – with a beach-themed wedding on Long Island. The picture-perfect sunny day went off without a hitch and we started the next phase of our happily ever after. With the big day behind me, I’m now dealing with the ultimate physical and mental crash. After months of following a restrictive diet by the book; weight training six days a week; putting my social life on hold and planning a wedding day, my mind and body are basically screaming: “Okay, Laura, you pulled it off. Now it’s time to regroup a bit.”

Of course, I’m sure my fellow type-A personalities will agree sometimes taking your foot off the gas and regrouping can be the hardest part of reaching a long-awaited destination. As I mentioned many times throughout the process, I realized the contest prep lifestyle would never be sustainable if I wanted to get back to my normal social life. I’m totally fine with that. However, I’m now challenged by my mind making me second guess those second glasses of prosecco with dinner and the extra slice of leftover wedding cake. I even find myself worrying about adding too many “cheat meals” back into my daily life. That’s a pretty strange concept since before the contest-prep phase of my life, I always considered myself to follow a pretty healthy lifestyle. Now, having plain a nonfat Greek yogurt with some blueberries and almonds -none of which I ate during prep – is a “treat.” Also, I haven’t been on the scale and have no plans to hop on it anytime soon. Because my heart knows we should never be defined by just a number. Life is about finding our own balance to feel good, and doing our best to stay healthy. I just experienced the happiest day of my life, and I will do all I can to not sabotage that with feelings of guilt over celebratory meals with the people I love. Life’s too short for those kinds of regrets. I know I’d have bigger regrets if I started turning down social outings because I was worried about my diet.

The Grind Continues – On a Smaller Scale

This is also going to be a time of regrouping in my professional life. I truly don’t know what I want the next step to be, but I know I can’t stand still any longer. Maybe I’ll find a way to combine my love of health and well-being with my skill set as a journalist and producer. Maybe there’s an entirely different line of work out there just waiting for me to discover. Stay tuned.

Next week, I plan to share a bit more of my diet and fitness routine since the contest. I’d also love to know what lingering questions you readers may have about the whole process. Don’t be shy – ask away! As always, a huge part of keeping this blog going all these years is providing all kinds of information that’s helpful for everyone’s journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! I

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