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Quick-Hit Motivation Monday

Since this Motivation Monday post arrives after a long weekend visiting with dear family friends, I hope you’ll understand why it’s a super short and sweet one.

You can thank Physique57 instructor and friend Chad Levy for this week’s inspiration. He offered these 13 words of wisdom as we executed our final stretch at the end of a fitastic workout last Wednesday. They stayed with me all week. Given the battles each of us faces in our daily lives and the state of sadness and shock that still lingers following last week’s tragic events in Las Vegas, I thought it couldn’t hurt to pass these words along to my readers:

“Remember your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Remember your compassion and not your anger.”

Never underestimate the power of a good sweat when it comes to finding the strength to attack the challenges in this crazy ride called life. And never forget you have all the power you need inside you to continue on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.

 

 

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Stay Safe & Keep Your Cool!

As we kick off a week filled with high temperatures and humidity, I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday to remind everyone how to recognize heat-related illnesses. Sometimes water, electrolytes, sunscreen and a good hat aren’t enough to prevent an emergency – especially if you’re exercising outdoors.

As someone who always sweats, these dog days of summer in New York City (and the rest of the concrete jungles across the country) can make being away from the air conditioning unbearable after just a few minutes. If you catch me coming out of the subway or leaving an ILoveKickboxing or Physique57 class, no doubt you’ll think I just stepped out of a sauna.

Here are some timely reminders if you or someone you’re start feeling out of sorts in the heat:

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.

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.

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:

  • 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 Avon39 water bottle and a bottle of BFit Labs electrolyte sprays. My repeat readers will know I’ve been using the zero-calorie, zero sugar, gluten-free sprays for a couple of years now and I can honestly say I have more energy and fewer muscle cramps during my workouts. They also help me feel less sluggish on the sultry summer days.  If you want more information or are interested in giving them a try, just click here.
  • 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. Just remember to use a little extra care so you can stay safe while you move ahead with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Make the Moment Yours

I guess you could call this Motivation Monday post a present. Well, it’s actually about the importance of being present where you are at any given moment. I’m talking about focusing on what’s happening right now. Not what happened fifteen minutes ago or what will happen fifteen minutes from now. This. Very. Moment.

This hit me last week thanks to a reminder from Chad Levy, a Physique57 instructor who inspires me with his energy and positivity in each and every class. I signed up for one of Chad’s classes after returning from a particularly grueling business trip. In full disclosure, I was a total stress case walking into the studio just a few minutes before it started. As if sensing my negative energy, as we started our warm up, Chad encouraged all of us to be present in the moment. He then peppered us with subtle reminders throughout the 57-minute workout.

Just a few words forced me to focus on my form and leave the “junk” from the past few days or behind. Those words also helped me think only about the thigh, glute, total body or ab exercise I was pushing through and forget about what was waiting for me in the outside world at the end of class. With that laser focus in place, I ended the hour feeling stronger but lighter at the same time, thanks to having some dead weight shaken from my weary mind.

I realize there are days when it’s impossible to have a full hour to exercise. Even if you only have ten minutes, as long as you truly focus on the task at hand – a few laps around the block; a few trips up and down the stairwell at the office; a Tabata derby in the den – being present can only increase the power of those precious minutes can have on your body, mind and soul. On a rest day, be sure to stay present in the calm moments while they last to help you deal with the not-so-calm moments that are sure to pop up later.

Remember, whether you’re sweating through a high-intensity workout or enjoying a leisurely walk with a friend, never underestimate the power a focused mind when it comes to continuing on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Do Your Own Thing

Knock Out Self Doubt!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Blame it on a super insane work week followed by a lazy weekend which included Palm Sunday, but here you have you have one of my shortest Motivation Monday posts in recent memory.

This shot of inspiration comes to you courtesy of my love for group exercise classes, namely Physique57 and ILoveKickboxing. No matter how hard a workout may seem, the key is to always do your thing. Forget what the person next to you is doing and focus on your own pace, your own form and your own breathing. Finding that inner focus not only insures you’re going to get to the most out of your exercise session, it also allows you block out some of the noise that we’re all bombarded with day after day. That kind of concentration can make the mental part of your workout that much more intense and the workout that much more rewarding when you make it to the finish.

For me, there’s nothing like being in a kickboxing class working one of the heavy bags surrounded by the sounds of punches and kicks against the canvas. However, even lifetime fitness fanatics aren’t immune to self-doubt at the gym. Sometimes, I find myself wondering: Am I hitting as hard as the warrior next to me? Are my kicks making the same “boom” on impact? Then with one solid punch, I put the focus on my workout and forget about the rest of the room.

Exercise is personal. The idea is to just keep moving and do what you can do. If you’re not racing through a set of mountain climbers as fast as the person next to you, don’t sweat it. The key is you’re moving, you’re sweating and you’re doing your pounding heart and your sweaty body some serious good. At the end of your workout session, only one thing matters: do you feel better than when you started?

Wherever and whenever you find the time to workout, remember your mind has the power to keep it a judgement free zone. With spring finally in bloom, take advantage of a new season of group exercise schedules and opportunities to take the activity outside. Find what works for you and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hooray for Spring!

Make it a Knock-Out Spring!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

How perfect is it that we get to kick off a brand new season on a Motivation Monday? 

Even though we officially welcome the spring of 2017 today, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who are unmotivated to move as we shake off the effects of Old Man Winter’s end-of-season punches. Trust me, I get it. It’s a lot easier to sit on the couch than bundle up in layers of cold weather gear, pull on the boots and trudge through the melting snow puddles to get to the gym. The good news is now that spring has arrived, better weather is on the horizon. Sometimes just knowing those brighter and warmer days are coming can be the boost your body needs. 

As we wait things out a little while longer, I encourage you to do this: change just one thing in your routine. Not sure what I mean? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Adding two to three kickboxing sessions to my weekly mix has made a huge impact on my fitness focus. Since I started taking ILoveKickboxing classes in February, no two workouts have been the same. I love the new adrenaline rush and the stress release I experience from punching and kicking the heavy bag. The classes have also made me stronger for my Physique57 classes and other workouts. So what workout have you always wanted to try? Go ahead and give it a shot! The benefits could be nothing but pure sweat and pure fun! 
  2. Make a new playlist: Don’t be shy about asking your instructors about the music he or she plays to keep you going. Now with Spotify, Apple Music and other music sharing options, it’s easier than ever to find the right beats for your body.
  3. Move for a cause: Sign up for a walk or run that supports something that moves you and /or consider supporting family and friends in their own efforts. I am getting so excited to participate in my fourth Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. In less than 100 days, I’ll lace up for the first time in Boston. If you’d like to make a donation, click here. (A HUGE thank you to all who’ve donated so far!) 
  4. Grab some new fitness wear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine.
  5. Add a new fruit or veggie to your diet: Toss blueberries or strawberries into that morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal; add half an avocado to your egg white omelet or pair an apple with almonds, a non-fat plain Greek yogurt or your grab-and-go snack of choice.

Remember, sometimes adding one new thing to the mix is all you need to stay on track with turning your healthy goals into a reality. Happy spring, people! It’s time to get psyched for a new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Kicking” off 43 With a Bang – and a Punch!

img_3806On this Motivation Monday, I find myself another year older. Hopefully that means I’m also another year wiser, but it’s probably still too early to tell.

I think it’s safe to say birthdays present the perfect opportunity for reflection. While I reminisced about the many experiences that will forever define my forty-second year on Earth, it was no surprise the most defining moments were those that involved family and friends. Many of those moments were happy ones. Others were the complete opposite. The reality is I begin living my forty-third year missing a few very special people. However, while they’ve been taken from this world physically, the memories of their love and friendship will remain a source for smiles and strength for all the years to come.

I was truly blessed to celebrate another birthday with both my parents. Their love and guidance have made me the woman I am today. I’m equally blessed to say I’ve never felt healthier or stronger – both physically and mentally – than I do right now. That strength was tested many times in the past year as I found myself along with several of my closest friends dealing with some very “grown-up” challenges: Family members suffering from attacks on their physical and mental well-being; sweet children growing up to become troublesome teens; job security growing less secure and relationships breaking up.

In a world filled with so much uncertainty, one thing I can control year after year is how I take care of my body. Exercising and eating healthy continue to help keep my immune system strong even when events and emotions seem overwhelming. Of course, the other “thing” that continues to work for me is embracing the everything-in-moderation mentality. That’s why I refused to feel zero guilt about my birthday snack featuring a chocolate – peanut butter cupcake and a glass of champagne. It felt equally good hitting the healthy reset button the day after my birthday by blending an Isagenix protein shake and hitting the gym.

With ILoveKickboxing Instructor, EJ

With ILoveKickboxing Instructor, EJ

Speaking of the gym, another thing I learn year after year is you’re definitely never too old to try something new. Some of my longtime readers may remember several years ago I enjoyed sparring with my personal trainer Roberto once or twice a week. A hand injury took me out of that game for awhile, but thanks to the recommendation of my gal pal Elisa, I decided to get back into the punching world and signed up for ILoveKickboxing.com.

After one sweat-filled 50-minute class last week, I was riding a crazy endorphin-filled high. I also laughed to myself thinking about how I could have crushed some serious stress if only I had I had started punching and kicking a heavy bag sooner! The class is a cardio, strength and endurance experience featuring boxing gloves, heavy bags and non-stop drills of core exercises ranging from mountain climbers to push-ups as well as solo and partner-friendly rounds of jabs, hooks, upper cuts and kicks. I am excited to add this new workout to my exercise regimen for the year ahead (which still includes Physique57 classes and Tabata training) and see how it helps take my physical and mental strength to another level.

So, I guess this is a roundabout way of saying taking control of your health is something anyone can do at any age or fitness level. Don’t be afraid to strike out and try something new. There’s no doubt the road ahead can trip us up at any time with bumps, twists and turns. Instead of looking back, use the lessons of the past to catapult you into the future and all the opportunities calling you to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Give the Gift of Health & Fitness

Christmas gift and baubles on defocused lights backgroundSince this Motivation Monday marks 20 days until Christmas and 19 until the start of Hanukkah, I thought it was the perfect time to offer some cool gift ideas for the fitness fanatics in your life. (Whether they’ve been naughty or nice is up to you to decide.)

Since yours truly is trying to keep the hustle and bustle at manageable levels, I hope you won’t mind a list that’s short and sweet:

  1. Bluetooth wireless ear warmers. These wrap around your head without interfering with a ponytail or hat so you can stay in touch and listen to your favorite tunes while breaking a sweat in the chilly outdoors.
  2. Waterproof audio “stuff.” For the swimmers and even the beach lovers in your life, here’s a great way to provide some waterproof motivation for all their underwater activities.
  3. A not-so-typical water bottle. Aside from being BPA-free and easy-to-grip, this 24-ounce water bottle from Thermos also has a rotating meter  to help you track your hydration throughout the day.
  4. Protein-packed, gluten-free baking goods from Flapjacked.com There’s a wide variety of recipes for pancakes, cookies and muffins packed with 20 grams of protein and 200 calories per serving.
  5. For the fitness chicks in your life: I love my Femme Fitale fitness gloves. They help me avoid developing callouses from all those Physique57 barre classes or weight lifting. So many cute colors and patterns to choose from!

Great stocking stuffers:

  1. BFit Labs Electrolyte Sprays. I never leave home without a bottle. Each electrolyte-packed spray of Berry Blast or Very Vanilla contains 0 calories, 0 carbs and 0 food dyes.
  2. Moisture-wicking socks: I am a huge fan of Balega running socks. They’ve help keep my feet blister-free through my first three Avon39 Walks – that’s 108.9 miles and counting!
  3. Dry shampoo for quick touch-ups after a workout.
  4. Combination lock that lets you use words instead of numbers.
  5. Hot packs for hands and feet.

Remember, giving gifts that promote a healthy lifestyle is a great way to show the most important people in your life that you support their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hitting the Pause Button

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t forget to stretch! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Wow. Here we are celebrating another Columbus Day and marching toward the middle of October. Meanwhile, more holiday displays keep popping up in the stores. To me, it’s all proof that time flies by faster each year and life simply gets more hectic as we get older.

If you’re a parent, you struggle with the complexities of your children growing up. All of us eventually face challenges as our parents age. At times, situations can be overwhelming and paralyzing. This is why it’s so important to carve out some precious moments of time to pause and regroup. Little did I know I’d find a big jolt of strength spending 30 minutes doing something I hadn’t done in far too long.

On Saturday morning after my usual Physique57 workout, I stayed an extra half hour for stretch class. Those 30 minutes did more wonders than I can explain. If I had an internal pause button, I’d say it clicked. That allowed me to worry only about three things for 30 minutes: inhaling, exhaling and holding stretches to release some of the tension in the multiple tight spots of my body.

I often write about the importance of making  for ourselves, but today I offer the reminder that sometimes that means finding a few moments to simply breathe deeply and stretch. What is your body telling you? Maybe it doesn’t need the hard-core boot-camp experience today. Maybe the lungs need to fill up with some extra air and your muscles need some TLC. As my wonderful instructor Lindi reminded us throughout the stretch session, sometimes you also need to shut out the noise and remember the good things in your life: the people who make you smile or a memory of a family get together or carefree moment at the beach.

As we all get back into fall sports, now’s the perfect time to re-focus your attention on flexibility and the all-important stretches too many of us skip as we rush out of the gym to our next busy activity. A lot of injuries happen at this time of year as people get back to their not-so-lazy-days-of-summer routines. Remember – if you haven’t played fall ball since…well, last fall…you need to warm up and be careful with muscles that may have been inactive for awhile.

If you’re off on this Motivation Monday for the holiday, why not take just 10 minutes to breathe in some air, think about stretching out the kinks in your hard-working body or at least plan a 10 to 20 minute block of time this week when you can. Whether you want to try a new group exercise class, meditation or a new nutrition program, deciding on a new goal is the first big step in making things happen on our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 Starting Over…Sort Of

Felt SO Good to Get Back in the Gym Over the Weekend!

Felt SO Good to Get Back in the Gym Over the Weekend!

Whoever coined the phrase the lazy days of summer obviously never dealt with a move in the July heat. Now that my parents are slowly settling in their new home, I am thankful this Motivation Monday signals the start of my own return to normalcy.

Probably the most important part of re-establishing my routine involves getting exercise back on my schedule. Saturday marked the first time I stepped inside a gym in three weeks. That is simply excruciatingly too long for this fitness fanatic. However, between my production gigs; the hours of packing; scheduling and re-scheduling contractors and moving dates and the nasty summer cold that stole my energy and my voice, something had to give. However, I always reminded myself that the stress was temporary and eventually things would get better. As I sit on a Manhattan-bound train for the first time in weeks, I realize they already are.

We’re all tired and covered in scrapes and bruises thanks to some unexpected run-ins with furniture and box cutters. Yet we’re all healthy and looking forward to our annual escape to the beautiful Montauk beach.

I also look forward to getting back to my Physique57 workouts; enjoying small, healthy meals throughout the day and catching up with with friends I haven’t seen in forever. I also know I have to be patient with my body. While I’m probably in the best shape of my life at 42, I also know I need to give my body time to adjust to a vigorous exercise routine again. I will pay extra attention to stretching and staying hydrated. And I will constantly remind myself that I will start feeling like my strong self again soon.

Consider this my roundabout way of saying there are plenty of things in this life that will throw us off course. However, reminding yourself that the road will eventually lead to a familiar path is half the battle in getting there. If your summer to date has included more tacos than Tabatas or too many margaritas killed your motivation to make it to those early morning boot camp classes, don’t sweat it. Today is a new day and there’s still plenty of summer left to work on those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Little Support Goes a Long Way!

My Support Team

My “Support Team”

It happens at this time every year. The temperatures go up and the clothes come off. Everywhere I look, there are people running, biking and boot-camping either on the city streets or throughout Central Park and the other outdoor hot spots all over New York City. I always love seeing people getting their daily dose of endorphins, but there is one sight that pains me: a woman with too big of a bounce in her, uh, step…because she’s not wearing a supportive sports bra!

On this Motivation Monday, I apologize for leaving the guys out of the conversation, but I’ve seen enough to know it’s never a bad idea to remind women about the importance of having the right support above the belt. I often write about replacing your sneakers every six months to ensure you have a solid base for your workouts. Well, breast tissue needs protection, too.

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 sort of bouncing 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 involves some bounce.

So, what sports bra works for me? As my repeat readers already know, I’m not a runner. (For all those reading this post who are runners, I’d recommend looking for a combination compression / encapsulation bra for maximum support.) Since I am addicted to things like the elliptical machine, barre classes and Tabata training. For these activities, I’ve recently become a huge fan of the Athleta line of sports bras. The Full Focus (seen in lime green in the photo above) and Double Dare (in fuchsia) bras are made of soft, moisture-wicking material and offer comfortable, yet solid support for everything in my routine from pulsing and squeezing at the Physique57 barre to mountain climbers. The Double Dare bra even has a double vent in the back to keep me feeling cool on the city’s hottest days.

For less intense activities, like a leisurely stroll or serious stretch session, I like tanks with built-in shelf-bras. Then there’s my other new low-impact favorite: the Coobie bra, seen in the above photo with a striped design. I think this may actually be the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn to date!

Once you find the right sports bra, you can usually expect it to have a six-month lifespan with some good ol’ TLC in the washing and drying department. So, if it’s been six months since you bought your last pair of sneakers, then it might be a good time to make a trip to the workout wear department to find a new sports bra, too. Remember, having the right support for every part of your body is a crucial component on the journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

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