Fitness for a Cause
This Motivation Monday post will be a short and sweet reminder that fitness can be used for so many good reasons. In addition to keeping the ticker in tip-top shape and helping us maintain a healthy weight, it’s also a great resource to get people involved in good causes.
Last Monday my fellow St. Mary’s Gael, Danielle, nominated me to take part in the 22 push-up challenge. The goal is to bang out 22 push up for 22 days to honor those who serve in our military and raise awareness about suicide among our nation’s veterans.
I think the push up is of the most empowering full-body exercises anyone can do. Getting through them knowing you’re bringing attention to an important issue only adds to the endorphin rush at the end of the set. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen the past week’s worth of push-up videos. Below is a link to my favorite one of the week when I dropped and did my 22 at the Yankees game on Saturday afternoon.
If you want to make sure I’m keeping up my end of the bargain, I hope you’ll check out my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page and Instagram account (@FitnessLaura) to watch my daily videos. And if you’ve been looking to add a kick to your fitness routine this spring, why not consider going the distance for our veterans. You’ll find all the rules for the challenge at 22kill.com
So, who’s up for the challenge? Remember, breaking a sweat for a good cause is one of the best ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Movin’ It at Home
Last week, I got a tweet from my high school pal Kathy asking about ideas for home workouts. She reminded me that with the kids out of school for the summer, it’s not always easy to escape to the gym to break a sweat. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some quick tips to keep you active all summer, even on the days when getting out of the house isn’t an option.
The secret to making a home workout work for you is using as many muscles as possible while quickly moving from one exercise to the next. This will keep your heart rate up and help you burn calories. All the exercises I present in this “one-minute-wonder” circuit use your body-weight. The idea is to perform as many reps as possible of each exercise – with proper form! – in 60 seconds and then move directly on to the next one with no rest in between. The only “equipment” needed is a jump rope.
- Jump rope: if you don’t have a jump rope or not enough head room to use one indoors (and don’t have any outdoor space to work with), try jumping jacks or running in place
- Forward lunges: alternating legs
- Push-ups (modified version is to be on your knees instead of your toes)
- Bridges (Click here for a refresher on some core moves)
- Mountain climbers
- Side planks
- Tricep dips: We do these in my Physique57 classes all the time seated on the floor – you just need to lift your booty off the floor and brace yourself and use your triceps to dip up and down without touching back down. If you have stairs at home, steps are always a sturdy base for dips.
- Jumping jacks (or jump rope again)
Once you’ve made it through the 10-minute circuit, take up to a two-minute break and then start again. Or if you happen to have any cardio equipment at home, bang out the 10-minute circuit and then hit the treadmill, bike or elliptical for up to another 20-30 minutes. Aim for banging out this total-body routine three days a week on non-consecutive days. As you get stronger, work toward repeating the circuit two to three times. As you progress, you can also add more intensity to some of the exercises. For example, you can turn squats into squat-to-jumps where you literally jump off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head when you come up from the squat position. Push-ups can also be replaced with burpees. Of course, if you have any favorite summer stay-cation home moves, I’d love to hear about them!
Whether you’re working out at home, in the park or at the gym, be sure not to skimp on the stretching and allow your body time to warm up and cool down. Add plenty of water and sweet summer fruits and veggies to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect plan in place for a whole summer filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
“Spring” Some New Life Into Your Fitness Routine
Leave it to Albert Einstein to come up with yet another catchy idea: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I have no idea whether he was a fitness buff, but the scientific genius could have been talking about exercise. Whether you’re a fitness newbie or fanatic like me, sometimes we all need a little motivation and a good kick in the you-know-what to take things up a notch. There are three reasons why spring is the perfect time to change your routine:
- Avoid a Plateau: If you run at the same speed on the treadmill everyday for 20 minutes, your body will eventually hit a plateau. You’ll still burn calories, but you’ll need to increase your resistance levels or speed if you want to help boost your metabolism and maximize results. This is the same reason personal trainers push clients to increase reps with each workout. As your strength and endurance grows, so should your workout.
- Avoid Over-Training: Doing the same workout day after day doesn’t allow muscle groups time to rest and recover and ultimately grow. This not only diminishes returns on your hard work, but it also puts you at increased risk for injury. This is why I try to hit cardio and core hard on Mondays and Wednesdays and focus on strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I continue to mix things up over the weekend, and I’m always sure to take a minimum of one if not two days off each week.
- Avoid Burnout: If you get bored with your fitness routine, you’re likely to stop putting 100% into your work. If you stop seeing results, you may give up on your fitness goals altogether. Trying new group exercise classes and weight training circuits can keep things fresh.
The good news is there are simple ways to add a little variety, and perhaps some extra sweat, to your typical routine:
1) Start jumping rope: Not only does this fun activity make me feel like a kid again, but you can burn up to 20 calories per minute jumping rope. Also, you can do it just about anywhere. All you need is a jump rope! Even walkers can incorporate jumping rope into their routine and take things to the next leve. Try this combo: walk at your top speed for 5 minutes, then jump rope for 1 minute, keep switching between walking and jumping rope and work your way up to a total of 30 minutes. Ideally, try to work up to three walking/jumping sessions three times a week for two weeks.
2) Tweak the traditional push-up: Place your feet on a six- to eight-inch high step as you get in plank position and perform a push-up as you normally would. Be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze the glutes through all your reps. Adding the step creates more work for your shoulders along with the chest.
3) Get a new playlist: I can always count on heart-pounding beats to keep me moving! If you need some new tunes, I recently started following DJ Al Roccone on Twitter. He’s got great fitness mixes you can download for free. Check out his latest here:
4) Blow Your Mind: If you want to see what true strength and determination look like, check out this amazing video I found on the Fitness Girls Facebook page.
I may not be able to bang out half of exercises in that video, but I like seeing such challenging variations to body-weight exercises. It just goes to show sometimes all you need is your body and some floor space to get to work! Let me know how you take things up a notch this spring as part of the never-ending quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
“Over the River and Through the Woods…”
‘Tis the season for shopping and eating, and for many, it’s also also a time for traveling. If this weekend’s plans take you “over the river and through the woods” to somebody’s house for a few days of holiday cheer, you don’t have to leave your commitment to exercise at home. Packing a few fitness essentials and making a few modifications can keep you on track.
- Sneakers. Having them along for the trip means there’s no excuse not to go for your usual daily run (weather permitting) or take a long walk with that relative or friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with since the last family get-together. It also means you’ll have an easy way to burn some calories pre- or post-feast time.
- Workout clothes. There’s always room for an exercise bra, a pair of shorts or yoga pants, a moisture-wicking top and two or three pairs of athletic socks. These items take up practically zero space in any bag and you don’t have to worry about them getting wrinkled!
- Fitness apps. If you’re traveling by train or car (and you’re not driving, of course), use the trip to download apps that give you exercise plans no matter where you decide workout. One of the most popular ones out there is FitnessPro. Being delayed at the airport is another perfect time for app downloads.
- Now get moving! You brought your “stuff,” so there’s no excuse not to hit the floor of the guest bedroom or the den when it’s not filled with the TV crowd. Here are just some of the exercises you can do anywhere: bridges, planks, crunches, jumping jacks, squats, lunges and push ups. (If you’re driving and have the room, throw your yoga mat in the car so you can do the core exercises on the floor with greater comfort.)
- Family Fitness Plan: If your family is willing to give you control of the remote for a bit, maybe you could all meet in the living room to give your Zumba DVD a try. If they happen to have a Wii, XBox 360 or PlayStation system, why not try a Dance Dance Revolution competition to get everyone moving and have a few laughs in he process!
The bottom line is even though you may miss your favorite group exercise class or one day of weight training at the gym, there are ways to stay active when you’re away from home. The bonus is you get to make memories while spending time with family and friends.
This marks my last post of 2012. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with my family and friends on Long Island. I’m even more excited about starting the New Year with new energy and new strength to take on whatever this roller coaster ride called life throws at me.
I close the year with a big thank all my readers for supporting me through a year of ups and downs. I hope you’ll be back in 2013 so we can start the next part of our journey together on the endless road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Simply Lovin’ These Outdoor Workouts!
On this Workout Wednesday, I gladly share what I’d call my favorite workout in recent memory.
The fact that Mother Nature provided a picture-perfect morning for this kick butt CrossFit UWS group class in Central Park didn’t hurt. Here’s what Roberto Murichi cooked up for us to tackle:
- Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges and bear crawls.
- Warm up: Burpees Tabata followed by 50 meter walking lunge. Just a reminder on what constitutes a Tabata, the high-intensity training protocol features eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Check out the clip below to see what a few of those 20 seconds of work looked like. Needless to say after we finished the burpees, adding those walking lunges provided one heck of a warm up!
- Workout: I really liked this AMRAP -“as many reps/rounds as possible” – combo. Our mission was to push out as many rounds as possible in a five-minute interval of the following exercises for a total of three rounds. We had one minute of glorious rest in between each round.
- 10 pistols: Another term for single-leg squats. We used the park benches as a start/end point for the exercise. As a regression, we could switch to “regular” squats as needed.
- 10 box jumps: We used the park benches for these, too. The regression was to do a step-up and step-down.
- 10 push ups
- 100 meter sprint
- 10 walk out push-ups
- 100 single-unders (jump rope)
- 25 situps
Just to further clarify the AMRAP concept: in round one, we’d bang out the 10 pistols, 10 box jumps and 10 push ups, then start over with the pistols again and keep repeating as many rounds of the three-exercise combo until we heard the blessed buzzer on Roberto’s iPad. After the five minutes were up, we had one minute to drink some water, stretch and catch our breath before moving on to rounds two and three featuring the different exercise combinations.
The endorphins generated by this killer workout kept me energized from the moment I banged out my last sit up right right through the last out at Yankee Stadium where I happily watched my beloved Bronx Bombers beat the Devil Rays. I’m already pumped to see what Roberto has in store for us next time around!
If you’re beyond the beginner level and looking to kick things up a notch, this kind of workout won’t let you down! Click here for more information about CrossFit UWS.
Remember, regardless of your fitness level, mixing up your exercise routine with different workouts and different venues is a great way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Another Killer Outdoor Workout Wednesday
Happy Workout Wednesday!
For this week’s installment, I gladly share another kick-butt workout courtesy of CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi.
I survived..I mean enjoyed…this workout with seven other Saturday morning warriors in Central Park. Here’s what we did:
- Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges, side hops and knee-up hops.
- Warm up: 200 m run followed by the maximum number of push ups we could do before having to drop to our knees. The alternative was to hold a plank as long as possible before dropping. Three rounds total.
- Workout: Roberto put together another heart-pounding combination of exercises. This time, each of us was timed upon completion of the following three rounds:
- 100 m run
- 21 burpees
- 21 squats
- 21 push ups
- 21 box jumps (using park benches)
- 21 sit ups
For rounds two and three, we again started with the 100 meter run and moved on to the exercises in the same order. The only thing that changed was the number of reps. For round two, we dropped to 18 reps for each exercise and for our final round, we were down to 15.
Honestly, after 21 burpees, I had no idea how I’d make it through the rest of the exercises in the first round, let alone get through all three.Yet, thanks to the positive coaching from Roberto, shout-outs and high fives from the rest of the group, I somehow made it to the last sit up and heard myself shouting “Time!” I finished in 17:05.
Workout completed, I found myself covered in sweat, grass and dirt, feeling completely spent and exhilarated at the same time. Then, the heavens opened and we all welcomed the soaking rain as we sprinted out of the park to get to our next Saturday morning destinations.
It’s been great adding this outdoor workout to my weekly fitness routine. Being in the park offers a break from the ordinary, and having Roberto cheering us through the reps and rounds while keeping an eye on our form offers some great motivation. If anyone lives in the city and wants to give the workout a try, click here for more information about CrossFit UWS.
If you’re beyond the beginner level and looking to kick things up a notch, this kind of workout won’t let you down! Regardless of your fitness level, mixing up your exercise routine by venturing into the great outdoors is a wonderful way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Workout Wednesday: Outdoor Edition
Saturday in the park…
No, this isn’t a tribute to that old Chicago classic. Instead, it’s a post sharing one of the more intense workouts I’ve had in recent memory courtesy of CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi. I cannot in good conscience recommend this workout for anyone just starting a fitness routine. However, for all you seasoned fitness enthusiasts looking to kick things up a notch, I guarantee this will do the trick!
I was one of the nine brave souls who met in Central Park at 9 am for Roberto’s workout of the day. Here’s how it broke down:
- Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges and bear crawls and monkey jumps. The bear crawls got some second looks from tourists out and about in the park as we literally crawled from one end of our grassy spot to the other with our glutes high in the air
- Warm up: 30 seconds of squats; 30 seconds of push ups; 30 seconds of rest. Six rounds total. (Yes, this was just the warm up.) Here’s what some of that looked like. I’m the one in the gray top. (Ironically, Roberto chose “Misery” by Maroon 5 to play from his iPad for this part of the program):
- Workout: Nothing short of killer! Our mission was to complete the following in six minutes or less:
- 400 m run
- 40 squats
- 30 sit ups
- 20 push ups
- 10 burpees
Afterward, we got a three-minute rest period. We then did the workout two more times for a total of three rounds.
I’m happy to report I got it all done in about 5:20 in the first round, but I won’t lie, I didn’t get through all of it for the remaining two. For the second round, I made it to through everything but the burpees. On the last round, I only made it through the sit ups.
Along with Roberto’s positive coaching, we nine Saturday morning warriors kept each other motivated with high-fives, and a mixture of grunts and laughter when we heard the 10-second warning beeps or “dings” signaling new rounds for new exercises. At the end of the hour, I felt totally spent and exhilarated at the same time. A few of us went out for a healthy breakfast afterward. (I enjoyed an amazing egg white, avocado and Swiss cheese wrap along with a lot of water and a huge iced coffee.)
If anyone lives in the city and wants to give the workout a try, they happen every Saturday at 9am and also on Thursdays at 6:30 pm. Click here for more info. I hope maybe I’ll see a few of you other in the park sometime! Trust me, mixing up some exercise in the great outdoors is an awesome way to kick off a Saturday -or any day of the week! – and the perfect way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Make it Count Monday
As we kick off another work week, I wanted to offer a shot of motivation for whatever workout you have planned for today and the days to come. It’s a simple concept: whatever you do, make it count!
I offer this bit of advice because it pains me to see people at the gym banging out push ups or lifting weights with poor form – back arched, head jutted forward, knees locked. While they may feel like they’re giving their bodies a great workout, I only see a picture of what the potential for injury looks like.
I’m a firm believer that it’s better to do 10 reps in good form than bang out 20 in a sloppy fashion. No one should start a fitness routine and say “I’m going to run 5 miles on the treadmill, then tackle 100 push ups and 100 crunches” on day one. You may actually get through all of it – but believe me – you’ll pay later. You’ll most likely be so sore from the extreme activity that you won’t be able to resume your new workout routine for a week – and that means you haven’t made any gains in feeling healthier or stronger.
The bottom line is you need to be safe and realistic. I say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you shouldn’t expect to see results overnight. Building fitness into your schedule means making it a part of your daily routine, and that’s what leads to a lifetime of health benefits.
Two other things to keep in mind:
- Make it manageable: If the idea of spending an entire hour exercising overwhelms you, scale it back. That doesn’t necessarily mean jumping into a 45-minute “boot-camp” style class probably either. Instead, start with 15 or 20 minutes on a treadmill, elliptical trainer or stationary bike. Make sure to stretch and if you want to add specific exercises, work on your core. Planks and bridges are a great place to start. Trust me, once you start feeling the positive effects from the activity, you’ll want to add more minutes to your workout. Start with 10 reps and remember: make them count! In most cases, that means keep that navel drawn in and those glutes squeezed!
- Don’t compare yourself to others: Until I win the lottery and can hire my own personal trainer to kick my butt five days a week and pay a chef to take the guesswork out of making healthy meals that actually taste good, I remind myself everyday that in my reality, I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself. So, while I may never have legs like Jennifer Anniston, I do have a strong heart, strong spirit and strong desire to fit my workouts into even the most hectic weeks so I can get that rush where I feel like I’m on top of the world – even for just a little while.
So, leave the “sins” of the weekend behind (e.g. one-too-many margaritas or that second slice of chocolate cake) and use this Monday as a fresh start to your fitness routine. Try a new class, make a workout date with a friend and simply seek out new opportunities to have fun, feel fit and be fabulous!
Give Tabatas a Try!
As I sweat through these hot and hazy days of a New York City summer, I enjoy working out in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym. However, I realize there are many who take advantage of the season to get outside and get moving. Wherever you like to workout, Tabata training is the perfect way to get your heart pumping and muscles moving.
This high-intensity training protocol was founded by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. His studies showed his formula produced similar health benefits to traditional cardio workouts, but here’s the kicker: a Tabata can be completed in just four minutes.
The formula is simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Even better: you can create a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout. Another thing I love about this type of training is almost any exercise fits into a 4-minute Tabata. Here are some examples:
For fitness newbies or those getting back to working out: Start slowly! My very first Tabata was split into two exercises: front squats and push-ups. So, the first four 20-second rounds of work featured squats and then I shifted to push-ups for the last four rounds. Other ideas:
- Jump rope (can be done in or outside of the gym)
- Chin-ups (can always be done at a playground or find a tree branch – a strong one, of course!)
- Front squat to overhead press
For the seasoned fitness enthusiasts:
- Jumping lunges
- Side lunge to overhead press
- Treadmill sprints (make sure to safely straddle the treadmill during the rest periods)
- Overhead medicine ball slam
Feeling at the top of your game:
- Stationary bike sprints
- Squat thrusts
- Mountain Climbers
A few important notes before you jump into one or more Tabatas:
- You must warm up! Try five minutes at a slow/medium pace on an elliptical machine, stationary bike or take a light jog.
- If you do more than one Tabata – you must rest for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
- While the idea is to push out as many reps as possible in the 20-second work period, you shouldn’t sacrifice good form. Better to do “perfect” push-ups on your knees with your stomach drawn-in and glutes squeezed nice and tight than risk injuring your lower back with sloppy reps.
- Don’t forget to cool down and stretch when you’re done!
- There are lots of apps out there to help you keep track of the work / rest intervals. I use UltraTimerHD on my iPhone. For non-iPhone users, one of my fitness friends really likes the Time for Tabata app.
One of my favorite, no-heavy-thinking, under-60-minute workouts at the moment:
- Warm up (includes SMR on my calves, TFL and lats)
- 30-minute elliptical
- 20-minute Tabata Derby (example: Front squats, side planks, push-ups and single-leg bicep curls – alternating legs)
- Cool down (includes more SMR)
If you have a favorite Tabata training combo, I’d definitely love to hear about it!
I’ll be forever grateful to fitness guru Roberto Murichi for introducing me to the Tabata. Trust me, if you’re looking to add some spice to your normal routine, Tabata training a great way to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Small Group Training
On this Workout Wednesday, I thought I’d tell you about a new adventure I just started to add a little variety to my own routine.
Every Monday and Wednesday night for the next eight weeks, you can find me at New York Sports Club getting my butt kicked in a small group training class called called UXF, short for “Ultimate Fitness Experience.” Six of us signed up for the one-hour class led by my friend and personal trainer extraordinaire Roberto Murichi. One class down and I can’t wait to go back for more! Along with getting a killer workout, I’m also using this class to expand my knowledge as a personal trainer by learning from someone who’s been in the industry for the past decade.
After a warm up that included eight rounds of bicycle crunches, squats and push ups – performing as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest – Roberto set up five stations for us to rotate through as a circuit. The exercises ranged from using ropes to lifting with kettlebells. We worked at each station for 60-seconds straight, then moved on to the next. (There was one rest station. Each of us breathed a serious sigh of relief when it was our turn to move to that spot!)
After several rounds, it was easy to see how this class offers a killer combination of strength training and cardio. As we move forward, the exercises will change, and the number of rounds will increase. Roberto will “score” each of us at an upcoming class and he’ll do the same thing when we wrap at the end of April. I can’t wait to see how my numbers compare!
Along with the intense exercises and Roberto’s expertise as a motivational fitness instructor, there’s something else I love about this class: the small group dynamic.There’s some sort of instant bond that seems to develop when you get a half-dozen people together who are at different stages of training. One of my small group classmates has been working with Roberto in one-on-one sessions for the past two months. His wife also signed up for the class, but in her case, it marks the first time she’s stepped foot inside the gym during the same time frame.
While each of us may be starting at a different fitness level, we all share similar goals of improving our strength, endurance and agility. The bottom line is we’re all looking to do what we can to be physically fit.
I look forward to spending the next eight weeks sweating it out with my new classmates and encouraging each other to get through those seemingly never-ending circuits. Whether you sign up for a small group training class; take the same Zumba classes every week; join a running club or workout with a personal trainer, it’s nice to have fitness friends to help you on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!