Wow. I blinked and somehow we made it to the first Workout Wednesday of fall. It’s nearly impossible to believe at this time last year, I was in the midst of peak week leading up to my first NPC competition. I still can’t believe how unbelievably different the world is this year.
While the mercury will register just shy of 80 degrees here in New York today, the past few days certainly felt like autumn and I found myself searching for heavier sweaters and socks to ward off some chilly air. Yet the bright sunshine and crisp air that greeted me on my morning runs also fueled me with new hope that better days are ahead for all of us as we start a brand new season.
I thought I’d kick things off season three of 2020 by reminding everyone of the few health perks found in a top fall favorite: pumpkins! While I recommend practicing moderation when it comes to enjoying pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie or pumpkin lattes, there are plenty of nutritional perks packed inside fall’s signature squash when enjoyed in its natural form:
- Post-Workout Power! Bananas seem to get all the credit as a top source of natural energy, but pumpkins actually provide more potassium. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 milligrams of potassium compared to a banana’s 422 milligrams. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a workout and keeps those muscles firing.
- Good for Your Baby Blues…and Browns, Greens and Hazels, too!: One cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Also, pumpkin is chock full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color. One of those compounds is beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
- Keep Your Appetite in Check! Poor little pumpkin is often overlooked as a great source of fiber. A one-cup serving packs three grams or protein at only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.
If you have any recipes featuring the all-powerful pumpkin, please feel free to share! Also, don’t be shy about asking questions or offering ideas for mixing up your workout routine. Whatever is on your fall menu or exercise agenda, here’s to all of us embracing the season ahead filled with new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! (Just stay safe out there!)
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!
It seemed surreal to rip another page off the desk calendar this morning as we kicked off a new month. As I looked at the 30 empty squares on that page, I realized this is the first time in my life I can remember not having one social event or family get-together on the horizon. Of course, based on the latest directives from our health experts and government officials, that’s the way it will stay.
While one day bleeds into the next, I find it harder to keep track of the date and time. However, the one part of my day that sets my mind straight is my solitary power walk or jog in Central Park. I’m sharing some sunny images from today’s jaunt to hopefully offer a spot of brightness for anyone struggling with a dark moment or entirely difficult day. We’re all going to have those moments as this time of uncertainty continues, but maybe finding the one thing that brings your mind back to a “healthy” place can help you through. Some popular ideas at the moment include journaling; photography; exercise; a power nap; a video chat with family or friends and early happy hour. Maybe one of these or all of the above get you to the next day. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share!
I wrap up these brief thoughts on the first day of April with another huge thank you to the doctors, nurses and each and every health care professional, along with all the emergency responders and essential workers who continue to push on in this unprecedented battle. Let’s help them out by staying home. When we do head outside for those essentials at the grocery store or pharmacy and see one of these warriors in our midst, let us not underestimate the power of saying two little words: thank you. With some faith and compassion, we’ll get through this together and get back to our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
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!
For this Motivation Monday, I can think of no better place to look for FIT-spiration than the tens of thousands of men and women who laced up for the 45th running of the New York City marathon! Congratulations to all who crossed the finish line! My repeat readers know I’m forever in awe of anyone who run for any length of time. As much as I love my endorphins, I never became a runner – and I’m happy to cheer on anyone who enjoys that high on a regular basis and then pushes it the extreme in this amazing show of stamina and endurance.
Also over the weekend, another group of determined athletes put their strength and endurance to the test in the Tough Mudder competition out in Southern California. Before the action-packed weekend got underway at Vail Lake, I had the honor of speaking with retired U.S. Army Colonel Joe Adams to learn more about what it takes to be a part of the mother of all obstacle courses. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about it – and maybe you’ll even consider signing up for one yourself!
If you enjoyed as much Halloween candy as I did this weekend, maybe these fitness fanatics will inspire you to get back on track with your normal plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I can’t think of a better way to end this work week than with a Friday shout-out to all those getting ready to participate in one of the most prestigious running events in the world: The ING New York City Marathon.
As a lifelong fitness enthusiast, I have to come clean and admit I’ve never been a runner. A major growth spurt over the course of a few short months back in elementary school led to knee problems, which caused me to shy away from running in my tween and teen years. (I’m pretty certain, however, improper conditioning during my varsity tennis years put definite stress on my knees which I’m still trying to correct today.) Through the years, I became a fan of swimming, cycling and today, the elliptical machine remains my cardio machine of choice at the gym. So I’ve always had great admiration for anyone who’s turned their love of the “runner’s high” into the pursuit of crossing the finish line in a marathon.
Of course, making it across that finish line involves months of preparation filled with discipline and dedication. As in years past, I know many people participating in this years’ marathon. They range in age from the mid-2os to the upper 40s…and beyond. I’ve listened in awe while they described increasing their running mileage week after week, and working toward one, long 18-20 mile run as the “grand finale” of practice. (After that, they “taper off” to three to six-mile runs to stay conditioned for the big day.) All their hard work is about to pay off, and I couldn’t be happier for them. So, to all those participating in Sunday’s marathon, I wish you good luck!
A few tidbits of information about the ING NYC Marathon:
- The first NYC Marathon took place in 1970. 127 runners paid a $1 entrance fee to participate and 55 of them crossed the finish line.
- Since 1970, 700,000 participants have crossed the finish line in Central Park.
- The course is 26.2-miles, taking runners on a five-borough journey around New York.
- In 2000, an official wheelchair division was added to the marathon.
- In 2010, 45,103 runners crossed the finish line.
An old friend, Shannon Palermo, posted the following comment on my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page:
“So, what is the recommendation when it comes to cardio and stretching? I walk/run on a treadmill at home. Do I warm up then stretch or stretch first or stretch after? Also any suggested stretches? I recently pulled a muscle in my hip causing me to be sidelined with major hip and knee pain. I believe this is due to my lack of stretching and my need for new sneakers. ”
These questions raise several important issues, but first and foremost is the subject of pain. Whether you’re a fitness novice or trained athlete, if you really listen to your body, you can tell the difference between muscle soreness from an intense workout and pain that indicates something is wrong. If you experience “major” pain in any area, you could be suffering from an acute or cumulative injury. I’ve been the victim of many cumulative injuries because of one simple reason: I’ve ignored the warning signs and simply pushed through the pain.
If you experience pain that causes significant discomfort and doesn’t subside with ice and/or over-the-counter pain killers for more than a day or two, you should see your doctor. When you let an injury linger, other parts of your body will compensate for the injury, throwing off your body’s proper mechanics and causing postural distortions. In the end, an injury to your foot will lead to compensations that create stress on other parts of your body’s kinetic chain – and you can easily end up with pain in your knees, hips or back. For my friend Shannon, if you’re simply guessing that you pulled a muscle and haven’t seen a doctor, please make an appointment soon.
As for stretching: the jury may still be out on when to stretch, but there is no debate about the fact that everyone needs to include flexibility training in their workout routine. As I learned through my NASM training, countless studies show a link between decreased flexibility and injury. For example, decreased flexibility in the hamstrings and quadriceps significantly contributes to tendonitis in the knee.
NASM’s training model includes stretching as part of a warm up and again during the cool down period of your workout. The stretching-before-cardio-or-strength-training idea is stretch the muscles that may be tight so that you perform an exercise as optimally as possible and reduce the risk for improper movement and injury. For a runner like Shannon, it’s optimal to stretch certain muscles like the hamstrings and hip flexors before a hitting the treadmill or the road. Here are two links I found helpful about stretching:
We’ve only scratched the surface and I look forward to writing more about injury prevention and flexibility training , but I hope the information in this post is a good start to proving why stretching is a crucial part of our quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
My friend Paula, the List Producer, offered up the following question for a blog topic: what IS the deal with walking anyway? To address this, I offer my personal experience along with input from Brent Brookbush, fitness guru and President of B2C Fitness, LLC; and throw in a link to an article I found particularly helpful about the subject.
Since moving to New York City four years ago, I can honestly say I have taken every opportunity to walk wherever and whenever I can: from home to work; work to the gym; the gym to someone else’s home – you get the picture. I have always thought walking is better than no activity at all and it turns out, Brent agrees with me. However, he also stresses that while it can be a good starting point for beginners or those who fell off the fitness wagon and are slowly working back into a routine, it’s not going to do anything to improve actual performance. Why? Well, you’d have to walk ridiculously fast to get your heart rate up to just the first of three training zones – and how many of us can say that’s what we’re doing even as we try to pick up the pace on a walk to work?
To get some actual data to discuss the difference between running and walking, I searched the Internet and found this article by Rick Morris particularly helpful and hope you will, too. (It even includes a 1000 calorie fat-burning workout.)
So put this information together and what does it mean? While walking to work may not give you the same cardiovascular or calorie-burning benefits of a 30-minute bout on the elliptical machine or treadmill or a high-intensity 45-minute spin class, it’s still better than no movement at all. Since I’m a big proponent of taking care of your body and your mind, if that walk to work helps you clear your head and makes you want to kick things up a notch with a run in the park or a bike ride over the weekend, then more power to you!
Remember, in the end, we all have to walk, run, ride or skip along our own path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I just wrapped up one of the best business trips I’ve been on in quite a while. I had the privilege of producing a satellite media tour for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and helped them promote the 31st National Veterans Wheelchair Games going on this week in Pittsburgh. It is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world and is co-presented by PVA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
This year, there are more than 600 American veteran heroes with physical disabilities participating in 17 medal events including archery, power soccer, quad rugby, basketball and swimming. Each participant competes with athleticism and a true strength of spirit many of us will never achieve. I was proud to be a part of today’s media outreach efforts for the Games as I believe there will never be enough we can do for those who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.
While the trip to Pittsburgh proved good for my spirits, it wasn’t too bad for my physical well-being either. Airports aren’t known for their healthy food options, but luckily, the JetBlue terminal at JFK offers more than burgers and pizza. I was able to find salad and even fresh strawberries for lunch. Last night, our Pittsburgh studio liaison treated me to a fabulous dinner, where I was enjoyed sea bass with fresh spinach. (I did have one glass of Pinot Noir.) I even managed to squeeze in 30 minutes on the elliptical, three sets of push ups (20 reps) and some core work on a yoga ball at the hotel’s fitness center.
So, for my fellow business travelers, here’s what I do to try to stay healthy on the road:
- Pack healthy snacks. Even on overnight trips, I keep raw almonds and a couple of Fiber One bars in my bag. If I can’t eat for a while because I’m wrapped up in the project, or if the food options aren’t optimal, at least I have a satisfying snack to hold me over for a bit.
- Pack workout gear. If I find 30 minutes to spare, there’s no excuse not to go for a run, walk or quick workout in the hotel’s fitness center. (Breaking a good sweat feels especially good after sitting on a plane or train.)
- Monitor portions. If meals are brought in for meetings or you’re going out for dinner, watch your portion sizes and perhaps choose to have a drink, but skip dessert or skip an appetizer and a drink but indulge in something sweet after your meal.
The key is to find what works for you. If you’re lucky enough to get a “natural high” from being involved in a project as rewarding as what I was a part of today, you’ll get the extra bonus of knowing you can be working and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!