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Happy Easter Monday!

Whatever holiday you celebrated over the weekend, I hope it was happy!

I was all set to write about my first mammogram for today’s post. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling snafu by the imaging center, my Saturday appointment was postponed for a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. So, I decided to improvise with a short and sweet ode to chocolate.

The beginning of chocolate overload

I’ve been giving up sweets for Lent for as long as I can remember. While there’s obviously much more significance to Easter  Sunday than breaking my fast, I won’t deny that one of the things I look forward to on this holiday is overloading on the treats I’ve missed for a little more than 40 days. It starts with Cocoa Puffs for breakfast (good to know there’s whole grains in that cereal now!) and continues with Italian cheesecake, rainbow cookies and at least one Creme Egg for dessert following a big, pasta and other carb-filled lunch with my family.

So, along with the moderation-is-key “rule,” another part of my lifestyle mantra is this: Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bad to get back to the good. That means today I’ll push my body extra hard at small group training  (I’ll even welcome burpees if our instructor Roberto includes them in workout) and eat my normal healthy fruits and veggies and drink lots of water to get my body back on track. I can’t promise I won’t sneak in a leftover piece of milk chocolate or a peanut butter filled chocolate egg…but again, it’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

I’ll wrap up sharing a recent story on that made me feel a little better about my guilty pleasure. Click here to learn about a study about chocolate and body fat.

Sometimes giving in to temptation (at least when chocolate is involved) is what you need to do so you can get it out of your system, and re-focus on the course to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Tabata Training

This week marks the start of round two of the “Ultimate Fitness Experience” small group training class. For the next four weeks, Roberto Murichi will continue to push us to perform kick-butt exercises including burpees, kettlebell swings and push-ups. While I’ve been writing about my experiences in the class, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to describing a key component: the Tabata Method.

= 1 Tabata

4 Minutes of Rings 

The idea behind the Tabata is this: you perform four minutes of work at high intensity. That breaks down to doing as many reps as you can for 20 seconds straight and resting for 10 seconds. You repeat the cycle eight times.

Sounds simple, right? Well, after a couple of cycles of pushing out as many push-ups, squats or sledgehammer swings as you can, no doubt you’ll feel your heart racing and the sweat starting to pour.

Tabata training gives you lots of mix-and-match options. You can perform a single exercise for one 4-minute Tabata, followed by another exercise and another four-minute Tabata. Or you could try four cycles of squats followed by four cycles of push-ups. Last week, Roberto set up five stations of five different exercises and we had to get through one Tabata at each station. The scenario offered 20 minutes of hard work:

  • Rings
  • Sledgehammer swings
  • Squats
  • Sit-ups
  • Ropes

There’s lots of debate surrounding whether Tabatas and other types of high-interval training are okay for the fitness beginner. Based on my personal experience, I can tell you my strength and endurance gains took a serious hit last year thanks  to a foot injury that put me on the sidelines for several months. When I started working back up to my normal routine, I had a hard time getting through Tabatas. So, for all you fitness newbies, click here for an article I found featuring some suggestions about Tabatas for beginners.

Like any other activity, mixing things up in your workout is a great way to stay motivated to keep moving. Whether it’s Tabata Training, a new group exercise class or a new path for your next run, adding some variety to your exercise routine is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Strong Finish

We made it to the end of another work week, and I made it to the end of an intense four-week small group training class at New York Sports Clubs.

For the “grand finale,” our (awesome) instructor Roberto Murichi had us run through the same workout we did during our first week so we could measure our gains in cardio capability, strength and endurance. Here’s a look at the program. (Just like the 50-30-20 I wrote about earlier in the week, this isn’t a workout I’d recommend for a fitness newbie or anyone returning to an exercise routine after a hiatus.)

After an eight-minute warm-up which included 20-second bouts of six exercises including push-ups, squats, and sit-ups, we moved on to the heart of the workout. Roberto set up five stations for the following exercises:

  1. Burpee
  2. Kettlebell high pull
  3. Push-ups
  4. Jump rope
  5. Box Jump

The goal was to perform as many reps as possible in one minute before moving on to the next exercise. After completing the fifth exercise, we got to enjoy one minute of rest! Then we started the circuit all over again for round two. For the third and final round, we had to keep track of every single rep we completed from the first burpee to the last box jump. Those reps added up to our final score.

The first week of the class, my score came in at 180. Wednesday night, I made it to 242. Each of my classmates on “Team Alpha” saw their numbers improve, too. Needless to say, we were all happy with the results!

I’m happy I took Roberto’s class for many reasons, but mainly because it offered a needed jolt to my fitness routine and it also provided a new perspective on high-intensity circuit training. I look forward to one more class after work tonight to make up for some of the time I lost while sipping rum punch on the beach in Jamaica. There’s a very good chance I’ll be signing up for round two of this class which starts in April…so stay tuned for more intense workout ideas to help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Back to Reality

Happy Spring everyone!

When I last wrote, I was excited to be leaving for my Montego Bay escape to celebrate Elisa’s 40th birthday. Today, I’m happy to report the trip was everything I hoped it would be: five days of rest and relaxation fueled by tropical breezes, turquoise water and Jamaican rum. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle reality again. (I’m pretty sure the birthday girl feels the same way!)

Another great thing about this vacation was how it allowed me to mix up my exercise routine. While I hit the fitness center every morning for 60 minutes of cardio and strength training, the hotel offered some super fun alternative calorie-burning activities you simply can’t find here in New York City.

Sylvester ran a fun 45-minute aerobics class on the beach every morning while the entertainment staff offered daily Reggae lessons by the pool. There were also water polo games which got pretty intense for some of my vacationing teammates! At night, the cardio could continue in the hotel’s nightclub and on our last night, the dance party moved to the beach where we enjoyed more good music (and more rum punch) under the stars.

While I did my best to keep my body in motion, I made sure my brain did the least amount of work possible. The most stressful decisions Elisa and I had to make everyday dealt with whether we wanted to sit at the beach or by the pool and what we wanted to drink. I bought “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Stieg Larson at the JetBlue terminal before we boarded the plane. I think I made it through 90 pages. (I did, however, read two People magazines from cover to cover.) I often lost track of time simply looking at the water, listening to the breezes rustling through the palm trees and enjoying the Reggae music playing from the pool bar’s speakers.

Sure, I came home greeted by a flood of emails and texts. One by one, I read them and responded as needed. The back-to-reality errands like stocking the fridge and doing the laundry got done. Now, I face the week ahead with new energy for work and to get back into my “serious” exercise routine.

I’m especially looking forward to getting back into my UFX small group training class Monday night to work off the vacation pounds I know I put on thanks to all those fruity drinks along with plates of jerk chicken with rice and beans.

So while I realize a Caribbean getaway isn’t something we can indulge in every month, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a way to decompress and re-boot your body, mind and spirit from time to time to make the daily grind a little less taxing. It’s a surefire way to embrace the attitude that nothing is going to stop you from pursuing your quest to 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.

A “Basic” Butt-Kicking Exercise!

The Push-Up

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!

Photos by Lauren Bachner

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!

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