This is anything but your typical motivation Monday post. The truth is I can’t focus on offering healthy food tips or a shot of encouragement to get to the gym when I am coming to grips with a an inexplicable loss.
My friend Liz lost her brave battle with breast cancer yesterday. You may remember her from my posts about the Avon39 Walk. I was blessed to meet Liz during my days at St. Mary’s High School. Thanks to Facebook, we reconnected long after our 1991 graduation and I felt like we picked up right where we left off. Then a few years ago, the unthinkable happened. Liz was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. It’s a bit of a blur right now, but all of a sudden, other St. Mary’s Gaels banded together to support Liz. Everyone wanted to do something to help. And honestly, I think most of us never believed this day would come. Despite the dire diagnosis, if anyone was going to beat the odds and kick cancer’s ass, it was Liz.
Her fight was relentless. She researched the different types of chemotherapy; sought out alternative treatments and was always so careful about what she ate and what she exposed her body to. I remember all the chats and email exchanges we had about the power of yoga, stretching and exercise and how it helped her feel stronger. She eventually traveled to Europe to undergo treatments not available here. She fought, she prayed and she showed all of us how to face adversity with determination and grace.
I had already been touched by breast cancer when my mom was diagnosed in 2008. She beat it. My mom’s battle made me want to do something to join the fight against breast cancer. Then Liz got sick. Then my friend Sue decided to join in Avon39, and I decided to join her. Sue and I have now finished three Walks together, and had other gal pals join in the 39.3 mile journey in 2015 and 2016. Liz was with us in spirit for every step of every mile, and she will continue to be there as we make plans for 2017 and beyond.
I was lucky to be with my parents when I got the news about Liz. Amidst my tears and sadness, my mom pointed out something extraordinary. Last night’s moon was the biggest since 1948. We won’t see another one like it again until 2034. I have no doubt that brightness was Liz’s light shining down on all of us wanting us to live, laugh and love. It is because of Liz that I was reunited with women I missed for years. Because of her, I was blessed to rekindle friendships I know will stand the test of time.
My faith gives me comfort that I will see Liz again. For now, I wish her peace and will remain forever grateful for the gift of her friendship. Thank you to all my readers for allowing me this detour from my normal weekly writing path. My only words of encouragement for the week ahead are these: tell those who are most important to you that you love them, and live each day to the fullest.
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!
Avon39 NYC 2015
Is it possible to feel absolutely exhausted yet completely exhilarated at the same time? Absolutely! All you need is a weekend and a goal to walk 39.3 miles in the fight against breast cancer.
As I sit here on this Sunday evening slathered in sports cream, I feel beyond blessed to have completed my second Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City. I’m thankful I could join my fellow St. Mary’s High School Gael, Sue, for our second journey together and equally elated we could add Christine, Stephanie and Lisa to this year’s pink warrior adventure. While each of us walked for relatives and friends touched by the disease that remains the number one cancer killer of women in the United States, we also teamed up on behalf of an organization aimed at improving the quality of life for those living with breast cancer and their families.
You Can Thrive! offers free and low-cost support services and long-term prevention and survivorship tools for breast cancer survivors. This includes everything from acupuncture to massage to nutritional education and to peer support. Sue and I learned about the foundation thanks to the group’s volunteers who have helped our fellow Gael pal, Elizabeth, who is still waging her own war against breast cancer. Being greeted by You Can Thrive! volunteers and many survivors with hugs, pom-poms and loud hoorahs at their cheering station one mile from the finish line was in a word, overwhelming.
When our fierce team of five finally crossed the finish, we did so hand-in-hand and tears immediately filled my eyes. I was bombarded by a flood of visions from the two-day trek: the woman wearing a pink cape covered with too many ribbons showcasing the names of those she’s lost to breast cancer since she her first Avon walk 11 years ago; the volunteer firefighter wearing full gear for the entire Walk; the woman who completed the journey with help from an amazing support group who not only pushed her wheelchair around the city streets, but even carried it up the stairs to the Manhattan Bridge; and the survivors – young and old – proudly wearing sashes and smiles. I thought of my own mom, now a seven-year survivor. I thought of Elizabeth, and how much I want her to join us in this journey next year. Finally, I thought about how wonderful it will be when we don’t have to have to walk ever again.
I end with a huge thank you to everyone who generously supported my journey. Thanks to you, I raised more money than last year, reaching $3860. I also want to thank all of you who sent supportive emails and texts or liked and shared my social media posts documenting everything from my preparation for the journey to the weekend milestones. I couldn’t have done this without an amazing team effort! If you’ve been thinking about being a part of Avon39 or other activities to wage war against a disease that’s hit close to home, get out there and do it! Putting your best foot forward – literally – is probably one of the most empowering ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
The Challenge of Change
This Motivation Monday arrives just one day shy of two weeks since my return to the full-time work force. It’s been a wild ride so far, and of course, that’s in no small part due to adjusting to new procedures and a new schedule. New routines can be overwhelming and exhausting at certain moments, while exhilarating and exciting at others. So while I’ve struggled to find Physique57 classes that mesh with longer work days, get a pre-workout snack in at the right time and find healthy meals that work for a later dinnertime, I know it will all come together eventually. Sometimes we just need to step back, take a deep breath and remember to be patient and let the newness settle in.
In the midst of my finding my new groove, another St. Mary’s Gael inspired me to re-think my dinner options. Edith sent me a message on my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page asking for some healthy meal ideas when dinnertime has to be later than usual. First of all, as you repeat-readers know, I’m all about prepping healthy food. Some items you can stockpile for the work week include:
- Chop up veggies like celery sticks, carrots and red peppers and divide them into single-serving sized containers or baggies
- Cook up a half-dozen or more hard boil eggs
- Grill a half-dozen chicken or turkey breasts
- Cook a cup or more of quinoa and then you can easily scoop out a 1/4 cup serving to add as a side or filler for lots of meals. (If you prefer brown rice or other whole grain, no problem!)
Now for some meal ideas incorporating the prepped foods and other quick-fix items:
- Easy salads: Mixed greens, kale or other leafy green salad with grilled chicken, lean steak or fish. No time to grill up the fish? Open a can of tuna, add some of the veggies you already chopped up and use some olive oil and vinegar for flavor and you’re all set. You can even add the quinoa for some extra filler!
- Have breakfast for dinner: Try an egg white omlette or scramble with some of those chopped veggies or even a bag of frozen ones.
- Healthy pastas: There are so many gluten-free and/or whole grain options out there. Go ahead and cook up a box and then you can create individual-sized servings as needed. Add beans, tomatoes and some peppers for a healthy chili.
- Soup: I find a lot of low-sodium soup options at Trader Joes. Sometimes a hot bowl of soup with a piece of whole grain toast does the trick for me in this cold weather!
I leave you with this final thought: Whether it’s a new job, revised after-school activity schedule for the kids or the unpleasant surprise of a loved one being diagnosed with an illness, something will eventually throw a wrench into your plans. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t get to the gym one day or if you eat a little less healthy later at night. Get some sleep, shake it off and try again tomorrow. Sometimes being a little patient with ourselves is all we need to get back on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Help Me Walk the Walk
On this Motivation Monday, I find myself 54 days away from an event I’ve wanted to participate in for years. I’ve committed to take part in the 2014 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer here in New York City. The two-day event takes place October 18th and 19th. Thousands of people will walk 39.3 miles to help fund life-saving research, education and advocacy programs.
I’ve wanted to participate in the Avon Walk ever since my Mom’s diagnosis back in 2008. She beat breast cancer, and I know thanks to other events like this, more people will, too. Within the past few months, I learned of two young women – one in my high school class, another in my fitness circle – who are now waging their own war against breast cancer. So I decided it was time to stop talking about joining the fight against the disease and start walking!
However, I can’t do any of this without some help. In order to join in the Avon Walk, I have to raise $1,800. Your generous donations will help make that possible. Please click on the the link below to visit my personal page at the Avon Breast Cancer Walk website. While I hope to raise more than the minimum, I’ll take all the support I can get!
While I’ve Zumba-d my bootie off for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and donated to other charities, I’ve never done anything on this scale before. It’s a wonderful way to use my love for physical activity for a good cause and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I look forward to walking with Sue, a fellow Gael from St. Mary’s High School Class of 1991, and thousands of others as we strive to top last year’s New York donations of $6.7 million.
I close with a big thank you for your support on this new adventure. For all of you who follow me on social media, I appreciate any likes, shares and double-taps you can offer on those channels, too! I look forward to sharing more about an experience that will hopefully help more people on their journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!