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The Last One Standing

Stay true to you…the rest will follow!

This Motivation Monday post follows the same theme as that old tale about the tortoise and the hare.

I was recently reminded how rewarding it can be to be like the tortoise. In one of recent kickboxing classes, I was the last one to finish the “pyramid” during a rather intense 12-minute warm-up. Rather than feeling defeated, I felt energized knowing I maintained the integrity of my workout. I didn’t cheat by skipping a rep while sweat poured down my face and my heart raced. As we all headed to the heavy bags, I felt extremely focused and ready to tackle the high-intensity  drills and combinations.

What is the pyramid? It’s a non-stop switch-off between squats and squat thrusts. You start out doing 10 squats, then one squat thrust. Next, you move down to nine squats, and bump up the squat thrusts to two. Then you bang out eight squats followed by 3 squat thrusts, and you keep the inverse actions going until you finish at one squat and 10 squat thrusts. Out of the eight warriors starting our day with a bang, I was the last one to finish the pyramid. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t care.

This is just another example that sometimes you just have to block out the noise of comparing yourself to others to focus on your own goal. Many of my classmates, mostly women, are at least 20 years my junior. I look to these fierce fitness chicks for motivation, and there’s definitely something to be said about friendly competition, but I stop myself short of wanting to be exactly like any of them. I’d rather push my body to its own limit, knowing I maintained proper form and did the best I could do. There’s no use pushing yourself so hard you end up hurt and out of the game for who knows how long.

The bottom line is whatever you choose for your exercise routine, staying true to yourself is the best way to stay on course with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Work That Core!

Photo by: Leslie Hassler

Photo by: Leslie Hassler

Believe it or not, this Motivation Monday brings us three weeks into 2017. Know what that means? We’ve also reached the halfway point for those New Year’s healthy resolutions to start feeling like second nature. So whatever you do, don’t give up now!

The extra good news is there’s still time to tweak your routine to make this your strongest year yet. I couldn’t let this building phase of January pass without an important reminder about one area of training all of us need to incorporate into our routines regardless of where we are in our fitness journey. Whether your passion is power walking; running; cycling; dancing; swimming; weight training or boot camping, there is one area of the body no one should ignore: the core. My repeat readers already know I’m probably one of core training’s biggest cheerleaders. Why? It’s simple: without a strong core, the rest of your body can suffer. Seriously.

The core is much more than just those “six-pack abs.” It’s actually the part of the body made up of the:

  • Lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex
  • Thoracic spine and
  • Cervical spine.

The core is where all movement begins and where we find our center of gravity. The muscles in the core are broken into two categories: the stabilization system and the movement system. If the stabilization system doesn’t work properly, then your body will make compensations to move, and those compensations can ultimately lead to injury. For example: you could have strong “abs” (rectus abdominus), external obliques and erector spinae, but weak stabilizing muscles in your lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. Without proper stabilization, extra stress is placed on your vertebrae when you move, and this can lead to low back pain and possible injury.

So, today I implore everyone to add my all-time favorite core exercise to your routine: the plank. The following photos taken by Lauren Bachner at New York City’s Hype Gym show the start and finish positions for a plank. (I also added a leg lift option for an advanced option.) Aim for two sets of 12-20 reps. Training tips: In either version, be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes before you raise your body off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe. Hold for two to three seconds before dropping to the ground to re-start. 

Another bonus when it comes to planks: they are a great exercise for Tabata training. Click here for a refresher on how Tabatas can take add some spice to your fitness routine.

So now I want to know what is YOUR favorite core move? As we continue to make our way through 2017, I look forward to learning what my readers of all ages and skill levels are doing to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Okay, 40. Bring It On!

Forty & Fiercer Than Ever! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Forty & Fiercer Than Ever!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Well it’s the start of a whole new decade here at LauraLovesFitness. I’m officially 40.

I won’t lie. About six months ago, when I started thinking about turning the “big 4-0,” it put my brain into a bit of a tailspin. However, when I stopped to think about how I’ve evolved through the decades, I came to a pretty darned good realization: I’m stronger than ever. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

Sure, I had to make some mistakes in my 20s and 30s to get here, but I have no regrets. Actually that’s not true. I do have regrets, but guess what? They have more to do with the choices I’ve made in my fitness routine than in my love life.

I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s been more than a year since my last injury at the gym. This makes sense considering I’m training harder but smarter than I did in the past. While I’ve always been active, I didn’t truly grasp the importance of taking care of my body while pushing its limits at the gym until I studied for my personal trainer certification. Thanks to an introduction to anatomy and human movement science, I finally understood what it means to train the whole body so that it works in synergy. This is why I started putting more emphasis on things like core and flexibility training to build a healthier body.

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In addition to my studies and continuing education, my appreciation for total body training also comes from the Physique57 workouts I added to my routine last April. The one-hour class includes a range of moves including more squats than I’ve probably done in my entire life. The workouts never get boring, and they’ve helped me build lean muscle and feel stronger than ever.

Of course, a healthy diet is key to maximizing the positive effects from your workouts. While I’m eating cleaner than I did in my younger years, anyone whose read this blog for awhile knows I’m also a big fan of enjoying life. For me, turning 40 was the perfect occasion to enjoy everything from a strong margarita (or two) to a decadent flourless chocolate cake. You only live once, right?

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Luckily, my body has healed from the injuries of my 20s and 30s. My heart has healed from its own share of hits, too. Working through emotional pain with exercise has helped my heart stay strong through the tough times. At the start of this new decade, I know my body and mind are working in better harmony than ever before. Which means it’s time for the fittest and fiercest decade ever!

I wrap things up with a few quotes about aging and a thank you for listening to my birthday musings. With my family, friends and fellow fitness enthusiasts behind me, I take my first strong steps into the new year and look forward to the next 40… and all the chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” –Mark Twain

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” –Henry Ford

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.”-Maurice Chevalier

 

Bring on a Strong Fall Season!

Stabilization Before Strength Photo by Leslie Hassler

What’s Your Definition of Strength? Photo by Leslie Hassle

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of the fall of 2013!  As you repeat readers know by now, this bona fide beach bunny is beyond ecstatic about leaving this particular summer behind and kicking off a whole new season filled with new opportunities and adventures.

If you’re still working on defining your health and fitness goals for the season, let me offer a little guidance that may help. The guidance comes in the form of a question. It’s an important one because there are so many answers, none of which is wrong and all of which are tailored for the individual who answers it. Here it is:  what’s your definition of strength?

Here’s the definition you’ll find in Webster’s dictionary:

  • the quality or state of being physically strong
  • the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force
  • the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

Those three bullets are a great starting point for what the heart of the word means. Deciding if one or all of them is the driving factor behind why we want to be strong is crucial to finding our motivation to incorporate fitness into daily routine. Maybe you want stronger muscles to lift weights or your growing children. Maybe you want a stronger will to follow your dreams and not be distracted by fear and doubt. Maybe you want to grow tougher armor to not be hurt by the people and things that try to break you.  Whatever your motivation, exercise is one of the best ways to gain the strength you desire to tackle each and every day of this sometimes crazy life.

When I look at my own life, adding Physique57 classes to my weekly training routine has helped me feel physically stronger than ever. The total body workouts have especially helped me conquer the lower back pain I’ve experienced on and off for years.  My lower body is finally getting the strength training I admit I avoided for far too long.  On the emotional front, that physical strength has actually helped my mind stay sharp and focused even when unexpected and sometimes unpleasant distractions are thrown at me. The discipline I follow with my workouts motivates me to stay on track with other areas that are part of an essential recipe for my overall health and well-being, namely fueling my body with healthy food every few hours and staying on a sleep schedule. Working to keep those ingredients steady in this ever-changing life help me stay strong and ready to overcome the obstacles that sometimes seem too much to bear when they first attack.

Remember, whether it’s a desire to put your strength to the test in a fitness competition or have more energy to play with your kids on the weekends, we can all rely on our strength to help us handle the toughest of challenges. Figuring out why you want that strength in your life will help you put some plans into action so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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