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Beach Plank Tabata Encore

Here’s hoping this Motivation Monday finds you rested and maybe looking a little sun-kissed after a happy fourth of July weekend!

I’m happy to report I enjoyed plenty of beach and BBQ time. However, that left very little time for writing. So, after a fun-filled weekend, I hope you don’t mind this re-boot of one of my summertime videos. It features my favorite core exercise done on my favorite setting on the planet. If you’re looking for ways to bring your workout moves out of the gym and into the great outdoors this season, look no further than the beach plank Tabata.

I hope your first day back to reality isn’t too manic and that the week ahead offers plenty of opportunities for you to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Allergy Season Survival Tips

coldI think it was about a month ago when I heard the first news stories telling allergy sufferers like me to brace for a killer season. The never-ending brutal winter kept the trees and other spring blooms dormant for a lot longer than usual, and then about two weeks ago – BAM! Everything exploded. Now, tree pollen seems to fall like rain, turning cars of every color a bright green shade while lawnmowers can be heard firing up in the ‘burbs to cut the newly awakened grass.

So I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to offer some tips on how to prevent allergy season from sidelining your long-awaited outdoor workout plans for spring.  Here are a few tricks that help me keep the itchy eyes, sneezing and that uncomfortable sensation of having cotton stuck in my throat to a minimum:

  • Mind the Time: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will help.
  • Wear sunglasses: You can create at least a minimal barrier for your eyes by wearing sunglasses (or even goggles) if you plan to exercise outdoors for a long period of time. Using eye drops before you head outside can help, too.
  • Don’t forget your meds: I got allergy shots for several years when I was a kid. They helped make my acute reactions less severe over time, but I still battle through hay fever season every year. Today there are so many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines that can offer relief. (Important note: I don’t like to take a lot of medicine, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather take something for a few months that will keep me from scratching my eyes out!) Talk to your doctor about what treatments might work best to alleviate your symptoms. To prevent the onset of those symptoms, it helps to take your medication an hour before your outdoor workout. If you get out of bed and head outdoors immediately, ask your doctor if you can take your medication before bed so it’s in your system when you head outside.
  • Clean up: Get out of those sweaty and pollen-infused clothes, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible following an outdoor workout. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. (You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.)

Probably the best advice I can offer is this: listen to your body. If you’re trying to get your heart rate up outdoors but all you’re feeling is misery, be smart. Stop. Head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you sign up for an indoor air-conditioned group exercise class or bang out a Tabata derby at home to keep you sneeze-free on your quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Time to Talk Turkey!

Thanksgiving feastThe countdown to the official start of the 2014 holiday season is really winding down now. As this Motivation Monday brings us just a few days shy of Thanksgiving and kicks off for what’s an abbreviated week for many, I figured it couldn’t hurt to offer my annual tip sheet for how to get through the calorie-loaded holiday.

For me, Thanksgiving is right up there with the Fourth of July. I love the fact it’s a 100% American holiday with no gifts required. The only requirements are giving thanks for the blessings in your life and enjoying some quality time with family and friends. Of course, that time tends to be filled (stuffed is more like it) with food, drink and football. Here are a few ways to keep things under control:

  • Get moving: Even if you’re cooking and can’t leave the house, you can wake up and pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata or two wherever you have space to do push-ups or burpees. If you can get out but have to cut your workout time in half, take a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. If your gym is open, get to a morning group exercise class or at least bang out some cardio and core work.
  • Don’t skip breakfast: Just like every other morning, be sure to eat something sensible to get your metabolism going. If your Thanksgiving feast isn’t scheduled until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. One of my favorite fillers is non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in. The protein-rich snack keeps me full for hours!
  • Use a smaller plate (like a salad dish) for your meal: If there’s salad or veggies, load up on those first, then take some turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. (There won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.)
  • Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait about 10 minutes before going back for round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
  • Watch the alcohol intake: This is a good day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of water of diet soda before moving on to the next libation.
  • Give away leftovers: Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

If you have any “secrets” that help you enjoy the holiday without waking up feeling guilty on Black Friday, I’d love to hear about them! The holiday season is definitely challenging when it comes to watching our waistlines, but the good news there are some tricks that can help you continue your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Gobble Gobble Prep Time

Thanksgiving feastIs anyone else blown away by the fact that this Motivation Monday marks the 10-day countdown to Thanksgiving 2014? In anticipation of the delicious, calorie-loaded holiday, I thought it would be a good time to offer a few easy reminders on how to burn a few extra calories at the gym and keep the diet in check. Paying closer attention to your healthy habits in the days leading up to a holiday or other special occasion is a great way to have less guilt when you do sit down to gobble up the goodies and celebrate!

Move Just a Little Bit More: Three easy ways to burn a few more calories on a daily basis:

  1. Add one Tabata to your workout. Click here for a refresher on the four-minute high intensity workout formula.
  2. Jump rope for 30-second intervals (60 for the more advanced fitness fiends) between exercises. If you’re lifting weights, add a jump rope intermission as you move from one machine to the next or every other move.
  3. Add more steps to your day by taking the stairs and parking your car further away from the entrance to your office or even at the shopping center.

Fast Food Fixes: As seen on a recent episode of the Working Woman Report, here’s a little show-and-tell about how a little prep can go a long way in making healthier food choices.

As we move into this fun, festive and food-filled time of year, it’s good to know some simple choices can help us enjoy the season and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Take Care of Those Tootsies!

photo-25On this Motivation Monday, I want to offer a reminder about two things you should never ignore in your fitness routine: your feet.

A few weeks ago, I started experiencing some knee pain halfway through my elliptical sessions. It wasn’t anything serious, but there was enough discomfort to warrant some ice-pack recovery time  after my high-intensity cardio sessions. Then I realized I hadn’t followed one of my own cardinal rules on footwear. I missed the six-month mark for replacing my sneakers and was about to cross the threshold into the ninth month.

That might not seem like a long extension, but if you workout almost every day like I do, those sneakers wear down a lot faster than you think. Knee pain can be a sure sign you’re losing the support you need in your footwear. Sure enough, after I got a new pair of Ryka cross trainers, the knee pain disappeared in just a few days.

Here’s a little foot trivia that can help illustrate why your feet deserve a little extra TLC: there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons in each foot. That means there are 370 places vulnerable to injury in your feet alone. Now consider that insufficient foot support can lead to compensations made by your knees and hips, and you’re putting your body at risk for a whole world of hurt.

So, what’s the best footwear? It depends on your foot type. If you have a high arch, you need sneakers with good shock absorption. If your feet are flat and/or “roll” inward or outward, you need a sneaker with stability. An “average” foot needs a shoe with both cushioning and stability.

Since my fitness routine includes everything from elliptical training and rowing for cardio to squat Tabatas and strength training classes, I have always been the most comfortable working out in cross trainers. My friends who run will only pound the pavement wearing running sneakers. Many basketball players like high tops for the extra ankle stability. If there’s one sport you play often, it’s a good idea to get a pair of sneakers specifically for that activity, and also have a more “universal” pair, like cross trainers, for days when you mix things up.

I look at it this way: I have far too many lip glosses in my makeup drawer  and most guys have more gadgets than they’ll probably ever need. So why wouldn’t you spend the money to have at least one good pair of sneakers to protect you from getting hurt while you’re working so hard to stay healthy?

In the end, wearing the proper footwear is one of the easiest ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Welcome Spring!

Another Springtime bonus? Baseball season is almost here!  Photo by Leslie Hassler

Another Springtime bonus? Baseball season is almost here!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

It’s the first Motivation Monday of the Spring of 2014! Obviously, Mother Nature has yet to catch up with the calendar. (We’re bracing for more snow here in New York tomorrow.) So for now I’ll enjoy the little rush I get from just wishing people a happy Spring! As we all try to catch the buzz of a new season, it’s also the perfect time to think about shaking up your fitness routine.

There are three reasons why change is good when it comes to how you exercise:

  1.  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.
  2. 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 mix up my cardio days and take different Physique57 signature and mat classes throughout the week. I also take at least one day off each week.
  3. 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 to your routine:

1) Start jumping rope: Along with making you feel like a kid again, jumping rope can burn up to 20 calories per minute! Also, since you only need one portable piece of equipment, you can do it just about anywhere. (Just watch your ceiling height!) Even walkers can incorporate jumping rope into their routine and take things to the next level. Try this: walk at your top speed for 5 minutes and 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. (Feel free to use stairs in your house or outside your building as the step!)

3) Take it outside: Sometimes a change of venue is all you need to put that extra spring in your step! Take Tabata training to the park, the backyard or the deck. Take advantage of the extra daylight and meet a friend or catch up with that special someone over a walk before or after dinner.

4) Get some new gear: I recently strayed from basic black to purchase a few new pairs of workout pants and tank tops. (I’m now a first-time owner of purple yoga pants!) Whether it’s a new pair of cross trainers or a moisture-wicking sports bra or pair of shorts, sometimes a pop of color can go a long way in lifting your mood and getting you pumped to workout. Who doesn’t like to show off new clothes or kicks?

5) Get a new playlist: I can always count on heart-pounding beats to keep me moving! If you need some new tunes, here are some of my latest favorites:

  • “Made Of (Chuckie Mix)”  by Nause
  • “September (Neil McLellan Remix)” by St. Lucia
  • “Fire In Your New Shoes” by Kaskade (feat. Dragonette)
  • “What’s Up Suckaz” by TJF
  • “#Selfie” by The Chain smokers

So, how are you planning to take things up a notch this spring? Let me know so we can all share some ideas on our neverending quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

” Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ “

-Robin Williams

“March”ing Ahead

iStock_000014614375SmallLike most people, I am beyond over this miserable winter.

This particular Motivation Monday post goes live after a weekend filled with another round of ever-changing weather reports for yet another winter storm filled with uncertain snowfall totals and other foul-weather calamities. Which means many of  you could be cooped up at home today, and quite possibly with kids who are missing yet another school day thanks to Old Man Winter. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and remember, exercise is one of the best ways to produce some endorphins which can keep the “winter blues” at bay. And let’s face it – with this winter still very much in full effect, we need all the help we can get!

The good news is you don’t need to leave the house to get those mood-elevating endorphins flowing through your system. In fact, if you’ve been meaning to give Tabata training a try or have been thinking about adding it back into your fitness routine, a forced day indoors is the perfect time to make it happen!

Click here for a refresher on Tabata training and how you can get one or two in around the house today.

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Push-Up: One of my Tabata training faves

Some of my favorite basic exercises that work perfectly for Tabata training and need no equipment:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Plank
  • Squats
  • Side planks
  • Bridges
  • Crunches
  • Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Push-Ups

Since Tabatas are done in four-minute intervals, I present this challenge: why not try to bang out two or three consecutive Tabatas (giving you roughly 10-15 minutes of activity) two or three times throughout the course of the day? By dinner time, you could easily bang out 30 minutes of exercise (or more!) while keeping a steady level of endorphins running through your body as a bonus!

If you have other survival tips for keeping the body and mind in good form during this winter that just won’t quit, I’d love to hear about them! Here’s to keeping those spirits up and holding out hope for a warm and sunny spring filled with chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

‘Tis the Season for Tabatas!

holiday-party-picAs if the fact that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided on the same day wasn’t enough to get people in a holiday frenzy, now we’re faced with a shorter shopping season than usual before Christmas. Faced with this added hustle and bustle to the 2013 holiday season, I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to touch on the importance of keeping your mental health in check throughout the last month of 2013. To me, there’s no better way to do just that than by breaking a good sweat!

Obviously, working out will help burn some of the extra holiday calories that come in all shapes and sizes ranging from homemade cookies to rich wines and sweet, seasonal cocktails. Weight maintenance aside, the endorphins that stay with you after a workout can also help you maintain a level of calm as you battle the crowds in overheated stores or spend extra amounts of time with the extended -and sometimes non-harmonious- family. (Bonus: if you’re visiting family for the holidays, there’s no better excuse than a run or walk to escape for awhile! Just don’t forget your sneakers!)

I bet some of you are saying, “Laura, between working, shopping, taking care of the kids, baking, cooking and going to all the holiday parties, there’s just no time to exercise.” Well, guess what? You OWE it to yourself to find 10 minutes somewhere in the day to get moving. Why? Simply because 10 minutes of anything are better than zero minutes of nothing! As some of you repeat readers already know, one of my favorite ways to make the most of abbreviated workout time is the Tabata.

Side Plank: One of my favorite Tabata moves Photo by Lauren Bachner

Side Plank: One of my favorite Tabata moves.                   Photo by Lauren Bachner

Need a Tabata review?  The four-minute high-intensity “formula” is pretty simple: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. So if you truly only have 10 minutes today, why not give this a try. Bonus: You never even have to leave the house!

  • 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  • Rest only long enough to set your timer, then bang out one squat Tabata. (Need a timer? I use UltraTimerHD)
  • Rest for 60 seconds
  • Bang out one more 4-minute Tabata  (Choose from mountain climbers, push-ups, planks, side planks or crunches.)
  • Recover/stretch for 60 seconds or longer.
  • Congrats! You spent 10 minutes doing SOMETHING for your body!

(On the rare occasion the chaos dies down enough to give you a little more time, why not try to build a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout.)

While I love Tabatas, I realize they may not be your thing. So taking a power walk around the block a few dozen times, running up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building or dare I say meeting a friend for a group exercise class or game of basketball may be the fitness fix you need to feel a little stronger physically and mentally. Remember, while this is known as “the most wonderful time of the year,” don’t ignore your body’s need to escape some of the chaos so you can continue to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Timely Tips to Help You Gobble Gobble with Less Guilt

Thanksgiving feastWhile Thanksgiving is the latest it can possibly be in the calendar year, I still feel like it snuck up on me! The fact that Hanukkah starts on the same day (for the first time in something like 18,000 years!), we’re REALLY kicking off the 2013 holiday season with a bang. So, if you’re packing up or planning for your festivities, there’s no time like this Motivation Monday to get your mind focused on how to get through the holiday(s) without completely throwing your healthy habits out the window.

If you’re gearing up for a week filled – or maybe stuffed! – with food and drink (and a little football), here are some tips to help you avoid overdoing it.

  • Don’t skimp on the workouts this week: Even if you can’t get out of the house on Thanksgiving Day, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata or two wherever you have space to do push-ups or burpees. If you only have a short amount of time to escape the house, take a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. If your gym is open, get to a morning group exercise class or at least bang out some cardio and core work.
  • Don’t skip breakfast before the Turkey Day feast: Be mindful of your meals early in the week. On Thursday, eat something sensible in the morning to fire up your metabolism and to avoid being ravenous when you arrive for the holiday feast. If you’re not scheduled to fight for the turkey leg until late afternoon or early evening, make sure to have a second small meal so you don’t go overboard later. One of my favorite sensible fillers is a non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in. The protein-rich snack keeps me satisfied for hours!
  • Use a smaller plate (like a salad dish) for your Thanksgiving feast: If there’s salad or veggies, load up on those first, then take some turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. (There won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.)
  • Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait about 10 minutes before loading up on round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
  • Watch the alcohol intake:  Turkey Day is a good time to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of water of diet soda before moving on to the next libation.
  • Give away leftovers: Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving what’s left of the turkey and trimmings to your guests.

If you have any “secrets” that help you enjoy the holiday without waking up feeling guilty on Black Friday, I’d love to hear about them! The season ahead is definitely challenging when it comes to watching our waistlines, but the good news there are some tricks that can help you continue your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Motivation Monday: Beach Edition

20130707-110919.jpg

I can’t believe how quickly the 4th of July weekend fun flew by. Hopefully, you all got to enjoy a little downtime and beat the heat with family and friends.

I am happy to report I got some great workouts in not only inside the gloriously air-conditioned gym, but I also broke an extra sweat at my favorite place on the planet: the beach. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer a simple idea for the next time you spend some time on the sand to take a typical beach walk to the next level.

Walk at a brisk pace and then 10 minutes in, try a sprint Tabata. Any of you repeat readers will know the Tabata is my favorite four-minute express workout with a very simple formula:

*20 seconds of work
*10 seconds of rest
Total= 8 rounds

So, run at a high speed for 20 seconds, then slow down to a walk for 10 and pick it up again. I use my UltraTimer Tabata interval app to keep me in track.

When you’re done with that Tabata, you can go back to walking and then after a minute, why not try a squat, tricep dip or plank Tabata, too? Just remember, if you do more than one Tabata, be sure to rest for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

The bonus of my beach workout is that spending time listening to the crashing waves and feeling the sea breeze fill my lungs gives me time to clear my head and focus on my mental fitness, too. With the summer season in full swing, I hope you find lots of ways to mix up your routine and find new ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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