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Back in Action…Well, Sort Of

My August “Fashion” Accessory

Happy September!

I realize I’m probably “showing my age,” but I’m absolutely blown away at how each summer seems to fly by faster than the last. It’s even harder to believe my annual month-long hiatus from blogging has come to an end, too. I hope your August was filled with at least a few lazy days, plenty of laughter and some precious moments with friends and family. Let the memory of those happy days give you a boost when the back-to-reality blues come knocking at your door.

Since everyone seems to be in back-to-school mode, I thought it was the perfect time to offer what I learned in a different kind of summer school: physical therapy. Fortunately, I am close to wrapping up my PT sessions, but I’m still uncertain of the date I’ll be able to return to my ultimate happy place: the kickboxing studio. So the lesson I hope you take away from this first post of September boils down to this: do what I say, NOT what I do. Seriously.

Since 2011, I’ve written multiple posts about the importance of listening to your body and taking a step back if it tells you something’s wrong. And what exactly did LauraLovesFitness do in this situation? I didn’t listen. I ignored the pain that started as a small twinge in the medial region of my right knee after a kickboxing class back in February. Sure, I’d take a day off, maybe two, here and there, but I never rested long enough to give my body a real break. After several months, that twinge had turned into a steady, searing pain that began impacting life away from the heavy bag. It started bothering me during long walks, at Physique57 classes and even after periods of sitting. When the pain started waking me up at night, I knew it was time to do something. Fortunately, a MRI ruled out a tear in my meniscus or any ligaments surrounding the knee. However, I was diagnosed with bursitis and tendonitis due to a probable strain in my adductor followed by overuse. That meant I had to take a step back from kickboxing and get my butt to physical therapy.

Now, after five weeks of manual therapy, ice massage, various stretching and strengthening exercises and wearing kinesiology tape (also known as elastic therapeutic tape or K-tape), I’m finally feeling like myself again. For someone used to going a million miles a minute, it’s been frustrating as hell and I miss kickboxing more than any other workout in my life. The bottom line is I have no one to blame but myself. If I could go back in time, I would have addressed the pain not long after it started, made sure I was executing the moves in my workout with proper form and taken the rest I needed.

So, as I continue to heal and look forward to a return to kickboxing, I encourage everyone to take things nice and slow as we transition from the “lazy days of summer” into more intense routines. Many are shifting from long walks at the beach back into more intense fitness classes or weight training sessions at the gym. Be sure to warm up and cool down; stretch; hydrate and when something doesn’t feel right, don’t keep doing it! If you don’t start feeling better after a few days of rest, consider seeing a doctor to make sure you haven’t done something that needs more than just ice and elevation.

I close with a hearty thank you to Dr. Andrew Rosen at Upper East Orthopaedics and Jun Zhu Zhang at Orthology in Chelsea for their expert care and for understanding my need to get back to the heavy bag. Here’s to healthy and happy September ahead and making smart choices along the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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My Top Three Tips for a Healthy Vacation

IMG_3886Happy only-one-week-until-the-official-start-of-summer Motivation Monday to all!

Since many people are putting the finishing touches on their vacation plans, I thought a timely part two to last week’s prep-for-summer post would be to offer my top three tips to make that long-awaited getaway as healthy as possible:

Pack healthy “stuff!” Whether you’re escaping for a long weekend or extended time away, don’t get caught off guard! My go-to snack / meal options that fit easily in any bag include:

  • Protein shake packets and a portable shaker (I love starting every morning with an Isagenix shake);
  •  Low-sugar snack bars like KIND snacks
  • Almonds
  • Microwave popcorn.

Remember, just because there’s an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet doesn’t mean you have to fill your plate with every item every morning. Consider starting the day with a protein shake for breakfast and that frosty cocktail at lunchtime might not feel as naughty! Having your own snacks handy can also mean the difference between staving off hunger with some protein-packed almonds instead of running to the empty-calorie-filled snack bar. If you have a fridge where you’re staying, stop by the local market on day one to keep plenty of non-fat yogurt, fruit and other healthy options around. Again, you’ll be able to enjoy your main meals knowing you made smarter choices throughout the day. Last but certainly least, don’t the quick-drying workout wear for breaking a sweat!

Be adventurous! Have you been wanting to try yoga or a high-intensity boot camp class? Check out your hotel daily activity list and see what activities can be added to your daily fun. Got kids? Things like kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing are great ways to get the blood pumping while still spending time together as family. Just be sure to pace yourself.  If you’re trying a brand new activity, be sure to stay hydrated and stretch! And don’t over do it on day one. The last thing you want is to get sidelined from your vacation fun!

Rest! Remember, you ARE on vacation! If you’re not “killing” those workouts like you do at home or one rest day turns into three, don’t sweat it. I think it’s hard to find anyone whose body and mind couldn’t use some downtime these days so bask in whatever relaxation time you can fine. While you’re at it, lay off that smart phone! Seriously, the world won’t end if you don’t post on your social media feed every hour that you’re away. Instead, why not use the time to connect the old fashioned way: enjoy a face-to-face chat while basking under the shade of a palm tree or during a long, leisurely walk.

The bottom line is whatever you do on vacation, remember, it’s your time to reboot the mind, body and spirit. Sometimes hitting the pause button is exact what we need to tackle the stress of everyday life and stay on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

To Workout or Not to Workout…

coldThe inspiration for this Motivation Monday message came to me at Church. Everyone sitting around me at Sunday morning’s family Mass was either sneezing or coughing, especially the kids. When I got home, I washed my hands and thought now’s as good a time as any to offer reminders about when to consider skipping the gym to help your body get over a bug and keep your fellow fitness friends from getting sick, too.

The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful.  This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age)  However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.

If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!

As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, do everyone a favor and take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. There’s a good chance you’ll be slightly dehydrated and feeling fatigued, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity bootcamp class the minute your fever breaks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! It’s true that one the benefits of exercise is that it boosts the immune system. However, what’s also true is that depending on what’s going on in your life, your body may need an extra hour of sleep one morning more than it needs to be pushed to the max at a kickboxing class.

Remember, a minimum of one day of rest each week is important, but when you’re sick, you may need two or more. Don’t sweat it. Just rest up, drink your fluids and before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Are You Skimping on This Healthy Essential?

iStock_000008015531LargeThis Motivation Monday brings us less than two weeks from the official start of the 2015 holiday season. With all the hustle and bustle ahead, I thought it was the perfect time to address an often overlooked piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle: sleep. What better time to post about it than halfway through National Sleep Comfort Month? I know, there’s a month and a day for everything. However in all seriousness, rest is a necessity for our overworked bodies and overtaxed minds.

My repeat readers already know I am a huge promoter of taking at least one day off from the workout routine each week. That time off allows muscles to recover, repair and rebuild. It can also help you return to the norm with more energy to kick some serious butt. When it comes to sleep, even those who can survive on less shut-eye than others still need to maintain healthy sleep habits to keep the mind alert and stress levels down.

Here are a few of the tricks I use to try to keep my zzzz levels at an even keel:

  1. Social Media Shut Down: 30 minutes before bed, eliminate all electronic stimulation. If you post a good night on your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds, t’s not the end of the world.
  2. Soothing Tea: At this time of year, I always have a box of “Sleepytime” tea from Celestial Seasonings somewhere in my kitchen. There’s something about the caffeine-free blend of chamomile, spearmint and lemongrass that helps me wind down after a long day.
  3. Soothing Scents: Other supplies in my fall and winter stockpile include the “Sleep” products from Bath & Body Works. I love the combination of lavender and vanilla in everything from body lotion to linen sprays. There’s something about a soothing scent that can help block out all the noise from the outside world.

Need more ideas? I’m sharing this handy guide created by the sleep experts with one perfect mattress at Casper. Thanks to their team for reaching out and offering these tips to my readers.

CAS_CantSleep@2x

Remember, never underestimate the power of a good night sleep to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

We Could All Use More Motivation to….Rest!

iStock_000010338713SmallOn this Motivation Monday, I’m happy to report I feel physically stronger than I have in several weeks. Want to know my secret? I took a few days off.

Unfortunately, one of the rest days arrived as the result of a minor injury. Last Tuesday, I strained my left pectoral muscle from either not executing proper form during a push-up sprint or gripping the ballet bar and leaning back a bit too during a “waterski” sprint at Physique57.  By Wednesday night’s “UFX Burn” class at New York Sports Club, every amped-up inhalation during our high intensity cardio drill and each rep of standing reverse flies were pretty painful.  So after icing the area and popping a couple of ibuprofen before bed that night, I took Thursday off. I even stayed away from the elliptical because I knew using the arm handles would or gripping the side bars too tight would have put unnecessary stress on my tweaked muscle. By Friday afternoon’s Physique class, I felt 90% better.  After enjoying another gal-pal catch-up day on Saturday, I decided to extend my rest time to cover the entire weekend.  In the end, I tallied four workouts in a seven day period. While that’s less than my typical five to six, you know what? My body is much happier on this Monday morning thanks to the extra TLC.

If you’re prepping for a competition or if you’re a serious bodybuilder, I understand there’s a strict schedule to follow to make gains in a certain amount of time. However, if you’re on a new health and fitness kick or if  you’re like me and you’ve been attacking your workouts at 125% to get through a rough patch in your life, it’s not a bad idea to pause for a moment and remember rest is a crucial component to improving your well-being. Whether you’re a runner, strength-training class or Zumba addict, it’s actually the rest days that allow those amazing muscles in your body to recover and grow.

The bottom line is by not taking at least one rest day each week, you can put yourself at risk for overtraining.  When you overtrain, the body is more prone to injury and instead of enjoying the typical endorphin rush from a great workout, you could find yourself feeling more tired than usual.  Here’s a checklist of overtraining symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
  • Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Slower recovery of heart rate
  • Decrease in strength performance
  • Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain

Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength it needs to get back in the game so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Sea of Changes

There's No Place Like the Beach for a Rest Day!

There’s No Place Like the Beach for a Rest Day!

Last week I wrote about how unexpected events may alter the days I post new material here at LauraLovesFitness.com. However, it turns out I was inspired to share some thoughts for this Motivation Monday by one of my weekend activities. Ironically, it’s the one that involved no strenuous activity whatsoever.

On day seven of the heat wave that made living in New York City nearly unbearable, I decided to get on a train and head back to Long Island to visit my parents. That led to another smart decision: to take a rest day from the gym and replace it with a couple of hours of fitness for my mental health. All I needed was the ocean.

Despite my lifelong love affair with the beach, the power of the sea never ceases to surprise and overwhelm me. I’ve tallied hundreds of hours on the beach over the course of my lifetime so far, but at times it feels like each sandy visit is my first. The waves crash onto the shore with a mighty roar. The water retreats to gather more energy for another crash, leaving only white foam on the shoreline along with a mist that serves as an elixir for more than just my lungs. The salty air also helps calm my nervous mind and unburden my heavy heart.

These moments of clarity remind me of the many blessings in my life: my family, my friends and the countless good memories I’ve shared with these special people. I also realize how lucky I am to have my health. Despite the new challenges in my life and some of the fear I feel, the sea reminds me I can handle it all. The sea constantly draws on its own strength to turn a ripple in the deepest waters into a mighty wave that unleashes its power on the shore only to retreat and start the dance all over again. I’ve done the same thing in my own life many times – and I know I can do it again. My faith tells me that. My strength tells me that. The ocean tells me that.

So if there’s a day when you need a break instead of the heart-pounding workout, remember – it’s okay. Sometimes a mental health hour in your favorite place could be just the “workout” you need to calm a jittery heart and beat down any fears tugging at the heart and soul. Creating a little time for yourself may be all you need to re-focus your energy on the better days ahead filled with endless chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Quick Hit Workout Wednesday

Workout or Chill Out? Each Has its Benefits for Your BodPhoto by Leslie Hassler

Workout or Chill Out?
Each Has Benefits for Your Body
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I really don’t know where the time is going, but here we are kicking off the eighth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

As the nickname suggests, this is the one day each week where I tend to push it even harder than usual at the gym. Also, the fact that I’ve found a new group exercise class to add to my arsenal of calorie-busting, muscle-boosting workouts makes Wednesday one of my favorite days of the entire week!

As I spent most of yesterday traveling back from Texas and didn’t have time for a typical workout, I’m even more eager to get back in action today. It’s amazing how good you can feel after one day of rest. In fact, there are countless studies out there proving why you need to take at least one day off each week. It’s during the rest that your muscles recover and actually have time to grow.

If you need more evidence that taking a day or two off can actually be beneficial for your well-being and possibly help you amp up your energy levels, I’m sharing a recent article from NYTimes.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/why-four-workouts-a-week-may-be-better-than-six/?src=me&ref=general

There are certain weeks when life will throw some curve balls at you and put the brakes on your typical fitness routine. The key is taking things one day at a time and making this day work for your life at this moment. If this Workout Wednesday turns into your rest day for the week, remember, down time is a crucial component in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Feel-Good Friday

istock_000015612296smallIt seems everywhere I turn here in New York City, people are coughing and sneezing. On the subway, at the deli where I get my morning jolt of caffeine, in my office and oh yes, at the gym.

I was one of these people on Monday, but I’m happy to report at the end of the work week, I am back at 100 percent. This is the first time in forever I can remember winning the battle against a bug so quickly. I’m convinced it’s because I did the one thing that’s nearly impossible for so many of us to do in our ultra-busy lives: I listened to my body.

Monday morning, I woke up with a scratchy throat, a severe case of the sniffles and a few chills. I never really woke up all day. I went to Walgreens, picked up my first bottle of  Zicam® and started popping the dissolvable tablets every four hours. I also doubled my normal water intake. Then at quitting time, even though it was Motivation Monday, I made the difficult decision to skip the gym. Instead, I went directly home after work, took a hot shower, made some hot soup and crashed on the couch. I even backed off on my social media chatter.

To my pleasant surprise, I woke up on Tuesday feeling much better. I continued the regimen of Zicam, water and more clementines than usual. I did go to my Tuesday night strength class, but lessened my weight load just a bit. By Wednesday I felt strong enough to make it to a high-intensity group exercise class, where I’m pretty sure I sweat out whatever germs were still in my system. As I sit here writing on Thursday, I feel like I’m back in fighting form!

I realize we can’t always beat a bug and I’ve heard all the reports about the severity of this season’s flu virus.  My hope is that this post reminds everyone about the importance of listening to your body when it needs a break. Yes, we all have daily responsibilities, but there are times when you just have to say “no” or take a rain check on that extra activity on your to-do list. As a fitness junkie, I know how hard it is to back off from the endorphin rush sometimes. However, I hope this post shows the power of taking just one day off when it comes to staying on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Not-So-Typical Workout Wednesday

In honor of this week’s Workout Wednesday, I’ll be….resting.

Why? Because despite all my efforts to take extra care of myself these past couple of weeks filled with travel, extra long  hours at the office and virtually zero days off, my body had enough and I came down with a cold. Now that I think about it, all the Yankees late-night playoff games probably served as the final straw in breaking down my immune system.

While my symptoms are mainly above the neck and I did get some cardio in after work on Monday, I could feel my body struggling even on the lower settings on the elliptical. When I finally got home, I was more tired than ever. So, it’s time for me to take a bit of my own advice and take it easy for a day or two. I’d rather be out of the game for a couple of days than risk running myself down even more and ending up with some sort of upper respiratory infection and then being sidelined for even longer.

Whether or not you’re feeling under the weather, rest is a crucial component to anyone’s health and fitness routine. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining. The following is a list of some of the symptoms of overtraining:

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
  • Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Slower recovery of heart rate
  • Decrease in strength performance
  • Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain

Avoiding these symptoms doesn’t have to be difficult. Just give yourself a break now and then! A rest day allows for muscular repair and recovery of the central nervous system. For those who can’t imagine even one day without activity, you can still take a leisurely walk or bike ride, or maybe you can substitute that strength or cardio class with an extra-long stretch session.

On the other hand, if you want to enjoy a rest day curled up on the couch in your kick-around clothes reading a good book or catching up with your DVR, go for it! Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength to get back in the game so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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