Fifteen weeks out. I’ve always wanted to say those three little words, but until now, I’ve either been too scared or simply made too many excuses to utter them outloud. However, when I turned 45 earlier this year, I decided it was time to cross this item off the bucket list. No more excuses. In late September, I plan to walk on stage as a bikini competitor at the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix.
Some of you who’ve known me for decades may think, “No problem, Laura, you got this!” Sure, I’ve loved exercise and tried dozens of different sports and fitness routines since taking my first gymnastics class at the age of six. I’ve also adopted a relatively “clean” diet over the past five years. However, what many of you also know about me is I do like my cocktails, my desserts and fried, cheesy things are pretty great, too. The next fifteen weeks will involve a totally new nutrition and workout plan, and it will require more discipline than I’ve ever exercised before. One important note: I’ll be doing this 100-percent naturally.
Here’s a candid reveal: I haven’t really lifted weights in a long time. I didn’t plan for that to happen, but when I turned 40, I found myself gravitating toward group fitness classes that focused on cardio and body weight exercises. My routine became a mix of extended elliptical machine sessions; barre workouts; Tabata derbys filled with push-ups and core moves; and finally two years ago, I discovered kickboxing – my all-time favorite mix of a physical and mental workout. For the next three months, I need to put those activities on hold and get back to lifting. I thought I’d be able to sneak in a kickboxing class here and there, but after one week of what feels-like-the-first-time weight training, I realize I need to focus my energy on the longer gym sessions, allow my body to recover properly and do all I can to avoid any injuries.
I also need to focus on finding my groove again in the weight room. Even the biggest fitness fanatics can feel intimidated when stepping into a space filled with so many people adjusting benches with ease and executing reps in perfect tempo. During this past week, I repeatedly told myself what I’ve written about many times over the years: The time I spend in the gym is for me and only me. I do not have to lift what the fitness chick is lifting two benches down from me. I need to breathe, focus on my form and remember, I’ve pulled the trigger on turning a longtime goal into a reality.
I’m so happy to have found Jen Carlson, a Team D1scipline coach, to guide me on this journey. Not only will she offer nutrition and training plans for the weeks ahead, but she’ll help with what I consider my biggest challenge in this entire experience: posing. I’ve never been the most graceful gal, so the thought of walking across a stage, executing turns and posing – in platform heels and a bikini – honestly scares me to death. I’m sure there will be some fun blooper moments to share from that part of the prep process!
I plan to use future “Transformation Tuesdays” to post updates on my progress. Knowing this prep time was going, I used the past month to drop some of the pounds I truly enjoyed putting on during an amazing croissant-filled vacation in Paris with James. At 134 pounds, I am eight pounds lighter than when we returned to New York at the end of April, and my body fat is just under 20 percent. Moving forward, I’ve been warned I may see drastic changes one week, plateau the next and feel totally depleted during another. I’m excited and nervous to experience it all.
I couldn’t do this without the support of my fiancé, my parents and my dear friends. (I hope they’ll enjoy some of the margaritas I won’t be sipping this summer.) Stay tuned here and on my social media channels (@fitnesslaura) for more about changes to my diet and workouts; posing snafus; bikini shopping and more. I plan to provide a 100-percent honest account of the whole process – the good, the bad and yes, the ugly.
So do you have a dream that’s been sitting on the back burner for far too long? Remember, tackling a new challenge is a surefire way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
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:
- 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!
Everywhere I’ve been this week – the office, the gym, the grocery store – I’ve found people sneezing, coughing and simply battling some kind of change-of-seasons cold. I’m actually struggling to keep the sniffles and sore throat at bay thanks to a recent “attack” by some of the top healthy-immune-system busters:
- Mental stress
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition
So, I thought it was the perfect time to go over some of the general “rules” for modifying your fitness routine when you’re feeling under the weather.
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, 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. Your body could be recovering from mild dehydration and overall fatigue, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity group exercise 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!
Welcome to another Monday and a new shot of motivation to kick off the work week!
Today, I want to address one of the worst things we can do to ourselves when we make the decision to pursue a healthy lifestyle and start exercising. Do NOT waste your energy comparing yourself to others!
Whether you’re out for a power walk, sweating it out on the elliptical, lifting weights or taking a group exercise class, you should be working out at a pace that feels good for you. The reality is there will always be someone who can walk or run faster, lift more or be more graceful at Zumba than you. Who cares?
I’m still working on getting over my own insecurities. While my love affair with fitness dates back to my childhood, I got certified in the fitness industry “late” in life. Many of my new fitness friends have been personal training or teaching group exercise classes since the days I started my journalism career. That’s about 15 years ago. Others got certified at the same time I did, but they’re 10 years younger. They recover from some of the tougher workouts more quickly than I do at the age of 38. Comparing myself to any of these peers is pointless. Instead of feeling inadequate about my capabilities, I’ve decided it’s much more productive to turn to these fitness friends for motivation and information on everything from human movement science to exercise program design.
So, stop comparing yourself to that “ripped” girl or guy on the machine next to you. Focus on yourself. Do what you can, as best as you can and remember, you’ve made exercise a part of your life to make your heart healthier, your body happier and your mind a little saner.
Sometimes, we all need a reminder on why it’s important to be our biggest cheerleader when it comes to following through on the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!