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One Strange Summer

Forever My Happy Place – Even When The World is in Chaos

Sunscreen? Check.
Water? Check.
Umbrella? Check.
Mask? Check.
And with that, I ventured out to Jones Beach for my first day by the sea to unofficially kick off one very strange summer.
Before I continue, let me apologize for the premature launch of this post earlier today in its unfinished form. I had the best intentions of posting these thoughts yesterday, the last Workout Wednesday of May. However, like many other best laid plans during these difficult days, I got caught up in I’m not exactly sure what, the day came and went and so did the deadline for this post. Better late than never, I suppose.
Back to the beach. It looked totally different from the moment I drove into the field six parking lot. Orange cones took up every other parking spot. There were hand sanitizer stations set up in several places along the boardwalk and near the restrooms.  Police patrolled the beach via SUV and ATV and encountered the occasional crowd of more than 10 teens and asked them to separate their towels and blankets by 10 feet. When leaving our beach chairs and blankets, the majority of people I came in social-distance contact with wore masks or had them hanging around their necks at the ready.  It felt as if we were all on our best behavior to ensure our happy place would remain open for the season.
On the not-so-crowded Tuesday, the solitude I always relish at the beach felt even more profound. There was no music escaping from a contraband radio or two on the few blankets nearby. I took in the roaring sound of the ocean, often closing my eyes and taking deep breaths of the rich, salty air. After countless days in our one-bedroom apartment in the concrete jungle,  this escape was like a vitamin B12 shot for my psyche. I still felt uneasy and uncertain as normalcy here in New York seems an eternity away. However, just as the sea always retreats from the sand then crashes back again, I felt a glimmer of new hope that we will get to the other side of this eventually.
As we’ve unofficially kicked off this unprecedented summer of 2020, I wish you all continued good health. For those who’ve lost loved ones over these past weeks, my heart goes out to you. To all the healthcare and essential workers who continue to show unbelievable fortitude and compassion, thank you. To all those who’ve continually checked in on us since this all started, hugs. Here’s to staying safe and getting back to those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On…

Three of nine albums made during quarantine….so far!

On this Workout Wednesday, we’ve reached the middle of May and day number who-knows-what in this fight against COVID-19. States around the country are starting to re-open, but things here in New York City remain the same. As the monotony continues, I thought I’d share one thing that’s helped maintain my mental health in addition to my near-daily power walks through Central Park: Snapfish.

I don’t know about you, but while I’ve loved the simplicity of taking pictures on my iPhones for the past several years, I hate the fact those photos usually end up in a sea of disorganization on my laptop. So, I decided to tackle the tedious task of creating some actual “old-school” albums to be placed on a bookshelf. While I still have plenty to tackle, I’ve used Snapfish.com to slowly assemble memories from various vacations; four Avon39 Walks; highlights from last year’s NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix along with images captures during the 15 weeks of prep time leading up to the main event; and finally, two year-in-review compilations for 2014 and 2015. (James and I met in 2014, so I thought that was a happy place to start.) It’s been wonderful to receive the finished products in the mail, sit with a big glass of wine and re-live some happy memories. (Bonus: Snapfish has been offering great deals on albums and other photo creations almost daily since these quarantine days began.)

If there’s a creative project you’ve kept on the back burner because of all the normal chaos of life, maybe now’s the time to give it a whirl. Working on a crafty project can also provide a feeling of accomplishment on days when much of life has stood still. Speaking of getting things done, one of my besties texted me earlier this week to say she felt unproductive because the “only” things she got done that day were laundry, bills and some other paperwork. I reminded her completing any kind of chore on days when many of us would like to just pull the covers over our head and stay in bed is something to feel good about. Whether you get one or five things crossed off your to-do list today, give yourself the kudos you deserve. Things are hard right now, and we can only do our best each day we’re lucky enough to start anew.

If you’ve worked on a project that’s given you some joy during these challenging times, I’d love to hear about it! In the meantime, stay safe, soak up the warmer temperatures that are starting to creep into this otherwise unprecedented spring and do the best you can to stick with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Month, New Hope

Even though it feels like the world has been standing still for the past 60-plus days, we’ve made it to the first Workout Wednesday of May. While we’re no way near being “done” with all the challenges and fears facing our households and communities as a whole, I find daily strength in the glimpses of hope that we will make it to the other side. The sounds of gratitude for our healthcare workers booming from windows and balconies around this city and all over the country. Acts of kindness extended toward the elderly and the other vulnerable populations. Creative and colorful masks on the faces of my fellow Manhattanites. And my biggest shot of daily positivity comes from my near-daily walks through Central Park. The budding trees and scents of magnolia are signs that Mother Nature continues her work this spring just as doctors, nurses and scientists continue theirs to help us get through this crisis.

Another happening that gave me some peace of mind this past week was getting the COVID-19 antibody test. Aside from outdoor exercise and quick trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, my husband and I have spent nearly all our time inside our apartment. According to the test results, it looks like we’ve been doing things the right way as my test results were negative. That means I haven’t had the virus. Of course, it also means I could still get the virus in the future, so nothing will change for now in our daily routine.

For anyone thinking about getting the antibody test, I can tell you other than the quick prick of my vein, it was a painless process. Hats off to the entire staff at our nearby CityMD who made it that way. I arrived at the urgent care facility 15 minutes before the 7am open, and there were already seven people ahead of me – all wearing masks and gloves and standing at least six feet apart on the sidewalk. Once the doors opened, a kind and courteous associate let each of us in at a slow but steady pace to allow us to check in and then sit in the waiting room at a safe distance apart. After about 30 minutes, I was taken to an exam room by a compassionate nurse who checked my temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen and asked a few questions about my health history and whether I’d experienced any Coronavirus symptoms. Other than overall fatigue and a headache that wouldn’t go away for more than a day about six weeks ago, I’ve felt just fine. After the nurse left, a tired but kind doctor arrived to draw my blood. He told me I was his 10th antibody test patient already that morning. The day before, he drew 200 viles of blood for the same test. Then it was back to the front desk for a quick check out and I was done. The whole visit took one hour and 15 minutes and my test results were available via the online portal 48 hours later. (A nice surprise since I was told it could take up to five business days to get the results.) For anyone thinking about getting the test and has access to it, I say you have nothing to lose and perhaps only some peace of mind to gain.

So again, does this mean I’m ready to change my routine? Absolutely not. I’ll continue to listen to the facts and advice presented by our health experts and will follow the “rules” issued by our governor and mayor. I’ll continue to do my best to exercise daily and eat as much healthy food as possible, but also try not to beat myself up over the extra wine or comfort food that seems to end up in my evening routine. And of course, I’ll continue to bang a pan with gusto at 7pm and cheer on our healthcare workers – not just on this National Nurses Day, but every day this global fight continues.

Whatever is working for you at this point, keep on going. Lean on family or friends for support. If you feel you need more than just extra prayer time or a happy hour chat with your gal pals to get through a rough patch, take advantage of the mental health hotlines offered by so many communities right now. Here in New York, the Office of Mental Health Emotional Support Helpline is: 1-844-863-9314. Let’s use the hope that comes with a new month to stay strong, stay safe and stay on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Ups, Downs and Everything In Between

Cheers to Mother Nature!

Here we are on Earth Day 2020. While it’s obviously different from any other I can remember in my lifetime, it’s still a chance to be grateful for things like fresh air, the sea, the sand and beautiful flowers. This year, I’m especially thankful for access to the walking trails in Central Park which have served as both a physical “playground” and mental health escape route during these difficult days.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve shared a post. To be completely honest, I just haven’t felt motivated to write. Actually, it’s more that I didn’t want to write about the dark moments or sleepless nights that crept up on me on more consecutive days than I expected. Thanks to an amazing support network of family and friends, those days and nights pass and I greet each morning with new hope it’ll be a better day than the one before.

The other thing that helps, as it always has, is getting some form of exercise on as many days as possible. In addition to my power walks and continued attempts to master the art of running, I also look to online workouts for inspiration to break a sweat. Since imitation is one of the highest forms of flattery, I wanted to share this heart-pumping 10-minute workout from the amazing, EJ, one of my amazing instructors at NY Best Kickboxing. (If you want to be super aggressive, repeat the series two or three times) Here it is:

My Home Workout Tools: Foam Roller; Resistance Bands; Dumbbells & BFit Labs Rapid Electrolyte Spray

:15 Bounce on the balls of your feet
:60 2 Lunges; 2 Squats
:30 Straight punches nonstop
:30 Hooks nonstop
:30 Uppercuts nonstop
:30 Mountain Climbers
20 Push-ups
:30 Forearm plank
20 Crunches
30 Leg raisers
20 Toe Reaches
:30 Russian twist
:30 Knee tucks
:30 Mountain climbers
20 Push-ups

In addition to some daily exercise, here’s my short list of activities that help me find some inner peace:

  • Chats with my parents
  • Governor Cuomo’s daily press conference
  • A hot shower
  • Scheduling Zoom calls with friends
  • Prayer

Finally, let me offer this candid piece of encouragement. Obviously, I’m a believer in the power of positivity. I’m also a proponent of daily exercise, good nutrition and a healthy sleep regimen. However, if you’ve had more than one bad day in these challenging times where too much TV and comfort food took the place of cardio and zzzzzz’s, don’t sweat it. You’re most definitely not alone. Allow yourself to experience your emotions and remember each day we’re lucky enough to open our sleepy eyes even in these uncertain times is a new chance to tackle our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Pressing On..

So, how’s everyone holding up?

It’s hard to believe this is the second Workout Wednesday where gyms remain closed here in the Big Apple and in many states across the country. On a positive note, it’s encouraging to see how many gyms and trainers are offering online workouts and exercise ideas. As these days of isolation continue, I encourage everyone to take that daily walk or run as permitted. As I continue to recover from a shoulder injury, I know the quick dose of fresh air from walking has helped keep the endorphin production going. And I think it’s safe to say we can use all the endorphins we can get right now.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon with my list of favorite at-home exercises – no equipment needed:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Calf Raises
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Core work: crunches; planks; side planks; toe touches; dead bugs; push ups; glute bridges
  • Shadow boxing
  • Bicep curls; tricep kickbacks; front and lateral raises (use soup cans or bottles for weight)

Times Square

This post is really just my way of jumping into the “fitfam” positivity pool that’s streaming across so many social media platforms. I am beyond grateful to all of you who’ve sent private messages, texts and emails to check on us here in the city and also inquire about my elderly parents on Long Island. So far, we’re all healthy and taking the necessary precautions to hopefully stay that way.

I also want to offer a huge thank you to all the doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, first responders and all those who remain on the front lines of this pandemic. I also thank the other essentials workers who are showing up to keep mass transit running; stock shelves at the grocery stores; help people get their medicine at the pharmacies; provide food at the restaurants still offering takeout and delivery; man the front desks at apartment buildings; pick up the garbage and recycling and deliver the mail. Finally, a shout out to the reporters and news teams who are practicing the true rules of journalism by providing facts instead of spreading fear.

Eighth Avenue & W. 54th Street

Until the next time….let’s all stay calm, wash those hands, practice social distancing and continue to share prayers and good vibes with family and friends. While no one knows how long these difficult days will last, the good news is we will get back to life as we knew it and back to our original plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Unprecedented Times

My Newest Desk Accessory. Can Anyone Else Relate?

To say we’ve arrived at a wacky Workout Wednesday is obviously an understatement. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we’re aware of each and every new COVID-19 case, death and local, national or international lock down as soon they pop up. It’s obviously good to stay informed, but never good to get to a point of paralyzing panic.

I’m not an expert on anything related to this virus, which is no doubt dangerous for the elderly or anyone with a less-than-optimal immune system. However, several people have asked me for my take on whether it’s “safe” to go to the gym right now. In my non-expert opinion, I offer the same top tips I’d offer during cold and flu season:

  • If you feel sick, do everyone a favor and STAY HOME!
  • Wipe down equipment with disinfecting wipes or spray before and after you use it. (Hopefully, your gym has plenty in stock. Kudos to the team at Cruch54th for doing such a stellar cleaning job!)
  • If you must take a group fitness class, try and keep your distance from others in the class. (Attendance is already down at many group classes throughout Manhattan.)
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands with soap and warm water when you arrive and before you leave the gym. You may not have time to shower after a workout, but there’s no excuse for not taking 20 seconds to wash your hands.

With more daylight to work with, you can always opt for a long walk or run in a park or other open space. Many body weight exercises and HIIT workouts can be done at home, including my all-time favorite Tabata workouts. For another option, click here to see my oldie-but-goodie park bench workout. (Just be sure to wash those hands ASAP when you’re done! Maybe even wear gloves while you are touching that bench, and throw them straight into the laundry when you get home.)

Finally, help keep your immune system strong by sticking with those healthy habits you promised to make a part of your daily routine in 2020:
  • Get healthy nutrition from fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get plenty of zzzzzs!

Am I concerned about the Coronavirus? Absolutely, but mainly for my parents and other elderly loved ones. So let’s be sure to take care of ourselves so we can be there for our family and friends if they need us. Wash those hands, stay informed and we’ll all get through this together. Let’s hope we can soon return to our regularly scheduled programming and all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Let There Be Light!

Counting the Days Till Another Beach Season…

And just like that, the last Workout Wednesday of February has come and gone!

It’s hard to believe we’re almost done with what many New Yorkers consider the winter that never quite arrived. (I do realize, however, those in the Midwest and other regions have suffered through Old Man Winter’s fury many times this season including this week.) For me, the best part of this upcoming change is the fact that we’re only nine days away from the start of Daylight Saving time. We may lose an hour of sleep on the overnight hours leading into March 9th, but we’ll gain so much more: mood-boosting sunlight!

As my longtime readers know, I’m one of the millions of Americans who suffers from  seasonal affective disorder. My winter blues have definitely gotten worse in my 40s, which I realize is a symptom of the life challenges that have been part of this decade so far. This winter may not have been as cold or snowy as others, but the cloudy, dreary skies have still lowered my motivation levels for everything from getting my butt to the gym to sitting down to write a blog post. Now that the wait for more daylight is down to single digits on the calendar, I’m noticing a little more energy fueling my system with each passing day.

If you’ve been dragging through the season, I hope you’ll find some comfort knowing you are most definitely not alone. Sometimes you have to embrace the lethargy and let it play out. Sometimes your body needs a nap or a binge-watching Sunday afternoon more than a heart-pounding workout. And sometimes, you need the comfort of mac and cheese more than a kale and quinoa salad.

Now’s the time to let all the “sins” of the season go and start thinking of the positive things you want to accomplish when there’s more hours of daylight to fuel your motivation to get them done. What will you put on that healthy to-do list for March? Maybe you add more outdoor walks to your weekly calendar. Maybe you dedicate one night a week to shutting off the TV and spending some quality time with family or friends. Whatever it is that signals a fresh start, a little planning now can go a long way as we welcome a new month and new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

The Test of Time

Twenty-Nine Years Later…

On this last Workout Wednesday of my 45th year on the planet, I find my mind swirling with questions about one thing: Time. Where does it go? How can so much of it pass in what feels like the blink of an eye while the calendar shows a much different reality?

I know this reflection began thanks to a long overdue reunion with Tracy, Lisa, Molly, Evva, Jessica and Irene: six incredible women I met on or soon after day one at Northwestern University. The impossible reality is those friendships were born 29 years ago. While our hair styles and fashion choices have (thankfully) changed since then, our hearts and souls don’t feel that much different. We may have a few more lines on our faces after decades of smiles (and tears); a few of us may need eyeglasses (and I’m the first “proud owner” of a hearing aid), but the traits that make each of us unique yet brought us together remain.

Of course, if I stop and think about the trials we’ve experienced since our Wildcat days, the heart can suddenly feel older. In the ’90s, we struggled through the stress of exams and breakups with some of our first loves. Today, we are who we are because of  greater challenges: career highs and lows; marital ups and downs; childrens’ growing pains; aging parents; and the most difficult game-changer of all: the loss of parents, grandparents, other relatives and even friends. And too much thinking about the circumstances surrounding those losses, whether a longterm illness or an unexpected tragedy, only adds more wear and tear to the often fragile heart.We can’t fight the passage of time. But with each year that passes, I am all too aware of how blessed I am to wake up to each and every new day. And that’s why I am grateful I had the opportunity to spend 48 hours with the people who sometimes knew me better than I knew myself at a time when we were all trying to find our way in the world as adults.

Last weekend marked the first time in 10 years the seven of us had been together. We said our teary goodbyes with a promise we’d never wait that long again. If there’s someone you’ve been wanting to spend time with but have always found a reason not to – just do it. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Embrace the present and any opportunity you’re blessed with to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hello 2020!

Jumping Into 2020!

Well, here we are already eight days into 2020. I hope the start of this New Year has been good to you so far and this Workout Wednesday and all the days ahead are full of good health, happiness and adventure!

So how are those healthy resolutions going? If you’re struggling a bit, don’t sweat it! Even the biggest fitness fanatics feel your pain. Since my kickoff to 2020 took place in sunny St. Lucia, I’m still trying to get my daily calorie intake back under control and return to my physical therapy and cardio routine. (I do hope to get the all clear from my physical therapist on my arm issues by the end of this month.)

As we all work to find our footing on the road to healthy living in the New Year, I’ll share one “trick” that’s helped me since turning the big 4-0 nearly six years ago. I now focus on setting goals and deadlines for reaching those goals instead of “stressing” over how well I’m changing my overall behavior. Sometimes making the commitment to eat green vegetables with every single meal or workout six days a week can be daunting, and the temptation to throw in the towel can sneak in if you indulge in one “naughty” meal or skip one workout. Instead of stressing over daily slip-ups, ask yourself one question:

Is there something I want to accomplish this year that requires stepping up my physical activity and making healthier choices in my diet?

As I’m sure you recall, I went to the ultimate extreme in 2019 by competing in the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. This year, inspired by my husband, my cousin and several friends who have caught the running “bug” at various stages in their lives (thank you, James, Annie, Rita Joan, Jeannine and Pamela!), I hope to enter my first 5K by the end of the summer. So James, who knows pretty much everything there is to know about running, has started coaching me with a treadmill workout plan for the next couple of months. (Stay tuned on that front!)

How about you? Is there a fundraising walk surrounding a cause you’re passionate about that you’ve always wanted to join? Maybe this is the summer you play for a team of touch football at the annual family get-together  instead of watching from the sidelines. Or maybe while on vacation, you take one or several long walks with your spouse or that friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Whatever it is, having a specific goal surrounding an event can keep you motivated since you know there’s a finish line to cross after all the hard work.

So if you’ve been doubting your ability to stick with your plans to make this your healthiest year yet, stop right now! Think about the positive steps you’ve taken so far and forget the slip-ups. Focus on today, one minute and one hour at a time. If you get to the gym today, kudos to you. If you don’t, pack the gym bag for tomorrow and try again. Remember, it’s the small steps that add up to big strides in our lifelong journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

It’s Gobble, Gobble Time!

It happened again. I blinked and here were are on the eve of my favorite American holiday! That means it’s time to serve up my annual recipe of survival tips for another calorie-filled Thanksgiving:

  • Move it!  Remember, even ten minutes of exercise today and tomorrow are better than none! The bonus is you’ll have the mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the Turkey Day feast. Even if you’re hosting tomorrow’s holiday fun and can’t leave the house, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata first thing in the morning. If the weather permits, maybe you can even sneak out for some fresh air and a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. Your gym is open? Great! Try a morning group exercise class or attack some cardio and core work. A few solid planks can make you feel strong before filling your belly with delicious eats.
  • Eat breakfast! Be sure to eat something sensible on Thanksgiving morning to kick-start your metabolism. If you’re not feasting until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. Two ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in or a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and salsa. These protein-rich snacks will keep you feeling full longer than those high in sugar.
  • Portion Control: Use a salad or other small dish for your meal. Start with salad or veggies and then add the turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. There simply 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 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!
  • Keep Track of the Libations: This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of still or sparking water before moving on to the next cocktail.
  • Make Doggie Bags! Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

There’s really only one thing left for me to write: I offer my heartfelt wishes for everyone to enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I can add being happily married to the list of things I’m thankful for, including my family, friends and the ongoing support I receive from my “fitfam,” which includes all my loyal readers. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Remember, laughter, good food and even some good wine are all part of many holiday traditions and part of our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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