Blog Archives

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!

All Too Familiar Territory

I am a firm believer we do indeed grow wiser with each passing year. For us fitness fanatics and serious athletes, however, that wisdom can be tested when setting our sights on a new or big goal. Unfortunately, I’ve failed that test yet again on the subject of do as I say and not as I do. That means I’m spending a good part of this Workout Wednesday back in physical therapy.

Rewind to mid-July of this summer, and I was exactly halfway through my 15-week prep process for my first ever bikini competition. After seven-and-a-half weeks of serious weight training, extended cardio sessions and strict dieting, I noticed a twinge in my left shoulder and left pectoral muscle. That twinge turned into serious pain almost overnight and spread down my arm, particularly in the bicep area. My coach got me in to see a master manual therapist who worked on the angry muscles, but the temporary relief wasn’t a permanent fix. My coach of course gave me the option of taking a break and possibly putting my competition plans on hold. Long story short, I made the decision to keep grinding on. I had the window of opportunity to train this summer and had no idea what would happen later this year or next in regards to my parents’ health or life’s other uncertainties. So, with some modifications to the upper body workouts, I kept training. As you all know, I made it to the show on September 28th and it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret being a part of.

Fast-forward to the beginning of November. The pain remained, but it had centered mainly in my bicep. When the discomfort started waking me up in the middle of the night, I knew I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.  I saw the same sports medicine orthopedist who helped me conquer a knee injury last year, and this time the diagnosis is biceps tendonitis. The doctor basically told me if I want to heal, I have to totally refocus my energy on physical therapy and stop kickboxing and other heavy duty upper body work for six weeks. If not, the severe bicep tendonitis could lead to a tear or rupture – and fixing either of those problems would require surgery.

I am well aware there is only person to blame for this mess: me. However, so many serious athletes face decisions like this all the time. There’s a drive to push through the pain and red line it just enough to reach that goal, to hell with the consequences. In the grand scheme of things, six weeks “off” is obviously a much better outcome than surgery. While I’m mad as hell at myself for letting it get this far, I know I’ll heal. And I’ll shift my be-a-good-solider focus to following my physical therapist’s instructions, taking my prescribed anti-inflammatories and babying the arm as much as possible. Some sacrifices now will only lead to a healthier Laura later.

At the end of the day, I realize not everyone makes such extreme choices. But when we do make a not-so-smart decision -in or outside of the gym – we have to accept the fact that we can’t go back in time and change it. We can only go forward, use what we’ve learned and hopefully not make the same mistake again. It’s just another part of the sometimes crazy learning process that comes with traveling the windy road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Time to Stock Up on Summertime Essentials!

Hello, faithful followers! As many of you already know from my sporadic social media posts, it’s been a hectic time with Mom having her right knee replaced exactly two weeks ago today. I’m happy to report her warrior spirit continues to help her make strides each day. (A big thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to send her good wishes before surgery and during her recovery!)  I thought I’d use the first workout Wednesday of June to make a reappearance in the blogosphere – especially since we’re on the verge of ushering in the summer of 2019.

If Memorial Day weekend snuck up on you before you had time to stock up on some seasonal essentials, there’s no time like today to write up your shopping list. Being prepared is a surefire way to enjoy those summertime outdoor workouts and sunshine-filled fun with family and friends. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Don’t Ignore Those Tootsies! As we speed toward the halfway mark of 2019, now’s the time to think about the last time you got a new pair of sneakers. If you’re a serious runner or involved in high-impact exercise and it’s been six months or longer, it’s time to consider getting a new pair. Every fitness routine needs the proper footwear to ensure you’re getting the right amount of stability and support.

2. Protect the Girls!  Ladies, it’s also time to take stock of the last time you invested in a supportive sports bra. Breasts have zero muscle, but without proper support, the skin and ligaments near the breasts which give them their size and shape can break down and eventually cause sagging. (The kicker: once those ligaments stretch out, they don’t bounce back!) Whatever your size, you will experience some level of bounce during exercise. So to all my fellow fitness chicks, you should wear a sports bra whether you’re power walking, full-on running or basically doing anything that gets your moving. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a huge fan of the Athleta line of sports bras. They offer support and moisture-wicking comfort whether I’m kickboxing, Tabata training and taking a long power walk along the Hudson River.)

3. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! As a former coconut-scented tanning oil addict who now gets annual scans of the many moles on my body, I implore you to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. There are so many lightweight SPF 30 and higher sunscreen options available today. That means there is no excuse for not wearing sunscreen for a long summer stroll or a super-sweaty session of beach volleyball. If the skin on your face is super sensitive like mine (I was diagnosed with rosacea in my 30s), you may want to give La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid a try. It’s been my go-to for years.

4. Smart Snacks: Planning to spend a good part of the day away from your healthy home base? Arming yourself with prepared meals in a portable cooler can help stick with your healthy eating habits even while you’re at the beach. Many hiking trails or other walking venues don’t have much to offer in terms of fuel except for maybe the occasional hot dog vendors or some vending machines filled with sugary drinks and candy bars. So be sure to pack some healthy, portable options such as almonds, apples or low-sugar protein bars.

5. Portable Hydration: Last but certainly not least, don’t go anywhere without a reusable water bottle. (You can even fill it with ice cubes and enjoy chilled water as they melt.) Since we lose essential  potassium and sodium when we sweat, my repeat readers know I never I never leave home without a bottle of BFit Rapid Electrolyte Spray. (Zero calories, zero carbs and zero food dyes.)

Remember, a little prep and having the right items in your arsenal can make all the difference when it comes to sticking with your summer plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Special Workout Wednesday Team Effort

One favorite you'll always find in my fridge!

One favorite you’ll always find in my fridge!

I hope everyone’s enjoying this first Workout Wednesday in October! With the mercury rising into the 80s today here in New York City today, I wish I was at the beach but I’ll gladly take the sunshine!

I returned from my morning cardio session to find a link ready to share to my guest appearance on another website today. Robin Plotkin is a registered dietitian,  nutrition expert and creator of RobinsBite.com. She lives in Dallas, TX and after meeting in Cyberspace through the land of Twitter, she asked me to share my food buying and eating habits to be featured in her “Inside the Fridge” series.  Click here to read my guest post.

I close with a big thank you to Robin for the opportunity to appear on her website and a wish for all of you to use the new month as a time to add some new healthy habits to your lifestyle so you can continue on your journey 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!

Why I’m Extra Happy it’s Workout Wednesday

iStock_000018985469SmallTwo words make this a much-needed day for a big-time calorie burn: Fat Tuesday.

If you’re like millions of people around the world, you spent yesterday indulging in some “sinful” treats ranging from chocolate chip pancakes to libations of different octane levels. My office added to the sugarfest by asking our resident bakers to whip up some goodies for all of us to enjoy as a late-afternoon treat.

While I’ll be extra glad to break a serious sweat at tonight’s “UXF Burn” class, there are a few reasons I refuse to be consumed by guilt over my behavior on this annual day of decadence:

  1. It happens once in a 365-day period.
  2. For the past seven years, Fat Tuesday has fallen on the same day of the week as my favorite group exercise class. I’m just sure to kick things up an extra notch at NYSC’s Club Strength on this specific Tuesday where I tend to throw moderation out the window.
  3. Workout Wednesday immediately follows Fat Tuesday.

If you went a little overboard yesterday, you have some extra motivation to make today’s workout count! Not sure you need the boost? Consider this: pancakes rank at the top of the Fat Tuesday favorite-food list almost every year. If you enjoyed this crowd-pleaser at a restaurant like IHOP last night, remember each pancake weighs in at approximately 180 calories and six grams of fat. According to CalorieKing, burning off the calories in just one fluffy combination of sugar, flour and eggs would require 50 minutes of walking, 21 minutes of jogging, 15 minutes of swimming or 27 minutes of cycling. If you enjoyed a stack of four or five…well, you can do the math.

All that being said, I wrap up this post with a common LauraLovesFitness theme: life is simply too short to deny yourself the things you really enjoy. For me, that will always include chocolate and red wine. On the rare occasions I do splurge and enjoy those decadent items on the same day, I simply make it a point to get back on track with my healthy food choices the next day and add an extra ten or fifteen minutes to my workout. Finding a balance for all the things that bring you happiness is a challenging but critical part of our journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Flexibility Fix

Guess what? You’ve made it to the sixth Workout Wednesday of 2013!

In about another week, the exercise and healthy eating habits you started in January should start feeling more like a part of your daily routine. So whatever you do, don’t give up now!

Don't forget to stretch!

Don’t Forget to Stretch!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

I’m actually a little miffed with myself that it’s taken me until this point in the new year to remind you about one of the most crucial yet often overlooked part of a well-balanced exercise program: flexibility training. One of my biggest regrets in my life-long love affair with fitness is that it took me far too long to incorporate a healthy amount of flexibility training into my own routine. Since many of you are still working out some kinks in your exercise program, I didn’t want this habit-forming time to end without reminding you to take care of the kinks in your body, too!

What kind of kinks am I talking about? Well, unless you’re a runway model, chances are your posture isn’t the best thanks to countless hours spent sitting at a desk crouched over a keyboard or stuck behind the wheel commuting or shuttling the kids around town. If you’re on your feet all day or paint houses or work in construction, you can also suffer from tightness thanks to repetitive motions.

While I can’t assess the exact points of tension in your body, one of the most common problem areas are the latissimus dorsi, or lats, in your back.  I know when I’m on deadline at work and don’t take enough breaks to step away from the computer, my lats start screaming for some TLC.

So on this Workout Wednesday, here’s a look at one stretch for this sore spot that I think is worthy of an encore performance: the static latissimus dorsi ball stretch.

  1. The prep: Kneel in front of the stability ball with one arm on the ball and the other hand on the ground. (Training tip: For the arm that’s on the ball, make sure your thumb is pointed up.)
  2. The move: Draw your navel upward and reach forward with the arm that’s on the ball. You will feel a stretch along the side of your torso into the lower back.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to start position, switch sides and repeat.

Photos by Lauren Bachner
At Hype Gym

For an active variation on this stretch, you would prepare for and execute the stretch the same way. However, once you reach your arm forward, hold the stretch for 2 seconds, then roll back to the start and repeat for 5-10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

As we move forward in 2013, don’t be surprised to find I re-visit the importance of flexibility training in any fitness program. Taking care of those tight muscles is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

%d bloggers like this: