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A Different Kind of Workout Wednesday

Of course, there's workout wear tucked away for my trip!

Of course, I packed some workout wear!

This particular Workout Wednesday marks a first for me. Depending on what time you read this, I’ll either be getting ready for or in the midst of flying to Amsterdam! As I write this post, I’m beyond excited to meet up with my lifelong buddy Ania and her pal Tiffany for what’s sure to be a fun-filled adventure!

While I’ll be skipping the workout today, I do plan on making use of our hotel’s fitness center during the trip. While I’m gone, if you need a shot of motivation, don’t hesitate to scroll down to the “Search This Site” box on the right side of this page. If you type in anything from abdominals to Zumba, hopefully you’ll find something helpful from one of my previous 200+ posts.

I leave you with links to some “oldies but goodies” that offer tips on key training concepts. I hope they’ll help as you continue your hard work on turning those New Year’s resolutions into routine behavior:

My next post will appear on Monday, January 28th. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments or email me with any questions or with any topics you’d like me to touch on in the weeks ahead. Wishing everyone a great week and I look forward to returning with even more energy to continue on this journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why Laura Loves the Stability Ball

It’s Workout Wednesday and you know that means? It’s time to get on the ball! Literally.

This past weekend, I did something I haven’t done in far too long. Since the cardio area was super crowded, I grabbed a stability ball and some free weights and got started on a total-body workout that kicked my endorphins into high gear. (The bonus: when I finished my stability ball workout, the traffic had died down a bit in the cardio area and I added 30 minutes of high-intensity elliptical training to round out my routine.)

What makes doing exercises on a stability ball so effective? The scientific explanation is that it creates a proprioceptively enriched environment for your workout. This type of environment challenges the internal balance and stabilization mechanisms of the body. When performing exercises on a stability ball, your body is forced to balance itself, which means you get the added benefit of working multiple muscles at once.

Think of it this way: If you lie on a bench to perform a chest press, you get good work for your pectoral muscles, but not much else. However, perform that same exercise on a stability ball and you have to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes to remain stable and perform the exercise. Talk about a great way to get more from your exercise routine without spending countless more hours working out!

If you need one more reason to get on the ball, here it is: virtually every exercises performed on the ball works your core, which is responsible for stabilizing the rest of the body. Maintaining a strong core improves your performance in and out of the gym with daily activities ranging from walking up stairs to carrying groceries.

I leave you with some of my favorite stability ball exercises and would love to hear about yours. Remember, getting on the ball is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Ball Bridge Start Position

Ball Bridge Start Position

Finish

Finish

DSC_3521

Ball Cobra Start

Ball Cobra Finish

Ball Cobra Finish

Ball Dumbbell Chest Press Start
Ball Dumbbell Chest Press Start

Finish

Finish

Overhead Press Start

Overhead Press Start

Finish

Finish

Tricep Extension Start

Triceps Extension

All photos by Lauren Bachner

All photos by
Lauren Bachner

Workout Wednesday: The 12 Days of Fitness Re-Boot

Christmas treeIt’s hard to believe this marks the last Workout Wednesday I’m actually working in 2012. As you read this post, I’m in Salem, Massachusetts producing a video shoot, which also marks my last video production for the year.

In an effort to start winding down on a lighter note, and also add a bit of levity to a still difficult time in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I’m bringing back one of my “fun” posts from 2011. Hope you enjoy my fitness-minded twist on a holiday classic:

On the first day of fitness, my workout gave to me…a huge rush of endorphins.

On the second day of fitness, my workout gave to me…two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the third day of fitness, my workout gave to me…three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the fourth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…a four-minute Tabata,  three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the fifth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the sixth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the seventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the eighth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the ninth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the tenth day of fitness, my workout gave to me….ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the eleventh day of fitness, my workout gave to me…eleven eccentric muscle actions, ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata , three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

On the twelfth day of fitness, my workout gave to me…twelve reps of lunges, eleven eccentric muscle actions, ten minutes rowing, nine neuromuscular benefits, eight endurance boosts, seven stability exercises, six static stretches, five fitness apps! A four-minute Tabata, three sets of squats, two tighter thighs and a huge rush of endorphins.

Remember, don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season put the brakes on your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: No Excuses!

iStock_000018191976XSmallYes, I know we’re smack in the middle of Hanukkah and only 13 days away from Christmas. I also realize we’re busy juggling everything from work or studying for final exams to taking care of the kids and managing the social calendar that’s probably chock full of holiday gatherings. Despite all this, it’s no time to skimp on getting your daily dose of physical activity.

If you’re saying, “but Laura, I can’t get to Zumba this week because my f avorite class is on the same night as my company’s holiday party” or “if I don’t go shopping after work tomorrow, I won’t have time the rest of the week,” listen up! That hour you normally dedicate to exercise might be filled this week, but if you have 10 minutes to spare a few times a day, you do have time to get moving! (Since 10 x 3 =30, getting in that half-hour of activity isn’t as tough as you think!)

Seriously, you owe it to yourself to find 10 minutes to move. It will help keep your mind healthy during the hustle and bustle of these frenetic December days, too! What can you do in 10 minutes?

  • Climb stairs: If you have them at home, you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas in the morning to make this happen. Take the stairs at the train station instead of the escalator. If you work in an office building, take the stairs instead of the elevator as often as possible.
  • Jump rope: This is a piece of workout gear everyone should have. You can pick one up anywhere from your local sports-gear shop to any Target or Walmart. Jumping rope on a soft surface like a carpet or low-cut grass will give your knees a bit of protection. If you’re brand new to jumping rope, try skipping over the rope alternating feet in 30-second increments and work up to more minutes as you go. Before you know it, you’ll want to keep skipping beyond those 10 minutes!
  • Divvy up the DVD time: Have a favorite 30-minute workout DVD? Break it up into 10 minute segments.
  • Transform your house into a gym: Any wall can be used for standing push-ups; stairs are great for calf raises and triceps dips and any floor is the perfect spot for planks and crunches!
  • Walk, walk and walk some more: I always say one of my favorite things about living in New York City is I simply do my best to walk anywhere and everywhere I can. At this time of year, that includes leaving work and meeting up with friends for some holiday cheer. If you’re driving to work, the grocery store or the mall, park a little further from the entrance. At lunch time, spend less time checking email or social media sites and take a 10-minute walk outside the office. The fresh air will do your brain some good, too!

Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, if you’ve got 10 minutes, you’ve got all the time you need to do something that can help you 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!

Workout Wednesday: Business Trip Edition

I had the whole hotel fitness center to myself on my recent business trip to Iowa City!

Greetings from Orlando!

As you read this first Workout Wednesday installment for October 2012, I’m either prepping for or in the midst of producing another shoot. Since this marks the second consecutive week I’ve traveled for work and have another trip in another city soon following this one, I thought it was the perfect time to share the basic survival tip that keeps my health and fitness routine in check while I’m on the road. It’s all about what you toss in your suitcase.

Along with being sure I have my production tools and TSA-size-approved plastic bag of toiletries, I always take a few extra minutes to throw in the following essentials to keep hunger and unhealthy snacking in check. The key is having one for each day of the trip:

  • Almonds: Lucky for me Trader Joe’s takes the guesswork out of counting out almonds for a proper serving size by selling the “Just a Handful” snack-pack. Having the correct serving size also prevents me from buying the jumbo bag at the airport and loading up on too many calories in one snack session.
  • Fiber One bars: I’m a big fan of the Chocolate & Oats variety.
  • Gym clothes: A pair of Under Armour gym shorts, t-shirt, sports bra and a couple of extra pairs of socks take up virtually no room in a suitcase, even if it’s a carry-on. I usually travel wearing my cross trainers to travel and pack my “cute” shoes. (It’s the best way to stay comfortable during flight delays, too!)

The few snacks provide me with no excuse to reach for something unhealthy if too much time goes by between meals thanks to a long production schedule. Also, getting up early enough to make sure I eat a healthy breakfast before the work begins is also crucial to making sure I have energy and remain focused on my work.

Remember, whether you’re packing for a quick business trip or overnight weekend escape, packing a few healthy essentials can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – no matter where the road takes you!

Another Workout Wednesday – Beach Edition

Chilling out after a beach sprint Tabata

Still riding a high from my Montauk vacation, I thought I’d use this Workout Wednesday to remind everyone to soak up what’s left of summer by getting some exercise outside!

I know I’ve written a lot about my new obsession with Tabata training. Well, here’s another chapter in that love affair! (In case you forgot, the idea behind this four-minute high-intensity formula is eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest.)

Here are two Tabatas I banged out four out of the five days during my recent beach getaway. There’s nothing particularly fancy about either of them. They just happened to be extra rewarding with the feel of the sun on my skin and the sand under my feet. Of course, let’s not forget the ultimate reward: being able to cool off in the ocean when the hard work was done!

  • Plank Tabata: I got my mom to use my iPhone to capture me doing one. Enjoy!

  • Beach Sprint Tabata. I know, I’m not a runner, but I actually motivated myself to use the beach as a distraction from an activity I  normally don’t like to do. So, in true Tabata fashion, here’s how I worked it: For the 20-second max intensity portion of the interval, I simply ran as close to a sprint as possible while keeping good form on the uneven surface of the sand. Then for the 10-second “rest” period of the interval, I simply slowed to a walk. On the last two days of the trip, I managed to pull off a mini “Tabata Derby” by doing three sprint Tabatas in a row (with a minute of rest in between).

The kicker was that I got my “regular” elliptical and weight training workouts in at the fitness center each morning before 8:30. Then, usually just before or after lunch, I would use the beach for the Tabatas. Getting two workouts in on a day was another huge treat during my vacation!

Even if you’re not a beach lover, you can still do exercises like squats, lunges, side planks and crunches in a park or in your own backyard! Whatever the season, there are plenty of ways to take your favorite exercises to new places and find exciting ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Get Some Sleep!

With Chris Freytag, Chairman of the Board, American Council on Exercise (ACE)

I know it’s Workout Wednesday, but I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss something too many of us are slacking on when it comes to trying to follow a healthy lifestyle: catching those much-needed zzzzzz’s.

If you woke up today after a less-than-restful night, you’re not alone. Here are a couple of eye-opening facts from the Better Sleep Council:

  • 73% of Americans are only getting seven hours of sleep or less per night during the work week
  • 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems

Today, my two professional worlds collided and I was able to learn about the effects of not getting enough shut-eye from one of the country’s most respected health and fitness experts. I was thrilled to work with Chris Freytag as the producer on her satellite media tour where she discussed the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. She also revealed some interesting results from research conducted by Beautyrest to find out just how much sleep we’re missing out on across the country. Check out the video below to see my one-on-one interview with Chris.

(The interview will also be featured in the upcoming July edition of “Health & Home Report” – another element in my production life for West Glen Communications, Inc.)

Surprisingly in the Beautyrest survey, New York didn’t live up to its name as the “city that never sleeps.” It came in at number 22 on the “Top 30 US Cities Most In Need of Recharging” hit list. (Not so surprising? Las Vegas came in at number one.) Click here to find if you live in one of the country’s sleepiest cities!

Remember, if  you’re striving to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, make sure to add getting more zzzz’s to your overall plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Speedy Workout Wednesday

As you read this post, I’m either prepping for, in the midst of or winding down after a full-day shoot in Beverly Hills, California. I look forward to writing about my first visit to the area and how I hopefully find a way to squeeze some fitness time into a hectic schedule. For now, I didn’t want to let a Workout Wednesday go by without letting you in on my current go-to routine for when I have only an hour and very little brain power to get “creative” at the gym.

  • Nothing Like a Solid Plank Tabata! Photo by Lauren Bachner

    5 minutes of self-myofascial release (SMR) with the foam roller and stretching for my three chronic problem areas: calves, TFL and lats.

  • 20-minute full-body weight circuit: As a member of New York Sports Clubs, I’m a big fan of their “Xpress Line.” The machines take you through each major muscle group. I do two to three sets of 12-20 reps with minimal rest in between. If you don’t belong to NYSC, you can still do a quick full-body circuit. Click here for a reminder of the machines to look for in your own gym.
  • 30 minutes elliptical training with a mix of moderate / high intensity.
  • Tabata time: I have become a Tabata addict! As a refresher, a Tabata interval involves four minutes of work with 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for a total of eight sets. As the full-body weight circuit at NYSC doesn’t include any kind of ab work, I tend to do planks or crunches if I only have time for one Tabata interval.
  • 5 minutes of same SMR and stretches I performed at the start of the workout. (So, this pushes my workout to about 65 minutes, but the SMR in particular has helped me find some serious relief for my overactive muscles since I started making the foam roller a part of my regular routine six months ago.)

Some mix-and-match ideas: if you want to focus solely on cardio, skip the weight circuit and add 20 minutes on the treadmill, stationary bike or rowing machine to the elliptical training. Or simply add more Tabatas to the mix! One of the toughest workouts Roberto had us perform in our UFX class was a 20-minute “Tabata Derby.” He set up five stations of different exercises and we would spend four minutes (or one Tabata interval) at each one. Click here for a refresher on what that class looked like for my small group training class.

Remember, no matter how pressed you are for time, make a conscious effort NOT to skimp on the flexibility portion of the workout. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: to keep your body in balance, stretching the muscles that are tight is just as important as strengthening the ones that are weak as part of your overall plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Small Group Training

On this Workout Wednesday, I thought I’d tell you about a new adventure I just started to add a little variety to my own routine.

Every Monday and Wednesday night for the next eight weeks, you can find me at New York Sports Club getting my butt kicked in a small group training class called called UXF, short for “Ultimate Fitness Experience.” Six of us signed up for the one-hour class led by my friend and personal trainer extraordinaire Roberto Murichi. One class down and I can’t wait to go back for more! Along with getting a killer workout, I’m also using this class to expand my knowledge as a personal trainer by learning from someone who’s been in the industry for the past decade.

A “Basic” Butt-Kicking Exercise!

The Push-Up

After a warm up that included eight rounds of bicycle crunches, squats and push ups – performing as many reps as possible in 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest – Roberto set up five stations for us to rotate through as a circuit. The exercises ranged from using ropes to lifting with kettlebells. We worked at each station for 60-seconds straight, then moved on to the next. (There was one rest station. Each of us breathed a serious sigh of relief when it was our turn to move to that spot!)

After several rounds, it was easy to see how this class offers a killer combination of strength training and cardio. As we move forward, the exercises will change, and the number of rounds will increase. Roberto will “score” each of us at an upcoming class and he’ll do the same thing when we wrap at the end of April. I can’t wait to see how my numbers compare!

Photos by Lauren Bachner

Along with the intense exercises and Roberto’s expertise as a motivational fitness instructor, there’s something else I love about this class: the small group dynamic.There’s some sort of instant bond that seems to develop when you get a half-dozen people together who are at different stages of training. One of my small group classmates has been working with Roberto in one-on-one sessions for the past two months. His wife also signed up for the class, but in her case, it marks the first time she’s stepped foot inside the gym during the same time frame.

While each of us may be starting at a different fitness level, we all share similar goals of improving our strength, endurance and agility. The bottom line is we’re all looking to do what we can to be physically fit.

I look forward to spending the next eight weeks sweating it out with my new classmates and encouraging each other to get through those seemingly never-ending circuits. Whether you sign up for a small group training class; take the same Zumba classes every week; join a running club or workout with a personal trainer, it’s nice to have fitness friends to help you on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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