The Simple Way To Boost Upper-Body Strength

If you’re anything like me, you actively avoid exercises that look even remotely like a push-up. Let’s face it, planks and push-ups are difficult—especially for us women, whose strength tends to reside in the lower body.

However, when it comes to feeling great and preventing injury, the body must be strong uniformly. Attention to upper-body training is paramount to overall fitness.

My job as a Pilates instructor is to create physically challenging exercises that are also mentally engaging, helping the client to focus on form and flow while distracting them from the difficulty and discomfort of the movement. Traditional push-ups, despite their effectiveness, aren’t what I’d call “engaging.” The down-up drudgery can be a downer!

With that in mind, I’ve created some dynamic exercises, highlighted in my most recent mindbodygreen article, that most certainly aren’t your mama’s push-ups. These movements are certain to spice up your upper-body strength routine. Click below to read the full article, with step-by-step instructions on how to do each exercise:

The Simple Way To Boost Upper-Body Strength

5 Squat Variations You've Never Tried Before

Squats are some of the most effective exercises in the pantheon of body conditioning movements. Squats target the large, calorie-hungry muscles of the legs and glutes while providing a secondary core benefit by strengthening the abdominal stabilizers and lower back muscles. The only problem is that squats can become... BORING.

Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. You get the picture.

As a Pilates instructor, I’m always look for ways to make my sessions and classes exciting. Creating dynamic, multi-muscle and multi-plane movements keeps my clients physically and mentally invested in their workouts. Squats and lunges are perfect exercises to use as a foundation for more complex patterns of movement, and I’ve compiled a few of my favorite squat and lunge variations my most recent MINDBODYGREEN article. Click below to read, and use these variations to spice up your next workout!

5 Squat Variations You've Never Tried Before

Unmotivated to Work Out? Me, Too.

Despite my passion for fitness, I often find myself unable to imagine schlepping to the Pilates studio for that class I know I’ll enjoy, but I JUST DON’T WANT TO GO!

All of us, no matter how disciplined we are, experience periods of ambivalence toward our commitment to consistent exercise, and sometimes we just need a doggone break.

If this happens to you, then read my most recent article on MINDBODYGREEN for some simple yet effective strategies to once again get your body moving, your blood flowing and your heart back in the game.

How To Get Motivated When You're Not

In The Mood To Work Out

Good luck getting back out there! Xoxoxo - Lara

PS - check out my new 6-week online nutrition & fitness program SKINNY, STRONG SMART. Enrollment is now open!

Why Those Pounds Are Stickin' Around

Summer's almost here, and I'm in a mad scramble to slim down for swimsuit season. Despite my many years as a fitness guru, I'm a real girl who struggles with those last few stubborn pounds, and I understand how frustrating it can be to feel stuck, unable to shed that warm winter weight as the days grow hotter.

So read on to discover 5 of the Top 10 Reasons Why Those Pounds Are Sticking Around. With just a few small changes, it will be so much easier to lose weight, exercise with loads of energy, and feel strong, sleek & sexy, just in time for summer.

# I: YOU’RE DRINKING YOUR CALORIES

The average American consumes up to 500 extra calories per day in SWEETENED BEVERAGESYIKES! These excess calories come from refined sugar - highly addictive and the primary factor in our current diabetes epidemic. So the first and most important thing to do for weight loss, and your health, is to ditch the soda, juice, alcohol, coffee concoctions, vitamin waters, and other beverages with added sugar. Some alternatives: naturally flavored filtered or sparkling water, herbal or green tea, black coffee, kombucha, and unsweetened coconut water. 

# 2: YOUR FOOD COMES FROM A BOX OR BAG

Our greatest obstacle to weight loss is the consumption of shiny colored, cleverly packaged food-like products lining the shelves of our grocery stores. PROCESSED FOODS are steeped in additives, preservatives and chemicals, compounds that pollute our body’s hormonal, metabolic and immune systems. These foreign substances disrupt our body’s ability to properly metabolize energy, resulting in lethargy and weight gain. 

CLEAN EATING is the real key to weight loss. Eat whole foods without a package or label, and with just one ingredient - itself! Ditching the junk food will help you shed layers easily without going on a calorie-restricted “diet.”

# 3: YOU’RE STRESSED OUT!!!

Back when we were being chased by saber-toothed tigers, stress was an awesome evolutionary response. A rush of adrenaline and cortisol endowed us with a burst of energy so that we made it to the safest refuge. Our muscles flooded with glucose to provide us the strength to escape danger. MODERN STRESS is a more chronic and insidious bedfellow. The same physiological responses occur, but now we sit at our desks, rub our temples and scrunch our faces. Stress hormones become toxic in our system & disable our ability to burn energy. The body tells the brain to replenish the energy stores it thinks it burned off fleeing from that tiger, so we overeat. Then we grow even more stressed that we’re gaining weight, and the vigorous face scrunching continues!!

So how do we reverse the harmful effects of stress? Meditation, self-care, breathing exercises, vacation - but my favorite stress reducer? EXERCISE. Which brings us to #4...

# 4: EXERCISE IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Making time to exercise is HARD. We spend 12 hours a day building our career, 16 hours a day raising our kids, and if we’re lucky we manage to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before we do it all over again. How do we fit in fitness? The only way to stick to a regular routine is to do things you enjoy. Think about what you loved to do as a kid, and look for an adult equivalent. Here are some creative ideas to get your body moving and your blood flowing:

GARDENING . BOOT CAMP . MARTIAL ARTS . SWIMMING . BALLET . SOCCER . BALLROOM DANCING . HIKING . KITE FLYING . ROCK CLIMBING . FOOTBALL . FRISBEE . TWISTER!

Our bodies are designed to move, stretch, leap, play, twist, reach, romp - otherwise we stagnate and suffer. Beyond building strength and promoting weight loss, EXERCISE reduces stress, promotes quality sleep, improves mood, sharpens the mind and boosts self-confidence. WIN, WIN, WIN! So do whatever it takes - get up earlier, store workout gear in your work desk, recruit a friend to help you stay accountable. Embrace exercise not as an afterthought, but as an essential act of love for your body, heart and soul.

# 5: YOU'RE STUCK IN YOUR STORY

The most miraculous - and terrifying - power we have is CHOICE. And it’s not just the choice to embrace a healthy lifestyle. It’s about choosing to the leave behind the STORIES that hold us back. It’s about tearing down the walls of self-doubt, walls we built against the traumas of past experiences, walls that now keep us trapped and unable to unlock the door to a different, better life. It’s scary to lay down the crutches and walk with your own two feet. But those crutches are as much a burden as a bolster. Although you may fall more than once, taking hold of your destiny helps you build the self-trust necessary to get back up and move forward. Then, and only then, will treating yourself with respect be the ONLY choice for you. You’ll instinctively choose nourishing foods, prioritize your exercise regimen, and make time for self-care. You’ll never again need to “diet,” for those pounds will come off naturally, like a blanket you no longer need in the warmth of a new sun.

Acknowledge the stories, good and bad, that have brought you to this moment, and then commit to making a new story, one where the choices are all yours. Break down the wall, see the glimmering possibility of change, and CHOOSE YOU.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER 5 REASONS, DOGGONE IT?
ENTER YOUR EMAIL & I'LL SEND YOU MY FULL E-GUIDE
"10 REASONS THOSE POUNDS ARE STICKIN' AROUND"

 

 

My Favorite Spring Things

Winter is finally over and the landscape is awash with the florid colors of spring. I took my first run in short sleeves last week – hallelujah! – which means bare shoulders, swimsuits and sunscreen are just around the corner. I feel a surge of re-birth, swooning bursts of energy, and the desire to give fat, figurative bear hugs to all my current loves because I’m so damn happy!

So here are a few of my favorite spring things, from sandals to sounds to supporting good causes, to help you to stay healthy as the season blossoms with energy.

À votre santé to you, and a big, personal-space-invading bear hug, too!

MY NEW FOOT FETISH: BOKOS

I’m a die-hard flip-flopper and rarely stray, but my feet have found nirvana in my new lavender BOKOS, the absolute perfect spring fit for doing almost anything. I wear them to yoga, to the health food store, to preschool pick-up, and soon to the pool. I’m obsessed! They’re comfortable, inexpensive, slip-proof and the BOKOS color palette is sah-weet. The only prerequisite to wearing them? An equally springy pedicure (yes, guys, that means you, too).

Visit BOKOS and use the promo code “LARA” for 20% off your online order! (They run a wee bit big, so order a half size down if in doubt…)

FROM RAVER TO RUNNER: NOKTURNALIST ON SOUNDCLOUD

Dust me off and hand me a glow stick! I spent two years in the underground house scene in early 90’s San Francisco, and the pounding clubs and pebbled beaches of the Bay were pure magic. I was lucky to experience the best dance music being made in the world at that time and, 20 years later, I still search for that beat to quicken my pulse and motivate my runs.

This spring, I found my muse: NOKTURNALIST on SoundCloud.

Think of this cat as the King Curator of the most current music in the EDM scene. Through his SoundCloud page, I’ve discovered DJs like Hot Since ’82, Solumun and Maceo Plex, artists making and playing music my crotchety old self would never have been able to find on her own. (i.e., 40-ish mother-of-two still shaking her money maker at the clubs? Uh, no.)

I invite you to follow NOKTURNALIST and keep him in your pocket for a little fire on your runs this spring. My current favorite mix is DJ SOLUMUN IN AMSTERDAM. Tie up your running shoes and turn it up. Guaranteed to improve your splits time, bigtime!

FEELING GOOD BY DOING GOOD: CHARITY MILES

Charity Miles is the Great Idea makes you say, “Now why didn’t I think of that??”

For every mile you walk, run or bike, Charity Miles donates money to a long list of organizations such as Stand Up to Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, Nature Conservancy and more. Bikers earn 10¢ a mile and walkers and runners earn 25¢ a mile for their charity of choice, without ever having to open their wallet.

Simply turn on the app, choose a charity, and press start. As you exercise, the app tracks your distance and the money earned.

So what are you waiting for? Download the app today on your iPhone or Android, get out there in the fresh springtime air, and run, walk or bike for your favorite charity. It feels so good to do good, all while getting healthy. WIN!

HAPPY SPRING!

Xoxoxo - Lara

5 Twisting Exercises for a Smaller Waist

For the New Year, I'm getting back to my roots and writing on my favorite topic - FITNESS!

Click below to read my latest MindBodyGreen article:

TWIST YOUR WAY TO A SLIMMER, STRONGER WAIST WITH THESE 5 PILATES MOVES

These uber-effective exercises are guaranteed to help shed the "Santa Suit" and get you back in fighting condition!

That's it for now, I've gotta go wring myself out!

Xoxoxo - Lara

Muscle Definition is About More than Just Fitness

Last week I wrote about how FORM is the key to getting the body you've always wanted. But I received several comments that asked, "But what about FOOD?"

So my next piece for MINDBODYGREEN is all about eating smarter so your muscles pop and your fat cells shrink. Some of my suggestions may surprise you:

Eat fat. Eat less meat. Eat more plants.

WHAT???

Click below to read more...

MUSCLE DEFINITION IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST FITNESS

Please LIKE it, Tweet it, Pin it, Share it, send it around your virtual community!

With gratitude, Lara

Survival of Your Winter Workouts

This is my second winter in Chicago, and this year, the season is taking its toll on my workout regimen. Last winter was long but relatively snow-free, so I was able to get outside (with myriad layers of proper gear) and run through the streets of the city during the deepest months, feeling cold but highly accomplished due to my get-out-there grit where others chose to stay indoors to drink beer and lament winter's heavy hand.

But this year? SNOW, SNOW, SNOW. The white world outside my window is beautiful for like maybe 5 minutes, but then it dawns on me that in order to continue life as usual, I have to trudge through the drifts with my Paul Bunyan snow boots, my hat, gloves, scarf, my puffy Michelin-Man coat - you get the picture. With each falling snowflake, the idea of staying at home with a nice buzz and self-righteous complaints about the weather sounds better and better.

I get it, Chicago! I get the temptation to hibernate, to gain a few pounds and blame it on the scene outside, to make excuses for your inactivity by scapegoating the snow.

But I'm a California girl and I will not succumb! Instead, I've developed some strategies that are helpful when the weather is bad and you REALLY want to stay under the covers.

1. FIND A HOT WORKOUT STUDIO: Okay, so maybe I'm biased because I own a studio that offers heated core-based strength training classes (Mercury Method, anyone?), but I can't tell you how good it feels to warm your bones in a heated room when the elements have put the city in deep freeze. Like a lizard on a hot rock, you can feel the heat seeping deep into your inner layers so you get warm from the inside out. And the fact that you are moving your body, lubricating your joints, circulating your blood, breathing deeply and breaking a sweat means that you're strengthening your own internal heat engine. Hot yoga is the most popular heated practice by far, but more and more group fitness studios are offering warm workouts, so check the current programming at your local fitness centers.

2. LACK MOTIVATION TO LEAVE THE HOUSE? - BUILD A BATHROOM GYM BASKET: It sounds simple enough, but this tactic has gotten me to keep my workout commitments more than anything else. Before you go to bed, pull all your workout gear together - pants, top, tennis shoes, water bottle, ear buds, etc. - put them in a basket in your bathroom so the next morning all you have to do is either: a) put it on!, or b) throw it in a gym bag and take it to work with you. If you wake up in the morning and in the semi-darkness try to hunt around for all that stuff, you'll blow it off altogether. A little preparation goes a long way, so take 5 minutes before bed and get your gear in order!

3. AT-HOME WORKOUT DVD'S ARE WHERE IT'S AT: Okay, I admit that on the coldest, darkest days, you are best served by surrendering to the power of Mother Nature. Stay home, hang out, catch up on domestic duties and watch an extra episode of Real Housewives. But be sure to carve out some time for an at-home workout. Roll out a mat, pop in your favorite workout DVD (many available on NetFlix and streaming) and combat seasonal fatigue with at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise!

Remember, working out doesn't make you tired; exercise energizes you through deep breathing, circulation and muscle strengthening. Burn off those glucose reserves so you feel more like a red-hot phoenix and less like the icy sludge piled up outside your front door.

Winter tests your fitness fortitude, but don't allow yourself to fall victim to its hypothermic charms! Use any and all means to keep moving - stretch, curl, twist, arch, breathe and keep generating your inner sunshine when there is none outside. This too shall pass, and with it comes the beauty and re-birth of Springtime, when you can show some skin and show off that svelte physique you created during the worst of winter. Put your head down, put your Lululemons on, and get to it!