An Open Letter to My Little Sister

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Dear Sister:

 

I bet I’m the millionth person to tell you this, but I’m going to say it anyway.  You are gorgeous. Like, ridiculously gorgeous. Beyond that, you are creative, thoughtful, and always ready to try something that interests you. Your capacity to deeply feel anything and everything is admirable, and something that I have never been able to do.  

 

Soon you will be 20 years old.   This is a big deal. It is also insane to me, because I remember the day you were born.  I wanted to wear my favorite dress the day I met you.  It was a real gem. 

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I know that I’ve always been a little overbearing and demanding.  When we were younger, I would have really specific scripts that we had to follow when we played Barbies or American Girl dolls, or even when we were pretending we could ski in the swimming pool in the back yard.  Thanks for dealing with my neuroticism from a young age.  Thanks also for dealing with constant need to show affection.  I promise it all comes from a place of love. 

 

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Anyway, if you are online at all EVER, or have seen any movies about 20somethings, you may think that your 20s are all about living it up, having a blast, and trying new things. I would agree with that. Your 20s are a gift—and a fun one at that.  However, your 20s are also when you begin to have all sorts of responsibilities and consequences, and are learning to really be a “grown-up.” There’s that side too, or at least there was for me. 

 

So here I sit, thinking about what I wish I would have known when I was in your shoes—just a few (ok slightly more than just a few) years ago.  They are things that I still stand by and strive to remember, and I’d love to share them with you.

 

1. Remember you aren’t bulletproof.  Consider your health. Create a habit that you can keep up with forever… or at least until something comes along you love even more and makes you feel good. Find a healthy stress reliever and do it every day. Sleep a reasonable amount of time. Move every day. Occasionally sit around and have FRIENDS or Gilmore Girls marathons, because laughter is good for the soul.

 

2. Don’t stop learning.  You might not have a final at the end of the semester, but keep your brain active.  Read a book that makes you think.  Read the newspaper so you know what is going on around you.  If you’re curious about how something works, or how something came into being, research it.  If there is something at your job you do not understand, find a way to learn about it. When you stop learning, you stop improving yourself.

 

3. Do something that terrifies you.  I mean, seriously puts you into an almost panic attack. Move to a new city.  Take the plunge and take a job that is going to be a challenge.  This world is a huge and amazing place, and don’t let fear stop you from seeing what you want or achieving anything because you are more than capable of doing whatever you set your mind too.  Don’t be paralyzed by what may or may not happen. Get excited about the possibilities.  Hiding behind excuses of why something just won’t work will prevent you from success.  You are so much better than that, sis. Want to know a secret? I was scared to move to DC for that internship.  I was nervous that taking the job with AmeriCorps would leave me broke on the street. I thought that M was nuts that he wanted to seriously date a girl who is incapable of a serious relationship.  Sometimes things turn out better than you could ever imagine but if you don’t put on a brave face and go for it, you’ll never know.

 

4. When you absolutely hate something, finish it anyway.  I’m about to burst all of your bubbles, and I’m sorry, but as your big sister it’s my responsibility to let you know something.  Sometimes work SUCKS.  Sometimes life is HARD. Sometimes, you are going to be AWFUL at something and hate every minute of it.  However, after taking on something you truly hate and conquering it, you’ll realize that you can do anything. Also, in life, you can’t do only what you love and only what you’re good at.  Toughing it out through the tough stuff, bad times, and seriously terrible tasks makes you appreciate the good things that much more.  It also shows everyone that you can’t be stopped and won’t settle.  So, if nothing else convinces you to carry on, remember that everything has a finish line and will eventually end. You can do it, you just have to stick it out. This is a particularly hard lesson, but accepting it at the beginning saves time and heartache—I promise.

 

5. When someone shares an opinion about something that’s vastly different than yours, listen anyway. Really listen. Don’t interrupt, even if it is stupid or ridiculous, or if you just don’t like them.  Do this because someday someone will think that about your opinion, and you should be given the chance to share your thoughts then as well.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even learn something. At least you’ll have done something that is worthy of respect and falls in line with that wonderful character that you have.  It isn’t your job to change everyone’s opinion to match yours, no matter how sure you are that yours is the best out there. 

 

6. When you find something you love to do, stick with it. There will always be something that pays more or looks more glamorous. Remembering why you are somewhere helps when things get tough. A delight in life is making a difference and knowing that you are doing something that is fulfilling to you. That being said, remember you are never stuck anywhere.  If you’ve given something a lot of thought and prayer, I believe that you just know when it’s time to move on.  Don’t be afraid to do that, but make sure it’s what you really want before you give up something that you know you love to do.

 

7. There is nothing on your resume that trumps hard work. Create a reputation of being the person that gets things done. Beat deadlines.  When you’re at work, focus all of your mind and heart into what you are doing.  Ask if there is more you can do. Be honest when you are stuck or make a mistake—no one expects perfection. Fix errors that you can, accept and move on from errors you cannot control or correct.  Accept criticism with grace and openness, knowing you are not perfect.  Don’t let pride stand between you and a better, more knowledgeable self.  If you’re having a bad day, no one at work should be able to tell. Sidenote: A coffee pot in your office is a godsend and worth every penny.

 

8. Don’t burn bridges.  I credit Mrs. Callan from AP English with this. She also added that you never know who your boss will be.  She was right. Make an effort to be kind to all and show great respect to everyone you meet.  At the very least you aren’t screwing yourself out of future employment, but more than that, respecting others is a reflection of your character.  Likewise, not respecting others—no matter their actions toward you—is a reflection of your own poor character.

 

9. When you don’t know the answer, ask someone who does.  No one expects you to know everything.  This piece of advice is something that I learned from experience, when I wish I would have learned it in theory first. So much time and effort and dignity is saved when you can just admit you don’t know. The result is two-fold: 1. You learn something and won’t have to keep asking.  2.  You probably would screw it up if you just guessed, so save yourself having to do something over again. There is no shame in needing help.

 

10. You are not “too good” for any task. Remember your roots.  Even as you get promoted to the highest heights, as I’m sure you will, remember that you are a person, the same as everyone else on this planet.  There is nothing that you’re “too good” to do.  That pride is dangerous and that attitude is obvious to everyone.  You are not entitled to anything in life, and the sooner you realize that, the more successful you will be.

 

 

Oh, and always remember to call mom at least once a week. I still think she knows everything. The number one blessing of being in our family is knowing you have a support system always—no matter what.  Leggings are never a substitute for pants, unless you’re wearing a long top that covers your butt or it’s an 80s party or you’re running a marathon.  When your friend asks if she looks fat and she does, say the outfit just isn’t her color or style. Don’t date drummers; it’s a cliché for a reason. Have a designated driver or a cab ALWAYS- NO EXCUSES! Even though I know you won’t be having sex until you’re 40 and married, just know condoms are non-negotiable.  Have daddy go with you to help pick out your first apartment so he can check out how everything works. Have mom go with you to make sure you’ll have everything you need, because she thinks of everything.

 

And I love you tons.

 

xoxo,

 

Aly  

Just a Man and His Will to Survive

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Have you ever felt just a little bit overwhelmed at the gym? Like maybe you’re the only person there who doesn’t bench 750 pounds or run marathons?

When I first started working out, I was in a constant state of being overwhelmed and down on myself.  The group class was the embodiment of anxiety. Do I want to spend 30 minutes to an hour being the chubby kid in the back row heaving like a beached whale? No thanks.

But I have a secret. You are one of the blessed few that gets to hear it.  Group classes can actually be an ego boost! They give you mojo and can crush that plateau. 

Sure, sure, I’ve mentioned them before but I wanted to highlight how big of deal they’ve been for me. That workout buddy you have is perfect and wonderful, but having a whole group of people who notice when you’ve been skipping out is such a motivation.  Here are some tips that I wish I’d known from day one.

Group Class Survival 101

1.  Not everything is about me.  Everyone in the class you just entered is working on their own fitness goals. You aren’t the center of the world.  Not everyone is staring at you.  Not everyone is wondering why the hell is that girl here.  Not everyone just noticed that you couldn’t knock out that last pushup. Promise.

 

2. Chill out. Take a break. There’s always that moment in the middle where I’m pretty convinced I’m about to die.  I’m a little embarrassed how long it took for me to have the realization that this is MY class and it’s all good if I take a little break and grab some water.  I always had this idea that I had to do everything exactly like the instructor—pace, intensity, length, speed, and height.  Yeah, that instructor that teaches these classes 4 times a day and has dedicated his/her life to teaching others fitness. Needless to say, I couldn’t quite keep up.

 

3. Bring water. And a towel. If it’s a good class, you’re going to sweat like crazy. Dehydration will make you shaky and unfocused. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Don’t get blinded by sweat dripping into your eyes, causing them to sting like mad.  You won’t be able to concentrate on the instructor or see what they’re doing, so a towel is a great plan too.

 

4. Don’t let your clothes be an obstacle.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again! Confession: I didn’t follow my own rule at a recent boxing class and really regretted it.  You know those sports bras that zip up in the front? Cute right? WRONG. While we were doing sets of burpees then mountain climbers, the zipper came unzipped…whoops. I can promise you I’ll never again be wearing that one to a high intensity class. Oh, and do us all a favor and wear shorts long enough to cover your ass.  

 

5. Talk to people! They’re probably nice. As an added bonus, you get a new support person cheering for your success and doing the same thing you are.

 Hopes this helps! Let me know if I missed your favorite tip 🙂

 

Cheers!

Monkey Mind

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I’ve been inspired!! A new challenge is on the horizon! Are you with me??

Allow me to elaborate.

It all started with a mandatory health assessment done through my job. I put a link there as a shameless plug because I truly love everything about working there and the incredible work we do. Get onboard! Ok, that’s not what this blog is about, but there you go.

In order to maintain the current cost of health insurance, all must undergo a health screening and take steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I think this is great and believe that more businesses should hop on this bandwagon. As I’m a proud health nut as of late, this was actually an exciting day for me. Minus the finger prick—why does that hurt so much?

I was formerly not used to passing a health test with flying colors, but I am proud of how everything turned out. Numbers were great…all except my flexibility. I’m in the tenth percentile. As I’ve always been a crazy academic perfectionist/overachiever, the tenth percentile is clearly unacceptable. How was I going to solve this? Touch my toes daily? Boring. Boo. There is no punching. Or grunting and heaving out of sheer badassery in the name of one more rep!!!

A Quiet Strength

I know I’ve said I’ve tried some great yoga workouts before, and I have. They were all like “Yoga Fat Burn,” and “Super Duper Power Yoga,” with the aspect of yoga for strength training highlighted.

I’ve been to a few classes too, but I’ve never been able to really, truly commit to the practice. Why? Because I get bored. Because I’m loud and rambunctious and this quiet time of meditation is just not my cup of tea. Because really, I’m more of a coffee drinker, in the car, on the way to work after staying up too late finishing projects.

This simple quest to increase physical flexibility has led me to a greater question. Perhaps I need to be focusing on also increasing my mental flexibility. Why is it that I cannot handle 30-60 minutes of silent meditation—which, just to be straight with you, means prayer to me.

 Remember how I said I’m a sucker for a trend? Well, in 2008 I read Eat Pray Love. You probably have too. I absolutely loved it, and a passage from it came to mind as I was thinking about this.

Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’– the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.

After much pondering, I am inspired to achieve something a little deeper and more significant than my inability to reach a higher percentile on the flexibility for my health insurance. Worthy of a cause as that is 😉  What greater inspiration for better fitness than to develop myself more on a personal level?

I am going to start each morning with yoga. I am determined to quiet my mind. I am not just going to count down the seconds until I can stop holding this downward dog.

Hayley Hobson, I also wanted to give you a shout out because you’re a true inspiration as well.  Check out her blog if you want to be inspired to test your strength. Though, if I could make a suggestion: Can you blog about how you got your great hair?? Seriously girl, it’s amazing.

So here it goes. I’m excited about the physical benefits of strengthening my muscles, but more than that I’m curious to see if I can actually keep my mind quiet.

I might hate it. At least I know I can hit it hard in the afternoon.

Stay tuned, folks.

Cheers!

Back In The Saddle Again

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I’m about to leave today to get back to the bluegrass. My daddy had a hip replacement surgery, which is why I shared I was back in my hometown. It is one of the hardest things for me to see the strongest man I know laying in a hospital bed. He has worked hard at his job forever, and it just took a toll on his body. Luckily, the wonderful doctors and surgeons were able to replace it successfully, and, after a tough recovery, he will be up and able to walk me down the aisle in July.

Injuries happen. They are awful and unfortunate and can leave you feeling like all accomplishments you under your belt will reverse. Right at the peak of my training, I had a knee injury. It was right after completing my first race- The Warrior Dash.

If you’re looking for an incredible experience to have with friends that gives you a challenge, but isn’t crazy long, you’ve got to consider the Warrior Dash. It’s a giant obstacle course that will have you muddy, soaking wet, and having a blast. On top of all that, you’re supporting the research of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Does it get any better?

Anyway, I had been training for this race for a while, following a great running and lifting plan. I’d gotten to the point where I was truly looking forward to running—a feeling I never thought possible. Yes folks, it does happen!

My heart was getting stronger and I wasn’t winded as easily. The more in shape I got, the more I looked forward to my training. Race day happened, and it only pushed me to work harder when I felt that joy from crossing that muddy finish line.

Listen to your body

After training, my right knee would start to ache. I talked to my trainer about footwear, my running technique, surfaces I was running on, stretches to help—everything I could think of that would be causing this pain.

Finally, as a last resort, I went to the doctor when my knee started to swell pretty much every day. And ok, to be honest, my fiancé had to force me to go. I hate going to the doctor and like to just think that everything will work itself out.

I won’t bore you with the medical details, but basically my knee is built a little weird, and it caused some issues/tearing situations. I was able to work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around it, but I had to seriously cut back on and modify my training.

After a couple months of physical therapy, I injured the other knee the same way. Stop, rewind, start everything all over.

Talk about frustrating! Being the terrible patient I am, the recovery was next to impossible to endure in that I felt like I was just being lazy. I needed to be more active! I was living with this fear that when my recovery ended, I was going to somehow gain all of this weight back. It wasn’t all vanity; my body was craving activity and my mind wanted that clarity I get after a good sweat session.

Did my fear come true of losing all my progress? Nope. I was able to slowly but surely work back into my usual routine, being more conscious now of how I was treating my knees. Getting my strength back was required, but it was nowhere near as hard as it was when I was first beginning.

It’s a hard lesson, but worth having. Sometimes you just have to sit back and let your body heal. Even when you don’t want to. And for the sake of your loved ones, I hope you can muster more self-restraint in the whining department than I did. Sorry, M;)

Cheers!