be kind. for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

i had an interesting thing happen to me today; something that i would never really have considered sharing, however i feel strong that it needs to be said.

baconearlier this evening when i got out of my barre class and was walking back to my car, i had a man speed up behind me in the road. i went to move out of the way, only to have the gentleman yell as he was passing by “get your *expletive* fat ass out of the way”. woah now. seriously? if you know me, you would know that my initial reaction would be to yell back “*expletive* you”. because i am classy like that. but i didn’t because, what good would that do? so i let him pass and be on his merry way.

as a woman who has struggled with her weight, not to mention self esteem, her entire life, this hit me hard (the photo is an attempt at irony … i don’t eat bacon, although i wish i could). it hasn’t been until the past year or two that i have finally reached a place where i feel marginally happy when i put on clothes … not to mention a bathing suit … and feel okay about myself. i, just like anyone, can tend to fluctuate a few pounds here or there, but that just makes me work a little bit harder when i do. i make sure to get that extra run in every day, even though i just want to take a break. i don’t get to eat all the fun things that some people do – and that can stink- but if i want my pants to button, i have to just say no to that brownie or bowl of ice cream. so for someone – albeit a total stranger – to have the audacity to say something like that … to another complete stranger … just made me think.

i am a tough girl, i can take hurtful words. put them in a box. and get past them. i have strong and powerful women with real bodies, like mindy kaling and lena dunham to look to as examples of being healthy in the real world. but what about all of the kids that are in school right now. all those kids that don’t know how to put words in a box and turn the other way. kids that get called fat one day and then have to see that same person the next day only for it to happen again. kids that don’t have exercise to turn to as an outlet, so instead they turn to food. what are we doing for those kids? how are we helping them?

it has been a long time since i was in school, but i remember even back then how hard it was just finding the strength to be yourself. i always turned to humor and sports as safety blankets, which fortunately allowed for me to make it out of those difficult years stronger and seemingly unscathed. however i feel that for so many people the result just isn’t that easy. our society has become a place where it’s so much easier for all of us to just turn the other cheek when we see something wrong. with no confrontation comes no risk. if it isn’t affecting us directly, then why bother saying anything, right? wrong. by not saying anything we are consenting that the action is acceptable, that we agree with it. when really we are all just being the cowardly lion. i don’t know about you but i don’t want that for myself. i wasn’t raised a coward and i do not want to be a coward. i am strong, and i want that to be reflected every day of my life. when i see something wrong, i will say something, not because i want to be recognized for it, but because it is the right thing to do. and i challenge you to do the same.

i titled this post “be kind. for everyone you meeting is fighting a hard battle” (words by the ever so wise plato) because it is true. we come in contact with people every day of our lives that we know nothing about. we don’t know their story, just like this man earlier tonight did not know my story. had he known my weight loss journey, perhaps he would not have chosen to speak the harsh words that he did. or perhaps he would have; there is no way to know. however, in that instance he decided to let his words speak for his character, and for that, there is no excuse. we cannot continue to allow words to be thrown around like water balloons, with little to no thought behind the impact they make upon hitting the target. so often we do not know the battle that a person might be fighting and the impact that a certain word or phrase might have on them. we do not know how strong or weak they are, or what they have persevered to get to where they are today. we do not know their story.

i often talk about how i keep the unrelenting faith that one day i will meet a man that will love me for who i am, both inside and out. someone that will not care if i have a pimple on my face, or if my weight fluctuates a pound or two here and there. but will love me because i am unique, and funny, and know the words to every rap song on the radio. we must get to the point where we can accept ourselves for who we are, both on the inside and outside. that isn’t to say it isn’t okay to continually want to improve, becoming better versions of who we are, but there must come a point where we can all turn to the mirror and say “i love myself, and my body, for what it is”. for myself, this is a continual work in progress. i must wake up every day and decide to work hard, eat healthy, and stay on the right track, knowing that i have the love and support of those around me. i challenge you all to do the same by learning to love yourself, striving to be healthier, and above all learning to always be kind. for everyone is fighting their own battle.

dare to dream. dream to dare. make it happen.

it’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. – seneca

i stumbled upon this quote the other day and it really resonated with me. how often is it that we are faced with a challenge that we fear might be difficult or scary to overcome? so instead of taking a risk, we just settle for something that maybe doesn’t make us happy. it doesn’t fill us up inside with completeness. whether it be a job, a relationship or something in your personal life, you just settle, thinking “at least it’s safe”. well, i would like to challenge you on that. because think about all of the great things you would be capable of if you decided to dare. dare to chase that dream that has always been in the back of your mind. that little seed. follow that seed because you have no idea where it might lead you. personally, i am doing my best to follow my seed right now, and it is scary. but I have faith that if i am brave enough to make it happen, that there is a reason for it. as there is a reason for every moment in out lives, whether we know it’s purpose at the time or ten years down the road. but in order to be faced with those moments, we must dare ourselves to find them.

so at this moment, i challenge you to dare yourselves. become something great. become who you always dreamed you could be. because you deserve it.

the lust list: volume 3 (chicago edition)

after having spent the better part of 2013 and 2014 living (albeit in hotels) in chicago, i felt that it was only appropriate to dedicate this week’s lust list to the one and only chi-town. if you have been to chicago, you will know that it is nearly impossible to pick the best of anything, whether it be food, shopping or working out. there is so much throughout the city that is wonderful, it’s hard to pick my favorites, but i am going to try!

buckle up because we are heading to chicago.

chicago 1

best meal on a budget: lula café (logan square)
a little bit removed from michigan avenue and the loop, lula café is one of the best spots in town, anytime of the day. praised for their incredible menu by locals, restaurateurs, and celebrity chefs alike, you can truly do no wrong at lula. they are best known for their killer brunch, but go early as seating is limited.
what to order: make sure to order both the beets as well as the warm buratta. neither are to be missed! if you are with a group, order lots of the smaller entrees and dine tapas style. it can end up being less expensive, and you get to try many different things.
tip: vegetarians in the group? not to worry, there are tons of vegetarian options as well as a six course vegetarian tasting menu.

best meal if you’re splurging: nico osteria (river north)
located on rush street (inside of the thompson hotel), nico is one of the newer restaurants in town but fortunately they have some pretty successful brothers and sisters. nico osteria is the newest member of the one off hospitality group (of avec, blackbird and big star fame), and they have wasted no time becoming one of the hottest reservations in town. a fusion between italian and seafood (think a wide selection of crudo’s, bruschetta, pasta and fish) nico has found their sweet spot and they do it well. solo-diners have the option of dining in the large bar area (cute bartenders and great drinks) or at the chef’s counter (front row seat to all the action). for those dining with a group, it’s best to make reservations as nico is a pretty hot ticket; i suggest going onto online a few weeks in advance to secure the date and time that you want! whether you are dining alone after work or with a group of friends, there is no doubt that you will have a stellar experience. to be honest though, nico is no cheap date, however for the food and experience, it is worth every penny.
what to order: my personal go-to’s are the crudo’s (any and all of them) and the lobster spaghetti. the lobster is pretty plentiful so i suggest splitting it with another meat or fish dish if you are in a group. and you absolutely have to save room for dessert, the nico torte is not to be missed. it is easily one of the best desserts in the country.
tip: if you are watching your wallet, skip the crudo’s and appetizers and go straight for an entrée. the bruschetta’s are also quite plentiful and could serve as a light entrée as well. as mentioned though, absolutely save room for dessert.

nico

best hipster breakfast: the eastman egg company (location changes daily – check twitter)
the eastman egg company has been on the scene for a little over a year now, and during that time, they have brought breakfast happiness to people all over the city of chicago. when i think about breakfast, it is impossible to argue with the fact that there is anything really better than an egg sandwich. with fresh and local ingredients (think eggs, bell peppers, bacon, and fresh bread) eastman has specialized in, and mastered the egg sandwich beautifully. even better is that over the past couple of months, they have expanded their menu offerings to include four sandwich options, fresh juice, and local sparrow roasters coffee. delicious.
what to order: depends on what you are in the mood for. almost every sandwich can be personalized to your preferences, so the sky really is the limit. just make sure to get it on a pretzel roll … they are not to be missed.
tip: coming soon you will have the ability to order online ahead of time before going to the truck. maybe not such a perk now that the weather is nice, but i promise that this will be ideal during the never-ending winter months. they will also be getting their very first storefront coming to wacker!

eastman

best cheat day treat: the doughnut vault (multiple locations and a moving truck)
i have never been much of a doughnut fan, but when i am in the mood for a doughnut the only one worth the calories is from the doughnut vault. touted as the best doughnut in chicago, this is one place not to be missed. my favorite is the basic old fashioned, however there are loads of options to choose from. popular options include: however, beware the vault is popular and donuts sell out fast. be sure to get there early for the best selection.
what to order: when it comes to doughnuts, my personal favorite is the old fashioned. however, there are lots of options to choose from!
tip: get there early and bring cash; aside from the food truck the vault is cash only friends! you can follow the truck on twitter here!

best workout if you want to really sweat: flywheel (gold coast; coming soon to old town)
when i think of a killer workout, flywheel is probably one of the first things to come to mind. if you are in the mood for a 45-minute (or 60 if you go to power hour) total sweat session, then this is for you. set to a killer playlist, be prepared to go on a powerful journey of sprints and climbs, led by terrific instructors. if you are familiar with soul-cycle, flywheel won’t be too much of a stretch. lots of similarities, just less upper-body during your fly workout.
when to go: the booking window opens up sunday nights at 5pm and classes book up fast for the popular instructors. so make sure you plan accordingly!
tip: two tips here. if it’s your first time at flywheel, your class is free. that’s right, free! when you plan your rides, try to make it to one with erin, michael, or will.

flywheel

best workout for still maintaining your updo: the bar method (multiple locations)
founded by burr leonard, the bar method is widely known as one of the most effective barre workout out there. divided into four segments of work (arms, thighs/glutes, XXX, and abs) the bar method does a killer job at elevating your heart rate and giving you a killer workout without the sweaty side effect of a run or spinning class. don’t let that fool you though, this is still a killer workout. come prepared to work; your muscles will be shaking for sure.
when to go: with locations all over the city (including gold coast, the loop, lakeview, and wicker park) there are plenty of class options to choose from.
tip: the studios run great specials for new members, so make sure to take advantage of the new student deals! they also have a great health and wellness blog that has all sorts of fun articles to read!

best shopping not inundated by tourists: lincoln park
while michigan avenue is great for hitting up all the major stores (think nordstrom, lululemon, j.crew, and bloomingdales), it can be a little overwhelming and inundated with tourists. for more of a local feel, head a few miles up rush street to lincoln park where you can find many of the same stores, but without all of the crowds.
tip: don’t miss checking out cb2 and land of nod. both are sister stores to crate and barrel and only have a few locations throughout the country.

best for market day shenanigans: randolph street market (west loop)
touted as one of the best markets in the united states, the randolph street market is not to be missed. from local designers to popular restaurants, there is a little bit of something for everyone here.
when to go: as with many things in chicago, the spring and fall are great times to pay a visit. during november and december they also have the holiday markets! can’t make it then? not to worry, the market has weekends year-round.
tip: coming to the city and want to visit the market? make sure to scope out the website to see which weekends they will be open. market days are generally only once a month, so plan accordingly!

are any of my favorites your favorites too? if not, is there something that you love that i missed? let me hear your thoughts!

ride-rev. charleston’s soul-cycle? not so much.

photo 3-1

a few months ago charleston got it’s own version of soul-cycle, opened by – coincidentally – a former soul-cycle employee. to know me is to know that i am a cycle-addict. flywheel. soul-cycle. boutique studios. you name it … if the instructors are good and the music is relevant there is a great chance that i will love it.

needless to say, i had great expectations for this boutique studio, aptly named charleston revolution when they opened up back in april. i had been traveling quite a bit for work, but was luckily able to try the studio within two or three weeks of their grand opening. aside from the fact that my first class would be free (more on that later), the owner of the studio was going to be teaching a special saturday class. given the fact that he was a former master trainer at soul-cycle, i was quite excited! i went online to sign-up for the class a few days ahead of time (as with many studios, advanced sign-up is a necessity) only to discover that my free first class excluded saturday classes. erm. okay. from that point on, everything about my experience at the studio was disappointing. from the shoes (lack of size selection) to the class (are you SURE you used to teach at soul-cycle?) i was beyond disappointed.

however, i didn’t find it fair to write a review based off of this experience, as they had just opened. maybe it was just opening kinks? bad beginners luck? so i held off and gave them another chance this past weekend. and here is my breakdown. the good, the bad, and the ugly.

what i loathed (starting with the negatives, so i can end with the positives … or will at least try to).

1. the actual studio. it is barren. trying to be cool yet feels cold. nothing about it feels warm or inviting. i can’t quite put my finger on it, but, maybe it’s the wall of skinny, emo looking models on the wall?  i have been to hundreds of studios and gyms across the country, and this is the only place i can remember in recent history that i do not look forward to walking into. in fact it makes me almost nervous, like the first day of middle school in a new town. AND I’M PAYING MONEY TO FEEL THIS WAY. that can’t be right. however it is clean … and clean is always good.

photo 1-1

2. discombobulated management. i signed up online (in fact, i was only one of two bikes signed up online) yet when i arrived, they had no record of my sign-up and my chosen bike was taken. blamed it on the change in “point of sale” system; the girl “working” the front desk said she meant to send an email out about this. yes, perhaps you should do that. i had no need for shoes this time as i brought my own (lesson learned last time), however i did need a bottle of water, which according to the website would be free. nope … they insisted that i pay $2. after handing over a $10 bill, it took the two individuals behind the desk a minute or two to count out my change. which they ended up counting wrong. apparently it’s hard to count to eight. small things – between the small print rules for your first free class to the not-so-free water – however it’s these small things that make a bad first impression … and in this industry you don’t necessarily get more than one.

3. confusing for first-timers. while i was putting my shoes on and putting my things away, i saw several people come into the studio that were there for the first time. aside from the lackluster welcome from the front staff, there was little to no explanation of where things were located (bathrooms, lockers, etc) and no assistance with setting up a bike. not exactly a warm welcome.

4. pricy, pricy. this really was more of an issue when they first opened, but prices have dropped quite a bit (likely because they were too expensive originally). this isn’t nyc … you can’t charge nyc prices. an individual 45 minute class with cost you $20 while a 60 minute saturday ride is $23. i don’t understand why there is a price difference between the two but … what are you going to do?

what i liked (loved is a bit too bold of a statement).

photo 2-1

1. the bikes. while they don’t have personal monitoring systems to track your rpm, power, distance, etc., the bikes are new and ride smoothly. make sure you bring cycling shoes, otherwise they have rental shoes you can borrow.

2. the actual workout. aside from the first class i took which was a hot mess, the actual workout is pretty solid. it’s no soul-cycle or flywheel … but it’s also charleston. you will see a lot of similarities (tap backs, pushups, etc.) to the more popular studios, but the instructor won’t expect you to know them ahead of time. expect to sweat and push yourself. if you do, it’s worth the money.

3. availability. no real need to sign-up ahead of time, there are plenty of bikes available in each class. not sure if it’s because the college students are out for the summer, or if the studio still hasn’t caught on yet, but from what i’ve seen, the majority of the classes are pretty empty. in a studio that holds 39 bikes, i have never been in a class that has been more than 1/3 full.

summing it up. at the end of the day i must say that i do not love anything about this place, aside from the actual workout. that’s a pretty bold statement for me to say, but the several times i have been here, i have always just left disappointed. there is no doubt that if i had any other decent cycling options in town, i would be going elsewhere, but i really don’t and my thighs need to cycle! i truly believe that if the studios management had more of a presence, my opinion would be different, however in the several times i have paid a visit, i have never really felt like there was someone running the place. it is so important for a new business to establish relationships with their clientele and i just feel like this is missing. for me, workout studios are like a second family, but charleston revolution is unfortunately, one place that i don’t think will ever feel like a home.

 

the lust list: volume 2

well friends. another week of summer has passed, i cannot believe that the 4th of july has already come and gone. unbelievable.

with summer quickly passing by, let’s talk about what i’m loving this week!

a. so delushious. supermodel chrissy teigen isn’t just a pretty face, and this is proof of that very statement. she’s funny and can definitely cook but unfortunately doesn’t post recipes to her blog as much as readers may like! however, what she has posted is delicious, my favorite being the low and slow scrambled eggs. it’s basically chrissy’s version of “engagement chicken”. they are that good. ladies, practice making them and keep it in your back pocket. you never know when you might need ‘em.

b. gone girl. the brilliant book by gillian flynn has finally been turned into a movie, with mr. ben affleck portraying the oh-so-creepy nick dunne and rosamund pike as the missing amy dunne. the official trailer was released this week, and i couldn’t be more excited for the october 3rd release. i am always faced with mixed feelings when books that i love are turned into movies, but i have a feeling that mr. affleck and director david fincher will not lead us astray with this adaptation. i believe that author gillian flynn even wrote an alternative ending to the film, just to keep things interesting for all of us! mark those calendars friends, you have until 10/3/2014 to read the book!

c. burpees. face it. they are the exercise that we all love to hate. or maybe just hate to hate. but for as much as we all dislike them, they work wonders. they truly are the total body workout. arms. legs. abs. bum. they all get worked. i came to the realization today that it had been a while since i had challenged myself to the burpee challenge, so when i got home from barre tonight i decided to start it back up. i think that there is an “official”100 burpee challenge – not sure what it is. for myself, i challenge myself to do 100 burpees every day. ideally at the same time. tonight i did 4 sets of 25 burpees with 1 minute of squats between. it sucked a bit. but there is nothing better than getting your heart-rate up and bit after a great barre session. i challenge you to give it a try – maybe don’t start with 100 / day but maybe 20 or 30 and work your way up. you can do it.

d. nike training club (ntc). speaking of sweating, if you haven’t tried the ntc app you absolutely need to download it now. available on iphone and android, this is a free app from nike that has over 100 different workouts available to you 24/7. workouts range from 15-45 minutes and are developed to cover all of your fitness needs. all of the workouts were designed by professional athletes or NTC master trainers, and will surely get you sweating and closer to your fitness goals, whatever they might be. you know what this means though? now no excuses to not workout. you can thank me later when you are wearing a bikini on the beach.

e. le tour de france. for years i was never very interested in le tour, but this year it’s different. maybe because there are some cute boys racing? i’m not really sure, but i have been following it this year and i’m pretty into it. the tour kicked off on 7/5 and lasts for three weeks, so no worries if you haven’t started watching yet. you still have time! hell, maybe you can watch while doing your 100 burpees!

xx alex

 

make it happen.

if it is important to you, you will find a way. if not you’ll find an excuse

i read this quote today on instagram, posted by marie purvis who is nike training club’s master trainer. aka, a fitness beast and professional motivator. this quote really struck a cord with me, because i feel like so many people – myself included – tend to make excuses when something scares them or intimidates them. because if we don’t try, then there isn’t a chance that we can fail. and who likes failure? not many people. however, if there is one thing that i have learned over the past couple of years – and really months – if we do not put ourselves out there and reach for the thing that we want (even if there is a chance that we might fail), we will never know what could have been.

there have been many times over the past 24 months that i doubted myself, questioned myself, and wasn’t sure why everything was happening. that good old “why me” syndrome. however, i had a glimmer of faith that if i kept moving forward – one day at a time – that sooner or later there would be a clearing and things would start to become clear. that clearing came a few weeks ago when, after having several mental breakdowns in my hotel room alone, i received an offer for a new position within my company. a position that would allow me to travel less, establish a routine, and finally settle down and move myself to austin, texas. the chance to actually have a life outside of work – something that i’ve been hoping for for years, and is now finally at my fingertips.

it’s hard for me to understand why i was faced with so many challenges to get to where i am today – with no doubt that i will be faced with many more in the future – but i have to believe it all comes down to the fact that if something is truly important to you, it will be worth the fight. so often we are willing to just settle for mediocre, whether it’s with our jobs, our health, or our personal lives. but for me, i know that we only have one life to live, and i don’t want to live a life of mediocrity. i want to live a life where i have taken risks and overcome obstacles. i want to love and be loved. i want to make a difference.

there are certainly a lot of uncertainties that lie ahead for me, as i look to pick up and move to a new city. but my hope is that this change will be one that will help me continue to grow into the person that i know i can be. because it is important to me, and i have come this far to make it happen. i will continue to persevere, one challenge at a time. there’s no stopping me now.

so i challenge you to identify those goals that are important to you, and what is stopping you from achieving them. whether it’s getting into better shape or finding a new job, if you are willing to put in the work, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. because after all if it is important to you, you will find a way. if not you’ll find an excuse.

summer obsession. the turkish-t.

when you live near beach, there is a constant need for towels. like, every day. since i was a kid – like many of us – i have always used the same old heavy, thick cotton beach towels that hold on to water and sand like no other. there is seriously nothing worse than a soaked beach towel. they are heavy. they are sandy. then they go in your car and get sand absolutely everywhere. every nook and cranny. sand.

now i know what you are thinking … that’s just part of going to the beach. sand. water. and more sand. i know that. silly. but what if i told you that there was a towel out there that dried nearly instantaneously, and repelled sand away like oil into water. oh and wait, there is more. what if i said that you could also wear this towel as a scarf. or a sarong. or can stick it right into your beach bag when leaving the beach, because you won’t be plagued with a sand soaked towel.

enter turkish-t. made out of turkish cotton, this company is one of my absolute new favorites. i picked up one of their classic “beach candy basic” towels the other day and my beach/pool excursions are forever changed. while the towels are great, the options go far beyond towels. it’s hard to say which item i’ll choose to buy next from this great company, but i’m fairly certain that this luxe herringbone diamond blanket might be next. i’m a sucker for anything herringbone, so this will probably be an easy sell!

if you cannot find turkish-t products locally, their entire product line is available on their website and they deliver fed-ex. so your new treats will be to you sooner than you know it!

happy towel-ing!