August Favorites!

Is it just me, or does it feel like the summer has totally flown by? Like, how can it possibly be Labor Day Weekend next week?! This summer has been pretty wild for me for several reasons. Let’s re-cap, shall we?

  • My apartment was broken into so that someone could throw a party. You dam read more about that here
  • I moved from Brooklyn to Jersey City and have been exploring the neighborhood non-stop ever since
  • I started running with the Nike Running app and have gone from not running at all to running up to 5 miles at a time
  • My boyfriend moved out to LA, so I’ve been out there once a month to see him (side note: LDRs are not easy but also not impossible, and also, Red-eye flights are the devil’s work

And those are just the headliners! So yes, a ton has been going on, but in between all of the craziness I’ve come across 7 things that I’m a huge fan of. Take a look through them and let me know what you think!


What I’m Watching (Real-Time) – Billions

Maybe it’s because the show is set in NYC. Maybe it’s because the two lead actresses are both total bad-asses. Or maybe it’s because I literally cannot wrap my head around the idea of someone spending $65,000,000 on a house just so they can tear it down to build another one. Whatever it is, Billions has me hooked. Start season 1 on Amazon Prime (we’re only two seasons into the whole show) and I guarantee you’ll be wondering whyΒ  you’re slaving away at your ok-ish job making $60k a year when you could be like Wendy and making a quarter mil (before bonuses) by pumping up some bankers. UGH.

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What I’m Binging on – Nashville

Ok so I’m not entirely sure how this show escaped my radar for so long, but I am OBSESSED. Dean + Rayna – the whole ‘Will they or Won’t they?’ will have me anxiety-ridden until the day I die. I never gave this show a chance when it premiered, for reasons I can’t explain. I’m a huge country music fan, so this should’ve been something I jumped on. Once I came back from visiting Nashville in July I was just suddenly really into the idea. So I brought up the first episode on Hulu (they have all 5 seasons, #BLESSED) and it’s been a love affair ever since. When will Juliette get her life together?! When will Maddie stop being an obnoxious teenager?! When will Will reveal his true self?! I SIMPLY CANNOT BE STOPPED!

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What I’m Reading – The Perfect Stranger51I7LCRhT6L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m a huge fan of a good thriller, and The Perfect Stranger is exactly the kind of thing to get me hooked. I don’t want to give away the deets, so I’ll just say this: Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? Maybe that’s because you are… Don’t forget to close your blinds at night πŸ˜‰

 

 

 

What I’m Snacking On – Frozen Grapes + Gelatosouthamericandarkchocolate1

Separately, of course! I have a sensitive tummy and I’m also lactose intolerant so as much as I LOVE ice cream, it doesn’t always agree with me. Not to mention, dairy is something that tends to leave a lot of people bloated. So I go for the non-dairy sorbets and gelato flavors at my grocery store. At the moment I’m partial to the Ciao Bella dark chocolate flavor, mostly because it tastes pretty rich so I’m satisfied after just a few bites. And for when I’m trying to be really healthy? I stick a full bag of green grapes in my freezer and take out a bunch. I honestly have no idea why, but frozen treats are my fave. It might sound bizarre, but just do me a favor and try it before you judge me too hard.

 

What I’m Wearing – My New Pieces From Target

Ok, so I need to be frank with you all. I seriously dislike summer. I know that’s like, sac-relig to most people, but I seriously cannot stand it. But I LOVE the fall. Not only is is more comfortable to hang outside in, but football season makes me happy af and the clothes are SO MUCH CUTER. Which is actually somewhat dangerous because I constantly feel like every cute sweater I see simply needs to have a home in my closet. As we all do, I went to Target the other day for legit one thing. I walked out without that one thing, but with a sweater, two tops and a skirt. And that’s just the beginning, I can already tell. I’ll be doing a whole separate post about fall fashion later on, but here’s what I picked up this weekend. *Full disclosure: The sweater + tops aren’t online yet so I literally ordered the dress and booties right now so I could post about them for you. I find excuses wherever I can to shop**

 

What I’m Listening To – Have A Happy Day via Spotify

Who doesn’t love a good playlist, amirite? I’m right. I found this playlist on Spotify a few months back, and I’ve listened to it at least once a week since. It’s not all bubblegum pop music, there’s some fab throwbacks in there – check it out here!

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What I’m Splurging On – Pilates Classes

I cannot believe I even wrote that down *insert eye roll here*. I used to think that Pilates classes were just for suburban moms who wore yoga pants all day and hung around the studio in between trips to the grocery store and picking up the kids from soccer practice. But if I’m being honest, I’ve been seeing some of the ladies from The Bachelor posting videos of their Pilates moves on the ‘gram, and I got suckered in. I’ve been looking for something to do that’ll help tone me up without having to just lift weights while sweaty men grunt and drop heavy weights just a few feet away. So I splurged on a package of classes – stay tuned for more on that in the coming months!

How The Nike Running App Has Changed My Game

For those of you who read my post about how I’m improving my health one day at a time, all I can say is THANK YOU! I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciated all of the incredible sincere and encouraging messages I received. Writing a post that made me so vulnerable was a bit scary, but everyone’s kindness made me realize that there’s absolutely no shame in my game. I’m giving it my best shot one day at a time!
That said, a lot of messages I received were filled with questions about the Nike running app that I referred to, as well as a more in-depth description of how I got started and what I’ve been doing to keep it up. I’m more than happy to share as much as I can about my journey, especially because I’ve found the positive feedback to be a huge motivator!
Truth be told, getting into the running game was a complete accident. I never had any intention of training for anything. There was a brief stint in college when I trained with the Couch to 5k app (which DOES work if you commit to it!), but I never took it seriously enough – I don’t think I got passed being able to run a mile without stopping. One of the big differences between that app and the one I’m using now is that they do a sort of “interval” training where you walk for two minutes, jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, etc. Personally, that’s not something that works for my body. If I’m running and then I stop to walk, my body gets crazy tired and all of the energy that I had goes out the window. It because difficult for me to run for more than a few minutes again without stopping! The Nike app that I use doesn’t tell you when to walk/jog/run. The only thing it does is have you run a little fastest for a few minutes during the weekly benchmark run. Other than that, I go at my own pace on my own time.

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As I mentioned in my first post about all of this, I started using the Nike Running app because I signed up for a corporate challenge 5k race with my company. I really had no desire to even try to run for the whole race and on race day, I almost didn’t even go! On the way there, my friend Danielle told me she uses this app and that I should try it out. So I did, and I actually found it to be sort of like an addicting game. I’m pretty competitive with myself and when it comes to running, I was surprised to see that I would constantly push myself to go a little further than the distance that was set for that day. Who knew?! In fact, there’s only been one time in the last 10 weeks when I’ve stopped to walk in the middle of a run (more on that later).

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So what’s the key? For me, it’s discipline. I’m famous for letting myself off the hook for one or two workouts, which then turns into three months without stepping foot in the gym. I have yet to let that happen with this program. One thing that’s kept me on track is that I set up a personalized plan within the app that has me training for a specific goal- a 10k on October 7th. Despite the fact that my plans have changed and I can’t run the race on that day anymore, I’m still acting like I am and following the plan. I certainly don’t let it control my life- if I have plans one night or I’m really tired, I move the workout to the next day. As long as I get my four runs in for the week at some point, I’m golden. And the app banks on you being motivated by little rewards, so there’s an entire section dedicated to your personal achievements! Fastest 1k, fasted 5k, longest distance, most miles run in a week, the list goes on and on. It may sound silly, but I feel SO proud of myself whenever I unlock a new achievement!
A new thing for me is running outside. For the first month and a half of the program, I would almost exclusively run on the treadmill so that I could strictly monitor my pace and focus on my breathing. When a week came where I didn’t have access to a treadmill, I quickly learned that running outside is a wildly different experience. There are some parts to it that I find to be harder- namely, keeping a proper pace. But I also find that by trusting my body to adjust to a pace it’s comfortable with, I’m actually able to run much father than on the treadmill! Here’s a perfect example; when I ran 4.5 miles indoors, I pushed myself too hard and ended up taking in too much oxygen. You know what happens when you do that? You get intense stomach cramps and end up lying on the floor of your best friend’s apartment on Bachelor Monday, seriously questioning your life choices and being genuinely scared to run that far again. It sounds dramatic, but I’m so serious- when I found out I had to run 5 miles the following Tuesday for Long Run day, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Until I actually did it…
When I moved to Jersey City a few weeks ago, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to run outside – I live less than a half mile from the waterfront, and the views are unmatched. It would be a crime to miss out! But let me be frank- clear through the first half of my 5 mile run, I thought there was no way I’d be finishing without walking g a little bit. It was actually raining out that day, but I refused to let that stop me – actually, it probably helped to not have the August sun beating down on me during my most challenging run to date. Somehow between mile 3 and 4, I got a burst of energy and realized that if I really tried, I could run the whole thing without stopping. And I did it! It was 100% my proudest moment to date on this whole training journey, because I’m still in shock that went from not being able to run 1 mile to being able to run 5 in under 11 weeks. WHAT EVEN?!

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Don’t let all of that fool you though. I am NOT perfect, not even close. The training schedule for that week had me running 5 miles on Monday, 2.25 on Tuesday, and then 5.5 on Thursday. I was still feeling a little tired from earlier in the week, and was also in pain from having a pinched nerve in my shoulder/elbow. I wasn’t going to let that keep me from going on my run, but I wasn’t totally in it. So you know what? I owned it, and I did the best that I could. I ran for three miles, and then walked for about 0.25, then ran another mile, walked for 0.25 and then finished it out. TBH, I’m pretty surprised that my average pace for the whole run was 12:19 – especially since it’s only a minute faster than my typical pace for longer runs.

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My point here is that the keys to success with training yourself to run distance, much like training for anything else, is to really commit. I’m not focused on doing this to lose weight or even really to fit into smaller clothes- that’s an entirely different goal. For me, this has been about pushing my personal boundaries far past what I ever thought my body would be capable of doing, and making myself proud every day. I may not fit into size 6 jeans, but I can certainly run a lot farther than some people who do. The cool thing about running is that you can literally do it any time, anywhere. You don’t have to wait for the gym to be open, or worry about your favorite machine being taken. You can just throw on your sneakers and go. Hell, you can even go barefoot and still get some mileage in! It’s a great alternative to what I used to do, which was to directly home and Netflix my life away for the next 5 hours. Not gonna lie, I still do that but at least now I have like, an hour of outdoor time πŸ˜‚

xo, AJ

Blogging In The Beginning

I get SO many questions about how I started blogging and what steps someone needs to take to start a blog, so I figured, “lightbulb!” Why not just write a blog post on it? Ik, I’m genius, no need to remind me. But feel free to anyway πŸ™‚

The Planning:

I started The Laughing Blonde because I felt like I needed some sort of creative outlet. There are a few bloggers that I had been following on Instagram before, and it seemed so cool to me to get to travel and have new experiences and get paid to do it! I’ve always had a creative side to me, and I found it difficult to stay excited about my day job as a media planner, which is less creative and more strategic. There was just one night in late January when I got a little burst of energy and decided to actually go for it! I spent about two hours trying to come up with a name, which seemed impossible because literally every single one I came up with was taken already. Do you know how infuriating it is to come up with a genius name for your blog, only to see that some asshole has already claimed it and hasn’t posted a photo since 2013? UGHH. So once I finally found a name that was available both on Instagram and as a website domain, I was ready to go. To be clear, I had ZERO experience designing a blog. The last time I “designed” a website was when I was 12 and a psycho about customizing my MySpace page. Side note- remember when we all thought we were little mini Mark Zuckerbergs (before he was even a thing) because we would figure out how to slightly alter our profile codes on MySpace and made them look really badass? SAME. So anyway, here I am at 24 years old, feeling like an 82 year old who can’t figure out how to turn her cell phone on AKA feeling VERY FREAKING LOST. I picked a super basic layout and wrote my first post, and then published my photo on Instagram. It was truly about as bare bones as you can get. From other people that I’ve talked to, I’ve heard that people stress for MONTHS over perfecting their SEO strategy, or write like, 20 pieces of content before they even make their site public. For me, I just wanted to get something published so that I wasn’t putting so much pressure for perfection on myself. To be clear, I don’t feel like there’s one perfect way to do any of this – I just didn’t want to give myself an excuse to prolong it anymore!

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Followers:

Ahh, follower count. One of the biggest stress-inducing things in the blogger world. Gaining followers, especially in the beginning, is tough because you really have no content (so what are people following you for?) and because it’s unlikely that people are going to want to follow an Instagram page that only has 2 posts and 37 followers – there’s strength in numbers, and at the beginning it’s the struggle bus all the way. The key is to get support from the people you know first. At first I wanted to keep the blog separate from my personal life, which is why I have both two Instagram accounts – one is personal, one is strictly for the blog. I was slightly embarrassed that I had even started a blog, and didn’t feel like I wanted to be judged by my friends, colleagues or even old peers from high school for what I was writing about – especially because I knew there would be times when I would post things that were really personal and sensitive to me. I mean, if you’ve been reading my stuff for the last 6 months then you probably already know what kinds of things I’m talking about. I’m pretty deep sometimes- who knew!? But as I started writing more and more content, I realized that my close friends were going to see it anyway, and honestly, wtf do I care what the guy I had a crush on in 9th grade thought of me anymore? I mean TBH yeah I care a little bit – EW BYE – but not enough to keep me from proudly posting my content. Don’t like it? Don’t look!

So I built a base of followers around the people who knew me and would be at least minutely interested in hearing what I had to say. From there, I did the ~controversial~ move of the classic follow/unfollow. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best or worst way to get Instagram followers. I guarantee you that every single person reading this knows what I’m talking about – it’s the random follow you get from an account you’ve never heard of and you’re like, huh? How did they even find me? Let me tell you: they found you from going to an Instagram account that they like and following the accounts that follow that page. It’s truly a numbers game at first. And it’s a pain in the butt as well, because you can only follow like, 150 a day before Instagram blocks you. So building up your audience is NOT easy, and it takes time. I’ve also found that I need to be better about letting go of the people who unfollow me. It’s nothing personal, they’re just trying to keep their follower:following ratio on point, and for one reason or another The Laughing Blonde didn’t make the cut. It happens.

What I do NOT recommend is buying followers. It’s clear as day when a follower is bought, because they’re have little to no content on their page, have 7 followers and be following 52, 985 people. Don’t waste your money, babe.

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Content:

I’ll keep it simple with this one: Post content that you actually enjoy writing about. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to write a piece when the enjoyment isn’t behind it. It’s all about writing what you know. Hands down, the content that performs the best for me is always the stuff where I’m being really vulnerable and honest about who I am and what I’m going through. Yes, I also like writing about cool restaurants to check out and what makeup I wear, but if you look back at my stuff, you’ll notice that I’ve cut back on those kinds of pieces recently because people don’t care about them as much. They’re reading your blog because they care about YOU. If they wanted recommendations for dinner, they’d just go to Yelp.

Another thing I’ve learned is that writing in my own voice is what allows my readers relate to me so much. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have texted me saying how hard they’re laughing because they can picture me saying the words out loud to them – that’s such a huge compliment! I try to keep it as real as I possibly can – that means sharing my accomplishments, as well as my failures. You’d be surprised how supportive someone you don’t even know can be! Click here for my favorite post to date!

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Photos:

I get photos from all over the place. A lot of times I re-post things I love from other bloggers. Sometimes I use content I’ve shot myself, and other times I work with local photographers who are looking to build up their portfolios. I’m not a Rockafeller over and here and (sadly) I don’t come from oil money either. You don’t need to work with hardcore professionals to get the shots you need. Two of my favorite people I’ve worked with are 1: my friend Kira who works at Travel + Leisure and helped me out massively for my first shoot and 2: my new friend Kelsey (@styledinthestreet) who reached out to me on Instagram to set something up and was AMAZING! I highly recommend working with her if you’re in the area and get the chance. It’s all about making sure you feel totally comfortable with the person you’re working with, otherwise you probably won’t get the shots you want.

I’ve also realized that I get the most engagement when I utilize the My Story feature on Instagram – so many of my followers send me DMs after I’ve posted something, and it’s awesome to know that they’re following along and feel like they’re getting to know me!

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Do you have any tips + tricks to share with me? I’m still so new at this myself, I would love to hear what works for you guys! Post a comment or send me a message πŸ™‚ xo, AJ

My MILK MAKEUP Review

YOU GUYS. I just came back from Sephora with some new products and I’m so excited about them that I had to go straight to my laptop and give some feedback so you all could see for yourselves! There’s a whole lot about being a girl that I feel personally victimized by (biological clocks, the idea that men age like wine and women age like milk that’s been left out on the counter overnight, and the fact that it feels like Sephora’s marketing team has a looking glass deep into my soul and they know exactly what kind of packaging will have me emptying out my wallet. RUDE. Like if I actually thought about how much I’ve spent on beauty products in the last year, or better yet, my life, it makes me nauseas. I cannot let my mind go there.

My personal #makeupgoals is to wear the kind of makeup that makes it look like you’re not looking any makeup. Very #IWokeUpLikeThis. This has pretty much always been my go-to look because I’m fair and I have a young face (or so they tell me), so if I wear too much color or, God forbid, eyeliner, it’s a tragedy. I look like a street-walking clown. Over the years many of the brands I’ve used have changed. I’ve used everything from Georgio Armani $70 foundation to the $15 Revlon foundation that currently sitting in my makeup bag. All kinds of mascaras and concealers and blushes. My biggest struggle is makeup that doesn’t dry out during the day, which happens often because my skin is on the dryer side. And it has run my bank account DRY, let me tell you!

That said, when I went to Sephora today, I found myself planted in front of the MILK Makeup station so I could try on every last product. I personally consider them to be mid-range in terms of price. Definitely affordable for the effects they have. The cool thing about this brand is that the whole point of their product line is for you to apply with your fingers – it’ s like fingerpaint for your face. Idk about you, but fingerpaiting is about the only art class I ever excelled in, so I feel like kindergarten really prepared me for this moment.

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TBH, this is probably my least favorite out of the MILK products that I’ve tried, but it’s still cool. It looks like there’s color to be, but don’t let that fool you. It comes in one shade, and works for pretty much all skin tones. It minimizes the appearence of pores and fine lines to give you a smooth matte finish. You can use it on its own, as a primer, or to lock in your other makeup. I personally use it on its own when I have a bit of a tan, because it basically just gives my existing glow a little boost without forcing me to cake real makeup all over my face. Sephora, $36

 

Cooling Water cooling

I. AM. OBSESSED. WITH. THIS. Like I said earlier, my skin is on the dryer side. The point of this caffeine-infused gel stick is to de-puff eyes and energize the look of skin, as well as helping to get rid of dryness. I put this on before I put on any other makeup, and it not only felt amazing, but it made putting on the rest of my makeup incredibly easy and kept it looking fresh throughout the day. To die for. Sephora, $24

 

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This comes out of a tube with a rollerball at the top (similar to rollerball perfume), which I really like because it gets you way more control of how much you’re squeezing out and applying. Nothing’s more annoying when applying makeup then when you go to squeeze out a tiny bit of foundation and a whole glob comes out. And then you’re like that’s nice, there’s $6 worth of makeup down the drain πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ This only required 3-4 swipes across my face to get total coverage. It feels really light, but like it took care of all the issues I wanted it to. It’s also SPF 30, which is really important and something I try to make sure is in any foundation I use! Overall, it’s really natural looking which is just what I’m going for. Sephora, $42

 

Flex Concealer flex concealer

I feel the same way about this concealer that I do about the Sunshine Skin Tint, so I don’t want to get too repetitive. What I particularly like about this is the staying power. I have extremely dry eyes which, ironically, causes them to water all the time. I often have issues with concealer because it gets flaky and cracked under my eyes because of the tears that I’m frequently wiping away. This avoided those issues and made my under-eyes look really bright and energized. Sephora, $28

 

Lip + Cheek cheek

I’ve been using cheek stains for about a year now, because I feel like they blend into my skin far better than traditional blush does. This cheek tint is no different. The shades are gorgeous (I combined Swish and Rally together), and they practically melted on my cheeks in the BEST way. It gave the kind of color that you get when your cheeks get pink from being outside for 10 minutes in the snow. It’s PERFECT! Even better, you only need a few tabs and the container is pretty big, so you would probably only need to buy this 1-2 times per year at most. Sephora, $24

 

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My usual mascara routine is to use one that’s lengthening/voluminous and then following that up with a second kind that’s waterproof to combat my always-watering eyes. I also typically curl my lashes, which gives an effect that I love, but I do think causes some damage to my lashes. When I applied the Ubame mascara, I noticed that the unique shape of the brush made is to that I don’t need to curl my lashes. It also somehow manages to stay on really well, even though its not waterproof. Very impressed.   Sephora, $24

How I’m Working on My Health One Day at a Time

Working out (in a traditional sense) has never been something I’ve loved. When I’ve done it, it’s usually because I’m being forced/threatened by a coach, I’m trying to lose 13 lbs in 4 days for an event that I forgot about until yesterday, or because I got a burst of energy for a week and a half. That’s basically it. I was the girl in high school who, during the mile portion in gym, would hide behind the big blue mat used for track meets halfway into lap #2. By my senior year, my cheerleading coach would legit have to threaten me if she wanted me to run, and even then, I can’t recall a time where I did it without 5 minutes of negotiating first.

I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image, which is, unfortunately, not new for many girls. There was a year or two in high school when I would consider myself to be a normal size (never thin, but not heavy), but for the most part I was overweight. I try to keep it open and real on this blog, so I’ll just say it- I reached my heaviest weight of 230 lbs in August of 2015. That’s a number I don’t think I’ve ever shared with anyone before because I was so ashamed. I was working at a job that made me miserable, ordering seamless every night and was never active. I’d been in the city for just over a year when for some reason, I woke up one day and decided I’d had enough. I began working out every day, eating super clean and in just over two months, I was down 30 lbs. I struggled a little to manage the loss because I’m normal and I like junk food, but I found a routine eventually, and another 30lbs came off over the next year. All of a sudden I was getting attention from guys, getting compliments from my family, friends and colleagues, and feeling really confident. But I still hated doing any workout that wasn’t the elliptical or Zumba, which are my comfort spots.

 

A few months ago I signed up for the J.P. Morgan corporate challenge in NYC. It’s a little longer than 5k through Central Park, something that was laughable to me because I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping. Literally I’d be winded at 0.75 miles and have to stop. I almost didn’t show up on the day of the race. Luckily, some of my friends from work also signed up and encouraged me to go with them. One of my good friends Danielle (of @packinglightly) told me about the Nike Running Club app and told me I absolutely had to download it. I almost didn’t, but I’m SO glad I did! I finished the race feeling so insanely proud of myself, and then started playing around with the app and set a goal for myself to run a 10k (6.2 miles) in October, and then the app created a plan for me. If you have any doubts whatsoever about downloading an app or thinking you could ever be a “runner”, hear me out. In the last 8 weeks, I’ve gone from not being able to run one single mile to being able to run 4.5 miles without stopping. I’m not fast by any means. I run at a 5 mph speed. Grandmas with walkers could probably pass me if they wanted to. But 4.5 miles without stopping?! Hell yes!

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Danielle of @packinglightly – I owe it all to her!

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7/28/17: 2 months down, and 4.5 miles without stopping!

My health has become less about losing weight (although there’s about 30lbs more that I wouldn’t be sad to see go), and more about seeing how much my body can accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, 4.5 miles isn’t a breeze for me. I’m sweating like a pig, huffing and puffing towards the end and red faced for about an hour afterward. But my body can do that. I’m so psyched about it, and I find myself pushing myself to keep going towards the finish line, even when I feel like giving up at the beginning of mile 2. The other perks haven’t been bad either- my arms are a little slimmer, my tummy is a little flatter – my hair is constantly a sweaty mess which is something I could live without bc ugh, hate washing my hair every day (you already know the struggle).

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The best advice I could ever give to 12, 16, or 21 year old me would be to push myself. Forget about all the unnecessary nonsense that truly doesn’t matter. Be a good person, be kind to everyone, and be kind to myself. Treat myself to ice cream, and then treat my body to a nice little run after. I wish I’d started being kinder to myself earlier in life, but so happy I started when I did. If you’ve been looking for a sign, or some encouragement to get started, here it is. Throw on some sneakers, run (or even walk!) just to the stop sign and back if that’s what it takes. Just do it – then tell me how it went πŸ™‚

Xo, AJ