I was recently asked by my mom to help her recommend some fun things to do in Chicago over the long weekend. Her friends were looking for some trendy neighborhoods to stay in, good restaurant recommendations, as well as some interesting Chicago activities for cold weather. I love this kind of stuff, and I take pride in knowing all the must-go places to check out in Chi city – so after I rattled off the world’s longest email to my mother I thought, why not do the same here on the blog for all of my Life’s A Beacham friends?
So without future ado, here is my Chicago weekend guide: perfect for three day weekends, romantic getaways, overnight business trips and more! All of the restaurants I’ve recommended are places to safely dine #glutenfree unless stated otherwise.
Growing up I was the kid that tried all the sports. I tried gymnastics, field hockey, soccer, basketball, tennis, figure skating, hell I even did Irish step dancing (why mom) but it wasn’t until I started swimming that I found a sport I was truly good at.
By middle school, I was at the peak of my competitive swimming career. I swam for private winter teams with meets downtown and in summer I kept up with club swim team. My stroke is butterfly, and I’m really good at it.
Fast forward to a meet the summer before my freshman year of high school. One whistle, one leap in the air, one arm goes too far and then stops working. One whistle and swimming is no longer an option or me.
A lot of my friends know this about me now, but I’m double jointed in my shoulders, and I can hyperextend pretty much all of my ligaments. It’s just another one of those super fun setbacks you learn about as you age, and so when I had doctors tell me that it was either surgery or quit swimming, I opted out of getting bolts in both my shoulder blades and began a very sedentary part of my life.
Sure – I was always involved in something, dance, musicals, and I’m lucky, my genes carried me through my high school years just fine, but it was also the 2000’s, working out for the sake of working out wasn’t really a thing yet. Thin was in, and my biggest role models were Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, girls who appeared to be able to eat their body weight in junk food and still wear low rise jeans.
So when I had my tonsils out my senior year of high school I had a rough go of it and lost a drastic amount of weight on top of an already thin body. I liked the results, it felt like that senior year glow-up a lot of my friends were having.
Like I mentioned, up until then diet and exercise weren’t really important to me – and I’ll be 100% honest when I tell you I started running in college as a way to “stay thin” for fear of the freshman 15 putting me back to what I was pre-tonsillectomy. I also loved flirting with the guys at the gym – because, yeah.
Swimming and running can’t be more different – in fact, a lot of people say that runners can’t swim and swimmers can’t run. My first jog got me from my mailbox to the mailbox six houses away. It was roughhhh. But I wanted it, and probably a year later I was running 3 miles a day, almost every day.
This is when running turned from something I wanted to something I needed. Running became a form of therapy for me, but also a form of control. Control over thoughts like “don’t eat that” or as a way to escape after a long day at a job that kept me cooped up. Running was quiet, all mine, and I could go as far as I could push myself, and then be free to eat what I wanted to eat.
Yes- this sounds scary, and in my head, exercise somehow gave me the feeling of being free, I saw it as an option to combat negative thoughts about my body. I think this is a thought a lot of women have but won’t say. I will always be a person who’d rather have the cheese over a flat stomach but don’t think I don’t still struggle with these thoughts.
Unfortunately, I think it’s impossible for a woman not to. One bad mirror, one photo shot at the wrong angle, one person who seems to have it way easier than me when it comes to bloating, it brings me right back to a place where I feel anxious, out of control, competitive, and bad.
But while working out started as a way to keep me from these thoughts, control them, take them away, it’s turned into much much more for me, and I’m thankful to have discovered the following:
Endorphins. Elle Woods said it best, but endorphins make you happy. I find that I have my best ideas and happiest thoughts when I’m post-workout, on my way home to shower and refuel my body.
My future health. Working out now will keep me healthy later, and I’m gonna need it. My body is capable of amazing things, but it’s not always my best friend. Life has thrown me a couple of genetic curveballs and the one thing I know I can do to keep my body on my side is to strengthen my muscles and stay agile.
This is why I’ve taken the steps to change the way I workout. I now focus much more on strength training over cardio. Sure, cardio gives me instant results, it’s what got me addicted in the first place, but it’s the muscles I build now that will allow me to lift my kids, and grandkids in the future.
I’ve also begun to dabble in yoga, in order to cope with stress and anxiety.
Whenever I try something new, it’s easy for me to become frustrated when I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t like being bad at things, especially when I’m in a room full of people who seem to be natural athletes. So when I feel this way I remind myself of my first run and keep going.
I also workout to break up my day, and see a human. I work from home, which takes discipline and by leaving once a day to get out of the house I create structure in my day. It feels good to see an instructor who knows my name or to pass a friendly pup on a run. It feels good to put myself out of my head and into my body. It feels good to come home, shower, and eat lunch.
The moral of this blog post? These days I workout to put something back into my body, not take away from it. I want to replenish my stability, positivity, and confidence. This is my armor against the negative thoughts that will creep up from time to time. It’s the mental check-in I need to stay healthy and happy. It’s preparing me for the future adventures I’ll have and happy memories I’ll make. So – who wants to come workout with me?
As today is the day we all celebrate love I wanted to get a post up on loving oneself. And if you know me- you know that this post is going to involve some story time: During winter break of my junior year of college I broke up with my boyfriend. It was an ugly breakup and I was struggling being back at home for the holidays, with little to do and what felt like no one to talk to. Growing up my little sister and I shared a bathroom, meaning every morning she and I would wake up and meet each other in the mirror, brushing our teeth in unison, fighting over who would get to shower first. I swear this was some mad form of bonding my parents had thought to force upon us, but because of this particular day, I’m glad they did.
My sister knew how I was feeling; I’d told her all about the breakup and even though I wasn’t showing it, deep down she knew I was hurting. So one morning, right before New Year’s Eve, I awoke as usual and headed for the bathroom to begin my morning routine. As I walked up to my side of the mirror, I found little post-it note hearts covering my side, scribbled with sweet sayings in my sister’s humorously kiddish handwriting. (She’s going to be a doctor, so it’s allowed!) Each post-it heart read: “SMILE – You are STRONG.” “SMILE- You are Healthy.” “SMILE – You are Beautiful” “SMILE – You are Loyal” “SMILE – You are looked up to <3” and most importantly “SMILE – You are LOVED.” Out of all 17 post-it notes, that was the one that encompassed them all.
After bursting into tears, running into my sister’s bedroom (morning breath and all) and jumping on a slightly grumpy/sleepy Amanda, I thanked her for reminding me that where love is lost, more love is always right around the corner. As long as I held love inside of me, I would be just fine.
So what do you do when you can’t let a moment go? You save those post-it notes and frame them! Which is exactly what I did. And come spring semester, I drove back to college with all the love I’d ever need tucked safely in my trunk.
The moral of my story? At the end of the day, the love you show yourself will be what you show others. After all – if you can’t feel the love within you, how will you have any to share? So – whether you’re celebrating Valentines Day, Galentines Day or anything in between, I invite you to take on this 1-week self-love challenge with me. It’ll go a little something like this:
For every day this week, you’re going to do three acts of self-love to show yourself some TLC. Every day should include one good thing for your body, one good thing for your tummy, and one good thing for your soul. Here is an example of one of mine:
Studio 3 Spin with Bobby (Fitness)
Hot Cocoa (Fun)
After a week, you should start to see two things:
That there are things you currently do during the week that are acts of self-love. Hopefully recognizing this will allow you to enjoy your routines, and appreciate the time you take to make your week a little bit sweeter.
That you are seriously missing some TLC in your life, and that now you have a week’s worth of examples to go off of! Seriously – taking the time to “treat-yo-self” doesn’t have to be hard, or cost anything more than a little time and attention. Enjoy the new habits you’ve created for yourself and love every minute of them.
I want to stress that this self-love challenge shouldn’t cost you a dime. In fact, I’m creating this challenge to show you that you cannot buy happiness. Sure, a cute new shirt can take me from 0 to 100 real quick, but let me tell you, a cup of Swiss Miss at 8:45pm while watching Law & Order SVU makes me just as happy, costs me nothing, and is something I can do on repeat without breaking my budget.
Self-love should be a part of your weekly routine, not some one-off purchase or win. This way you can always achieve your self-love no matter what financial situation you’re currently in. Remember, a wise JLo once said: “My love don’t cost a thing.”
Last, but not least, if no one has told you this today- YOU are strong, healthy, beautiful, loyal, smart, kind, funny, important, needed by many, looked up to, and most importantly – loved.
If you want to participate in the 1-Week Self-Love Challenge with me – simply post your daily acts of self-love to your instagram and tag me @lifesabeacham with the #LABSelfLoveChallange I can’t wait to spread the love with you all!
I’m sitting here, in my new apartment, surround by all the things I’d packed away a month ago. I’m sipping coffee from my infamous “dad” mug, with the Macy’s day parade on mute and my chill playlist streaming from my Spotify. All I have to do today is pack a bag for the weekend. All I have to do today is pick out cute outfits, board the train and head to see my family for Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for today. Continue Reading
A typical Halloween: I’m dressed as Oscar the Grouch, sitting on the counter in my friends’ kitchen with gummy worms in my punch. Batman is blowing cheese balls out of his mouth and cookie monster is chugging a beer – wait, what? Did I mention I’m almost twenty-seven? Halloween, man, it’s one of those holidays that gets weirder with age. And I’m not just talking about the costumes. Instead of trick or treating, we’re chugging and icing, and keg-standing and Jell-O shot making. And all I’m sayin’ is… what happened to the candy? Continue Reading