I have always been a subscriber to the belief that there is no point in doing anything if you aren’t willing to put your entire heart into it. Without your heart, you are simply performing a task, going through the motions, and both the endeavor as well as you will suffer for it. For me, this isn’t some philosophy I adopted over the years. Even as a small child, I was all heart. Not yet fully aware of the risks or rewards, I would throw myself fully into all that I did — sports, dance, school, friends, and my family. As I got older, this applied to my career, my life, my travels, and most certainly my relationships – I have never been one to shy away at the risk of putting my heart on the line.
However, as we get older and experience more life and loss, which will often times test our hearts to their maximum capacity, and, on occasion, even allow them to break, it becomes increasingly harder to take those risks. Our hearts have been stitched up several times over from the various wounds life has inflicted, and are sitting behind a layer (or several) of whatever protection mechanism we have understandably created.
So this begs the question — as we get older and wiser, and realize more than ever the value of putting our full hearts into whatever it is we do, how do we balance that with knowledge of the potential risk of putting our hearts on the line? How do we break through our own walls of protection? And even further, when dealing with a broken heart, how do we manage to put any of our heart into anything?!
I always try to be open and honest in my posts each week — largely with the awareness that I am not alone in whatever I am experiencing in my life, and hoping I can touch on subjects you can relate to and realize you are not alone either. So, I will offer full disclosure this week. While I sit in a very fortunate position to have not only had the opportunity to build this platform, but to be the face and the voice of it (something I am grateful for each day), it is also a position which forces me — if I want to do this fully and properly — to constantly put myself out there to the world. And because The Sweat Life is meant to motivate and empower you to go out and live your healthiest and best lives — as the face of such a message — I must, myself, lead by example, no?! As more opportunities come to me to lead this message on bigger platforms and with bigger brands, there is most certainly more pressure and expectation that I must show up — not as Aly the human, but as Aly The Sweat Life — positive, fit, full of energy, and always with a smile on. This is energy I have to regularly give forth in my writing, over social media, in photo or film shoots, at events, or even when showing up to a class at a fitness studio.
However, in the wake of the last 6 months which has resulted in losing my mother, losing one of my closest friends, and recently losing my relationship with the man I deeply believed I would spend my life with, I find myself left with a heart which has been shattered into a million pieces. This is not the first time I have experienced a broken heart, but as matters of the heart go, the more times they are broken the deeper the wounds become. Additionally, the depth and amount of loss this go-round, at times, feels like more than even I can bear.
As someone who spends my time offering life and health advice to others - both professionally and personally - I know all the things I’m supposed to say to myself, all the things I’m supposed to embrace, and all the measures I’m supposed to take at such a time. I know that everything happens for a reason. I know that suffering makes us stronger. I know that while this often feels like more than I can bear, life never hands us more than we can handle. I know that time can mend even the deepest of wounds. And I know, most of all, that mending a broken heart, and picking up the pieces of your life after it has seemingly fallen to bits, takes work.
However, even with such knowledge, these beliefs and practices can be incredibly hard to actually embrace, and I am learning so many new lessons in this time of heartache. Lessons like it’s okay to just give in and feel sad. In fact, not only is it okay to feel your pain, but it is essential to feel pain in order to at some point let it go — otherwise you will carry it around with you forever. As someone who always feels the need to be strong for myself and for others, this has been one of my biggest struggles — to let myself crumble a bit, give in to this great void of sadness, and lean on those around me. And while I know we are never given more than we can handle, and we are so much stronger than we feel even in our weakest of moments — it’s okay to say, “This is too much.”
I have learned that no matter how hard I work at this, mending a broken heart doesn’t happen quickly - nor should it. There is no quick fix, and the process requires time and care. However, I have also learned that it’s okay to do what you have to do in the interim, to grab at moments that make you feel better - even if they are fleeting. These “bandaids” as I like to call them, are different for each of us and can change daily. Sometimes it’s indulging in a movie fest on your couch while devouring a pint of Chubby Hubby. Sometimes it’s going for a long run while listening to your favorite playlist. Sometimes it’s turning to those closest to you and just allowing yourself to totally break. And sometimes you just need to forget it’s all happening, put on your best outfit, and hit the town… or a bottle of wine. I have learned that one should do whatever it is you need to feel better in any given moment — as long as you are not causing further harm to yourself or others (that second part is KEY).
I have learned that while time can heal pretty much anything, time alone will never fully work. Healing from heartbreak takes work — real work — and effort on our parts. That work may start by simply forcing ourselves to get up each day, and showing up for ourselves. Once you have tackled that, you have to work on being able to show up for others again. You must work on letting yourself be sad, but not sit in that sadness so long that you can’t find your way back out of it. You must work on finding what it is in your life that truly brings you happiness and fulfillment — which may end up being very different from what you currently put value into. You must put work into finding how to tap into your inner strength, which will carry you through such hardship (and future hardships), and what those sources of strength are for you. You must put work into staying as present as possible — as dwelling on the past or focusing on a future that could have been will leave you stuck somewhere that isn’t actually HERE, which means you are actually nowhere. You must put effort into taking a long hard look at yourself and your life, and decide who you really want to be and what you really want for yourself. While such times may feel so utterly out of your control, if you put the work in, you will come to realize so much of the course of our lives IS within our control, and that we must make the best possible choices for ourselves in those areas.
I don’t say any of this with the suggestion that this work is easy — or it wouldn’t be work. These are efforts we will all try and fail at, but we must be willing to keep trying. And if you can do no more than wake up each day, put one foot in front of the other, and just show up for your day — well, you’ve accomplished more than you realize. And that is exactly what I plan to do. While I admit the struggle of needing to be such a positive public figure during such a time, I am also so beyond grateful for this company, the people behind it, and for all of you in this community. You inspire me to continue to be my best, you allow me to feel so genuinely supported, and you give more meaning and purpose to my life than I ever could have dreamed. And sometimes, even if it feels forced, having to “smile for the camera” when smiling is just about the last thing I feel like doing, it so often results in a smile that is anything but forced. And for that, I will continue to show up.
Most importantly, it has never been so deeply clear that this company, this brand, this platform, and this community is exactly what I want to pour my heart into — despite how broken my heart may be — and you have given that to me, and I thank you for it. Furthermore, you offer me the strength and courage to continue to put my heart on the line, and put my full heart into both my life and The Sweat Life. I encourage all of you to find what your Sweat Life is, and not only show up for it, but pour your heart into it.
And that’s what this week is all about - ALL HEART! Our featured fitness studio, Orangetheory Fitness, focuses on our most basic lifeline as human beings — heart rate — to motivate students to lead with their heart during workouts. Orangetheory class participants wear a heart rate monitor through HIIT training on the treadmill and rowers, and strength training on the floor and TRX machines — tracking their heart rate throughout class on the big screen, and encouraging them to show up with their whole heart.
Our other writers this week also lead with their heart: Lioness Bethany Lyons channeled her passion for Baptiste yoga into motivation to open her own power yoga studio; former Top Chef contestant Candice Kumai authored and published a cookbook based on her love for Clean, Green Eats; Alli Forsythe took her affinity for fitness to the next level as a contestant on The Amazing Race; and Eve Kessner has refused to let just one role define her — mom, fitness instructor, wife — they all bring joy.
Most importantly, no matter how many stitches your heart already has holding it together, or how many more it may require — you will never fully live or love unless you are willing to put your heart fully out there. I plan to, and I hope I am not alone. So are you with me?!
Until next week,
Founder, CEO, and Host
The Sweat Life