Half Marathon Training: Changing up the purpose of this blog 


How the heck did I get here? I’m becoming someone who blogs about running. RUNNING! This exercise that I’ve avoided for at least two years. I’d do anything — spinning, barre, step classes — anything but run. And yet, somehow, I just decided to re-purpose my site to track my newest journey: half marathon training.

When the CEO of my company told me that anyone could train to run, I argued saying, “Anyone, but me.” Little did I know that a glass of red wine and a sushi boat later, he had mentally prepared the beginning of my training plan.

Monday morning I was starting up my computer and making coffee when I got a text: “Will you stop up to my office when you get in? I have the phase 1 of your marathon training plan for you.”


Luckily, I had already flown home from our corporate headquarters and was safely 1,300 miles away. Still, I thanked him for his willingness and picked up the phone…I was curious about what he prepared.

We reviewed a 16-week plan. It would take me through summer and get me up to four miles. Keep in mind that the .25 mile warm-up lap in high school track was always tough for me. My only experience in running was sprinting, and only at the shortest distances possible!

And yet — something made me want to try this. Something made me think that even though this was the toughest form of exercise for me, I had enough ambition to at least give it my best attempt. Plus, he had included a disclaimer that said if I got to the end of Phase 1 and wanted to stop, I could.

So, this is the story of my journey. I’m going to share the good, bad, and painful with you as I train to run 13.1 miles. Let’s all take a moment to recognize that the distance of a half marathon is comparable to a short drive.

Here’s to stepping out of your comfort zone and being your authentic self!

The Invisible Vote


I Voted!

The youngest generation to place their votes in 2016—millennials—make up over ¼ of the national population. It’s no wonder that the leading candidates are striving to earn their vote.

But not every single millennial fits into a box, or ballot. Not every young person is either strictly “feelin’ the Bern” or craving to become a “Trumpkin.”

There’s an entire group of the millennial generation that is currently undecided, and voter turnout for those between 18 and 30 is lower than ever. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement reported that only 19.9% of registered millennial voters opted to cast a ballot at all in the 2014 congressional elections. That number is pacing to climb dramatically this election year.

And the reason they aren’t showing up on election day? They feel lost, confused, and that issues have been oversimplified. There lacks a candidate who can state the issue and their solution in great detail, and not all twenty-somethings are jumping on the “hope and change” bandwagon. They want solid plans and solutions.

These undecided voters are not first-time voters and the issue is not that they don’t know what their core values and principles are. These voters have stable careers, thousands of dollars in student loan debt, a passion for social issues, confusion when it comes to the economy, and strong opinions on  we should have boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

These are not young people who claim to have all the answers. But what they do have is a vision. They know what they want to country to look like, but they’re not sure how to get there. That’s where the presidential candidates are supposed to come in.

So what the candidates of the 2016 Primary Election need to do is recognize those voters. Stop classifying millennials as the young voters and start realizing that there are different issues, concerns, and passions within each demographic.

It’s not only unfair to lump an entire generation into the young vote, the old vote, or the black or white vote, it also completely overlooks the diversity that is the United States of America.

It takes issues like student loans repayments and access to birth control and says that those only concern the young vote. It takes medicare and social security and says they only matter to the retired voters.

It’s not true. And it’s not fair.

So, to the candidates attempting to race to the finish line and claim the “young vote” — please pause; Consider that there are still undecided voters, and they will make a difference in the election. Find a way to voice your true agendas and stop thinking millennials are young and naïve.

They are watching closely, and in the end, their vote will matter.

Nashville Talent Comes to Lakewood Ranch Farmer’s Market


Jay Taylor and Mandy McMillan performing at Saturday's Farmer's Market on Main Street.
Jay Taylor and Mandy McMillan performing at Saturday’s Farmer’s Market on Main Street.

Lakewood Ranch, Fl—Attendees of Saturday’s Farmer’s Market on Main Street were in for a real surprise when they made their way down the line of vendors. Right in the middle of it all was a dynamic duo of singer-songwriters, Jay Taylor and Mandy McMillan. Taylor appeared on The Voice where he gained national recognition, and when he came to little LWR, we couldn’t help but wonder what brought him here. It turns out, his parents are “the egg people.” At least that’s what he first told us—his parents are actually Leonard and Arlene Horak, the couple who sells farm-raised eggs at the monthly market. LWR Lifestyle sat down with the two to get the inside scoop on what brought them to our small gathering on Main.

What brought you two all the way from Nashville to Florida?

M: We initially headed down to Naples FL to meet up with my manager for a few days. Jay had grown up in FL so we decided to stay a few extra days and book shows in and around Tampa which brought us to the market.

How long have you both been pursuing careers in music?

J: For me it was about ten years ago when I won a singing competition, Florida Super Singer. I always had a love for music but the competition was the extra boost to make me want to pursue it as a career.

M:  I have been singing and songwriting since I was a little girl. After winning a few singing competitions back home in Canada, and a trip to Nashville, I decided that the music industry was where my heart wanted to be.

Tell me about your albums and what inspired them.

M: We both have solo albums and pursue music separately but love to jump on stage together and perform as much as we can. We don’t have an album together yet but we have written and recorded a few songs together so a duo extended play (EP) may be in the future.
J: My EP is an accumulation of my favorite songs that I’ve written over the past few years. I’m very influenced by classic country sounds like George Strait but also have alternative inspirations such as Indy and blues, so my album showcases this unique diversity while keeping it country. In the first week, my EP broke into the top 40 on the Amazon Singer/songwriter downloads.
M: I put out a five song EP to showcase my songwriting ability. The EP has a spot for everyone whether they’re looking for a love ballad or a song to turn up and drive down a back road.

What was your favorite part of performing at the farmer’s market?

M: It was such an amazing time! We were able to be up close and put on a personal performance for everyone at the market. We met some amazing people and got to experience a bit of culture.

J: It’s fun to perform in front of big crowds but it’s also great to have personal experiences with our music… It keeps us well rounded as performers.

Do you have any connections to the town?

J: My parents Leonard and Arlene Horak own Circle 6 Farms and sell eggs at the market. It’s great to play the markets and be able to spend time with my family.
M: [Other than that] we don’t have a direct connection to the town but we were able to purchase some souvenirs from the Farmer’s Market and the Organic Health Store on the corner to bring home, so that’s our little connection to the town now.

What inspired you to pursue music?

J: We have both loved music ever since we were little. I had an influence from my mom playing piano and singing in church. My grandfather Arlin Taylor was a member of a gospel quartet when I was younger so music has been in my blood since the beginning.
M: I started off singing with my two younger sisters at Christmas concerts and rodeos when I was younger. I grew up listening to Shania Twain and The Dixie Chicks which inspired me to put on home concerts for friends and family.
For more information on Jay Taylor check out his site and listen to his album, Hold On, on Amazon Music. For more information on Mandy McMillan check out her site and listen to her original songs on Amazon Music.

Barre3: Get Ready to Feel the Burn on Main Street


Barre3 Lakewood Ranch Instagram: A hallway with cubbies that leads to the studio, shower facility and lockers.
Barre3 Lakewood Ranch Instagram: A hallway with cubbies that leads to the studio, shower facility and lockers.

Lakewood Ranch, Fl — It’s here. The long-awaited and much-anticipated Barre3 has officially opened on Main Street and it brought cute yoga pants and kickass workouts with it. Following the grand opening, and free week of classes, Lakewood Ranchers can now purchase memberships for the yoga-pilates-ballet-infused classes.

Dubbed “a workout that works for anyone,” Barre3 brings intensity, cardio, low-impact and relaxation to a total-body workout like you’ve never seen before. As someone who has never attended a barre class, but has been anxiously wanting to try, I took advantage of the free week of classes and attended two.

Barre3 Instagram: a seating area located near the front of the studio where guests can browse clothing.
Barre3 Lakewood Ranch Instagram: a seating area located near the front of the studio where guests can browse clothing.

Since I reside at The Venue, the walk to and from the studio made it super easy to roll out of bed on a Saturday and Sunday morning. But what made it even easier was the welcoming atmosphere and encouraging instructors. The beautiful wood floors and clean white walls and furniture made the studio the perfect venue for a feel-good class. Each person in the class is set up with a rubber workout ball, 1 or 2 pound weights, and eventually a yoga mat which the instructor distributes during the class for you.

The upbeat, top-40s soundtrack was enough to get my heart pumping, but the cardio warm-up raised it even more. The warmup is a series of stretches followed by to-the-beat cardio moves done in place in front of a large dance studio mirror.

Following the warmup we dove right into the intense workout where I learned about the Barre3 “shakes and quakes” or “earthquakes.” As you complete a series of isometric holds that work your muscles to their deepest point followes by a series of controlled 1-inch movements, you may begin to feel your legs shaking. Don’t be alarmed! According to the instructors, this is normal and means you’re making changes. After the hold and 1-inch movements you tax the muscles and flush out the body with functional, large, dynamic moves. Designed to lift the heart rate, the cardio moves improve circulation and energizes the body.

While most of the class was done on the mat or standing up, the barre was used throughout and was always there to be used to modify any moves. The modifications offered for each move are only one of the amazing things about this group exercise, but hearing the instructor say, “Listen to your body. This is your hour. Do the moves that feel right to you,” was the best part.

Barre3 truly is a workout that works for everyone as the modifications offer a thorough full-body workout for individuals at any exercise level.

I’ll say that after two classes I was hooked and became a founding member. I attended four classes the following week and plan to attend four this week. With several class times offered each day of the week, there’s always something for everyone.

Barre3 offers membership plans, and even childcare, so that there are no more excuses to get back to being active. For information on pricing and class schedules, go to: barre3.com.

New Job, New City, New Mission


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My first thought — after being thankful I found a new job in an amazing city — was that I wanted to share this new community with everyone. Then I had another thought: Why not revamp my blog into more of an online publication? I could cover events and review local businesses like I would if I were working at a magazine.

So now, what you’re seeing, is the brainchild of that very first thought. It’s brand new and is still being developed. All of the articles (besides this one) are from my blog when it was The Beauty Within Life’s Journey. So give it time. I will be writing about my experiences in this wonderful town. I’ll be letting you know what it’s like living at the newest community in LWR and where the best places to eat are.

If you’re choosing to stay with me on this new journey in my twenties, I really appreciate it. My blog was a documentation of my travel through this incredible decade, but I am more excited about this new mission. In addition to seeing how my work and life is going, you’ll be learning about LWR. I hope to inspire some of you to visit this town, meet the extraordinary people and give back locally to keep our local economy strong.

As you can see in the photo above, LWR has become my very-own City of Dreams. Right after signing my lease and walking around Main Street, I sat on a bench–a very random bench–and this is what it told me: The past is over – learn from it. The future isn’t here yet – plan for it. The present is a gift – live for it. 

So that’s what I’m doing. Thank you for being a part of it.

22 reasons my 22nd year will be better than my 21st


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1. I’ve stopped biting my nails and I now have the long, natural nails I’ve always wanted.

2. Derby completed dog school and no longer terrorizes everyone he sees…just don’t get too close to me when he’s around.

3. I’m moving a lot closer to home–to Lakewood Ranch–the only place in Florida I’ve actually ever wanted to live.

4. Instead of losing a job at a startup, I’ve gained one at a company that’s 11 years old.

5. I’m making way more money and now have an idea of what it’s like to actually budget, so it won’t go to waste.

6. Turning 22 means people won’t look surprised when you tell them you’re “only 21.”

7. I’m actually putting a dent into my twenties which seems more thrilling than intimidating now.

8. I’m kicking it off in New York City.

9. My first birthday dinner is at the Melting Pot with Collin, who I live 20 minutes from instead of 3.5 hours.

10. I am going to get to see my niece and nephew regularly rather than when I’m “in town.”

11. I’ll actually be able to go home and walk my dog during lunch since I’ll live closer to where I work.

12. I’ll learn this so-called-joy of wood floors and granite counter tops that everyone seems to have.

13. I’ll be one year closer to retirement — with my first 401k to boot.

14. I’ll officially live right across the street from — wait for it — Starbucks.

15. My new apartment has a spin and yoga room which means no extra gym memberships for this lady!

16. I took a break from blonde and went brown for fall. Adios Miranda and Britney.

17. My best friend is graduating from SEU and we may actually live in the same city for more than two months.

18. I won’t have to haul my dog across the state if I want to go home to Venice for a home cooked meal.

19. I have a real excuse to learn to cook with my new granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

20. I got a second job as a freelancer for a company in NYC so that I can keep getting bylines, which pretty much makes me a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw. Right?

21. I’ll be able to buy actual Christmas presents that mean something because I’ll be able to afford them.

22. I’ve learned that bad luck has no prejudice, but being ambitious and determined will help you get exactly what you want when the time is right.

“Timing is everything. When you’re really ready for it, it will come.” -Mandy Hale

Editor’s Note: the picture at the top is of me in New York City at none other than Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment.

I just lost my job, I didn’t lose my fight


Two months ago, I told you all about my first job after college. I started four days before graduation as the Social Media and Content Specialist at Fresh Media Network in West Palm Beach. I moved across the state alone and now as I sit here in my apartment, jobless, I pain to tell you that the startup company has gone under — that after only 60 days of employment, I have lost my very first job.

I kept it a secret for the first few days from everyone except my parents and close friends. I wallowed for a few hours, but then went on a 72 hour job application binge. I sent out applications and resumes to 80 places. This is an ongoing job search now, a little over a week since it all went down.

But this isn’t a pity post; this isn’t a cry for help. This is simply to let you all know that even when you do everything right–when you take no less than five classes each semester, complete two internships each semester, graduate a year early, go away for a final summer internship and then land a job before graduation–even when all of that is done correctly, bad luck has no prejudice. The CEO and investors ended up not seeing eye-to-eye on some crucial details so the investors pulled out, leaving me as collateral damage.

Now I’m left here with absolutely nothing on the East Coast except my apartment. So I start a new job search, and just as before, all signs point to NYC. So I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll stay here, maybe I’ll get a job offer somewhere else, but no matter what happens, I won’t let myself be a casualty.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of someone who is hiring, definitely send them to my portfolio.

“As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost. And when that happens, I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda, buckle up and just keep going.” -Carrie Bradshaw