Stronger

Fitness and Wellbeing Lifestyle

Brand trips are one of the coolest parts of blogging… but can also prove to be one of the most stressful. You know you will be photographed the entire time so you want to dress well, represent the brand well, and look polished. You also have a packed itinerary; some activities are fun and some can be anxiety-causing. I have always dreaded when an athletic activity has been on the agenda. More often than not, I am one of the largest and one of the oldest influencers on a trip and it’s pretty awful to be in a gym or yoga studio surrounded by 20-somethings in sports bras sharing their war stories about SoulCycle and CrossFit when you can’t remember the last time you had time to hit the gym or even attend your husband’s yoga class.

Yes, I am married to a yoga instructor yet I've gone weeks and sometimes months without attending because I just couldn’t find the time.

Last week I went to Florida with the clothing brand Chico’s. They were celebrating the 35th anniversary of the opening of their first store on Sanibel Island and invited me and a few other influencers they have partnered with over the years (visit my Instagram and find a highlights reel from the trip). I was so honored to attend; Chico’s is a great company, the group of women chosen to attend was varied but all talented influencers with unique perspectives and good hearts. The brand was sweet enough to provide an agenda with dress code prior to us attending. Beachy chic, check. Daytime chic, check. Cocktail attire with flat or wedge shoes for a boat, check. Athleisure for morning yoga on the beach? Uh oh.

All the old school anxieties reared their heads. This is NOT going to be fun, this is going to suck, and there’s going to be cameras capturing my fat out of shape self sweating my ass off on a beach. But then I stopped myself.

I am not who I used to be, and I have the power to never go back there again. I have accomplished so much in less than a year, and for the first time I feel connected to my body, like we have a relationship, not that I’m squatting deep in here under many layers of padding. Sure, I don’t own trendy yoga gear, but that doesn’t matter. So much of my past I focused more on the attire than the experience; not until I became a fashion blogger did I learn that the clothes do NOT make the woman. The right attire may enhance an experience, but it won’t change your life.

I decided NOT to hide my shape under a loose top. That’s the old Allie. I grabbed my favorite low-impact leggings (classic Adidas), a black sports bra, and a simple black cami from cabi since I realized I didn’t own any black fitted tanks. Instead of trying to make my hair cute at 8am, I just threw it in a ponytail and covered it with a cap. This gave me time to get on the beach to see it before the crowds came, to meditate, to start the day off right.

Chico’s provided yoga mats branded to commemorate their 35th anniversary. A table was set up with icy cucumber water and chilled washcloths. The other influencers showed up in a variety of looks. The yoga instructor created a routine that was flexible for different levels of ability, and I found myself being able to do the harder moves without trouble. I also found myself completely forgetting where I was, that there was a photographer, and just being in the moment connecting with my body and breath.

After the class, the photographer had do a few group shots, and then offered to take individual photos. My look wasn’t awesome, but my spirit was and I smiled for the camera, hands on my hips, feeling strong and alive.

I don’t know if I would be where I am in such a short time from quitting my job if it weren’t for exercising. This is an exhausting profession, physically and emotionally. I work more hours than I did for my day job, I travel more, I’m “on” more often with calls, in-person meetings, speaking engagements, and networking. And there’s far more rejection. Just this morning I had two rejection emails, one from a brand I wear regularly stating my aesthetic wasn’t coordinating with their brand, the other saying I had too small of an Instagram audience to provide value to them. It’s especially hard when you see the influencers who do get the opportunities you want and you know they boosted their Instagram numbers quickly and not necessarily authentically. And it's hard when you've built a strong community outside of Instagram and so few brands even care. There have been days where I was close to throwing in the towel but I'd think how far I’ve come, and how strong I’ve become mentally and physically and it kept me going. And being strong helps me get over the humps faster.

So here I am in my version of beachy athleisure, feeling more powerful than I have in over a decade. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Photos by Jesi Cason for Arista Collective

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  • tamara September 4, 2018

    Great post. Just getting out there and doing it is the biggest step. I have really loved watching your transformation this year – your joy for life and happiness shines through more with each post. I am trying to get back into exercise post a few niggling injuries. I’d love it if you shared more of your exercise journey too – seeing other triumphs and struggles is always inspirational!

    • Alison Gary September 4, 2018

      Thank you so much Tamara! I’ll be sharing every month or so on here, but share almost daily on my Instagram Stories. I’m finding the audience there is receptive to more regular fitness content while here I’ve had a lot ask me to focus more on fashion and less on lifestyle. But I like to sprinkle it in every so often, it’s what makes me me! :). Wishing you the best with your fitness journey!

  • Emily August 26, 2018

    I love this. I really appreciate your work and your voice. I also found you via Corporette, added you to my Feedly, and consistently enjoy your writing, thoughts, and style advice. I also really appreciate your efforts towards including women of color in the fashion world. And I think you’re wise to focus on your blog and not instagram. Social media platforms are great but they aren’t permanent and they are known for messing around with their algorithms to suppress traffic to sell ads! Keep up the great work.

  • Chris August 22, 2018

    Allie,

    Maybe it’s the hat, the dark clothes, the ocean in the background, and your pose. but you remind me of a Coast Guard leader about to address her sailors. Sorry Karl. You are demonstrating the USCG motto “Semper Paratus”. It means “Always Ready”. What does that mean, people question. Ready for anything! whaddayagot got?

    I would definitely follow you into whatever.

  • Nomi August 22, 2018

    This was great, so strong & honest. I am very familiar with that feeling of not really belonging in a yoga or workout class full of fit 20-somethings. Good for you for remembering how far you’ve come lately. Also I was reminded, when you talked about your rejections and hard work, how I could never ever EVER be a blogger, because “putting myself out there” sounds like hell to my introverted self. But oh how I appreciate the work of fashion bloggers like you. No exaggeration to say that you have changed my plus-sized life.

    • Chris August 22, 2018

      Nomi,

      Amen to that! I am an introvert also. If I had to be judged solely on how I look, I would fail everything. I have to talk at public meetings sometimes. I’m sure I get judged for how I look, but my paycheck doesn’t depend on it. I am confident in speaking about my field so I am not that uncomfortable.. So if folks are gossiping about my appearance, fortunately it doesn’t get back to me.

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      Oh wow Nomi, that is amazing. My goal with this crazy blog is to help others, and it means so much to know that I have been helpful to you! There’s parts of me who feel far more comfortable behind a computer screen, but blogging forces me to step waaaay outside my comfort zone and I think it’s been really good for me. It forces me to step outside my comfort zone in other aspects of my life as well!

  • Susan August 22, 2018

    You (and those retailers) should know that I visit your website EVERY day, looking for workwear inspiration and places to shop for affordable clothing. (found you thanks to Corporette) I am 53 and struggle with weight in my midsection. I appreciate the different companies that you use and the different ways you put clothes together. It’s very brave of you to share your personal struggles and I agree with the others who have commented — it’s inspiring!

    • Melissa August 23, 2018

      Agreed! I “follow” a handfull of bloggers, but WO2 (sp?) Is my only daily. Hoping your click thru rates remind you of how influential you are.

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      LOVE Corporette! And thank you so much for this comment, it means a lot and inspires me to keep doing my thing, producing the content that I myself would want to see not what brands necessarily desire.

    • Alison Gary August 30, 2018

      Thank you so much Susan!

  • AnnMarie August 21, 2018

    I specifically follow you because you are not a 20 something.
    I am also someone who’s come a long way from where I was. I’ve lost 75 lbs in the last 5 or so years. I have 25ish more to go but being older, it’s a process. I go to Orange Theory regularly. I began walking and now jog, dare I say run?!
    I used to be terrified of events like your yoga class, now I’m wearing tighter fitting leggings and holding all the poses.
    So much love to you and know this is a process and not a quick one. There’ll be weight gains after vacations and then successes if you don’t get in your own way. Just keep seeing how far you’ve come, be proud of yourself, you’ve got this girl!!!

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      Wow AnnMarie you’re an inspiration! Thank you for sharing, it’s motivating. This has been a fun journey to see how much further I can go physically and mentally especially at this age, and your story is motivation to keep rocking it!

  • Melissa August 21, 2018

    You’re awesome. ❤️

  • Tara August 21, 2018

    Bravo! What those two brands might not know is that many of your readers visit EVERY day. We have different body types and I am 50 years old (so MUCH older than you!) , but I adore your style, your candor and your joie de vivre. I think you are a beacon of positivity and stylishness, I am thrilled for all of the positive changes you have worked so hard to achieve over the last year and I am inspired by you and rooting for you. Keep on keeping on! 🙂

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      Wow thank you so much Tara! This means so much <3

  • Jennifer August 21, 2018

    I’ve said this before, and I’m happy to say it again: even though I am a different size & have a different aesthetic, I have bought more items featured on this blog —often within 5 mins or less of seeing them— than on any other. I’m wearing my white plastic Birks right now. This is a blog for real life, and that’s the highest compliment I can give.

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      Thank you so much Jennifer, I am so honored. And yesss to the white Birks, I’m wearing mine right now too! <3

  • JMS August 21, 2018

    That looks so fun! What a lovely idea. I like your all-black look a lot.

  • Caitlin August 21, 2018

    You’re so strong and inspiring! Thank you for being honest, vulnerable, and fun 🙂

  • L H Carter August 21, 2018

    Persevere please. I am not on Instagram or Facebook.
    I enjoy this type of encouraging post as I attempt yoga and treadmilling on a regular basis in efforts to balance looking good and feeling good as a size 12, 62 year old.
    You look strong and ready in the last photo of you on the beach which is exactly how I want to look, too.

    • Alison Gary August 26, 2018

      Thank you so much! And honestly, if I weren’t a blogger I may not be on those platforms either. I believe in having the best content here on the blog, it’s the only thing I own and it’s a platform that is accessible to all, mobile or desktop, the iPhone X or an old PC.

  • Alison August 21, 2018

    Love your open-heartedness, thank you for sharing the story behind the fierce pics!

  • Lee August 21, 2018

    Way to go Allie! I’m glad you shared this experience with us. I can certainly relate to not wanting to work out in “public” and feeling unsure about myself in those types of clothes. But I can also relate to stopping the worry and just getting on with it and enjoying it!

    To the brands that consider partnering with you, I would like to say this: I am 46 years old and I have NO clue how to get on Instagram! I use the internet, I use email, I use Facebook, I use Twitter. I work full time and have a family. I have no time or energy right now to pick up one more piece of social media to figure out. I seriously doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. I like blogs like Wardrobe Oxygen b/c they are written by a real woman who I can relate to. If she enjoys shopping with a particular brand, then I’m going to seriously consider it. I went back to shopping at Talbots b/c of WO. I found out about Nordstorm’s b/c of WO (we don’t have Nordstroms in my state so I’d never really heard of it until I found this blog). I love Loft, J Crew, J Crew Factory, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy (ok, it’s hit or miss at times!), just to name a few.

    Anyway, that soapbox moment is over now. Thanks for sharing this with us Allie!

    • Alison Gary August 30, 2018

      Thank you so much for this Lee! I think if this wasn’t my job I wouldn’t be on social media. There’s only so many hours in the day and I’m an OG blog lover. I love your soapbox and I thank you for your support! <3

  • Bethany August 21, 2018

    You look amazing and you’re an inspiration.

  • Lisa August 21, 2018

    Great post. Besides showing me some great brands and clothes, you’ve also inspired me to keep exercising. I joined a barre gym a while back and twice I started to falter…both times there was something in your post that encouraged me. Once was about the changes you saw in your head and body and the other time you just looked good! Please persist!!

    • Alison Gary August 30, 2018

      Oh wow that is awesome! To know this blog helped you like that is so awesome, it inspires me to keep writing and sharing here. Thank you Lisa!

  • Allison August 21, 2018

    These are the kind of posts that I love the most. I have been following your journey for years and only relate to you more as the years go on. Keep opening your heart to your readers and speaking your truth. We are with you. And we are proud of you!

  • Patricia August 21, 2018

    It’s when you share your vulnerability and fears we relate to you the most. Because we ALL have those thoughts.

    • Alison Gary August 30, 2018

      Thank you Patricia. Having this community gives me the confidence to share like this <3

  • Giuditta August 21, 2018

    Fabulous, inspiring post, Allie. You look strong, gorgeous and confident — and well you should! Fie on the brands which turned you down; as a former freelancer, I know it’s hard, but it’s just the way it is, and I truly believe things happen for a reason. I will say this; you are a strong influencer, and your recommendations often lead me to brands and product purchases. So there.

  • Téa August 21, 2018

    yeah, you! you’re inspirational to me!! thanks!

  • Anna August 21, 2018

    It took me several looks to realize that the yoga mats were spread out not on woven white textiles trimmed with wide bands of elaborate lace but on white sand over which treaded tires had been driven! Fancy floor for your yoga!
    As for persisting, please do persist. Those brands are passing up a good thing. Ignore them and remember your loyal audience. Onward!

    • Alison Gary August 30, 2018

      That WOULD have been fancy! But the white sand was still such a cool location! Thank you Anna! <3

  • Tonya August 21, 2018

    I LOVE this Allison! I am so proud of you! You’re such an inspiration. Keep moving forward my friend.

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