CEO Sit Down: Anna Bilha on Activly

Activly, a company mobilizing millennials to get active and fit on their own terms.

Anna Bilha was born and raised in Brazil and moved to The United States for high school and to attend Babson College. Throughout her education, Anna hadn’t focussed a lot on studying entrepreneurship, which is what Babson is most well-known for, being the #1 college in the nation for entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until Anna went to study in San Francisco for a semester that she was exposed to a realm of entrepreneurship that she found herself extremely passionate about, involving design, fitness, community, and technology. From an initial idea in San Francisco to a full blown start-up, Anna’s new company Activly has just launched its first beta version of what will soon be a fitness community app geared towards millennials. 

Anna at Ned's Point-23 2Activly was inspired by Anna’s personal fitness journey. Being someone who struggled with weight and body image issues, fitness has always been a priority in Anna’s life. Yet, in college, Anna found it difficult to establish a routine and be as active as she would like. However, when Anna did make it to the gym, people would reach out to her for recommendations for how she was able to be more active and fierce in the gym.  

At first, Anna considered starting a blog that she could point people to for her tips, but quickly realized that making videos and living that “influencer lifestyle” was not so much her speed. Anna cites GymShark as being one of her biggest influences, which has a loyal community of passionate individuals that she truly believes in. Anna also mentions that Karina Elle is another fitness expert she looks up to, who, in many ways, has broken the status quo when it comes to representation within the fitness space.  Anna knew that she wanted to reach more people to offer them tips from her own personal fitness journey. “Fitness is about being happy and comfortable with your body and being healthy, not necessarily about losing weight or building muscle,” Anna mentions. “There is an aspect of going to the gym that is about challenging yourself and being mentally healthy as well.” 

Screen_Shot_2020-11-19_at_3.03.01_PM-removebg-previewAnna did a lot of research into why people are not exercising and what the pain points are within the fitness industry in order to understand better why people were asking her for fitness advice. She soon discovered that ⅔ of Americans are inactive! This led her to developing the idea for Activly, an attempt at making the fitness experience more simple and community based. Activly is designed to be a centralized platform for fitness instruction and inspiration. Anna wanted to ensure that this app serves as a place for everyone, no matter where they are in their fitness journey- a community for everyone. 

What differentiates Activly from other workout programs and apps is that it serves to aggregate content from multiple platforms in order to provide the best for each user. “In this app, you are not limited to finding information from one source, which would leave you at a disadvantage if you enjoy all different types of workouts” Anna mentions. Activly also does not create its own content for sale and distribution, which makes it more unbiased in recommending content for its users. 

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Creating this app has not come without its challenges, however, both personal and professional. At the outset, Anna reveals that she suffered from imposter syndrome, where she was unsure if she had the ability to get the app off the ground running. Within the company itself, Anna also cites that building a platform such as this one involves complicated technology that she has had to learn a lot about throughout the process, something completely out of her comfort zone. “You have to be confident in your developer, they need to understand what you see and align with your vision” says Anna. 

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Nevertheless, these dark moments have allowed for bright moments to shine even brighter. Some of the most rewarding aspects of starting this company for Anna has been growing her team. Although the company is not profitable yet, everyone within her team is extremely engaged and excited for what is to come, something Anna had never dreamt at the beginning. 

Overall, Anna is excited for her new business to help people that need guidance that are already active, but, more importantly, help those who are not active at all in order to work towards creating a more physically and mentally healthy world. 

Uma on Type 1 Diabetes and Recipes for Success

Uma on living with Type 1 Diabetes and the recipes she loves the most.

When I first learned about diabetes it was through my seventh grade English teacher Mr. Murray. On the first day of class he explained to all of us that he suffered from diabetes and that if he ever started slurring his speech that we should remind him to go and drink some of the apple juice he stored in his desk. I had never heard of the disease before, yet, as I grew up, I met more and more people with the condition. When I recently heard about my friend Uma’s new website T1Buddies, a recipe sharing platform aiming to help those with Type 1, I knew that it was a resource that I had to share with you all. Uma is a complete inspiration and I am so honored to share her story on the blog. Also, head to T1Buddies to share a recipe of your own or to try and spot my homemade tomato sauce recipe if you’re feeling in the mood to cook!


Screen Shot 2020-11-16 at 6.19.32 PMUma! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi! I’m Uma, I’m 17, and I currently live in Singapore. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for about 4 years, but in spite of this I’m still a big foodie, and I’m almost always craving bubble tea.

When did you first find out that you have Type 1 Diabetes and what was your reaction to the news?

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in my freshman year of high school, so I was 14 years old at the time. It was an incredibly unexpected situation for me and my family, so once I was finally able to begin processing the news, it was quite disorienting, to put it mildly. And before I could fully acknowledge the diagnosis, I was being bombarded with more information, so overall it was a very confusing time. 

What has been the most challenging part about managing your Type 1 Diabetes?

When I was first diagnosed, the most difficult part was not the physical management of the condition, but rather taking care of my mental health. I had just become a teenager, ready for a “normal” high school experience – one that didn’t include needles and carb counting. The mental hurdles took a lot of patience and effort to overcome, but thankfully, I’ve reached a place where it’s not the hardest part of diabetes management anymore. Now, the most challenging thing is keeping my blood sugar stable while stressing over my college applications. 

What do you wish more people knew about Type 1 Diabetes?

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Where do I begin? Just kidding, the list is not long. The main thing I wish more people knew is that Type 1 Diabetes isn’t caused by a person’s diet or an ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle. In reality, no one actually knows the cause of Type 1, and there isn’t a way to prevent it. I remember a time when I told a friend about my condition, and he assumed I got it because I “ate too much sugar.” I knew after the fact that he wasn’t trying to call me unhealthy, and that he just didn’t know much about Type 1, but it still felt like an accusation at the moment. I hope that in the future, people will be more aware of Type 1 diabetes, and understand that it is not the person’s fault for having it. 

How has Type 1 Diabetes changed your perspective on life, health, and food?

My condition changed more of my perspective than I could’ve imagined 3 years ago. First, I’ve become a lot more knowledgeable about my physical health, and the science of diabetes. If you asked me what I knew about diabetes in middle school, I would’ve responded: “That’s what happens when you eat too much sugar…?” 

Type 1 Diabetes has also made me realize that it’s better to teach people about the condition instead of becoming angry at comments or questions that seem ignorant. In the story above, I was pretty upset at the comment, but since then, I’ve tried to educate my friends and relatives if they have questions.

Finally, the most important change: food. Being diagnosed at 14 was already a challenge that was amplified by the fact that teenagers eat out often. At first, I was disheartened when I watched my friends buy sugar-heavy bubble teas, or order off of restaurant menus without a care. But, with practice and patience, I learned how to enjoy myself and food in spite of my condition, which will be very helpful when I head off to college.

Overall, Type 1 taught me how to take care of myself without restricting every part of my life. Plus, I am no longer afraid of needles and blood, which is a helpful side effect. 

What are some of your favorite recipes to make?Screen_Shot_2020-11-09_at_11.21.16_PM-removebg-preview

A recipe that I recently discovered is oyako donburi: a Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl. Its literal meaning is “parent (chicken) and child (egg) rice bowl” which I thought was an amazing name. Oyakodon is now one of my favorites because it is relatively healthy (lots of protein) but is still really delicious. I’m also a big fan of pancakes – not a complicated or fancy dish, but that’s kind of why I love them. When I have the time, I spend probably way too much effort decorating plates of pancakes like a food artist, and they are very Instagrammable. 

 

Tell us all about your new website T1Buddies!

T1Buddies is an online collaborative cookbook for the Type 1 Diabetes community. (T1BudDies… get it? Anyway…) All of the recipes are submitted by Type 1 diabetics and friends/relatives, and the collection is continuously growing. I started this project because I realized that there are not a lot of resources and support for Type 1 in Singapore, and that the group of people affected by T1D is quite scattered here. T1Buddies is a way to unite the community both in Singapore and around the world by connecting through food – which is also a personal passion of mine. Before I developed T1 Buddies, I started an Instagram account for personal recipes, which was additional inspiration for this website.

What is your hope for the future of the Type 1 Diabetes community?

The Type 1 community has already come so far, both scientifically and socially. The advancements in medical technology alone are remarkable, and the community in the US is quite strong. My hope is that this unity will expand outside of the USA because, a bit unfortunately, the network of Type 1 diabetics is very much global. I also hope that awareness of the condition improves around the world. In Singapore, advocacy for Type 1 is overshadowed by the more prevalent Type 2 diabetes. In the States, although Type 1 is more common than in Singapore, there are still incorrect assumptions and a gap of knowledge about the condition. I’m confident that the T1D community will advance in the future, and I’m excited to see where the medical and technological research takes us next.

Claudia Hu on being a Professional Pianist

Inside the world of a lifelong professional musician.

There is a saying that goes “consistency breeds perfection,” a saying that professional pianist Claudia Hu truly embodies in her work. Starting her piano career at just 6 years of age, Claudia has refined her craft of piano through thousands of hours of practice, which resulted in invitations to play in renowned music halls, such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City, as well as famous performance halls across The United States and Europe. Claudia recently graduated from Manhattan School of Music in May, majoring in Classical Piano Performance, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Classical Piano Performance at her alma mater with her teacher Nina Svetlanova.

Growing up, Claudia’s passion for piano was more than a hobby. Despite winning competitions and being invited to play at recitals, for Claudia, it was never about winning, it was about doing something that she loved. Interestingly, Claudia always thought that she would become a doctor, like many members of her family, yet she knew that if she went the academic route, she would never be able to play at the same level again. When she decided to apply to the Manhattan School of Music, she had the chance to meet her interviewer, by chance, before her audition and they just so happened to “click”. This allowed Claudia to feel more comfortable in her final audition, which landed her a place at the college among some of the most talented musicians in the country. 

Claudia admits that the prospect of attending the Manhattan School of Music seemed a bit daunting to her, however, she was more excited than anything, having the chance to study alongside some wonderful musicians. In college, Claudia viewed herself as a small fish in a big pond, which she saw as a positive, considering she wanted to learn the most that she could around high performing individuals that have the same love as she does for music. 

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One of Claudia’s favorite classes that she took was a conducting class, explaining that she loves conducting and views conductors as being the most intelligent in terms of both music and music history as well as art and life. Claudia was also eager to understand the theory and technical aspects of what it means to conduct. Another class she found to be particularly interesting was Historical Recordings of Great Pianists, which consisted of listening to old piano recordings. Claudia especially enjoyed listening to piano from the Golden Age or mid 1900s, as those pianists would play pieces that are not part of the typical repertoire and diverged from what we hear today. 

Claudia mentioned that some of her most memorable piano experiences came out of her college recitals Sophomore and Senior year. These recitals were the first times that it was just Claudia playing, with everyone coming to watch her perform the music she has been playing for the past two years. Claudia also enjoys these recitals because they act as milestones for how much she has learned in addition to how she can improve for the future. 

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Her experience playing has not always been smooth sailing, however, having suffered a physical injury two years ago. Claudia mentioned that she wasn’t too familiar with the “right technique” as a pianist and, as a result, her arms and back got so tense that she physically couldn’t play piano because it was too painful. This moment led to Claudia asking herself a lot of existential questions about her life without piano. Luckily, Claudia was able to see a physical therapist to correct the tension in her shoulders and breathing exercises. Now, Claudia is a more relaxed player, which has had a tremendous effect on the sound of her music and what Claudia regards as an overall triumph. 

When asked what Claudia finds as the most important quality in a pianist, she responded that being a good pianist is more than just reading music and playing it, it’s about a mental state of mind and your whole characteristic as a person. To be an incredibly proficient musician, you must work on being calm and introspective, getting to know the background of the piece and life of the composer. “A lot of composers were inspired by their political states or the popular literary works of their time, that is reflected in their music. I try to think about that while I am playing. It is a lot of mental work as well as physical,” Claudia points out. 

What excites Claudia most about the future is observing the shift taking place within classical music. The big question that is being asked nowadays in the music world is: Why do we keep sticking with the classical repertoire? A question that Claudia is eager to hear the answer to. Claudia is equally as compelled by the fact that modern classical musicians don’t have to follow one route in order to be a recognized pianist. She notes “you can find a career outside of that and with social media it becomes easier to become recognized”. It is my hope that everyone has the chance to hear Claudia’s music, a transportive experience, where sincerity and thoughtfulness can be both heard and felt. 

Malvika Sheth on Manifesting your Potential through Fashion

Fashion- a means for confidence, self-expression, history, culture, and so much more.

Fashion is instrumental in communicating who we are to the world. Throughout history, fashion has been used to convey unity, rebellion, solidarity, and so much more. A few days ago, Kamala Harris wore a “Suffragette white” pantsuit in her first address to the nation as Vice President-Elect, which many believe was a nod to women’s fight for equal voting rights in America. This is just one example of how our fashion choices can make a big impact on how we feel and what we stand for. A rainbow heart on our shirts to represent our support for LGBTQ rights, a pink ribbon donned to support breast cancer awareness, or a pair of tie-dye sweatpants to convey our fight for comfort during quarantine Zoom-meetings. Everything we wear exhibits something about ourselves. I had the chance to sit down with fashion influencer Malvika Sheth not too long ago to hear about her take on fashion’s personal impact as well as tips on how we can all be more confident through the pieces that we wear.


Malvika, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi readers! I’m Malvika Sheth, and I’m a digital content creator who believes in the power of fashion and beauty to empower driven dreamers to unleash their potential. Stylebymalvika, my platform, started as a hobby in college, but I started to spend more time on my blog than I did focusing in class. Slowly I started to monetize, and I had to take a leap. I decided to graduate college a year early, and take on Stylebymalvika full time. This has to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve been able to travel to fashion weeks across the world, work with my favorite hotels, and some of my favorite brands as well!

Have you always been interested in fashion and beauty? Do you have any early memories of experimenting with styles or looks?

I have! As a little girl, I was always infatuated with the makeup and jewelry my mom would wear, especially when she was getting ready for Indian events and festivals. Speaking of my heritage, my earliest memory would have to be wearing makeup for stage Indian Classical Dance performances. A quick, important fact: I’m a Bharata Natyam Dancer and have been since the age of 6!

How has your relationship with fashion and beauty changed over the years? Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 12.19.21 PM

Growing up, I was a bit on the heavier side, had oily skin, and unruly hair. I used to look around me, and feel super insecure. I let what peers and family members say to me really impact my relationship with myself and my body. This body dysmorphia that I went through made me look to fashion and beauty as a cover of sorts–I figured if I could get people to focus on my clothes rather than my weight, hair, or skin, that would be better. Looking back, this wasn’t ideal at all. All the while I was looking to clothes to change how others perceived me, I also went through a period of unhealthy dieting and exercising which led me to faint twice and the first time, fall and get stitches on my chin. Today, I’m a changed person. I know the true potential of fashion and beauty is in the way it allows you to channel your highest self, and not in trying to fabricate something for others to see and accept. 

What do fashion and beauty mean to you personally? 

Fashion and beauty is a means of tapping into your highest self and bringing out a greater deal of confidence within you. It’s a direct tool that works towards manifesting your goals and dreams. If you dream of being a boss lady entrepreneur, wearing pajamas all day doesn’t necessarily align that well, and it doesn’t send a signal to the universe that will work in the direction of your dreams. Funny enough, all my career changing moments have been tied to some of my favorite outfits, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence.

Do you have a go-to look that you wear to help you feel confident?

Blazer, crop top and/or sports bra, and high waisted jeans with some gold accessories. 

Who are some of your fashion and beauty inspirations?

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Both Audrey Hepburn and Iris Apfel. I like to consider my personal style as a cross between the two. Classy like Audrey and colorful like Iris.

What is some advice that you would give to someone who wants to embrace fashion and beauty more, but is hesitant to or feels that doing so would be out of their comfort zone?

The key to being able to express yourself freely through fashion and beauty is having a great relationship with yourself. When you’re comfortable with who you are, you’ll understand that fashion and beauty is merely a tool to bring out what’s inside of you–and the many facets you have. 

What do you recommend someone wear for a virtual interview that they might be nervous about? 

There’s no one-size fits all. Personally, my go-to look for confidence that I mentioned above works really well for me, whereas for someone else, it might mean playing more with beauty and a bold red lip–not really worrying about what they’re wearing. It’s honestly about what makes you feel the most comfortable and confident. If you’re not sure, experiment and play around!

Lastly, what excites you about the future of fashion and beauty?Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 12.19.13 PM

What has always excited me about the industry is the intersection between fashion and awareness of super important topics. Fashion informs culture and vice versa, so it’s great to see that as our world champions for more diversity, sustainability, and several other important causes, fashion and beauty trends change. Too, it’s super cool to see how fashion and beauty brands’ actions can inform the masses, and inspire change within society. It’s really a cycle, and both a spectator and active participant in the industry, it keeps me inspired and on my toes. 

Hugh Thompson on Becoming a Doctor during COVID-19

Hugh on answering the call to step into the field of medicine.

Entering into the field of medicine is a noble act, which only very few are cut out for. Hugh Thompson, however, is just one of those people that was born to practice medicine. Having grown up visiting and engaging with doctors, Hugh knew that he wanted to impact the world in the same way that medicine had impacted his life- for the better. Hugh’s story is not one without its challenges, but one that is inspiring because of its challenges. If you have ever considered becoming a medical professional, this article is definitely for you. If you are interested in the field of medicine and healthcare in America, this article is also for you. Hmm… if you have ever seen a doctor, this article is just for you.


Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 3.16.32 PMHugh, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hello everyone! First of all, I want to say that I am truly honored and humbled that you would ask me of all people to chat!

In terms of a little bit about me: I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2017. After graduating, I moved back home to central New Jersey for 3 years to build up my resume and save up a little bit of money before going to medical school. During those 3 years, I volunteered as an EMT in my hometown as well as worked as a scribe in the Saint Barnabas Emergency Department, ultimately becoming the ‘lead scribe’ for the final 2 years of my time there. I was offered an acceptance at New York Medical College in Westchester County, New York in the Spring of 2019 with a deferment – meaning that instead of starting in the fall, I would start in the fall of 2020. And here we are!

What made you decide to go to medical school?Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.37.24 PM

I can’t say there was one of those “ah-hah” moments that made me decide to want to pursue a career in medicine. For as long as I can remember, having the opportunity to care for others has been something I have wanted to make my life about. I was born with a genetic condition that meant I was around medicine quite a bit as a child, and what child wants to be in hospitals or at doctors offices? One of the moments that has stuck with me that represented the power that medicine can have on an individual arose from one of those trips to the hospital. 

Preface: I am incredibly lucky to have parents who stopped at nothing in their pursuit of ensuring that I received care from world-class practitioners of all sorts, and for this I will forever be grateful. After a variety of hospital trips, tests and the like, my mother ultimately settled on following up with a physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We had only been there a couple of times and I was probably only in 5th or 6th grade when I was visited by another practitioner during my regular visit. I was- and still am- a huge baseball fan, and I must have had a copy of Sports Illustrated with me, because the practitioner noticed and told me that he couldn’t wait to see me playing third base for the Phillies when I got older.

Now, my condition has never been life threatening or even significantly debilitating, but it does ensure that playing sports at more than a recreational level is not really possible for me- and this is something that that practitioner would have known. Nonetheless, the fact that someone like that took the time to express interest in me and in doing so, communicate a genuine and profound kind of empathy was an incredible confidence boost as well as an eye opener for me. I am sure that the practitioner doesn’t realize the kind of impact such a small statement made, as there was no way for him to have known that the child he engaged in was at the time having self confidence issues. I am less sure whether that practitioner was consciously aware that his positivity and empathy made more of a difference in my care than any medicine could have. Either way, having had the time to reflect on my experiences as a patient including moments like these, I have come to realize that it is positivity, a smile, even just a shared interest with a patient that can change a persons day, week, or life. By definition, for a patient to be a patient, something likely has gone wrong and the patient has made the decision to entrust their vulnerability to said physician. This trust, this faith in the physician’s ability, this hope that is inextricably linked to the patient-provider relationship is a privilege, and personally I can think of no higher honor than having the opportunity to improve the lives of others through medicine. That is all just a long way of saying that being able to possibly impact someone in a similar manner as I was has been a dream of mine for quite a while. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how you view medicine and the healthcare industry at all?

Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.38.39 PMI was able to witness the work that emergency providers put in during the height of the pandemic in our area firsthand and it was truly inspiring. To watch providers of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs band together to fight for our communities made me wish I was through medical school and able to fight with them. From my viewpoint, Saint Barnabas never reached the depths that many hospitals in New York City experienced, but we were pretty overrun and hard hit nonetheless. Single use masks were being rationed and reused several times over. The hospital was out of hospital beds, almost out of ventilators, and short on capable providers. A lot of the providers weren’t allowed to return to their homes while they were in the middle of the pandemic, at the risk of infecting their loved ones. And yet, everyone came to work day in and day out, ready to fight with and for every single patient that came through the doors. I can honestly say that being able to witness the compassion, resilience, and strength of the providers at Saint Barnabas Medical Center was one of the most inspiring ‘moments’ in all of my living memory. So while the pandemic has been saddening on many levels, it has reinforced my faith in and desire to be a part of the medical community.

Is there a lot of discussion in the classroom about the pandemic and, if so, what is the conversation about?

Honestly, there has not been quite as much discussion in our academic classes regarding the pandemic so far. However, I have no doubt that once I transition into our classes regarding disease processes, the SARS-CoV-2 virus will get plenty of airtime in our lectures. 

Laboratory_art_print_cimestry__laboratory__vintage_science__flower_print__wall_art__vintage_print_on-removebg-previewI will say that beyond the classroom, the pandemic has definitely been a significant talking point. The school itself seems to have made concerted efforts to address how the pandemic and all of its side effects (isolation, Zoom classes, etc.) has affected us as students. Specifically, my school has what is called the “Resiliency Curriculum Committee” which existed even before the pandemic as a means for training the medical students in healthy emotional and psychological choices. I obviously cannot speak to what the topics covered in prior years Resiliency Curriculum were, but the discussions during the small group sessions this year have had a distinct COVID-19 pandemic flavor, which I think is extremely important. The pandemic is the elephant in the room here: a year ago, it would have been absurd to think that students would be attending lectures given by professors sitting in their home offices. To that end, the fact that the school wants to address how this is affecting its students and try to guide students through such a stressful time is something I appreciate. 

What is one thing that you wish you knew before you committed to going to medical school?

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Hugh along with his co-workers

I can’t say there is a particular piece of advice that would have changed how I did things. The one thing I find myself wishing for was an advisor – none of my family are involved in medicine of any kind, so at times I did feel as if I was flying in the dark in terms of building my resume for medical school. I never knew what types of jobs to apply to, when to take what classes or tests, how to make myself a better applicant, etc. The pre-health advisory system at my undergraduate college was great – they were more than happy to provide specific answers to many of my bigger questions, but because they were dealing with literally hundreds of students, there was really no way to go to them with little questions or concerns. I ended up relying on the two or three of my friends that were also planning to go to medical school for guidance, and I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without their patience and advice so I am lucky and grateful to have them around (shoutout Ryan and Mike!).

What excites you most about medicine in general?

Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.40.18 PMHmm, thats a great question. At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I am super excited about a lot of the science behind medicine. It is truly amazing how ‘well designed’ and finely tuned the human body is. And then when things go wrong, the creativity that scientists and physicians have implemented in coming up with solutions and treatments is incredible. Being able to spend the rest of my life learning about all of this and implementing it to help patients is super exciting. 

That being said, the reason I wanted to go into medicine is for the people. I love people and their stories, and medicine provides a great way to simultaneously build relationships with a huge range of people, while also having the chance to positively impact the lives of those people. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur when it comes to being able to ‘fix’ everyone’s medical issues. I realize that often, physicians do not have the answers, can’t solve the problem, or have to be the bearer of bad news. But where I feel that physicians make an impact is in how they are able to handle these types of moments. I recently finished reading both Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and one of the sentiments that really stuck with me from those books was the importance of physicians in speaking candidly with their patients, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time. Being able to help guide patients through these tough moments is just one of the ways that I hope to be able to make an impact down the road, and it is these types of moments that I am excited to play a role in one day. Though admittedly, I could go on and on about everything I am excited about with regards to becoming a physician… 

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in going to medical school?

Don’t let anything stop you. If you know that you want to be a physician, you can become a physician. 

So many people get discouraged by the amount of work that the application process takes: the pre-requisite classes during undergraduate years, studying/taking the MCAT, school application essays or fees, or any of the other barriers. If you want it bad enough, none of that matters. Hard work and passion for the field of medicine are the single two most important factors in getting into medical school, because they will always help you overcome the barriers that are put in place. 

One last thing on this question: one of the best physicians I have had the pleasure of working with applied to medical school 3 times and had started podiatry school before he was ultimately accepted to medical school. 

Lance Svendsen on Beginner Running Tips

You’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the run of your life!

Lance, tell us about your background in running!

I started really running in 2012 after my Uncle Roy passed away because I was determined to run the NYC marathon in his memory. But I was always a solid runner. I ran a bunch of 5k’s for fun and did some tough mudders and spartan races when they were first introduced. I like the self competition the most, like how you can run the same distance on different courses and it’s a completely different race. I was always trying to beat my own times and push myself to the next mile marker or the next lower minute. It always always helped that I was the fastest kid I knew. That helped keep my interest 🙂

What is some advice you would give someone that is a beginner and thinking about starting to do some long distance running?

It’s almost annoying for beginners to hear from someone who has run in a 50 mile race but literally the way you start is to just start. Everyone can run, you just have to find if you actually want to do it. And the want can be either out of need or frustration. What I mean by that is some people need to run and work out for health so they will do it to get or stay fit. And then there are those who decide I’m done not hitting myself goals and starting now, I am doing what it takes. I was that second group. I always wanted to run a marathon but would come up with excuses. Then I decided enough is enough and I’m going to do it. I went out for that first long run and it was terrible and exhausting and I could taste blood I was so tired. But I realized I was in a new place that I’ve never been. I was a distance runner – not a good one yet – but I knew I could do it. 

What advice would you give beginner runners who think that they are too old, out of shape, or “not built” for running? 

I would say to someone who says one of those excuses that unless running causes you pain that would hurt you over the long term, then all the other things are just excuses. God built us to run.

Any of those excuses are because they are comparing themselves to other people. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is yourself last week. I bet if you train this week, you’ll be a better version of yourself next week. 

What is some advice you would give a beginner who has just started their running training?

Do not confuse being in pain and an injury. Injuries are one thing and if you have one, you stop running and recover. But pain, pain is something you feel when you are pushing yourself beyond what you are currently capable of. Pain is something you can push through and be better on the other side. Weak people stop when they feel the slightest bit of pain and it’s a mistake. 

What sneakers, clothing, or accessories do you recommend beginner runners purchase to help in their running journey?

Screen Shot 2020-10-04 at 4.03.26 PMThe main thing is train in whatever you are going to race in. It’s almost cute when a beginning runner will try something new on race day. It’s like “Oh no, that time has passed.” Don’t do anything new on race day. You’re training your running habits along with your legs and lungs. For purchases, I like running shorts with a lining and pockets. I always use the pocket for my phone. It’s just easier than fumbling with a runner belt for the phone, when you use it to change songs or select the next podcast. But in the longer runs I do wear a runners belt for the gels and snacks. I like to bring along pretzels and gummy bears. You can use money on performance snacks but if you look up the active ingredients, the same stuff is in rold gold pretzels and haribo gummy bears. And personally I choose Asics. Always Asics.

What are some good stretches or exercises that you do to help your body perform well on runs and prevent injury?

For me I have to make sure my achilles are being taken care of. After longer runs they feel almost crunchy which is as painful as it is gross sounding. And oddly enough I found my shoulders can get tired on runs so I like to make sure I move them a lot before and then while running relax them every few miles so they don’t tighten up. 

How would you advise beginner runners to set goals or milestones to track their journey?

Find out what motivates you. If it’s time or miles or weight lose or beating someone else’s time, then do that. Don’t try to motivate you by someone else’s standards, that’s not fun and won’t get you excited. But if you choose it and get excited by it then you will keep wanting to go out and pursue it. 

What foods do you recommend runners incorporate in their diet for optimal running?

Chia Seeds. Those things are amazing. They retain water in your body. And water is no joke, it’s so important. I put chia seeds in smoothies mostly. Also, it’s actually way more important the things you don’t eat than the things you do eat. If you can eliminate something potentially bad from your diet and don’t really miss it then do it that way. I’ve found that has helped me more than adding things that I know could be good for me. Like get rid of things that are obviously bad for you like soda and bacon, and then limit the things you really want to small portions like french fries and ice cream. Unless you’re training for an ultra, then you can eat pretty much anything. I’ve eating pizza while training for an ultra as I was running. There’s a saying, “If you run the engine hot enough, it will burn anything.” But again that’s at high miles over hours. 

What advice would you give beginner runners who feel discouraged in their progress or running outcomes?

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Running is something to be enjoyed so find ways to enjoy it. You’re most likely discouraged because you set an unrealistic goal for yourself and missed it. Setting small reasonable goals, although may not seem as exciting, are way better for you mentally. There’s something about being able to celebrate an accomplishment, that will keep you going for longer. Also, find a running mate. Someone to go on runs with and/or talk about running with. Some of my favorite training runs are the shorter ones where the goal is to talk the whole time, which works the lungs and gets you used to being uncomfortable and happy at the same time.

My Journey as a Runner

Not all races end at the finish line.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruited my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner, to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

I have always loved running since I was little. I remember being one of the fastest kids in Elementary School and every year appointed the captain of the girls relay race at our annual field day. Sprinting was a strong suite of mine, which got me involved in track and field and field hockey when I entered High School. However, it wasn’t until I was a Junior in High School that I decided that I wanted to run cross country. The supportive environment of the team was something that I always loved, despite the sport being relatively individualistic. Running these long distances was something that I was never proficient at, but I knew that I wanted to push myself- if I was able to compete on the team I would be showing myself that I was capable of doing something I had never thought I could do. A few races into the season, however, I was out of commission. At one of our 5k races, I left the start line feeling O.K., pacing myself and focusing on my breathing. Yet, as I entered the middle of the race, I could feel a sharp pain in my left ankle, as I was entering the steep woods portion of the race. What I thought was mere tightness in my ankle, I would later find out was a stress fracture in my left Fibula bone. I was out for the season after that, having to walk in a boot for several weeks. I remember dreaming of running again every day I drove past our school’s vast fields going to and from school. 

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Upon entering college my Freshman year, I remember the gym as being a place of solace for me. My college gym had an indoor track on the second floor that I would frequent and found an immense stress relief. Whenever I felt bummed about not having plans on a Friday night or could feel my anxiety creeping up on me, I would shuffle my way to the gym for a run, music blasting on high. Sometimes, it was the only way that I could make it through the week- a way for me to just be present. When Sophomore year rolled around, I became incredibly busy with a new on-campus job and friends that I put off my regular running for a bit. Yet, when my anxieties ramped up again Junior year, I knew I had to return to my running for some much needed sanity. But, I needed a way to stay committed. I decided to sign up for the New York City Marathon, something that I never thought that I could do, but was on my bucket list. I began training in January of 2019, knowing that I would need a head start if I was going to complete this thing. I spent hours training, going on runs in the pouring train, indoors on the track, and outside in the Boston Spring air. As the summer came, I was really hitting the ground, coming home from my internships in New York City to run in the summer heat or running along the West Side highway after work. I went from barely being able to run over two miles without stopping, to running eight miles in one shot. I became the runner I never believed I could be. Until I hit a wall. After many bouts of heat stroke, constant stress in trying to balance my two internships, and an ankle injury, I knew enough was enough. I was going to have to put my dream of running the New York City Marathon on hold that year. I would complete the marathon at another time, and that would be O.K. 

06D70FBC-F6C3-4BCD-A1E8-3BF3AF7D5816I share my story because I want you to know that, even if you think that they can’t, you can become a runner too. Even during my runs, I would question how I could be doing all of this running. How could I mentally, physically, and emotionally get up and run almost every day? But, I just did. Forcing myself into my workout clothes also helped!

It is important to recognize that any progress is some progress. Every run of mine was hard in some way or at some point, which is a reality that is important to grasp. If you know that at some point the workout will be hard and you will want to quit, it becomes an inevitability that you know will pass once you get over that wall. And once you do that is where the magic is. Sometimes I would surpass that mental wall and find myself being able to run for miles- feeling a “runners high” that was altogether unexplainable. 

It just starts with one small step, then a leap, then a jog.

 

Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Remind yourself that you will hit a “wall” on your runs- acknowledging this is half the battle. Once you get over the “wall” of sluggishness you will feel amazing. You have to convince your body that you are deciding to spend your energy and calories on this run, the sluggishness comes from your body wanting to preserve the energy and calories you are spending. Basically it’s your body asking “Are we really doing this?”. 
  • Get a fanny pack to store your phone and keys while you run. They are way better than arm bands, as the weight is equally distributed to your center. 
  • In your mind, set a goal before you start and commit to it, you can surpass the goal or slightly modify it, but try to stick with it every time.
  • Keep track of your progress, this will motivate you when you are feeling down and show how much you have accomplished so far.
  • Share your progress with someone that can celebrate the small wins with you.
  • Take it slow, progress in running can take a long time and ramping up too much in the beginning will only lead to discouragement and injury. 
  • Get good running shoes, the less that is inhibiting you from being comfortable, the easier it will be to get out there and run.
  • Find a go-to song that will get you hyped up and energized when you are feeling sluggish in the middle of your run that can activate some much needed energy to help you get through. 
  • The best thing about running is that you can always convert the run to a walk and still be exercising, its O.K. to slow down sometimes when you aren’t feeling too hot.
  • Go for time not for milage if you are aiming to run long distance. My goals were running for an extra 5 to 10 minutes at a time, slowly increasing as I was able to run farther. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruit my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

Jenna Willis on being a Personal Trainer to the Stars

From actor to personal trainer, Jenna keeps fit and her clients fitter in sunny California.

Jenna Willis is a Jersey girl, born and raised, who grew up with three older brothers. With familial competition running deep in her veins, Jenna notes that athleticism was not a choice for her. While attending college, Jenna was the shortest Division 1 collegiate volleyball player in the nation, a credit to her natural knack for sports. However, Jenna involved herself in competitive sports as much as in theater and dreamt of becoming an actor one day. Jenna’s pursuit of professional acting led her to ultimately move to California to chase her dreams. 

Working as an actress in Los Angeles, Jenna never abandoned exercise and used it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety. She mentions that exercise was especially crucial for her when she was dealing with a difficult break up a few years ago. Jenna began exploring strength training and lifting more during this time, which helped to strengthen her body and clear her mind. As Jenna’s career took off and she was able to book more jobs in TV and modeling, she noticed that she was also attracting greater attention in the gym. On three separate occasions, Jenna had fellow gym-goers ask her for help with fitness techniques, using machines, and targeting parts of their body. Jenna took this as a sign that all of her dedication to fitness had led to a greater purpose: helping others achieve personal success in their health and wellness journeys. 

Jenna BandsImmediately, Jenna signed up for a course to become a certified personal trainer. Soon after, along with auditioning and booking acting jobs, Jenna started to train clients on the side in 2017, getting paid for what she loves to do. A win-win I would say! Jenna credits hard work and preparation in enabling her to be successful in her personal training business as well as the support she received from her friends. Since she started personal training, Jenna’s business has been growing tremendously, capturing the attention of celebrities like Tara Reid, Lala Kent, and Liza Koshy, all of whom she has trained.  

What differentiates Jenna from other personal trainers? Not many incorporate the mind, body, and spirit as she does, Jenna says. Jenna is adamant about the fact that what you see on the outside is only a fraction of what is important. The true magic is when the mind, body, and spirit are aligned in terms of healthy and holistic living. Jenna also wasn’t shy to mention that she is a natural goofball that isn’t afraid to show people who she truly is in front of her audience. Like all of us, she pokes fun at herself and embraces the awkwardness that can come along with working out. “We are all growing together. Fitness is not perfection” she states during our conversation, an important reminder for all of us to take to heart. 

IMG_5995 (1)Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jenna was doing virtual training sessions to people all over the world, which has made her exclusive transition to digital so smooth. Yet, Jenna notes that her biggest motivation in starting her newest program “Don’t Sweat It Alone” was her lack of motivation in the beginning of the pandemic. Jenna was having a hard time getting excited about doing her training and couldn’t imagine that if she couldn’t get up and do some squats, what others must be feeling like. As a result, Jenna made a promise to show up, not only for herself, but for her followers by going live on Instagram with her workouts. Jenna received such positive feedback from doing those sessions, which motivated her viewers to get out of bed in the morning, that she turned the Instagram Live sessions into a regular occurrence. Jenna has since formalized “Don’t Sweat It Alone” into a virtual fitness and healthy living membership and community that is all online. Jenna goes live three times a week within the community, with workouts that are tailored to working out home with minimal equipment. Jenna also ends every workout with a meditation and brings in nutritionists and experts from across the fitness spectrum to talk on the platform. If you sign up for the program get ready for sweaty selfies, free giveaways, and a lot of plank rows and squat presses- two of Jenna’s favorite at-home moves! 

What has been the most challenging part of starting this venture of personal training? Jenna mentions that there is always going to be road bumps, but it’s figuring out how to pave them. Every time you take two steps forward, be prepared to take five steps back, but be motivated enough to make the leap forward again. “Trust the process” is what Jenna says, a mantra that we can all use to benefit from.


Want to get in on all that “Don’t Sweat It Alone” has to offer?

Head to the website and follow her on Instagram

Don't Sweat It Alone MONTHLY corp FLYER (1)

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part III)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

Time sure flies when you are having fun! We have finally come to the last post of Christine and my series on wholistic health during quarantine. It has been such a joy to share some of the things that we are doing to make this time more manageable and constructive. Christine is a wealth of knowledge and I am so happy to have collaborated with her on these posts- trust me I have learned more in these few posts than I have all of quarantine. This week, we talk about one of the most important aspects of our being: our spirit. Whether you are a religious person, spiritual person, or you are just going along for the ride, there is something nestled in this post just for you. 🙏

Spirit

Christine

  1. Find a quiet uninterrupted place, and set aside time each morning, noon, or evening to read the Bible and pray. I know I’ve had times when I’ve struggled with loneliness during this period, but it helps me to remember that I can find fellowship with God, anytime, anywhere.
  2. Identify an accountability partner to do a Bible Study with you. I recently did Breaking Free by Beth Moore with one of my friends. We each completed the daily studies on our own and then texted each other screenshots of the parts that challenged us most or just our general reflections on the content.
  3. Stay consistent with attending church, even if it’s virtual. Pour your morning cup of coffee, sit down, and prioritize this period of worship, as you would in person. If your church offers virtual connect hours and/or small groups, I would highly recommend attending these as well. Each Sunday morning, I tune into my church’s virtual service and then join the Zoom “coffee hour.” It’s been such an encouraging time of meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and praying over our respective requests and praises.

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A few final thoughts. It’s okay not to be okay some days and to just cut yourself some slack. The world and our personal worlds are all in flux. Everyone is going through something. Don’t feel like you have to minimize your own experience because someone else “has it so much worse.” Take time for yourself and turn for support to family, friends, and most importantly God. He has the world in His hands and will always supply your daily bread, whether you anticipate it or not.

Ursula 

During this challenging time we are facing, getting in touch with our spirituality is super important, thanks for reminding us Christine! It is crucial for us to be able to clear our minds and find stillness, which can come through prayer, meditation, yoga, or some deep belly breathes. When we hold tight to things, it can only bring on more frustration and anxiousness. Sometimes it is best to just let go and see what happens. I have also found that talking it out with someone can really help bring light to the stresses I am facing. In doing so, I have felt that some of the things that I was so stressed about, were all made up in my head! I am no stranger to the fact that I often stand in my own way. It is important to find someone you can speak to and confide in to help with your mental well being. Trusted therapists, family members, and close friends are important people to have on standby that can help you to gain a new perspective, offer some helpful advice, and lend an ear. 

Calm and Headspace are two popular meditation apps that might be useful to you. Headspace’s Chief Music Officer is John Legend, so if that doesn’t spell success I don’t know what does!


My parting words? 

 
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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part II)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

Yes, we are back with Part II and, yes, I got out of my pajamas. I hope everyone was inspired by last week’s post to go purchase a puzzle or read a new book! In this week’s post, Christine and I explore fun and interesting ways to stay active during this time when we are working from home, overwhelmed by the job search, or binging on Netflix. Mental, physical, and emotional health are so important, which is why we have shared some helpful tips to shake the off those quarantine blues using an infusion of endorphins. Before it gets too cold outside, make sure to prioritize that difficult venture from your comfy bed to your front door and get outside! Your body will thank you. Trust me, you’ll sleep better I promise. (Stay tuned for next week’s post on maintaining a healthy soul, our last of this three part series)

Body

Christine

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Take free virtual fitness classes to keep your body moving. I kept a pretty boring workout routine prior to quarantine but it’s been fun to switch it up and have someone else motivating me to stay fit.

    • Chrissy Stanley – LOVE the Barre and Abs classes! You will work up a sweat in 5 min (free on YouTube)
    • Bar Method Online – So many classes to try, ranging from 15 to 60 minutes in length. (14-day free trial)
    • Pure Barre GO – Kaitlyn is my favorite instructor! (7-day free trial)
    • Peloton Online Classes – I am obsessed with Kristin McGee’s yoga classes, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. (30-day free trial)

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Take a 10-minute break in between work calls to stretch your legs on a short walk, or go on a longer walk with family/friends after dinner- preferably with ice cream as your end destination ;). Make running fun by setting distance goals- 5K, 5 miles, half marathon, etc. You can even sign up for a virtual race with friends as accountability partners for training. Pull that bike out of the garage and find a nice neighborhood or scenic path to explore. Go on a social distancing hike with a picnic lunch. 

Ursula

BC29D0ED-4995-49D3-B38B-F96B61096346Like Christine, I have taken advantage of this newfound time to take a break during the day to go on long walks, bike rides, and runs. I find that going outside for an hour a day can really refresh my mind and provide a boost in my day. Although, I have found online workouts a bit intimidating, I have fell in love with 30 Day Ab. With this app, consistency is definitely key, but it only requires about 10-15 minutes per day- sometimes even less if you are feeling extra motivated- and I have seen pretty incredible results. I have also found that incorporating fun outdoor activities like badminton, which my family was obsessed with at one point, volleyball, and swimming can alleviate stress, promote some family bonding, and provide an equal amount of exercise to an online class or strict workout. 

Christine

Since many of us are eating out less than we normally would, this is a great opportunity to try out some new recipes (both healthy and indulgent because everyone needs a treat now and then).

Ursula

I have always loved cooking, however, over the course of quarantine I have felt less inspired to create in the kitchen. That being said, instead of trying new recipes out, I have stuck to making some of my tried and true favorites, which has helped me focus on being creative and productive.  

Christine’s Favorite Food Blogs

Ursula’s Favorite Quarantine Recipes

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Christine has shared a recipe of her own!


Christine’s Smoked Salmon Poached Egg Ciabatta Toast with Everything Bagel Spice Recipe

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 ciabatta rolls
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or to taste) + for topping
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • Tomato
  • Red onion
  • Everything bagel spice
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T. white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Stir together mascarpone cheese, dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice
  2. Cut 4 slices of tomato
  3. Cut 2 slices of red onion
  4. Put each egg in a small bowl of water horizontally
  5. Cut ciabatta rolls in half
  6. Toast rolls under broiler for 3 minutes
  7. Bring two pots of water to soft boil
  8. Add 1 T. white vinegar to each pot
  9. Slowly pour two eggs into the center of each pot and cook for 3 minutes
  10. While the eggs are cooking, spread mascarpone cheese on rolls
  11. Add 1 slice of tomato to each roll half
  12. Add 1 oz smoked salmon to each roll half
  13. Add red onion to taste
  14. Lift eggs out of pots using slotted spoon and put on top of rolls
  15. Add everything bagel spice and dill to taste
  16. Enjoy!

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.