In February 2018, I self-published my first book, Run My World: How I Empowered Myself Through Fitness. It would not have been possible without the support of incredible friends, mentors, and role models, and now I’m highlighting some of the amazing people in my life that run their worlds.
Empowered (wo)men empower (wo)men, so now I’m raising a glass to some of the best people I know. I’m so grateful to share their stories — I promise you’ll be even more inspired to run your world!
Mary’s note: Alyson is a dedicated member at ENRGi, and we instantly bonded over our love for dance and fitness. She has the sweetest soul that’s so thoughtful, but she’s also a badass — she’s shot music videos for rappers like Waka Flocka and Gucci Mane. WTF right? (Fun fact about Gucci’s Breakfast video — she cooked all the breakfast food props and was mortified when Waka ate the food because it was unseasoned and not her best cooking) She most certainly runs her world, and she’s the coolest creative ever.
Name: Alyson Quigley
Hometown: Freeport, IL (Born in Chicago, grew up between the two locations. Mom in Freeport / Dad in Chicago.)
Current City: Chicago!
Occupation/Business: Video Producer, Director, Editor — Also, Co-Artistic Director of The Fuerta Dance Company (fuertadance.com)
In one sentence, what does it mean for you to run your world?:
To actively be in the driver’s seat of your life and to actually pursue your own happiness and self-fulfillment.
Acknowledge Your Past: What’s one lesson from your past that has really influenced your life?:
It would have to be the above. I learned that I have to actively pursue positivity and surround myself with the right people and a healthy environment. In 2016, I made the hard decision to leave a relationship, which was so much more than just a breakup. I thought I was truly helping to keep this person alive. In the last months of our relationship, I progressively (and then exponentially) became more aware of the severity of his opioid addiction and became much more educated about the disease. I learned that no matter how much I cared for him or how badly I wanted him to recover, it was not a decision I could make for him. I wanted to be selfless, but his disease was really damaging my emotional and physical wellbeing. People noticed and often mentioned how drastic my weight loss was to me at work and eventually I just knew that I had hit my breaking point.
Even though I left that experience feeling really broken, I had never felt more confident in myself when it comes to knowing how selfless I was willing to be for someone I loved. I think there is a lot of beauty even in our saddest moments. And even in one of my weaker moments, I felt incredibly strong for what I had endured and for how I had persisted. I would be lying if I said I didn’t pity myself at times or sometimes wondered, “Did I really need that experience to happen to me? Did I really need that lesson?” But I realized that I was playing a more passive role in my own life. Now, I try to remind myself often to actively pursue my own happiness.
Find Your Fit: What are your favorite ways to move and exercise? How did you find your fit?:
I have been all over the spectrum. I am a dancer, I have done really heavy weight training, and I have been on running kicks at several different points in my life. What I really enjoy is more HIIT-based workouts. I have always loved intensity, as it helps me really focus in the present moment and the present challenge. More recently I’ve decided to become a ninja (ha!). For a few months, I’ve been working on being upside down with handstands — I’m essentially getting better at being a kid than when I was a kid. It’s so much fun and I enjoy seeing my progress in new skills. (Not just looking for changes in my body. #Hallelujah)
Fuel Your Body:
What is your favorite meal to fuel your body?:
Either chicken or shrimp with rice!
What is your favorite meal to fuel your soul?: GREEK FOOD. A Greek salad and Greek fries from Athenian Room would be my final meal if I had to choose. I don’t know what I’m going to do if this restaurant ever goes out of business. I will grieve. Or move to Greece.
Have you had any struggles with your relationship with food? Ooohhh yes. I had many struggles with body image disorder in college and my life was controlled by negative thoughts regarding my self-image and my relationship with food. It took a lot of work and many years to deconstruct those thought patterns. They never completely go away, but you learn to identify when those old thoughts are triggered and find your own way of correcting them.
How do you try to fight/challenge the cultural standards around dieting and disordered eating?: I have always stayed away from superficial people or people who care more about their image than their actual health. I think it’s really important that the people closest to you also have a really healthy mindset when it comes to health and nutrition. I have helped other dancers with disordered eating as they work through it. I think it’s more about helping people shift their mindset and focus on what makes them really happy and feel healthy. You eventually learn that your unhappiness stems from something deeper than just your size because no matter how small you may get, you’re still miserable. It’s really rewarding to see people come out on the other side from their disorders. They are always so much more vibrant and you can tell they are confident and happy with themselves because they glow.
Practice Mindfulness: Do you meditate? If so, how? How do you try to be mindful on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?:
Sometimes, but not consistently. When I practice yoga or workout, I feel like I’m practicing a type of meditation, a mindfulness of my body. These are times when I feel that I’m really listening to what my body is telling me and have a positive relationship with my body, which is important to me.
I did recently go to a meditation workshop at ENRGi, and I took away a couple of lessons from that class that have really stuck with me. I have heard many times before to not judge myself if my mind can’t slow down and I’m having a lot of thoughts pop up while practicing meditation, but the way we discussed thoughts in this class was different.
The woman teaching said, “You are not your thoughts. As easy as a thought comes into your mind, it can leave just as easily. Do not judge yourself for that thought. Whenever that happens, just come back to center.” WHOA. You are not your thoughts. That blew my mind. It is so simple, but it felt very profound to me.
Although I have learned that one’s actions are what matter most, I still carried guilt and judgement for my own thoughts. This was very liberating for me and has shifted my perspective and how I’m (mentally) treating myself. Now, anytime I feel like I’m buzzing around in my thoughts or don’t like where it’s going, I just take a breath and say to myself, “Back to center.”
HIIT vs. LISS: Tell us about your work-life “balance.” How do you manage planning/productivity while being a straight-up hustler?: Well, this year I quit my full-time job to officially become self-employed as a freelancer. So my new manager is super cool. Ha! Being a freelancer is the absolute best fit for me. It allows me to adjust my schedule as I need to, so that as I continue to get my work done I can prioritize my health and fitness.
Instead of just going through the motions, I feel like I live every day intentionally. I am also learning how to further my self-discipline as I have to be the one to appropriately adjust how much I (need to) work and how much time I devote to my personal life. Overall, I LOVE the flexibility. I feel like I am much more productive with my time.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: What have you done in 2018 that is most out of your comfort zone?: Scuba diving with reef sharks and nurse sharks at a depth of 60 ft. This is coming from the girl, who as a kid said she would NEVER swim in the open ocean and would NEVER scuba dive. I love scuba diving now and just got certified in Belize in September. There were SO MANY SHARKS. It was insane. Such an incredible experience. It’s a totally different world down there! I would never have been able to experience it without getting out of my comfort zone.
What is something you really want in 2018 that you’re a little scared to do?: Well, 2018 is getting closer and closer to its end, but I would really like to begin my work on some film projects. It’s a lot of work and it’s about my personal experiences, so it is a little daunting.
Tell us a travel experience that pushed you out of your comfort zone.: Hmm, this is tricky for me because traveling is my comfort zone. I love meeting new people, learning more about different cultures (especially through their food), and seeing different parts of the world. However, now that I think about it… the Road to Hana in Maui. INSANE. Such a stressful journey. It was the smallest little road that two cars could barely fit on. The curves are almost 180 degrees at times. It’s a very stressful drive. However, it did lead us to the best chicken shack and I’ll admit that the views were gorgeous.
Shine On: What accomplishment makes you most proud?: My work with The Fuerta Dance Company. I produced a live show and a screening of seven short films, all produced by our company. It’s the most rewarding work for me.
What’s a big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) that you’ve been contemplating and want to speak into existence?: It’s more of a long-term goal: At some point in my career, I’d like to create an interactive exhibit that includes dance and video.