Thursday, April 22, 2021

Culture Shocked: Pacing Myself Back Into the World

Sera and Mike Shocked

It's been 400 days?!

Sera in IllumiNITE Vigor Singlet;
Synergy Headband

Today is Earth Day! Today is also Covid-19 Quarantine Day number 400! That's 400 days since the world shut down due to the pandemic. 400 days with no races, music concerts, writing conferences, indoor dining or shopping, parties, or family gatherings. 400 days of social isolation. 

Yet, somehow, the idea that the world is rapidly opening up feels like The Earth is spinning way too fast. Wait, what do you mean the marathon we signed up for in 2019 is now happening at the end of August?! Wait, what do you mean we qualify for the vaccine? We can actually get it NOW? Wait! What do you mean we'll start traveling on trains and airplanes again?

wall map of the world with push pins
Close-up of our wall map; can't wait
to add more pins to it!

Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled that millions of people are getting vaccinated every day. And I am thrilled that the world is opening up again. 

So thrilled, in fact, we booked a trip for this fall to hike the Grand Canyon—Rim to Rim!—and then explore Las Vegas. I have never been to Arizona or Nevada before, and I am so excited to be doing both in one trip. I cannot wait to see Red Rock Canyon as well, and if it 's safe to do so, I'd love to see a live show again—Circe du Soleil

Mike and I both love to travel so much; it's been odd to be stationary in one space for so long. To pass the time, we've been dreaming about all the places we want to visit all over the world. We even bought ourselves a GIANT wall map with pins to track every place we visit.

Posing like a runner; Athens Authentic Marathon in Greece. Wearing IllumiNITE Vigor Singlet; Shortie
Mike took this photo of me during the 
Athens Authentic Marathon in Greece.
Wearing IllumiNITE Vigor Singlet; Shortie

But after being in complete isolation for more than a year, I suddenly feel ill-prepared. I am culture shocked! It is a strange feeling to have such conflicting emotions. I am trying my best to focus on the positive, but the anxiety lingers.

I must remind myself that just like marathon training, I must pace myself. I would never step outside my door and run 26.2 miles on a whim without training first or carrying water and fuel. Likewise, I don't need to reenter the world all at once. I can do it gradually.  Perhaps I'll start with having a couple people over in my backyard, still socially-distanced, now that the weather is getting warmer. Perhaps I'll eventually sit outside at a restaurant. Perhaps I'll sign up for another race. 

Sera in IllumiNITE Colorado Waterproof Rain Jacket;  3-in-1 Mitten; Mike in  Skull Cap; Ascent Parka
It is exciting to venture out into the world aagain!
Sera in IllumiNITE Colorado Waterproof Rain Jacket;
3-in-1 Mitten; Mike in  Skull Cap; Ascent Parka

Or not. I must also remind myself that I do not have to drastically change the lifestyle I've adopted when this pandemic shut everything down. I can take it one day at a time; one decision at a time; and before I know it, I will cross that finish line into this new world, which will feel similar yet never the same as it was—and perhaps that's a good thing. 

Happy Earth Day!  Let's shine bright as we re-enter the world! As a special treat, IllumiNITE is offering 15% off your order on April 22. Just use code Earth21 to get any of the gear shown in this post— and so much more! You can also use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your IllumiNITE order any time! 

Masking up before heading out; Sera in IllumiNITE Ambition Hoodie (on sale now!)
Masking up before heading out;
Sera in IllumiNITE Ambition Hoodie
(on sale now!)

Do you have anxiety about the world opening back up? 

Are you excited?

What is the first thing you want to do? 

Share a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Spring MarathonTraining: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

Foggy, rainy morning for our run; but we stayed bright 
and dry in IllumiNITE's Colorado Jacket and Squall Jacket

Marathon Training has commenced, and it has been rough, rough, rough. I'm at that beginning all over again where running just two miles feels like a death sentence. I'm at the stage where I wonder how on earth did I manage to run for three, four, five hours on end and then jump into a social activity afterwards without any issues. But that's the beauty of running. Am I rusty from taking off most of the winter because my couch was too cozy to leave? Yes! But....will my body remember that it can handle a marathon? Also, Yes! Eventually.

I equate my spring marathon training to the children's analogy for the month of March: It comes in like a lion—with everything muscle in my body roaring like a lion and my lungs heaving. But this rough start also means that it will go out like a lamb—with every muscle bounding through the air without a care in the world. If it wasn't difficult to get back into it, running wouldn't feel so rewarding when I hit my goals.

I love our coordinating pullovers: Inspire and Early Riser;
even their names fit our personalities! And, our Headband
and Multi-Wrap keep the wind out of our ears!

It doesn't help that I have a rotator cuff injury, or that my back has been spasming, and my knee decided to shift out of place for a week. Getting old is no fun at all. Wait! I'm not getting old! I'm just out of practice. Okay, phew! I've been consistently doing my stretches and exercises to heal my shoulder and strengthen my back, as I mentioned in my last blog post. And since Mike and I really are out of practice, I started us off slowly with Hal Higdon's 15k Novice Training plan because it really starts with the basics: just two miles to start, gradually adding miles each week until we hit our 15k—that's 9.32 miles! Miraculously, this training transitions perfectly into Hal Higdon's Novice Marathon Training plan (with a minor adjustment) to meet our marathon goal at the end of August. New England Green River Marathon—here we come! I'm surprised Mike is willing to run another marathon with me after running his first and only marathon—The Athens Authentic Marathon, with a whopping 20 miles of hills! Due to the pandemic, Green River was postponed from last year to this year. I hope that Mike falls in love with running marathons this time—Green River has a 1,450 feet elevation drop—it's the least I could do to redeem myself. Athens was so difficult (but rewarding)!

Repping our love for mountains with
IllumiNITE's Love Tee and Vision Pullover
Once we're back in shape, we'll be double-downing on our long runs, adding in the half-mileage the day before or after (for example, if we run 18 miles on Saturday, we run or hike 9 miles on Sunday) to prepare us for Ghost Train Ultramarathon in the fall. I really want to do 45 miles before my 45th birthday, over the course of two days. Mike is a trooper and agreed to run 30 of those miles with me. It's all very theory. Right now, I'm really wishing this lion would get off my back so I can feel as free as that cute little lamb frolicking in the fields.

I'm obsessed with my playlist that has only songs related
to jets and flying...and with my phone secured in
my shorts side really keeps me moving!
How do I keep myself motivated when running feels so laborious? I've created some pump-me-up Spotify playlists to listen to as I run, and I take advantage of all my fun Illuminite* clothing and accessories that are perfect for New England's unpredictable spring weather. Every running day, I check the weather. Do I need my lightweight, waterproof rain jacket? My short sleeve shirt with my separate sleeves? My jammer shorts with the deep side pocket for my phone? Or my performance fleece and Velocity Gloves to keep me warm? Anything goes in these early spring months. But that just adds to the fun of it all.

So, yes. It's normal for legs to feel like lead with every step, and lungs to feel like deflated balloons, and the throat to feel on fire from breathing heavy. It's normal for two miles to feel like 100 miles and for clothes to not quite fit the same and for the brain to feel all foggy. Soon, the groove will come back and 15 miles will fly by in a blink, and it will be summer and warm and all will be right in the world again. 

IllumiNITE's Velocity Mittens are lightweight and warm,
and their bright color makes them so fun to wear!

The most important thing to remember: just like March, spring marathon training may feel like the beast of the lion, but soon you WILL find that peaceful bliss of the lamb.

What races are you signed up for? 

What are your tricks and tips to get you moving again now that it's spring? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!

*Get 15% off your order at with my discount code RunBrightly15.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Stay Flexible, Avoid Injury

Wearing IllumiNITE's Long Sleeve Piper Tee
and Running Tights keep me comfortable and
fashionable while I work from home
I feel like roadkill on the side of the road that has frozen solid. Ugh! In hindsight, it was inevitable that I would throw my back out this winter. Before the bitter cold settled in, I’d been pretty good at keeping active, despite the pandemic keeping me at home most of the week. But as the months got colder and my reading chair and afghan got cozier, it became more difficult to motivate myself to get moving.
Wrist stretches help my hands and
 arms from cramping up

For the past month, my shoulder has been hurting. It finally got to the point that it woke me up every time I tossed or turned while I slept, and trust me, I toss and turn all night long. Long story short, I eventually threw out my back, which spasmed for three days, which in turn caused new pain on the left side of my neck, back, and arm—all in addition to my right shoulder pain.

“It sucks getting old,” I told Mike.

Truthfully, the issue isn’t that I’m “getting old.” The issue is that I drastically cut back on minor
everyday routines that kept my body limber and strong. I didn’t realize that these little routines had such a great impact on my body’s well-being. I’m seeing a physical therapist now, and the words "you're a complicated situation" came out of her mouth. Not good. She can't seem to find the source of the pain. I can. It's call being a sloth. So now, I'm reimplementing all those little things that kept my body limber in addition to the new stretches she wants me to do each week.

Standing Desk and Fatigue Mat

Don't judge! No one can see
my slippers on Zoom!
Tree pose keeps
my posture straight!
For years, I’ve had a standing desk at work. It took some getting used to. But after slowly adjusting to standing one hour a day to three hours a day and so on, I found myself standing at home during activities I’d normally sit for…like standing against the wall while reading a book or standing in the kitchen while paying bills, my laptop sitting on the counter. In other words, it didn’t take long before the “standing” part faded away from the “desk” part—the same way we don’t really acknowledge the “sitting” part. 

I've got to remember to lessen up 
throughout the day!
I cannot promote a standing workstation enough. Whether you work from home or not, look into purchasing a standing desk. They aren’t as expensive as they used to be. Mine, which takes up the width of my office, was under four-hundred dollars (I like a lot of surface space). Don’t have the space or funds for a standing desk? There are various ways to create one. Before I bought mine, I placed my laptop on the counter and raised it up with books so that it was eye height. A separate keyboard and mouse kept it all ergonomic. If a standup workstation isn’t an option, look at your workstation setup and make sure it’s ergonomic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration share great tips on making sure your computer workstation is safe. 

I'd be lost without my fatigue mat!
A fatigue mat is essential to standing all day. It absorbs the shock to relieve pressure from your back and knees. Just remember to buy a fatigue mat that is at least half-an-inch thick, though I prefer three-quarters-an-inch thick. There are a number of stretches you can do right at your desk, whether you’re standing or sitting. Healthline shared some tips in their article Stretches to Do at Work Every Day.

Stretch, Move, Exercise

Working at a standing desk makes stretching a mindless activity, and I often catch myself in the middle of a stretch before I even realize I'm stretching. Simple movements like standing on one leg with the sole of the other leg on the ankle or calf (often called tree pose) really helps me gain better balance and engages my core muscles. Then I’ll cross my leg over my knee and “sit” into it (variation of a pigeon pose). I also perform neck, arm, and hand stretches throughout the day so that I don't stiffen up or wake up the tendinitis in my wrist. 

I loved going to my gym at work!
My Savannah Tee kept me cool
while I worked up a sweat!
But then I got lazy; sitting in my reading chair all day prevented me from performing these small but effective stretches, which I‘m sure added to the current state of my stiff and sore body.

There are also a number of strength-training exercise routines that can be done right at home. The plethora of YouTube channels and pay programs out there are endless. My sister swears by Beach Body. I like to stick with old school moves, such as sit ups, pushups, leg lifts, etc. I look forward to slowly incorporating those back into my routine once my back is properly healed.

Water Cooler Breaks

Staying cozy and bright in IllumiNITE's Love Tee
and Powerstretch Capri
while I strengthen my core
Do people still say water cooler anymore? I’m seriously dating myself. I am getting old! When I worked in an office, I took way more breaks than I do now that I work from home. I refilled my water bottle multiple times, got up to get a snack from the breakroom, which was always on a different floor, walked to colleagues' offices for a quick chat—work-related or not—and took daily walks at lunchtime. 

But working from home provides no real distractions, and since we’re all working remotely, we check in on Zoom. I often find myself eating lunch in my chair during yet another Zoom meeting. I forget to refill my water bottle. Forget the snacks…what snacks? There’s no one to bring junk food into work anymore since work is my house and Mike and I eat whole foods. I have to remind myself that water cooler breaks can still happen, just more conscientiously. 

Set timers, alarms, or reminders on your phone to take quick breaks throughout the day. After thirty minutes—60 max—walk away from your workstation, even if it’s to check the mail, throw in a load of laundry, or do ten jumping jacks or two minutes of a Spotify dance party. Refilling that water bottle is a good excuse to break from work—and will help keep you hydrated. Hydration further aids in preventing muscle injury.

Daily Walks

Miss my daily walks!
IllumiNITE's Colorado Jackets keeps us
warm and dry!
Photo credit: © Matt Francis
When I worked in an office, I took daily walks…even in the dead of winter. It was much easier to get out there in the cold when I did so with a group of colleagues. Mike and I rarely have the same meeting breaks so we were walking first thing in the morning or right after work. But the shorter, colder, darker winter days did not make leaving our cozy home appealing, especially after a long day's work. Where's that afghan? 

It's time to schedule those walk breaks again. Cold weather never stopped me before. It’s amazing to think that simply sitting all day and staying inside could have such a damaging effect on my body. But it has, and then some! I noticed that being more sedentary has also increased my irritability and darkened my mood, which in turn has made me more lethargic and unmotivated. It’s so easy to fall out of habits, but much harder to get back into them. 

Reminder: I will be able to fully stretch again! 
Especially in IllumiNITE's Comet Running Tight!
Photo credit: 
© Matt Francis
I feel so foolish that I let myself slip so far into sloth mode that I can’t even touch my toes anymore. Was it that long ago that I could drop my hands down to the ground and grasp the earth with my palms while my legs held perfectly straight? I must hold faith that I can find my way back to the Sera who could just spring into a fifteen-mile run without thinking twice about it on any given day. I will find my way back. There’s no use beating myself up for falling so easily back into a slump. It’s more important to focus on getting back on track to the healthy lifestyle that keeps me limber and happy. Reimplementing these everyday routines is a good start. 

What do you do to keep your body flexible and strong? Leave a comment below. I'd love to incorporate new ideas into my everyday routine.

Don't forget! You can get 15% off your IllumiNITE order with my discount code RunBrightly15, including the items shown in the pictures on my blog!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Keep Your Loved Ones Safe This Valentine's Day, and Always

My baby boy, circa 1998
A few weeks ago, I dropped my son off at college, and it was more emotional than I expected. See, my son has been in college for a few years now. Dropping him off and picking him up has become old hat (that phrase makes me now feel old, but I digress). It's been a mundane routine over the years of packing him up, shipping him out, packing him up again, and shipping him home. 

But, this year felt so much different. For starters, he had been living on campus mostly year-round, as he took summer courses in addition to his fall and spring semesters. When I moved in with my partner last summer, my son had only stayed at my house about ten nights of the year. Even when the pandemic hit, my son was one of the few allowed to stay on campus. But when the college opened up its campus to students again in September, my son decided he wanted to learn remotely.

This pandemic brought us closer together
with family nights on the couch

Being in a new place and having my son move into that place took a lot of adjusting on all of our parts. Mike had to renovate a room for him; we had to figure out where to store all his belongings; we all had to learn to live in harmony together, while having different daily routines and eating habits. After a few rocky weeks, we found our living together groove. We established family routines, such as eating dinners together no matter what the rest of our day looked like; going for hikes and walks and runs together; watching a dedicated TV show together. 

So proud of his achievements!
This pandemic offered an opportunity I don't think I would have had otherwise. My son is at the point in his life where he'll soon go off and live on his own, create his own life, and our time together will lessen. Having my son in my home during the pandemic also gave me a sense of relief knowing that he was safe. I hadn't realized that I hold this nagging anxiety when he's away from home—that he's out in the world on his own and there's nothing I can do about it. Of course, this is what every parent wants to achieve ultimately—to raise their children to be self-sufficient, successful. But it's still hard to say goodbye to the baby boy that used to love cuddling on the couch with a good movie and hot cocoa.

When my son got accepted into a new college more than three hours away, I felt a little anxiety about the distance, about the pandemic, about him being so far away in a new place on his own. But I was also very excited for his new adventure. I was also ready to go back to the calm, quiet lifestyle that Mike and I had become accustomed to before my son moved in. So I set about packing my son's life up once again and making sure he had everything to be self-sufficient and successful at his new school.

IllumiNITE's cool, reflective design will keep
my son visible to drivers despite dark and winter conditions
Before I knew it, time ran out and it was moving day! We packed up a rented minivan (with unlimited miles!) and made the three-plus hour trek to upstate Vermont. Due to the pandemic,  we weren't allowed to help him move into college. We had to stay outside, so we unpacked the minivan, left them on the steps of his dorm, and gave a quick farewell—did I mention that it was only nine degrees out? Brrrrrr! 

My son's been living in Vermont for the past few years, so he's fully equipped for Vermont
winters with thermal wear and a heavy duty jacket and gloves. Since he doesn't have a car, we bought him a mountain bike so that he can get around campus—and have some fun in Vermont's epic wooded trails! I made sure he had all the safety accessories: helmet, blinking lights, reflective strips. But on the drive home, I realized exactly how remote he was, remembered how quickly it gets dark in the winter, and panic seized me. Why didn't I buy him reflective clothing before he left? And then it really hit me: my baby boy has once again left the nest, and I missed him terribly already.

Who's that sneaking up in the dark? 
Phew! It's just my son being silly
on our evening walk!
Thankfully, Mike is very attuned to my feelings, and he comforted me on the ride home. "We can always go hiking in Vermont and visit him when it's safe to do so." Tears welled up in my eyes. 

"He's only a car ride away, not across country." I nodded. 

"We can finally watch whatever we want on TV." That one made me laugh.

And now that we're watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime (highly recommend!), I remembered that it's a good thing to have such an ambitious, driven child who wants to venture out on his own. 

"He takes after him mom," Mike said.

Safety orange will keep my son safe from hunters
when he's on the trails in the woods

And then I remembered just because he's not home doesn't mean I can't keep him safe. There's this wonderful thing called online shopping where purchases can be shipped anywhere in the world. And since I love the safety that IllumiNITE provides, I opened up my browser and bought my son their Reflective Waterproof Bike Helmet Cover and their Vizi Reflective Orange Bib in Safety Orange.

is more than an athletic apparel company; they offer a variety of products for womenmenkids, and even pets; Safety is IllumiNITE's top priority. From tote bags to Halloween capes to dog leashes, IllumiNITE has something for everyone. 

My favorite Valentine's
Looking for gift ideas for Valentine's Day? Give the ultimate gift of love with IllumiNITE's reflective products. Use discount code BOGOVALENTINE* (automatically applied at discount) to get 50% off a second item when you buy one at full price! That's an amazing savings...especially if you're buying one of their Winter Jackets! And you can keep your loved ones safe the other eleven months of the year with my discount code RunBrightly15 for 15% off your order. 

How do you keep your loved ones safe? 
Leave a comment below!

Have a very Happy and Safe Valentine's Day!

*Buy one regular price item, get one regular price item of equal or lesser value 50% off; Active from 12:00 AM Feb 12 to 11:59 PM Feb 19; May be used more than once; cannot be combined with other discounts

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I'Masking You to Hang Out

IllumiNITE's Face and Neck Wear double as a face mask while keeping you warm for all your outdoor winter adventures!

It has been 323 days since America shut down due to the pandemic. What's worse! Here in New England, the past 93 days have been cold and bitter wintry months! I woke up this morning to my weather app shivering its five degrees at me, and all I wanted to do was crawl further down into my blankets and sleep until spring.

Let's face it—COVID fatigue is legit. I'm so beyond tired wearing masks everywhere when I need to venture into the world to get essentials, like food and medicine. I'm so beyond tired to make sure I don't touch my face until I get home and sanitize my hands, my phone, and everything else I've touched while out. It's exhausting! I know I'm not the only one wishing this pandemic would just end. BUT, we can't just will the pandemic away. Fatigued by it or not, COVID still exists. 

These days, I'm struggling even more with trying to explain to people I care deeply about why I won't gather indoors; why I won't visit without a mask on. Some people take offense; they think "No" means I think they have COVID; they think "No" means I'm judging them; they think "No" means I don't really care enough to spend time with them. I try to explain this is not about them as an individual. Any one of us could have COVID (and not know it)—including me! I will not gather indoors BECAUSE I care. I have seen too many people become really ill with this virus (some with long-lasting effects!), and way too many people I know have died from it. It's heartbreaking. This pandemic won't end if we don't continue to stay hunkered down.

In addition to being COVID-fatigued, I am also screen fatigued. My workdays have become nonstop Zoom meetings and phone calls and eight hours a day of screen time! I've taken to locking my phone in my home office Friday nights and praying I don't need to talk to a single person outside of my household just so I can feel rested come Monday morning. I'm totally Zoomed out, Phone-Called Out, Social Mediaed Out! Breaks really help.

Okay, end rant. I do miss hanging out with my friends and family. It's really hard to say "No" to invites for cocktail nights and dinners and other such gatherings. A few people reached out to me sharing that they also are struggling with people not understanding social isolation, especially during these cold, dark days when everyone is locked inside. As I've thought more and more about it, I've gathered some ideas for how to safely gather OUTSIDE during this cold, dreary winter.

Host a Backyard Gathering

Grateful for my IlumiNITE Tahoe Performance Fleece to
keep me warm during a socially-distanced photoshoot
for my son's graduation in our local park
Bring the cozy warmth of home outdoors! Build a fire pit or rent/buy one of those outdoor propane
heaters to keep everyone warm. Ask everyone to bring their own chair and blankets. Serve hot cider, hot chocolate, coffee or tea—all of which can be spiked with spirits for those 21 and over. Crockpots do a great job keeping mulled wine and spiked cider warm; insulated travel mugs are great for keeping beverages warm as well. For food, offer s'mores to roast over the fire, chowder or soup, and warm bread. 

Make one person the server, and have that person wear gloves and a mask while serving to keep everyone safe. You can also ask everyone to bring their own drinks and food for extra precaution. If you have a projector and screen, host a movie night, or use a portable speaker to create a dance party...with everyone outside of individual households distanced six-to-ten feet apart.

Traverse Your Nearest Bike Path

Mike and I are athletes, so we often forget that not everyone is "up" for a mountain climb (see what I did here?) or a run. The bike path offers a multitude of ways to connect with family and friends. You can walk, bike, rollerblade, roller skate (for you old school peeps!), hoverboard, or skateboard. The little ones can ride their big wheels and tricycles, or get pushed in a stroller or wagon. 

Plus, bike paths are wider than sidewalks, which makes social distancing easier. Most bike paths get plowed when it snows, but check with your town first to make sure. 

Travel Separately Together

Socially distanced hike on a local mountain with Mike's aunt and uncle;

Geared up with my IlumiNITE Tahoe Performance Fleece
How often have you thought about all the history and significant places in your own state? We often overlook tourist attractions nearby because we're too busy looking up touristy places everywhere else! I've lived in Western Massachusetts my whole life yet I'm surprised at how many historical places I have not yet visited. 

Do some research online; google your town or state websites, and nature conservatories, museums, and other outdoor attractions in your area. Check out touristy places, such as historical estate grounds and cemeteries, natural attractions, such as hiking trails, nature conservatories, waterfalls, caverns, spiritual. 

Then invite friends or family to meet you there!

Visit a State Park

State Parks offer a lot of activities, all in one convenient outdoor place. Many have hiking trails, basketball and tennis courts, open fields, picnic tables and grills, playgrounds, and more. Nothing beats cold weather like playing a team sport (no contact!) like baseball/softball, flag football, soccer, or disc golf. 

Explore Winter-Only Activities

IllumiNITE's Reflective Cold Weather Versa Gaiter provides versatiility 
for a multitude of outdoor winter activities!

Besides running and hiking, which you can do pretty much all year round, there are a number of outdoor winter activities that could be fun to try with others. Go snowshoeing! Try cross-country skiing or regular skiing/snowboarding for the more adventurous types. 

Have you ever been tubing, sledding, or tobogganing? Just be sure only people within the same household double up! 

For those who enjoy less active activities, look up places near you that offer ice sculpture shows and winterfests. 

I like to steal Mike's IllumiNITE Ascent Parka
it's like wearing a warm boyfriend hug 
on our cold morning walks!
Layer Up,  Gear Up, and Mask Up

However you choose to gather with loved ones outdoors, be sure that everyone is properly prepared for
New England's unpredictable weather patterns. It's so important to wear layers, as finicky New England temperatures can plummet quickly—especially once the sun starts to set. IllumiNITE reflective athletic wear layers well without added bulk, keeping you cozy warm, comfortable, and fashionably bright! Remind everyone to wear their cold weather gear as well. Layers won't do you any good if your head, neck, and extremities are exposed to the cold. Share a winter weather checklist that includes hats, hoods, neck coverings, gloves, mittens, wool socks, and proper foot attire. For especially cold days and nights, add Hot Hands or heating packs to the list. And last but definitely not least, mask up! It adds a greater level of safety, and as an added bonus, it keeps your face warm and protected from harsh winter winds!

MASKUP with IllumiNITE's Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection!
IllumiNITE makes it easier than ever to MASKUP with family and friends! Now through the end of June, use discount code MASKUP for 20% off IllumiNITE's Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection*. Check out the multiple ways you can use their Multi-Wrap in the video below! 

Already have IllumiNITE's Face and Neck wear? Keep yourself and your loved ones warm, cozy, and fashionable with IllumiNITE's cold weather product line. Use discount code SERA15 for 15% off your order.

What have you been doing to beat pandemic winter doldrums? I'd love to hear your tips and ideas! Share them in a comment below!

*Discount code expires June 30, 2021 at 11:59 PM. Customers can use it more than once, and they can share it.  Discount code cannot be combined with other offers. Discount is only available on the Reflective Face and Neck Wear Collection. Products and prices subject to change without notice. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Reset, Reflect, Recalibrate: This is 2021

Our kitchen whiteboard keeps our
goals and progress front and center
It's 2021, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who is grateful to see a new year. A new year does not magically end a pandemic, erase all that we've experienced, or restore order in the the world. But a new year does bring with it the hope for positive change, for a brighter future.  We must hang on to hope to give us the strength to continue on after a year of hardships and loss and a country divided. It's important to acknowledge this before moving forward, before setting new year's resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. I am still processing all we've been through on a personal and national scale, and that will take a long while. With that, I felt the need to reset, reflect, and recalibrate my experiences in 2020—the tragedies, the successes, all of it. Then I asked myself what changes can I make right now to kickstart this year to give myself the self-care I need to move forward with a healthy body and mind.

10 days of detox tea and green smoothies
help restore our energy and mental clarity 
To reset, Mike and I started off the year with the 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, created by nutritionist JJ Smith (as I do every year). This cleanse really helps me reset physically, mentally, and emotionally, especially after a month of unhealthy eating and drinking for the holidays. It also helps me reset food habits; my cravings for unhealthy food goes away. And, I'm not going to lie; losing 9-10 pounds is a nice added bonus. I can fit into my clothes again. Phew! 

With my head and body clear again, I was able to reflect on the past year and revisit my goals for 2020—finding balance. I think I did a good job with that, all things considering. Being quarantined at home due to the pandemic definitely helped me prioritize my personal goals, and it really solidified how important it is to say No to things and people that distract me from said goals. It also solidified the fact that the world won't end if I set boundaries and put myself first. While the year was filled with obstacles—such as navigating a new job remotely, helping my sister plan a wedding during a pandemic, and dealing with family issues, such as my son moving home to finish college remotely and caring for my mother who underwent severe medical conditions and surgery—I'm impressed that I was able to achieve my goals of finding balance...for the most part.
Layered up on our
quiet winter walk in the woods;
(see below for what I'm wearing)

I had four specific goals: finish my novel; explore nature in greater depth; maintain a clean eating lifestyle, and find downtime, I'm proud to announce that I finished the new draft of my novel on December 20 (my personal deadline was December 21), and I focused more on exploring mountains and trails (the pandemic definitely made this goal easy as all races were canceled this year). Since Mike and I ate at home all year, we easily adopted a mostly Whole30 diet, with exceptions for holidays; and I treasured my downtime by integrating more reading, games, movies, and other leisurely activities into my weekly schedule.

We truly are happiest when we
spend time together outdoors 
(see below for what we're wearing)
So what's in store for 2021? With the pandemic still plaguing the country, social isolation and quarantine continues...303 days and counting! And that can make life at home a bit too routine and mundane. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing! It's also exhausting continuously having to advocate for why I won't visit with people indoors, especially during these cold winter months (that's a whole other post!). So my phrase for 2021 is self-care. And what steps will I take to implement self-care?
We're continuing this clean-eating reset by jumping right into Whole30 again. This time, we've made a list of recipes from the Whole30 book that are most appealing to us. We love cooking together and trying out new meals. Whole30 has become a lifestyle choice now that we've mastered how to identify clean foods, and we are super excited to try these recipes out—especially after 10 days of green smoothies as meals. Tonight's meal is Balsamic Glazed Salmon with Kale and Avocado Salad (Thank you, Primal Kitchen for this Whole30  approved recipe!)

It's been difficult to stay as active as I was before the pandemic when I was also trying to navigate life during a pandemic and all the struggles that brings. My total miles for last year was only about 550. This year I plan on stepping up my activity level now that I am better able to balance the other aspects of life that are equally important to me. 
At almost 500 pages, the draft of my 
novel is finished!

Deadlines truly help me stay accountable and achieve what I set out to achieve. Even made-up, guesstimated deadlines that I choose give me an ending to look forward to. I wrote my novel throughout 2020, I kept that December 21 personal deadline in my mind's eye. I wrote to that end date every day, even when it felt eons away. I scheduled dedicated time for my writing, set up writing chats with my critique partner, took a solo vacation to immerse myself in my project, and even joined virtual write-ins with other writers to keep me motivated and on schedule. 

Let the revisions begin! I always do
a read through before strategizing
a revision plan
With the draft of my novel finished, it's time to revise! I've signed up for an outlining class with author Lisa Papademetriou, I purchased a large Moleskine journal and a set of gel pens to storyboard my whole novel (thanks for the tip, Story Genius!), and I have a plan in place to finish revisions by June (fingers crossed). It took me some time to get back into the flow of working on my novel every day, but I'm finally back in the swing of things!

Race dates (even virtual races and activity challenges) have the same motivational affect on me as they also provide a set deadline. This year, I plan on joining more virtual races and challenges to keep me moving! Mike and I are signed up for New England Green River Marathon, which was rescheduled from 2020 to August 29 of this year (tentatively, as everything is). Having eight months to train provides a doable marathon-ready goal to achieve. We'll be able to slowly build our running stamina back up over the year. We have also planned a trip to the Grand Canyon to hike from rim to rim this fall (tentative on the state of the pandemic). So even if the race gets rescheduled once more, training for a marathon will help strengthen us for the grueling hike we're praying we can embark on this year. It also gives us something new to look forward to.

I never tire of mountain top views, especially
when I'm toasty warm in my IllumiNITE
(see below for what I'm wearing)
The winter months are the hardest to stay motivated. But we're finding ways to make these dark, cold days brighter. We drink more herbal tea (Celestial Seasonings caffeine-free Bengal Spice is my newest obsession!), we tackle various home projects so we don't stay sedentary, and we bundle up layer upon layer before venturing outside (Thank you, IllumiNITE!). Despite cold temperatures, winter isn't so terrible when the skies are blue and the air is crisp, as long as we keep our bodies warm! What's more, all the people who flocked to mountains over the warmer spring, summer, and fall months, due to the pandemic, have fled back indoors. The silence and serenity of just the two of us in nature brings me much peace after being connected to the virtual world all week for work. 

I'm gifting this IllumiNITE bike helmet
to my son to help keep him safe, 
day and night, 
while he rides his bike on his college campus

Mike and I have saved a lot of money by not going out to restaurants and other entertainment places since the pandemic shut everything down. I've truly found joy repurposing the money we've saved to support local businesses and charities. As I did last year, I will again sign up for virtual races and challenge events that donate proceeds to charities (such as the Hot Chocolate Challenge, which supports Safe Passage, an organization that helps survivors of domestic violence). It feels good to know that my entry fees help others while also helping me stay committed to my physical and mental health. Win, win! I also discovered I really find joy in giving 20% tips when I order take out. The gratitude in the voices of food service workers brings a smile to my face. And, I'm still saving so much more than staying a long while in a restaurant where I'd be ordering drinks, appetizers, you name it. This year, I'd like to take this a step further by continuing to support local businesses, such as IllumiNITE as much as I can. It isn't that difficult to find the local equivalent to major conglomerate organizations. I just purchased books for a friend who lives in North Carolina. It only took about five minutes to research local bookstores near her and another five to place my order. Local businesses need our support to keep them alive. I want to do my part to help them thrive.

Layering keeps our core temperatures just right
and our bodies bright on our neighborhood
coffee and tea dates 
(see below for what we're wearing)

Do all these goals sound wildly familiar? Sure they do! Positive change is a long-term goal taken in micro steps. I had to find balance in my life in order to take these next steps to living the clean, healthy lifestyle I'm trying to achieve. So little by little, I make tiny changes to achieve the things that are so important to me. I am responsible for my own happiness, for how I live my life. And that means including people in my life who support me and love me for who I am. I feel very blessed to have a life partner who has similar personal goals. It's so much easier to implement these positive changes together.

What are your personal goals for 2021? I'd love to hear what your plans are for this new year! 

I hope self-care is on the list. Wishing you a safe, healthy, happy and BRIGHT New Year!

Start your new year healthy and bright at IllumiNITE! Use my discount code RunBrightly15 for 15% off your order. Not sure what to wear? Check out some of my faves, as posted in this post's pics:

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Winter Activities: Think Safety First

Thank god for Three-in-One Mittens for extra warmth
Mike and I just completed the Hot Chocolate Challenge and the Hartford Marathon Foundation's 12ks of Christmas challenge to walk or run 12ks (7.46 miles) a day for twelve days! We'd gotten a bit lazy, for our standards, since the colder weather set in, so I thought this challenge would be a great way to ramp up our activity during these cold, winter months. Our friend, Lauren, joined us (virtually, of course), but Mike and I decided to aim for 3.75 to four mile walks each day. We really needed a swift kick out the door. 

An hour's walk each day really did our bodies good. But...what we didn't consider during these challenges was potential inclement weather. I guess we were too excited about the sweatshirt, finisher medal, and the opportunity to win prizes on each of the 12 days of #HMF12ks challenge. But last Saturday, we woke up to freezing rain that made for a very slippery, wet, miserable trek. We had to pay attention to the sidewalk so we didn't slip or step in deep puddles. We were only out for one hour, but I realized that as close to the house as we were, that hour could have been dangerous if we hadn't been well-prepared.

Eclipse Headband, Velocity Glove,
Ambition Hoodie, Early Riser
This made me think about how so many people have become more active this year, due to the pandemic, which made me think about safety. Families are exploring in the woods and couples are going for scenic drives, stopping alongside the road when they see a sign for a "scenic hike." This is great, of course! There's so much of the world to explore, right in our own backyards. But, Mike and I have seen so many ill-prepared people wearing casual clothing like sandals and jeans on advanced mountain trails with no water or backpack of supplies. I can't even count how many people Mike and I have passed by who've asked us if they're "almost there" when they've only hiked half a mile of a two-mile climb that ascends a thousand feet.

Thinking about all of this reminded me of an article I recently read about three hikers who all died in the White Mountains in a span of six days in September, all from tragic accidents. My heart goes out to their friends and families. Life is so precious, yet when we decide to "just go out" for a hike, or a run, or a climb. we don't always consider the dangers. Over the years, I've learned, often from experience, the importance of being well-prepared when heading out. I'd say these are the most important things to consider, especially during the winter months.

Check the weather.

 Squall Jacket, Ascent Parka,
Cold Weather HoodVelocity Glove
This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes I look outside and see blue skies and don't realize that a brewing storm will hit my destination while I'm out there. So check out your phone's weather app or for a detailed hour-by-hour forecast. If you're heading to the mountains, check out Mike and I have started out at the base of a mountain seeing only a foggy, dreary morning, but by the time we reached the summit, clouds have parted and the sun came out to shine. Fortunately, Mountain Forecast knew the fog would roll away by the time we hit the top.

Venture out with a buddy and stick together.

This is especially important when going somewhere remote or that has technical trails. Even the most experienced mountain climbers can twist an ankle or get lost at a wrong turn or run into unexpected inclement weather. Or worse. Most importantly, don't take off ahead of your group, even if you just want to get to the top of that peak or explore a side trail "real quick."   

Always tell someone where you're going.

Tahoe Jacket, Second Skin Glove 
Whether you're running or walking a five-mile loop in your neighborhood alone, or going for a hike with a group of people, let a loved one know where you're heading, the route you're planning to take, and what time you expect to get back. If you get lost or hurt, it will be easier (and quicker) to find you if people know your general location and the general timing of your trek. 

Once your adventure is over, and you're safely back home or your car, be sure to let them know so they don't worry. 

Use GPS to track your location. 

Wearing a GPS watch, like a Garmin, an activity tracking app like Strava, or a family/emergency dispatch location tracking app, like Life360, could literally save your life if you're in an emergency situation in a remote location. 

Pack up your back up supplies. 

Eclipse Headband, Ambition Hoodie
Even if you're going for a short hike through the woods, bring a backpack for supplies. Choose a backpack that's comfortable but also has the capacity to carry emergency supplies, such as a first aid kit, water, food, flashlight, headlamp, bear spray, portable cellphone charger, rain poncho, utility knife, MicroSpikes or YakTraks, trekking poles, etc. and still have enough room to pack extra layers of clothing, such as an extra pair of gloves, socks, head coverings, and thicker shirts.

Time management is key during winter months.

It's important during the shorter, darker days to know what time the sun rises and sets before you plan your outdoor adventures, or you may find yourself wandering blindly in the dark. has accurate sunrise/sunset times, but most smart phones can also give you this information. Even if your plan is just a short hike in the early afternoon, it's best to be prepared with a headlamp and/or flashlight, just in case something unexpected arises.

Reflective clothing and accessories keep you visible to others.

I wear my IllumiNITE reflective clothing and accessories, even when I'm going on a sunny daytime adventure. Mike and I are seasoned hikers and runners, and we usually can gauge how long a trek will take. But we have found ourselves in situations where we've been out two-to-three hours longer than expected. Fortunately, no matter how dark it gets, Mike and I light up brighter than the insanely lit-up houses and lawns in the movie Deck the Halls with Matthew Broderick and Danny Devito. I feel so much safer knowing how visible I am to drivers and other runners and walkers wearing headlamps. 

Layer, layer, can always remove, but you can't add what you don't have.

Ambition HoodieTahoe Jacket, Synergy HatAscent Parka  
I've learned the hard way that cold legs, toes, and fingers are the worst. Muscles freeze up, hands stop working, and trying to get warm after being outside in subzero or wet weather can take hours. So now, I make sure that I layer up. Mike and I always start with a long-sleeved shirt as our base, then layer it with a thicker pullover, and then throw on a warm outer shell over that. We also throw an extra long-sleeved shirt and/or pullover in our backpacks for longer hikes/runs, in case we need a dry change of clothing midway through our adventure. For pants, we layer tights under our pants, and we often wear two pairs of socks! Thanks to IllumiNITE's Three-in-One Mittens, our hands are layered as well...and if it's really cold out, I'll throw in hot hands for extra warmth. For head wear, I often like to wear a hood with face mask or a hat with a hood over that. My head lamp on night walks/runs also keeps my headwear extra snug against my head.
Synergy HatTahoe JacketSecond Skin Glove,  Squall Jacket,

During these winter months, it's so important to be properly prepared—overly-prepared even—before
exploring the outdoors, especially as the days grow darker and inclement weather makes outdoor activities treacherous. So before you head out on your next outdoor adventure, check out the weather, wear layered, reflective clothing, make sure you're properly prepared, and think safety first. It's always best to cut an adventure short if you think your situation could get treacherous.

Thinking of gifting yourself and your loved ones IllumiNITE this holiday season, use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your order.

I'd love to hear about how you stay safe outdoors during these winter months. Please share in the comments below.

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