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 Weather.com for a detailed hour-by-hour forecast. If you're heading to the mountains, check out Mountain-Forecast.com. 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. TimeandDate.com 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, layer...you 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.

Monday, November 30, 2020

3 Merry and Bright Gift Ideas for 2020

Merry and Bright in our Synergy Hats,Three-in-One Mittens
Tahoe Performance FleeceSquall Jacket
I cannot believe tomorrow is the first day of December. Already! The year has felt like the longest year ever, but somehow it'll be over before we know it...well, okay, we know it will be over in 31 days. But do you know what that means? With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is in full effect and I haven't even started my Christmas decorating or shopping yet! Yikes!

I don't know about you, but this year's holiday season has given me a bit of anxiety and sadness. It's still not safe to gather indoors, and the weather has turned grey and cold here in New England. But as I mentioned in my last post, Creating Joy During Stressful Times, it's important to focus on what brings us joy. There will be future holidays to celebrate indoors with family and friends. In the meantime, this holiday season can still be merry and bright. We just have to think more creatively about how to celebrate. Here are a few gift categories that are sure to brighten this holiday season.

Virtual Races

You can donate to Safe Passage through my race page
Just because the days are shorter, colder, and darker (if you live in New England) doesn't mean you can't stay active. There are so many virtual race options, and many of them donate to various charities so your gift keeps on giving. Virtual races are a fun, healthy way to stay connected with family and friends while keeping your head clear and your body moving. There are races for every athletic ability, including races that count walking  toward your team's goals. The more the merrier! Sign the whole family up! Gift a virtual race to your friends! Celebrate your "wins" with a post-race Zoom party!

Mike and I have already signed up for the Hot Chocolate Challenge, which supports Safe Passage (donate here!) and the Hartford Marathon Foundation's 12ks of Christmas, which supports Foodshare. Check out my Instagram for #HMF12ks tags each day from December 1-12 if you want to follow along! There's still time to register (11/30 deadline!). Check out details at HMF 12ks of Christmas. And if you'd like to join our team, we're the Delicate Freaking Flowers!

Virtual Events

Hawks & Reed Performance Arts Center, Oct 2019
As society adjusted to the national shutdown due to the pandemic, more and more events have turned virtual. While virtual events aren't quite the same as in-person, there are many perks to attending them. For example, they often cost less (especially when the whole household can watch on one screen), you can attend any virtual event anywhere in the country (world, actually), and you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. There are so many options: musical concerts, theatrical plays, and college events, story slams, museum tours, and more!

I've already attended a few prerecorded virtual writing workshops and live mingles for writers. I've also attended live virtual story slams. 

Don't know which virtual event to choose? I'd love to see you at mine! I'm actually performing in a live virtual event on January 16 for the Best of Valley Voices Story Slam, hosted by the Academy of Music and NEPR, where virtual audience members can choose their top storyteller! Who will be the Best of the Best? Buy your ticket here to watch and participate! The storyteller lineup is phenomenal! You won't want to miss it!

Winter Clothing and Accessories

Early Riser for this early hike! 
Make sure your loved ones are properly dressed for the holidays! Since outdoor activities are the safest way to socialize right now, check out IllumiNITE's new winter clothing line for warm, comfortable winter clothing that protects against the elements and looks fashionable. IllumiNITE uses reflective ink technology that lights up as bright as a Christmas tree in the dark when light shines upon it. If you shop on Cyber Monday, use code 20CYBERMONDAY for 20% off. But if you don't have time to shop on 11/30, don't worry. You can use my discount code RUNBRIGHTLY for 15% off your order at anytime! 


Our winter favorites include:

Long Sleeve Reflective Women's Piper Tee—This has become my go-to shirt for every day comfort. It's so soft and cozy! And I love the pop of color! Whether I'm watching one of my virtual events or heading outdoors for a run, this is my fave thing to wear! 

Early Riser Reflective Men's Pullover—As much as I love my long sleeve tee, Mike loves his Early Riser! It's perfect for any occasion, and keeps him warm and bright outside. Plus, the Hawaiian Blue looks absolutely amazing on him!
All bundled up on this cold
but bright day

Satellite Reflective Women's Running Tight—What are jeans these days? I'm all about comfort. These are my go-to pants, whether I'm at home, running errands, or staying active outside. Plus, they look great paired with my Piper Tee or a nicer sweater when I want to look good but stay cozy for one of my virtual events!

Women's Reflective Windbrite Pant
—Not only do these pants have fleece lining for extra comfort, their outer shell protects me from the coldest, windiest conditions. They've saved me too many times to count!

© Matt Francis Photos
Men's Reflective Mercury Running Tight—These tights keep Mike dry and visible during cold night runs, and also are great for layering under a more technical pant for hiking. They wick moisture away while keeping him warm.

Tahoe Performance Women's Softshell Fleece Reflective Jacket—I swear by this jacket no matter what activity I'm doing: running to the grocery store, hiking up mountains, or running 10 miles on a ten degree day/night. This jacket keeps me warm, comfortable, and bright—and also is quite stylish, if I do say so myself!

Men's Reflective Squall Jacket—Not only is this jacket warm and bright, it's waterproof. Mike throws this wherever we go to keep him warm, dry, and bright all day and night.

HoodieTahoe Performance Fleece
 and Squall Jacket for the win!
Three-in-One Mitten with Removable Glove Liner—What we love most about these is they can be used together or separately. Plus, there is enough room to throw in a hand warmer when you want extended heat on those longer runs or hikes. When not wearing them, we store the gloves inside their mitten for easy storage.

Cold Weather Unisex Reflective Hood—The fabric is versatile enough that you can wear it as a full face covering, or lower the face mask when you get too hot. It's also a quick way to mask up when passing by other runners or walkers.

What are you must-have gifts year? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Creating Joy During Stressful Times

Let's get moving! We lift each other up when feeling down
IllumiNITE Featherlite Packable Jacket & Men's Endeavor Tank
Last week, I popped a blood vessel in my eye. I have no idea how. I just looked in the mirror one morning and noticed the red blotch near my cornea. Stress, so many people said. And I agree. 

The world is definitely on shaky ground these days. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, one-by-one, the schools in my area are going fully remote, the election coverage is nonstop, and the high anxiety and anger and sadness emanating out of social media feeds feels rampant. 

And the holidays are fast approaching, which means, cold weather and dark days are also fast approaching. 

To destress, laughter is the best medicine
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket & WindBrite Pant
© 
Matt Francis Photos

This year has been far from normal, but it's important now more than ever to manage stress levels and find the calm, find the joy, find the peace every way we can. Mike recently finished the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. It's one of those books you read for a bit, then put down, then pick back up again after pondering its philosophy. 

With stress levels on the rise, we're doing our best to implement most of Lee's advice. Some of it seems like common sense, but when times are tough it can be easy to forget that the little things in life really do bring a great sense of calmness and joy. So, we looked into what we have right in front of us that can utilize. Here's what we've come up with, and it's working1 

To destress, we:

He lights up my life...and my tee
IllumiNITE Vision Pullover & Love Tee 

1. Add bright colors to our wardrobe to brighten our mood

2. Move our bodies every single day (even a 15-minute walk around our neighborhood on our most busiest days helps)

3. Run in the rain 

4. Run in the dark 

 When it rains...you run!
IllumiNITE Savannah Tee &
Jammer Running Short 
5. Take long walks through the woods and point out all the animals we see

6. Go for a hike on a mountain

7. Visit with family outside and socially-distanced

8. Plant flowers and trees and spruce up our backyard

9. Physically put away our phones, computers, TV for much needed breaks from the outside world

10. Play a board game or cards 

11. Cook flavorful, healthy meals together (usually also full of color!)

It's all about perspective

12. Sit quietly on the couch or outside with our favorite mugs or glasses filled with coffee, tea, or wine (okay, sometimes bourbon too), and just be in the moment

13. Read uplifting books about the underdog winning

14. Journal for ten-minutes a day (writing prompts from The Creative Wave Facebook group by author Lisa Papademetriou)

15. Watch our favorite sitcoms and funny movies and laugh, laugh, laugh

16. Go to sleep at the same time every night in a quiet, dark room (no electronics allowed)

Game night...healthy snacks
& strategic sneak attacks


17. Surprise each other with love notes or small gifts "just because"

18. Be spontaneous and throw our routine to the wind for an impromptu activity, like getting takeout from our favorite restaurant, going for a long drive, or even just opening that specialty chocolate we've been saving for a rainy day

19. Put on music from "the good old days" and dance, dance, dance in the living room

20. Name five things that bring us joy each, even if it's something minor like enjoying a sunny day, spotting a woodpecker, or saying hello to a neighbor  

I'm sure I could go on and on, but really, these 20 things have become our go-to ways to destress, unwind, and find joy. Implementing little bits of happiness into our lives each day helps us remember that everything is temporary, including these uncertain times, and having a positive attitude eases stress and anxiety. 

Sound too simple? Don't believe me? Give it a try for a week, and then let me know how it went.

Give a smile, receive a smile! No matter what's going on in life right now,
a smile always helps. 

IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket & Sentinel Longsleeve Shirt
© Matt Francis Photos

And don't forget, adding bright colors into your life is easier now more than ever. Just use my discount code RunBrightly for 15% off your order at IlllumiNITE.

What do you do to destress? Please share in a comment below. I'd love to add more joy into my life! 


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Gearing Up for Colder Months in Quarantine

Trying out hiking poles for the first time
Wearing IllumiNITE Ambition Hoodie
Ponyband HeadbandVelocity Mittens

Brrr. It's getting cold out there! Where has summer gone? It's getting harder to wake up early now that it's darker and colder in the mornings. But I can't deny how good it feels to breathe in the brisk air and stare at the colorful trees against the bright blue backdrop of the sky once I motivate myself to get up and get moving. Staying active during the colder months is like going to the gym after the shininess of New Year's resolutions wears off. It takes a lot to get yourself out there, but once you do, you wonder why you hesitated in the first place. 

Since we're still in a pandemic, Mike and I talked about the importance of not staying cooped up inside all winter. In normal years, I always sign up for a few fall and winter races to keep me motivated to run, including trail and mountain races (like the Ghost Train Ultramarathon, or the "Movember on Mt. Tom Fun Run" to raise awareness for men's health). But all races have been discontinued. Likewise, we won't be able to socialize indoors at theaters or restaurants or gatherings with friends. What do we do? 


We decided to stick with what we do best: hiking and running. We also agreed to try snowshoeing come winter to spice things up. We went through our colder weather inventory to see what we already own. Then we went on a five-and-a-half hour hike on Mount Race, my favorite mountain in the Berkshires, to figure out what we still need to stay dry, warm, and safe outside during the fall and winter months.

Crossing Race Brook Falls; Velocity Mittens 
help me get a better grip my trekking poles
 

While hiking, we paid attention to the changing landscape. Fallen leaves and muddy terrain after the previous night's rainfall made the trek slipperier than usual. Fortunately, Mike's aunt lent us her trekking poles to see how we liked them. Why have I never used trekking pokes before? Wow! They truly gave me "extra legs" as I maneuvered up and down muddy terrain, crossed rivers, and navigated boulders. I have terrible balance, so I will definitely be getting myself a pair of these. Once winter sets in, I'll be adding MICROspikes so I don't slip when walking and climbing on sheets of ice. 

As for clothing, here is what we decided works best for the fall and winter months:  

Layering is Key

I'm all layered up from head to toe;
can you see my Velocity Mitten
making a cameo?

New England weather is finicky. The temperature can go from 48°F to 72° to 30° all in one day. It can be sunny, then cloudy, then windy with hail, then calm and balmy. Yes, we often have the four seasons all in one day. Weather definitely keeps things exiting. But no matter where you live, it's important to be prepared for the elements, especially on mountains. Mountains don't care if it's January or July; they have their own climate.

Packable Jacket is lightweight,
and keeps me warm and dry
in cold, wet weather

One thing I love about IllumiNITE clothing is that they're easily packable and lightweight. Even their warmer clothing doesn't feel bulky. Therefore, I love to layer a shortsleeve like their Mockingbird or Savannah Shirt underneath a warmer shell like the Ambition Hoodie or Packable Jacket for the fall months. 

Once that bitter winter weather sets in, I exchange my Packable Jacket for the Tahoe Performance Softshell Fleece. It protects me against the elements while still allowing me to move freely, whether I'm running on the road or climbing up the boulders of a mountain. 

Sera in Powerstretch Pant
(bootcut pairs well with hiking boots)
Mike in Mercury Running Tights

The women's Satellite Running Tights and men's Mercury Running Tights keep us dry and warm during the early autumn months. I love how IllumiNITE tights can be layered beneath hiking pants, running shorts, or sweatpants for added warmth and protection. They also prevent chafing and wick away moisture. I also recommend wearing wicking underwear made specifically for running or hiking. It makes a world of difference in comfort level. 

There's really nothing worse than sweating through your layered clothing only to become chilled to the bone. That's the type of bitter cold that sits inside you for hours. So, when the weather turns damp and cold, the Windbrite Pant, which is windproof, prevents windchill from settling in.

Accessories

I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my go-to IllumiNITE accessories. They all make my life so much easier because they prepare me for anything. 

A super fun accessory that is also practical is my pair of IllumiNITE Sleeves. When it's a tad chilly, but I know I'll heat up as I run, I wear a shortsleeved tee with my detachable sleeves. They easily stow away in a pocket if I get too hot, but add just the right amount of warmth and brightness on chilly and/or damp days.

And I'm totally obsessed with accessories for my head! My Multi-Wrap has multi-purposes. I can use it as a hat, double it up to create a face mask for when we're passing people on the road or trail, or use it as a buff to keep sweat out of my eyes and bugs out of my ears (especially during pesky spring and fall months when the insects are especially buggy!). 

Mike wears his Multi-Wrap
like a

 headband;
I cover my whole head

When I don't want full coverage, I really love the thicker IllumiNITE headbands because they still keep sweat out of my eyes and bugs out of my ears. Some even come equipped for ponytails (the Ambition Hoodie is also perfect for ponytails!) 

Shining bright on
our morning walks—Synergy!

For our early morning walks, I switch out the elaborate head coverings for my Synergy Hat. I can keep my hair down while wearing it, and it keeps my head warm—and visible!—while we walk through our neighborhood. 

But as the months get colder, I exchange these head coverings for the Cold Weather Unisex Hood. It's so versatile! You can rearrange it to either cover your head, mouth and nose, and neck; Or, your head and neck; Or, just your neck, depending on how hot or cold you get. It's especially easy to pull down the face covering for a quick snack break without any complications.

IllumiNITE's Velocity Mittens keep my hands dry and warm while also allowing me to use my phone—gotta capture our amazing adventures on camera. Though, come winter months, I will need warmer gloves such as their Second Skin Gloves or Three-In-One Mitten.

Ready for outdoor activities
this fall and winter!
I spoke with our friends at IllumiNITE to see what they recommended for warmer gear for the colder months, and they gathered some of their best products for us. Our shipment just came in, and I can't wait to see what we got! Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, check out IllumiNITE for all your reflective athletic wear needs, and use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your order!

I'd love to hear your must-have gear for fall and winter! Please share in a comment below!


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Virtual Races: A Reminder I Didn't Know I Needed

IllumiNITE reflective packable jacket
Cape Cod Marathon Start Line
Oct. 2019
Every year, I plan out my races to keep myself motivated and moving. I sign up for my fave (fun!) races, such as The Westfield Flat Fast 5k and the Hot Chocolate Run 5k for Safe Passage, and I choose one or two favorite long distance races, such as the Cape Cod Marathon or Ghost Train Ultra Marathon, and then I sprinkle in a few races I've not tried before to spice things up. Destination races are my favorite, so I try to incorporate those when possible.

But this year, all races were cancelled due to the pandemic. I had signed up for the Green River Marathon, a one-way marathon from Vermont to Greenfield with a 1,450 foot overall drop in elevation (to make up for making Mike run his first marathon ever in Greece where the elevation gain was 1,150 feet!). And I had also signed up for the Ghost Train Ultra Marathon again, where I planned on running 45 miles in two days (30 Saturday; 15 Sunday). I told Mike that we should just train anyway, do the miles on our own, but it's been a real struggle getting high mileage in. 

Yes, we've been active every day, especially since we created our accountability schedule. But our long runs have plateaued at about ten miles...wah, wah, wah! And here it is October already, and I haven't run one marathon yet. I'm usually on marathon number two (or even three!) for the year by now. I feel the negative difference in my body and my mood, and I don't like it!

So the other week, I told Mike that we had to run a half marathon. No matter how long it took, we were

Unofficial Half-Marathon Complete
IllumiNITE MultiWrapEarly Riser
Ambition Hoodie, and Velocity Mitten
not stopping until we hit 13.1 miles. I was slow, real slow, but I just kept moving one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it, we were finished! It definitely helped that the sky was blue because it was cold! A mere 41 degrees. Thank god we wore our IllumiNITE pullovers AND gloves to keep us warm. But it gave me a sense of accomplishment. We may not be marathon ready, but we're halfway there.

I had planned on signing up for the Womxn Run the Vote relay race, where proceeds went to Black Voters Matter, but time got away from me. By the time I went to registered, they had hit their 10,000 athletes capacity! Whoa! I had no idea virtual races capped participation. Mike and I still logged about 35 miles that week, and I am still donating money to Black Voters Matter because it's such an important cause! But missing the sign-up bummed me out! I didn't realize how much I missed my running community until I missed out on an amazing race opportunity for a charitable organization.

IllumiNITE
Vision Men's Pullover
Endeavor Shorts

So, to keep our momentum going, Mike signed us up for the Running from 2020 virtual race. The finisher shirt definitely captures how we feel about this year. Then, on October 3, Mike asked me what day it was. Okay, okay, he didn't ask; he told me: Race Day! But I needed my total Mean Girls moment! Don't judge! Anyway, I was not feeling the race whatsoever! But I knew I couldn't let him down, and I also wanted that shirt! So I pushed my grumbling deep down, and we set off. Once Mike passed me, my racing instincts kicked in and I ran harder than I've been running most days. I'm so proud to say that I ran nonstop. I even sped up with each mile. 


10:42...

10: 25...

9:45...

9:06...

I tried my hardest to catch Mike, but he's just too fast for me. He won by four minutes! Yowza he's fast! But it was so much fun, and it made me realize how much I love racing. 

Feeling accomplished after our 5k
IllumiNITE Synergy Headband,
Packable Jacket, Savannah Women's Tee;
Vision Men's Pullover

So, what's next?

I truly believe in races that raise money for charitable organizations, so that's priority for me right now. I may not get my marathon in this year, but I plan on staying active throughout the winter. I'm hoping that the annual Hot Chocolate Run that I run every year goes virtual this year. Proceeds go to Safe Passage, an organization that helps "families achieve safety, build justice and rebuild their lives in the wake of domestic's violence."

What virtual races have you done this year? 

What virtual events are you looking forward to? 

Leave a comment below.

Perhaps we can run one together in the virtual world.



Check out the styles we're wearing and use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your entire IllumiNITE order.



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