Packing for Ragnar Relay Cape Cod

While scouring the internet for Ragnar Relay packing lists, there was a common theme: don’t bring a huge bag and only pack the necessities. I condensed my own list down pretty far but it still seemed like a stretch for it all to fit in a reasonably sized bag. Apera reached out earlier this year and offered to send me one of their bags to try. I’ve been using it for several months but wanted to wait until after putting it to the true test in Cape Cod before sharing my thoughts.

So, here is all of the crap I was attempting to cram into their Performance Duffel:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Packing

The Usual Suspects

3 sets of running clothes packed into separate bags specifically marked for each leg, Road ID, 2 pairs of running shoes [there was rain in the forecast so I wanted to make sure I had a backup pair], flip-flops & sweatpants for downtime, fuel [Nuun / Picky Bars / Honey Stinger Chews], compression socks/sleeves, The Stick to work out kinks between runs [TSA didn’t take it away, hooray!], anti-chafe stick, phone wall & car charger, auxiliary cable for van music, Garmin & charger, iPod shuffle, headlamp, reflective vest, Nathan handheld, hat, sunglasses, iFitness belt, hair brush, elastics / bobby pins, toothbrush / toothpaste, deodorant.

Good Decisions

Spike Bag: This was super helpful to keep all of my frequently used items in, rather than having to rummage through my duffel in the back of the van every time I needed something. The spike bag held my headlamp, reflective vest, portable charger [see below], cowbell, runfinity scarf, Picky Bars, wallet, and extra hair ties.

Jackery Giant: Obviously being away from an outlet isn’t ideal when you spend a lot of time on social media, so the Jackery was a life saver. This particular model will charge my Samsung Galaxy S4 three times, which was more than enough to get through our time in the van. There are smaller, lighter options but you won’t get as many charges out of it. This was perfect for the weekend.

Colgate Wisps: A last minute addition to my cart in Target, but these minty little gems were well-loved by everyone in our van. It’s funny how much better you feel after “brushing” your teeth with a Wisp at 3am.

Dry Shampoo: Sure, this might be strictly a vanity item but if you sweat while on your first run, you might not want to spend the rest of the weekend hiding under a hat. The travel sized can took up minimal space in my bag and helped freshen up the lion’s mane in under a minute.

Apera Performance Duffel - Pearl

Back to the packing. The Performance Duffel had plenty of pockets, possibly even too many considering two weeks after I got back to Texas I couldn’t find my compression socks or sleeves. Apparently there was a pocket I forgot to empty. There’s 10 total pockets, including two in the front for water bottles and two spots on each end for shoe storage. In a previous bag, there was a separate compartment on the bottom for shoes but unfortunately when it was filled, it took up space in the bag’s interior. With the Apera bag, I was able to fit a pair of running shoes in each end with absolutely no impact on the space inside!

Apera Performance Duffel - Shoe Storage
Even with all of my crap packed inside [yes, ALL of it fit – a Ragnar miracle] the padded shoulder strap made it comfortable to lug around the airport. Heading up to Boston it served as my carry-on and fit comfortably under the seat in front of me. On the way home, I used it as a checked bag to test the durability and surprisingly, it arrived in Austin unscathed. The huge skeptic in me was absolutely positive the baggage handlers were going to ruin this thing.

I was incredibly pleased to see how well the duffel performed for traveling, even though it appears to be used mostly as a gym bag. The pockets made it easy to keep everything organized and the bag was able to hold much more than I initially expected. This will definitely be my new bag for weekend trips. Simplicity FTW.

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Apera Bags

Apera bags inspire a healthy, active lifestyle. The interior and exterior of each bag is coated in antimicrobial protection, with vented compartments and linings which can easily be wiped clean. Included is a removable washable insert to store your wet gear in, keeping it away from the rest of the items in your bag. Also, Apera donates a custom bag to a Special Olympics athlete for every three bags they sell. Pretty cool, right?

 

Apera’s Current Deals:

*Anniversary Sale: All bags are 20% off with the code SUMMER2014! [ends July 31st]

*All Duffel Packs are 40% off

*Time to Get the Blues: All blue bags are 40% off

*Monthly Giveaway: Sprint Pack, enter to win here

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Disclaimer: Runner’s World provided me with a copy of this book and no additional compensation has been received. All thoughts, opinions, and awkward running habits are my own.

When running first became a priority to me in the spring of 2010, I was completely winging it. My runs were done in a pair of Nike+ running shoes that synced to my iPod, which never produced accurate mileage on outdoor runs no matter how many times I calibrated the damn thing. I trained with Gu on 5 mile runs and ran in cotton T-shirts until finally discovering tech tees several months down the road. Five days a week, as fast as I could, and wondered why I could never finish a run without walk breaks. No one ever told me running would be easier if I just slowed down. That I didn’t HAVE to maintain a 9 minute mile as a brand new runner. No one told me not to judge running shoes by their color. I wanted to be a runner and figured the best way to get there would be to put one foot in front of the other.

Runners World - Big Book of Running for Beginners

One thing I wish I would have had in my corner back when I started is The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners. It serves as a fantastic reference for beginners and even a source of inspiration for experienced runners who might be in a rut. I’ve had a subscription to Runner’s World for several years and while some of the information in this book I already knew, it was still an informative read. It’s split into three sections: Getting Started, Nutrition / Weight Loss, and Staying Healthy / Managing Injuries. One of my favorite parts of the book is the testimonials from normal non-athletes, explaining how and why their journey to become a runner began. Many used running as a tool to lose weight, stop smoking, and overcome illness. As someone who has absolutely no sports background, I found these testimonials to be very relatable and inspiring.

If I had to fault the book in one area, it would be the lack of training plans. There’s a Run for 30 Minutes plan in the appendix, but nothing for a beginner looking to complete their first 10K or half marathon. One might not use the terms ‘beginner’ and ‘half marathon’ in the same sentence but the 13.1 distance has become more popular over the past few years and a basic plan might be helpful for a runner looking to complete their first. It does reference The Starting Line, Runner’s World’s online training program for beginners which range from $9.99 to $19.99.

Overall, I definitely would recommend this book to runners of all levels. My skepticism was pretty high initially as it appeared to be geared towards beginners, but found a considerable amount of value in it as someone with a few years of running under their belt. I’ve flagged many of the pages with post-its to easily reference when training starts to ramp up (base building for marathon #3!) over the next few months.

Upgrade Early with Verizon Edge

Disclosure: I’m a Verizon Wireless Voices SE Ambassador and have been provided a phone to use through the duration of this program. No other compensation was received. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Back in my younger days when I was much less wise, I had countless short-term relationships with phones. I frequently drove with a cup of iced tea in my cup holder. I also drove with my phone in my cup holder. A handful of times those two things happened simultaneously and byebye cell phone. I’ve left a phone at the bar and returned in the morning only to be told it hadn’t been turned in. I’ve had a phone thrown off my second story patio by an ex-boyfriend and watched it shatter into a million pieces. Unfortunately for my meager 20-something bank account, these things always happened outside of the window for a discounted upgrade. Full retail = see ya later, paycheck.

Thankfully as years went by I learned to take better care of my cell phone. But since technology changes so fast these days, I find myself wishing for a better phone only a year into my contract term. Your smartphone is basically outdated the second you walk out of the store with it. Whether you’re looking for Siri to answer all of life’s problems or a camera with higher megapixels, there’s always something bigger and better out there. A majority of the population will wait until they’re eligible for an upgrade rather than plunk down full retail to purchase the latest and greatest device, myself included.

Verizon recently launched a program that might have been able to save my ass back in the day AND gives me the opportunity to try something new much earlier right now. Rather than waiting the standard 24 months to upgrade at a discounted price, Verizon Edge lets you upgrade every year if you want – and there’s no long-term service contract to worry about.

 

Here’s how it works: first, you choose the phone you want. All phones offered by Verizon are eligible on Edge. I’ll use the Samsung Galaxy S4 as an example, which retails for $599.99. This is spread over a 24 month period, so with taxes/fees you’ll add $25.22 to your monthly bill. Once you’ve paid for 50% of the phone (which in most cases will be 12 months) you can upgrade again! At first the idea of tacking on an extra $25 to your bill each month might not be appealing, but it’s really no different than shelling out $200ish dollars to upgrade. It’s a matter of spreading the amount across 24 months versus dropping a large chunk of cash up front.

With the Verizon Edge program you’ll receive a data plan capped at 6GB. Before you get bent out of shape, know that this is a fairly large amount of data. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the internet in general more often than I’d like to admit, and the most data I’ve ever used in a month is 4GB. And I’m pretty sure a lot of that usage was due to having the GPS enabled. 6GB should be plenty to get you through each month.

Verizon Edge - Verizon Wireless

Verizon is currently running a great promotion for customers trading up to the Edge program that includes free activation, a waived initial monthly payment, and a $100 Verizon gift card to buy as many phone cases + other accessories (I recommend this one, it’s a lifesaver) as your little heart desires. Interested? Make sure you take advantage soon – it expires on January 15, 2014!

Tackling Holiday Travel

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Holiday Problems - Part 2

Aside from those mentioned in Part I, another huge source of anxiety for me is holiday travel. Not so much the ACTUAL traveling, but the planning and being able to afford it at a time of year where we’re already spending a significant amount of money on gifts and whatnot. When I lived in Florida, my parents came down for Christmas almost every year. I didn’t fight it, I mean come on – Christmas on the beach? Yes please. It was a no brainer.

Once I moved to Texas, things changed quite a bit. Here’s how Christmas has looked over the past few years:

2009: My family drove out to Texas for the week, Brad flew to Florida on Christmas Eve to see his family
2010: Brad went to Florida and I went to NJ. I got stuck there for an extra week due to a massive snowstorm. Yikes.
2011: We stayed in Texas.
2012: We stayed in Texas.

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While spending the holiday alone is low-key and stress-free, we’re also spending the holiday alone without our families. So last December we made a pact to figure out some way to see both families for Christmas in 2013. I had the bright idea for us to fly to Florida, then on Christmas Eve fly to New Jersey, and then fly back to Texas a few days later. Once I priced that thing out it was obvious this option would NOT be in our budget. We also had the added obstacle of the two dogs. If we went out of town, we’d have to find somewhere for them to go. I’m not a huge fan of the boarding option, especially because of how much it would cost. I really didn’t want to have to leave them. After a ton of brainstorming and number crunching, we finally figured out a way to make it all work.

Road Trip!

Sox Drives

We’re jumping in the truck with the dogs and heading to Florida. I’ll spend a few days with Brad’s family and then fly up to New Jersey on Christmas Eve to see mine. Then we’ll meet back up the following weekend and drive back to Texas, making a pit stop to see this girl on the way. Somehow this crazy ass plan is the most cost-effective. I was able to book two one-way tickets to/from NJ for $100 each [on Jetblue + Southwest, so $0 bag fees] which is a RIDICULOUS steal for holiday airfare. Since I never take any time off and will be out of the office for quite awhile, my boss has been referring to this trip as my sabbatical. He’s hilarious.

Anyway, I’m glad it all worked out and that we’ll be able to bring the dogs. Not entirely sure how the drive is going to work to/from Florida with a 100lb and 70lb dog in the truck, but it should certainly be interesting. And I’m also kinda concerned about having to pack for two different climates. I have a feeling I’ll be bringing a lot of layers so there’s options.

I’m super excited to see family/friends in New Jersey and Florida. Can’t believe it’s only a couple weeks away!

How do you tackle the holidays in your house? Do you travel or does your family come to you?

Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!

holiday problems

Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

December Survival Guide

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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, the most magical and stressful time of year is upon us. While you may have saved the big bucks yesterday braving Black Friday, it provided only a glimpse into the holiday season that tends to swallow each and every one of us up over the next several weeks.

But it doesn’t have to. This is the first in a two-part series where we’ll identify – and tackle – those #HolidayProblems which summon anxiety and keep your heart rate elevated every December.

Holiday Problems - Part 1

Your credit card is cowering in the corner. This is inevitable unless you’re a super planner or are super rich. If you’ve waited until the last minute to start your shopping, you’ll need to assess your current financial situation. Determine the total you have to spend and then divide that amount across your list. Does this sound like a feasible number to spend on each person? If not, it’s time to re-prioritize your list. The holidays should be about spending time with your loved ones, not stressing over how far you put yourself in the hole trying to shower everyone with gifts. Set limits for yourself, such as only buying for the children – or in our case, nieces & nephews. The remaining family members can participate in Secret Santa with a spending limit or even a fun White Elephant swap. Get creative!

Duck Dynasty Chia Pet

Operation Eat All The Things. The fastest way to overindulge is to restrict. My social media feeds are bursting with tips on how to lighten up that sweet potato casserole or slash calories from your eggnog. Let’s be honest here: do those really taste the same as their full-fat counterparts? No, they certainly do not. Rather than saying ‘no’ to your favorite dishes, allow yourself to truly enjoy them in reasonable portions. Do you need to eat 3 pieces of that bourbon pecan pie? Probably not, but certainly have one – and savor every last bite.

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Fitness keeps getting bumped to the bottom of the list. During the busiest time of the year, certain things fall by the wayside and for some people, their fitness routine is the first to slip. When you’re laying in bed the morning after your company holiday party with a chardonnay-hangover, it’s easy to forego that 5-mile run. DON’T SKIP IT! Exercise endorphins are the best for banishing stress – take advantage! Schedule spin classes & yoga sessions right into your calendar, the same way you would with a meeting or lunch with a friend. Alternate water with your champagne cocktails to keep wicked hangovers at bay. You’re your own worst enemy: stop dreaming up excuses and get your butt to the gym! Make your workouts a priority and retain some semblance of sanity.

Someone Who is Busier Than You is Running Right Now

Treat Yo Self. I know I know, this time of year you’re supposed to be shopping for others. But sometimes you’re seconds away from a meltdown in the middle of the mall on Saturday afternoon and retail therapy might be just what you need to pull yourself together. So treat yo self to that french press (<— you know I did) you’ve been eyeing or the cashmere scarf now on clearance that will go with basically everything in your closet. Hell, it can even be a latte from Starbucks! Nothing huge or extravagant, just something small to boost your spirits. Take a deep breath, swipe your card, and finish tackling that shopping list.

Keep Calm and Treat Yo Self


Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!

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Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

Strawberry Shortcakes with Whipped Ricotta

Prior the the cookbook’s October 1 release, Runner’s World reached out to me to see if I was interested in a copy to review. There are several recipes from past issues of the magazine which are in our current dinner rotation (like this Smoky Black Bean Stew: add chicken sausage & quinoa or brown rice for extra staying power) so I jumped at the chance to check out the cookbook.

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The book is organized by meal and each recipe (150!) is tagged with helpful labels like pre-run, recovery, and vegetarian. There’s even a grocery list to help you stock up your “Runner’s Pantry” with items necessary to keep you running strong and healthy. Overall, I was really impressed with the book and many of the pages are now marked with post-it flags so I can quickly navigate to the recipes I’m interested in.

Disclaimer: As mentioned above, Runner’s World provided me with a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Now, on to the good part – an actual recipe! While there are several entrees and side dishes I can’t wait to try, our house is currently dessert-free and that is just not acceptable. Texas still won’t let us experience fall so I figured I might as well take advantage of the opportunity for a light & fresh summer dessert: strawberry shortcakes.

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The recipe was very easy to follow, with each ingredient listed in the order used (important!) and the instructions listed in brief paragraphs. I could glance back at the book and find the spot I needed to be in almost immediately. There’s also nutritional information after each recipe, which is helpful if you’re counting calories or shooting for a certain number of grams of protein per day. Of course, these stats are irrelevant when it comes to dessert. Dessert is dessert – there are no calories. Right? Right.1-DSCN08732-DSCN08801-DSCN0905

These were a hit! The ricotta whipped up super creamy and light, which paired perfectly with the airy cake and sweet strawberries. From start to finish (including cooking time for the shortcakes) dessert was done is just under 30 minutes. Not bad at all!

And because I’m completely incapable of following a recipe, here’s my one tiny tweak: add mini dark chocolate chips to the ricotta. You won’t be disappointed.

Runner’s World has made a few of the recipes available here and the cookbook is available for purchase here

Get Your Nuun On :: A Nuun Hydration Giveaway (CLOSED)

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It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Nuun. I’m either hydrating on the run with Lemon Lime, recovering from a cocktail-filled night out with Citrus Fruit, or mixing up an adult Arnold Palmer with Lemonade and Sweet Tea Vodka.

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When I first started running, I went with a few of the various –ades on the market. They worked okay for my shorter runs, but once the mileage increased my stomach rebelled against the sugar-laden sports drinks. I think back now on the powdered drink packets I’d stuff in the pouch of my Nathan handheld to refill my bottle with. What a pain in the ass! My friend Tricia introduced me to Nuun a couple years ago while out on a run together and I’ve been through eleventy billion tubes since.

Keep Austin Hydrated

Not familiar with Nuun? Let’s break it down! Each super-portable tablet is jam-packed with the electrolytes you need without the sugar you don’t, for only eight calories per serving. They have three different products:

  • Nuun Active Hydration is specifically for high intensity workouts and/or to satisfy your electrolyte replenishment needs
  • U Natural Hydration is all-natural and contains less electrolytes than Active formula
  • Nuun All Day Hydration makes staying hydrated during the day much easier and will help add more water to your day

My favorites are all in the Active category: Watermelon (seasonal, so stock up now!), Lemon Tea, and Strawberry Lemonade. Currently my secret weapon for surviving the 3pm slump at the office is mixing 1/2 tab of Kona Cola and 1/2 tab of Cherry Limeade. Just perfect!

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Are you running low on your favorite flavor? Still need to experience one of the three newest flavors? Never heard of or tried Nuun?

Solution: a Nuun Giveaway! One lucky winner (must live in the US) will receive a 4-pack of Nuun in the flavor of their choice.

Entering couldn’t be easier – just leave a comment on this post! What’s your favorite hydration company? Have you ever tried Nuun? Which flavor will you choose if you win?

All entries must be submitted by midnight on July 9th. The winner will be selected at random on July 10th.

Can’t wait until next week to get your hydration on or restock your stash? Use discount code hydrateHTC on Nuun’s website for 15% off! (and FREE SHIPPING through July 7th!)

So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment and get entered to win a 4-pack of Nuun!

Kona Kase – Endurance Nutrition Samples for Runners & Triathletes


Kona Kase

A few weeks ago Kona Kase offered to send me a Kase to test out and review. If you haven’t heard of the company, it’s similar to Birchbox or KLUTCHclub, but the contents are geared towards runners and triathletes.

Kona Kase - How It Works

You’re billed $15 on the 10th of each month, and the Kases are shipped out (for free!) on the 15th. You can cancel your subscription at any time if you decide the products just aren’t worth the value or you’re in a financial pinch.

When I returned home from my trip to San Diego, I had a bright red-orange Kona Kase waiting for me!

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With a handwritten note inside – such a great personal touch!

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And now for the goods:

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Hits:

  • PR Bar (love these! Ashley introduced me to them. The chocolate PB flavor tastes like a Reese’s)
  • Clif Bar (probably my least favorite flavor, but we have boxes of all the others in our house at all times)
  • Honey Stinger Waffle
  • PICKY BARS!! (really excited about this because I’ve been dying to try them)
  • Shot Bloks (I’ve been using Honey Stinger Chews lately but these are always great to have on hand)

Misses:

  • Cytomax (not a huge fan of powdered drink mixes)
  • Hammer Heed (see above)
  • Headache Relief (not interested)
  • Gu (I’m still burnt out on Gu from my marathon last fall)

Overall Thoughts

Would I spend my own money monthly on a Kona Kase? I would have to say yes. I gave the thumbs up to 50% of the products in the box and the value for those {full-size} items is comparable, especially with shipping included. This service allows you the opportunity to try things you may not have otherwise purchased. Who knows? You may find your dream pre-race bar or an amazing recovery drink!

Would you be interested in Kona Kase? What are your thoughts on these monthly boxed deliveries? Have you tried any before?

It’s Time to Plan: An Erin Condren Review

I’m a planner.

Fine. I’ll say it. I’m an organizational freak. Excel is filled with color-coded spreadsheets, which have all been uploaded to Google Docs so I can access them wherever I am. Another heavily used item is my Google Calendar. Long run schedule, work meetings, upcoming travel – you name it, I have it in there. I need to know what’s going on, present & future, at all times.

And not that I think technology will ever fail me, but I also like to carry a paper planner. Something about the pen & paper aspect makes me really happy.

Enter Erin Condren.

Erin Condren

I had no idea this beautiful thing existed until I saw a photo Kelly posted. Immediate planner envy took over and I needed to learn more. It had so many features normal planners don’t, the layout is unique, and the cover is personalized. After pouring over the website for a week, I pulled the trigger and ordered my own.

It finally arrived yesterday! For reference, order date to delivery was 12 days: not for the impatient.

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The packaging alone was pretty impressive.

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And then, the great reveal…

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LOVE it. Much more visually appealing than the normal solid color ones I usually buy! The front & back covers are thick and the metal coil is very sturdy, making it very durable as a whole.

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Laminated monthly tabs:

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Both monthly & weekly pages:

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Stickers are provided to mark important days. Also included: hair/dentist/doc appt, wedding, date night, bridal shower, concert, party, game, pay day, etc.

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A folder to keep any loose papers or receipts organized and in one area.:

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A zipper pouch in the back for additional storage.

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Erin Condren also included a sample pack of gift labels:

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Overall, I’m really excited to start using it! It has everything I usually require in a planner with a few extra features that’ll make it even easier to stay organized. Another perk is you can order it whenever you want and have it start in the month of your choosing. Most planners run Jan-Dec or July-June, but I had mine start in September so I could start using it right away. No waiting until the next round of annual shipments to come in!

How do you plan? Are you a pen/paper person or technology lover?

Pro Compression :: Compression Sleeves

It’s no secret that I love Pro Compression. I profess my love for them on a regular basis, pull them on immediately after a long run, rock the hot pink ones secretly under my work pants, and pack them for every single trip that requires air travel.

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You might say I don’t need all of these colors, but TRUST ME – they all see their fair share of action.

Pro Compression Socks

My only issue with compression socks is I’m ALWAYS hot. Since it’s hot as hell ten months out of the year in this glorious state, socks aren’t always something I want to wear. I’d much rather wear sleeves than socks. Unfortunately, Pro Compression didn’t offer sleeves.

Until now.

Pro Compression Calf Sleeves

Pro Compression graciously sent me a pair of their new compression sleeves to try out a few weeks ago. My feet were so happy to be FREE!

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I really loved these sleeves. My only concern was that they were a tinyyy bit too long for my calves, but I think sizing down to an XS would solve that problem. I’m 5’0” and buying anything for my shorty legs is pretty much a nightmare! The sleeves were just as tight as the socks and really comfortable! I was worried they might be too tight on the bottom (as my CEP ones are) but didn’t have any issues. I’ve slept in them several times now and they haven’t bothered me at all!

The Verdict :: Would I purchase these with my own money? Absolutely. I already bought a pair for my boyfriend – and he loves them too!

For a limited time, Pro Compression is offering 40% off all of their Marathon Socks, plus free shipping! Use the promo code SOM912 at checkout.

Do you love compression too? What’s your compression brand of choice?