Puffin Picks – Best of 2019

As the year comes to a close, I like to look back at the best of the year. The best gear, apps, ideas, and whatever else brought a little joy into my life.

Note: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links where I may be compensated if you purchase items or click on the links. Read my full affiliate policy. I only link to items I have, use, or want and would recommend regardless of potential reward.

My personal affiliate link guideline: Would I recommend this to my mom?


Puffin Picks – Best of 2019

Working Out at Home – Openfit and Runtastic

I’ve used the Nike Training Club app for at home strength and cross training workouts for years. Earlier this year, they made changes to the app that I really didn’t like (for example, putting many workouts behind a pay wall, and doing away with the ability to schedule workout plans in advance). This set me on the hunt for new at-home workout options.

I tried so many apps for at-home cross training/strength workouts. As a general rule, I found them very meh.

Late in the year, I found not one, but two apps I really like: Runtastic by Adidas and Openfit.

Runtastic is a free app that has been around for a while, and recent changes to the app improved both the workouts and the app navigation (take that Nike). I did (and was very happy with) a 6-week core strength workout plan.

I also started using (and loving) Openfit, an app chock full of workouts in all levels and disciplines (full disclosure: I was given free access to Openfit for review).

After a few months of use, I’m still digging in to the barre classes, and have barely scratched the surface of other workout options.

Openfit is subscription based and a free trial is available.

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It will take me most of 2020 (and beyond) to explore both of these options in depth.

Skillshare and Lifelong Learning

I am a lifelong learner (I’m a 5, what can I say) and I try to learn something new regularly. I’ve taken so many classes on Skillshare, I should be a little embarrassed to admit how many.

I’ve taken practical classes on various pieces of software and skills I need for my blog or other professional endeavors, but also fun classes I took for no other reason than it caught my eye.

I don’t see myself ever making a fantasy map, but it was still a fun class to take.

There are some classes available for free, but for the most part, it is a monthly or annual subscription site that gives you access to the full course library.


This was a year of hydration, both on the run and in life.

Hydration Vest

Every race of 2019, I kept saying it’s likely my last big outing for my beloved UltrAspire Alpha hydration pack. It’s holding on for dear life, but I just can’t seem to give it up.

Largely because: 1) it keeps going strong even as it wears at the edges a bit and 2) I can’t find a replacement I like (they make newer versions of the Alpha, but I don’t like them as much).

Clutch Handheld Running Bottle

I’m the kind of runner who hates to be thirsty on the run. If I want a drink, I want it NOW.

But having a full pack on shorter runs is excessive (even to me).

A few years ago, I got an Ultimate Direction Clutch handheld squishable bottle. Initially, I didn’t use it a ton.

For whatever reason, I brought it out this year, and it quickly became my go-to bottle.

The bottle is soft-sided so as you drink, the whole bottle gets squished down. It gets less obtrusive, lighter, and easier to carry as you go and the more you drink.

Hidrate Spark

Hydration is more than on the run.

I got a Spark bottle a few years ago and swear by it.

It is a ‘smart’ water bottle that pairs to an app and automatically tracks how much water you drink.

When I first started using it I was floored by how little I drank on a daily basis, and how much the ‘right amount of water’ feels like.

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The Hidrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle Tracks your water intake and flashes as a reminder to drink

Quality Socks

When running any kind of distances, taking care of your feet becomes essential. I tend to focus on my shoes when thinking of my feet, but don’t forget socks.

I’ve used Injinji toe socks for years and have loved them. But occasionally, I’ll look at my sock drawer and think, ‘I have all these other running socks, surely they are as good as my Injinjis.’

I’ll use one of my other pairs (some of them fancy brand name socks I’ve picked up along the way) and without fail, I’ll end up with hot-spots, blisters, and on two occasions, bloody toes after a run.

When will I learn? When I find something I like and that works for me, I need to stick with it.

Sure, even after years of practice they can be a little awkward to put on (especially on super-early race mornings) but my happy toes are worth the few extra seconds.

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