Off to a Running Start with Bess
Bess Harrington is a certified personal trainer and the founder of Bess Be Fit. Here, she gives us some pointers about starting a running (or walking) program – how to entertain yourself, get over anxiety, and find cute, high-quality clothes on a budget. Read on!
Lisa: Hi, Bess! Let’s get started: how did you get into running in the first place?
Bess: I’ve played soccer for a long time, and running is such a big component of that. To be honest, though, I wasn’t a great runner. I’d be fine in the soccer context, but any kind of fitness testing gave me a huge amount of anxiety. I was scared of failure.
With soccer, too, running can sometimes function as punishment, so I had these negative connotations with it. I wanted to overcome the kind of mental hurdles that I was already having with running. I discovered that when I just went out and ran on my own, with no kind of expectations, that I enjoyed it. That’s where it started, and I would just go out and run three miles or whatever. Just an easy pace. Then I started wondering “How far can I go?” and before you knew it, I was signing up for half marathons.
Repairing that relationship with running was a big thing. A lot of people start running with a lot of preconceived anxieties that I can totally relate to.
Lisa: Do you find that documenting the journey, whether it be for running or some other kind of exercise, is helpful?
Bess: For sure. I actually have physical notebooks from before I started my blog that I kept in college. I started keeping a food and workout notebook. I’m all about that. I definitely think it can help keep you on track and boosts your confidence. You can look back and say, “I definitely did it before, and I can do it again.”
Lisa: How do you combat boredom during a run?
Bess: My go-to answer is usually music. When I first started, I didn’t run with music, and now I can’t figure out how I ever did without it. It helps you go faster – the right beat or the right song can be awesome. And while that’s happening, your brain just wanders to places during those long runs that you don’t even expect. If you’ve got an issue to work through during some personal time, a run is a great time to do it.
Lisa: Right, like a meditation session kind of thing.
Lisa: Does a change of scenery help to mix it up?
Bess: Definitely. I’d much prefer running outdoors to being on a treadmill. Even if you run the same route a lot, the people and activities around you can change. And if you switch up the distance, you can explore new routes that are connected to the one you usually use.
Lisa: Do you run in the winter?
Bess: Yeah. I love running in cold weather. If you’ve got good gloves and good ear warmers and leggings that don’t fall down, you’re good to go. Then you can come home and take a hot shower and put on warm clothes, and that’s awesome.
Lisa: Speaking of gear, any tips on finding high-quality, not-too-expensive running clothes? Do you have to go to an expensive running store to find the right stuff?
Bess: You don’t have to spend too much. I have clothes from Target that have held up nicely through the years, as well as nicer stuff from Nike or Guru or whatever. Target’s fitness gear is great; I think they’ve started modeling their stuff after some of the styles that you might see at a pricier place like Lululemon. So you can find cute, functional stuff for a reasonable price.
Lisa: Cool. So, for those just starting out, any other tips?
Bess: First of all, definitely talk to a doctor before starting any new exercise program. Once that’s good, the first thing is to listen to your body. Knowing when you need to walk, stop, or push yourself is important. But it’s really important not to totally pressure yourself right off the bat, feeling like you have to be running this far or that fast.
For people who don’t know how far or fast they should be running in order to meet their goals and build the strength that they need in their muscles, working with someone who knows what they’re doing and can provide a structure is great. I do recommend working with a personal trainer or running coach. Even if you’re an athlete, you might need help; one of my friends from soccer just signed up for a half-marathon, and she’s totally in shape, but even she needs help figuring out the specifics. So I definitely recommend seeking help at the beginning.