As I ran down the paved rec path in Breckenridge a few weeks ago, I found myself suddenly extremely self-conscious of the fact that I was wearing a hydration vest. For the uninitiated, long-distance trail runners typically wear a little backpack/vest that they can store water and snacks in when they go do things like run 20 miles up a mountain.
You may be thinking, “but Laura, are you really that hardcore?”
Listen. I had already (barely) justified the purchase of said vest by telling myself I would save it only for trail running because that was harder, I was further from civilization, etc etc. And that eventually I’d be running longer and totally need a vest.
But here I was, running two miles on a flat, paved trail in the middle of town. With my vest.
In my mind, people wear vests on long trail runs because they’re really hard. And for me, running “short” distances is still really hard. So I wear the vest. I am more relaxed knowing I have plenty of water and emergency snacks, my phone is easily accessible for photos (obviously critical), and my hands are still free.
So I felt fine about rocking the vest, at least when I was around my fellow tourists at the resort I was staying at. But then I started seeing locals. And local runners. Or at least runners that looked like they could do a 10k (and probably a 100k too). And I started freaking out.
“They must think I look like such a douche running around town with a trail runner backpack”
“Since I’m talking walk breaks while wearing this endurance athlete vest people must think I’m an idiot”
“Everyone I pass is totally rolling their eyes at me and thinking I’m trying too hard”
I got back to the hotel, feeling like total garbage physically and mentally. I ran (and walked) for a grand total of 25 minutes and covered just over two miles (I totally lied and told my coworker I did a 5k because, you guessed it, I was embarrassed).
And then I realized that other people are too busy on their own runs to be worrying about what I’m wearing. And, they don’t know if I was on mile two or twenty. And they probably didn’t even care what I was wearing. And if they are judging me, that’s their problem.
Because you know what? Running is really effing hard, even “just” a few miles. Taking water and snacks with me (and not having to hold my cell phone) makes it infinitely easier.
Other people may not need or want water or snacks for a “short” run, but that’s what works for them. And wearing a vest “meant for” endurance athletes on my two-mile run is what works for me.
It’s easy to be plagued by worrying when you’re a beginner – how fast or slow you’re going, whether you have the right clothes, whether you look like you know what you’re doing, whether people can tell you’re just starting out. The list of things to be self-conscious about is never-ending, and it’s only magnified for women who are already worrying about a myriad of other things.
But the outdoors should be the place to escape all of that anxiety. Doctors are literally prescribing time in nature to people these days. So if you’re already lucky enough to be outside, try not to ruin it with negative self-talk.
Embrace that what you’re doing works for you. Wear the fancy gear, or don’t. Take the walk break. And remember that no one actually notices most of these things you’re so worried about.
What’s a beginner habit you’re self-conscious about? If you aren’t embarrassed by it anymore, what helped you overcome that anxiety?