About a year ago, I decided to take running more seriously. For some, that would mean training for an ultramarathon or finally breaking record time on a mile, but for me, it just meant running for more than five minutes at a time without wanting to die.
Clearly, I've never been a natural runner. Sure, I've gone through spurts where I'm more into running than usual, but it never sticks, and I wind up falling back to my regularly scheduled programming—the gym. And that's fine, but gets incredibly boring day in and day out. There are only so many times I can use the elliptical before my body's like, Seriously? This again?
When I did finally start running more, I knew it'd be a big commitment. I still have flashbacks to high-school soccer tryouts, where the sprints were plentiful, and my oxygen levels were... not. This time around, I worked slowly to increase mileage by even the smallest distance when I could, and tried not to rush the process. Fast forward a few months, and I found myself running about three miles "easily"—as in, I didn't desperately need to check my watch every 15 seconds. It was by no means a breeze but a huge improvement from where I started.
But I wanted to find ways to make the process even more enjoyable.
I started looking for cheats to help me along, anything from playlist recommendations to sneaker suggestions and running blogs. These definitely helped, but there was something about having my keys, phone, and other belongings in hand that really distracted me. I felt like I couldn't focus on my stride or my breathing while holding things—like trying to rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time. I also found it impossible to disconnect from my phone if I was holding it. I know it sounds harmless, but all this extraneous crap really started to weigh on me.
Out on my runs, I started to notice people with dorky little fanny packs around their waists.
My inner middle-school girl would come out in full force: What is this, 1994? But my judgment came to a screeching halt as I realized—they weren't holding a single thing in their hands. It seemed like the most obvious concept, but I had one big concern:
Could I swallow my pride and accept looking like a straight-up Disneyland tourist while I trotted around the local track?
If it would make me a better runner, I thought, why the hell not?
I took to the internet and stumbled across something a teensy bit less nerdy by my standards—the FlipBelt. It looked far more discreet than your average neon fanny pack, and the description claimed it could hold everything I'd need during workouts, with multiple compartments and zero slippage against my clothes and body. As it sat ominously in my Amazon cart, I realized I had no expectations of it actually changing my runs. But I figured there was nothing to lose except a few bucks (and possibly my fashion sense), so click, it was mine.
Once it arrived, I immediately started using it to hold all my usual stuff. Money and cards, keys, chapstick, maybe a snack. At first, it felt a little weird having a waistband on while I went for a jog—almost as if I was actually using my shirt pocket to hold pens. But after a few tries, I was sold. Everything stayed in place. I no longer had to worry about juggling everything while trying to stumble through songs on Spotify. I could actually focus on my pace goals—you know, the running part?—instead of on my phone.
The belt forced me, in the best way, to forget about Instagram, just blast music, and go.
Yes, I was skeptical. But since wearing the belt, I've wondered how I ever ran without it. Over the past few months, I've been able to increase my mileage and pace each week. Maybe it's all in my head, maybe I did really put the necessary work in, or maybe the belt gave me the freedom I was looking for on longer runs. Either way, I get a little more confident every time I lace up my sneakers—so much so that I recently completed my first 10K race. And of course, I had the belt on the whole time.
Sure, super-fit moms with double strollers still run laps around me in the park. But for now, I'll consider rocking a running belt with confidence, and a few steady laps a serious victory.
Nichole Fratangelo is a freelance writer and social media manager focusing on food, wellness, and entertainment. When not typing away at a coffee shop, you can find her running around Brooklyn or relaxing on the beach at the Jersey Shore.