Consistency of running helps Laurium native through life’s challenges
When Jessica Berryman was crowned Strawberry Queen last July at the famous Copper Country Strawberry Festival, she immediately flashed back through the last few years, and a big part of that was one of the things that keep her grounded – her love for running.
“I can’t even count all of the time I’ve spent running and running events that I’ve done,” Berryman said. “It has been a huge boost for my mental and physical health.”
Berryman started running in the spring of her sophomore year of high school, joining the Calumet High School track team on the suggestion of coach Arnie Kinnunen. “At first it was awful, I actually remember at a meet having to walk for portions of the one-mile event,” she said. “But it got me going. That summer I told myself I wanted to be consistent at something, and that something was running. From there one mile turned into two, and then three, and then that summer I did the five-mile run at the Canal Run and thought ‘this is insane.’ I never thought I’d do it.”
That year she finished fourth in her age group at the Canal Run, and her junior year she kept that going into the cross country season. She placed in JV meets at the beginning of the year, and began running in varsity meets by the end of the season. By the time she graduated she had found her way to the podium in varsity events, and for the last two summers, she’s competed in the Canal Run’s half marathon.
All about the journey
“There was a point where I hit a plateau,” she said. “I hit a time in my life where I was focused on the wrong aspects of exercise. I was focused on a certain body image instead of being healthy in both mind and body.” The focus turned to setting and trying meet unrealistic goals, both in terms of running and physical appearance. “I started getting into unhealthy behaviors. I was so hard on myself and my mindset was not how it should have been. Then I realized I can’t keep up this lifestyle, as it was jeopardizing my mental health. I had to redirect my mindset to focus more on the important things such as a healthy body-mind relationship.”
She took a hard step back and reset herself. “I went back to where I started by rewarding myself for just getting my shoes on and going. I regained my sense of a balanced life, which is so critical for a busy lifestyle. Being conscious of being realistic, consistent and purposeful taught me so much and helped me grow as a person.”
2017 is a family thing
This year she’s looking to share the passion with her parents. She convinced them to come out and do the Canal Run with her. They’ll be doing the five-, or potentially, the 10-mile walk.
“I want to give back to my mom and dad, my biggest supporters, by getting them out there to be more physically active and achieve better health,” she said, clearly ecstatic to share a passion with people she cares for.
While she’s excited to be out there, she also recognizes how far she’s come and how comfortable she is with her running. She’s now completed her freshmen year at Michigan Technological University, where she’s studying biological sciences in hopes of going to medical school upon graduation.
“My advice to anyone who doesn’t have encouragement to go out and start running or exercising, just set little, achievable goals for yourself,” she said. “Start with a walk. Then make it a little bit longer of a walk the next day. The hardest part is starting the journey, but every little step forward is progress. Plus, we live in such a great region to get out and exercise. The trails are so beautiful here, it’s a joy to take advantage of them.”
This weekend Jessica will be passing along her Strawberry Queen Tiera to the next queen, and with that, she’s hoping to pass along a positive message to the girls in the contest, but also to anyone who’s going through a tough time with body image.
“Love and accept your body the way it is,” she said. “You need to exercise for the right reasons, such as becoming stronger both mentally and physically with a positive mindset. Life is too short to dwell on what you don’t have, instead focus on the beautiful qualities that enhance your uniqueness and go make your mark on this world. Your body will carry you through many challenges in life, so you must love and take care of it.”