10 Important Safety Tips to Consider when Running Outside

You can sit at home, do nothing, and be safe. However, that’s not what our bodies were made for. We were made to move, be active and exercise and for millions of people, that includes running. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous if you don’t take heed of various safety tools and strategies. They say that when you gamble with safety, you are betting your life. Running provides a multitude of health and mental benefits but this means nothing if you get hurt along the way. By following these 10 tips for runner's safety, you can help to ensure you make it back home safe and sound.

1. Wear reflective clothing or accessories, especially if running before dawn or after dark.
Your goal for others to see you. There are reflective products you can buy to attach to your clothing. If that’s not enough, you can also wear a reflective vest. Another good idea is to carry a small light or wear a headlamp. Just make sure the light is white as drivers could interpret a blinking red light as a sign of hazard ahead. In early morning or evening hours, drivers may be more tired or preoccupied than usual. Even during the day, your clothing should be bright and visible.

2. Don’t wear headphones.
Loud music or sounds might be great for your concentration, but they block out important aspects of your surroundings, like car horns, sirens or an impending attack. If you must have music, try using only one earpiece or put the headphones around your neck and lower the volume. Always be aware of your surroundings. Distracted runners make easy targets.

3. If you are on the road, run in the opposite direction of traffic so you can see oncoming cars.
Traffic-related accidents are, regrettably a common occurrence for runners. When running on the road, assume that drivers cannot see you and adjust your behavior accordingly. This may mean briefly switching to the sidewalk or stopping at intersections even when you have the right of way. Seeing the car first will give you an indication of whether you need to move out of the way or provide some signal of your presence. For instance, hills and curves could be an issue as drivers’ vision can be temporarily impaired by sunlight. Pay special attention around areas like parking lots, bars or in heavy traffic. You can also use hand signals to signify your intentions and avoid confusion.

4. Have a cell phone at all times.
Many runners prefer to be as light as possible so they don’t like to carry phones or any other baggage. However, there are numerous items you can purchase to make it easier, such as arm bands to hold your phone. In addition to giving you a way to call for help, someone can use your cell phone as a form of identification. It will allow people to reach your emergency contacts in case of an accident or if an injury occurs.

5. Rely on your intuition.
Sometimes, you will get a squeamish feeling in the pit of your stomach or the hairs on the back of your next will tingle. Don’t ignore these feelings. They are your brain’s way of telling you something is wrong so it’s vital to listen. Quickly remove yourself from the area or situation. If someone looks suspicious to you, trust your gut and cross the street or change direction. Even if you feel foolish for doing so, remember, it’s better to be wrong 10 times than to be right once and not follow your instincts.

6. Mix up your routine or behavior.
Running the same route may feel comforting but it also makes you an easy target, especially for stalkers. In addition, it could give you a false sense of security so you pay less attention to your surroundings. Running in a new place will help keep your senses sharp, since you have to be aware of changes in the terrain or unfamiliar scenery. You can find several websites that help you map out a new route. Try to stick to populated areas or well-traveled running paths and don’t take shortcuts off the beaten path. Also, studies show that your appearance can attract the attention of attackers. Women with ponytails and men with loose clothing, both of which a criminal can grab, make convenient targets.

7. Don’t go it alone.
Whenever possible, run with one or more partners. The reason is simple: two people are harder to dominate than one. Also, if something happens, an attack or health issue, you always have someone with you who can call for help. Even running with a four-legged friend is better than being by yourself. In addition, a dog might be able to sense danger before you do and warn you ahead of time. An important note - that this only works if you own a dog of medium-sized or larger. Anything smaller may not be enough of a deterrent.

8. Always tell someone where you will be and when to expect you back.
Get in the habit of leaving a brief note on your counter, fridge or in a daily text message to a loved one or friend. Even if you live alone, having the information handy will help prevent people from worrying about when you will check in. Also, if something happens, people will know when and where to look for you.

9. Get training in self-defense.
Criminals are getting bolder and may not wait until the cover of darkness to strike. There have been reports of attacks at all times of the day and evening and in many different areas, such as neighborhoods, running trails and on the road. You should also display confidence when you run, instead of looking lost or confused. If something does happen, make noise and draw as much attention to yourself as possible.

10. Carry a weapon.
In most states, you can purchase mace or pepper spray in small containers that are easy to use and made for runners. If weapons aren’t your thing, you can also get tools like Wearsafe, which operate like a personal panic button and works with your smartphone to contact help.

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