Whether on the road or on the trail, running safety should be a top priority. Protecting yourself from both danger and injury can help ensure that you’re able to maintain an effective (and fun) running routine.
Unfortunately, gone are the days when you could just take off on the trail without a care in the world. It’s a sign of the times — a recent study found that 34 percent of people feel unsafe or threatened when exercising alone outdoors.1
Instead of running scared, it’s time to run smart. Whether you’re an experienced trail runner or new to the running community, you’re sure to benefit from these running safety tips. Don’t let potential dangers derail you from running your route. Here are some ways you can stay safe regardless of your running schedule and preferred habits.
Run Smart To Run Safe
Staying alert and focused while running is extremely important. Consider the following:
- Be observant of your surroundings as you go about your route. Don’t zone out. Actively assess your environment and look out for any hazards or potential dangers.
- Speaking of route, make sure to vary it. Switch things up every so often, so you aren’t predictable enough to be cased and followed.
- Exude confidence. Run tall and in good form against the traffic so you’re well aware of the vehicles. Don’t look scared or clueless, whether in traffic or not.
- If possible, run with a buddy or a group, especially if you’re still learning the route or trying something new (like trail running if you’ve only ever done the treadmill at the gym). If you have a dog, take them along, too.
- Don’t wear earphones or headphones if possible. As much as you’d love to run along to your specially-curated playlist, this is not advisable if you’re running alone — especially early in the morning or at night when there’s limited light. You need full use of all your senses to assess your surroundings and stay safe.2
Dial Up On The Safety Gear: Running Shoes, Reflective Clothing, And Identification
Prioritize your safety and invest in the right gear. The right clothing and a few handy tools may help you avoid injury or harm.
- Select the right shoes. Wear proper running shoes that can support and protect your feet and ankles, especially if you have specific needs or previous injuries that need addressing. Correct footwear may help improve your performance as a runner.
- Invest in reflective clothing if you’re running at night or in the wee hours or on a dimly-lit road. You can also purchase and wear clip-on safety lights to signal your presence to other runners or oncoming traffic.
- Wear an ID band with your name, address, and basic emergency contact and medical information if you run outdoors or in potentially unpredictable areas or situations.
- Bring a small item for self-defense, like a whistle or a small can of pepper spray, to call other people’s attention or to defend yourself. It’s an unfortunate reality for women runners and older people, but if you’re able, learning some basic self-defense moves might also greatly impact your overall running safety.3,4
Never Leave Your Cell Phone At Home
Even if you use running to disconnect from the world for a while, it’s never smart or safe to run without a means of communication in case of emergency. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have emergency numbers saved. Also, a cell phone can be a light source in a pinch, so there’s an added benefit there, too.
Also, let someone at home know your route and what time to expect you home. Have them ring your phone and check in on you if you’re running late.
Running At Night And In The Outdoors? Extra Reminders
Running at night or trail running can be considered running in extreme conditions, given the unpredictability of the environment. This isn’t meant to put you off running at all — this simply means additional precautions aside from the ones already mentioned above should be put in place to help ensure your safety.
- Check the weather before you run. Download a reliable weather app and adjust your route accordingly in anticipation of rain, strong winds, or even snow.
- Learn how to deal with wildlife should you encounter any. Some animals may be scared off by a loud whistle; others might require a different response. Ask trail running groups in your area and do your research about what animals frequent your off-road route.
- A headlamp can be your best friend if you run in the misty mornings or in darker areas of a trail.
- Consider your four-legged running buddy’s leash length and security when taking them out for a run. Make sure you (or other runners) don’t get tangled up and trip on your dog’s lead.5
Let Tech Take The Lead
Aside from your fully-charged phone which helps people reach you (and vice versa), today’s apps and cell phone features can help keep you safe by storing your medical information in case of emergencies and even tracking your route via GPS.
Other gadgets can be used for protection too, like alarm armbands that can emit sounds if you’re in danger.6
Always have a plan in place before lacing up your running shoes. Start by planning your route and wearing the right outfit, and then work your way up to thinking of and preparing for possible scenarios that might impact your health and safety. Put yourself first before putting one foot in front of the other, and you can enjoy the benefits of running on your physical and mental health for a long, long time.
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