I have never been one to really worry about safety. From frolicking around Rome with one female friend when abroad, to running alone at dusk on the lake front path, I haven’t always made the most responsible (albeit a lot of fun) decisions.
Then, a few weeks ago, my boyfriend was held at gun point and robbed by a stranger in Chicago.
And with that, my naïve bubble popped and I started acknowledging how dangerous living in a city can be. I love Chicago and I don’t want to live in a state of fear or suggest anyone else should. However, there are ways to be as safe as possible when it comes to avoiding violence, health issues or freak accidents. With the weather happily turning into a more comfortable temperature for being outdoors, staying alert and aware of your safety is even more important. Use these tips to make sure you save yourself from any potentially life-threatening situations:
1. Have identification with you at all times
Carrying an ID card is the easiest way to fulfill this tip, but if you like to hold as little as possible when you work-out there are also a lot of ID band options that are light and comfortable. There are even bracelets that you can put your fitbit in so you won’t have anything additional on your wrist.
2. Wear reflective gear
I know it seems so silly and something your dorky dad would do (aka mine wears reflective gear religiously when he rides his bike), it actually is really important when visibility is low. I’m guilty of running in all black at dawn or dusk because most of my favorite gear just so happens to be neutral tones. I started to get better at wearing brighter colors after a few close-calls. And don’t think you have to look like a crossing guard in reflective gear, Nike makes a really sleek reflective line (of course they do, right!?) so you can be safe and stylin’.
3. Have cash or your transportation card
Stashing a few bucks won’t save you from an end of the world emergency, but it may feel like it in the moment. Hitting a wall? Use the transportation card stashed in your arm band and take a relaxing ride home. Having a little cash will also allow you to stop at a convenience store and snag a water or energy drink if you are pushing through a really long or tough work-out.
4. Know your route beforehand or be very comfortable with your surroundings
When I go on very long runs I almost always plan out my route beforehand. This is partially because I want to make sure I really get the miles in, but also because when you’re going long distances you can easily end up somewhere you shouldn’t.
With a planned route you’ll know where you should be at approximately what time, so you can make sure you stay aware of your surroundings instead of looking around trying to figure out where to go next. That being said, if you’re more of a go-with-the-flow runner, or just have one of those days where your legs need to keep going, try to stay in areas that you know well so you always are confident on how to make it home.
5. Run with a buddy
If possible, find a friend to include in your outdoor workout. Having someone else by your side is the easiest way to make sure you’re safe for the obvious reason that there is a person right there in case something goes wrong. That being said, make sure you still use the above tips! When I was training for a Marathon I went on one of the 18-mile training runs with a friend who hadn’t trained quite as diligently as I had. Needless to say, about eight miles in he was struggling and didn’t want to go any farther. He insisted that I keep going and that he would be able to make it back home okay. Due to my competitive nature, I wanted to finish the run and trusted he would be alright, I kept going. (I now feel awful and will never do that again, I swear!). He ended up getting lost and not making it home until many hours later – a situation that could have been prevented by two things: one me being a more loyal friend but also my friend being prepared with resources to get back on his own.
Though following this tips may seem overly worrisome, when you know you’re prepared for anything exercising outdoors can be even more cathartic. Knowing you’re covered if something were to happen allows you to enjoy the moment even more – and also reassures your loved ones who call you randomly to make sure you’re still alive (hi, mom!). Better safe than sorry.