While I love to hit the gym (I always enjoy my favorite, the elliptical), there are times when I prefer to exercise outdoors. In the open air, I’m free of adrenaline-infused grunts and the occasional splash of sweat from a particularly energized jogger on the treadmill next to me. There aren’t any machines to wipe clean or dozens of television shows cluttering my mind. It’s just me and the pavement before me, whether I’m walking around my own street, trails, or around a school track.
However, along with the fun of exercising outdoors come certain dangers.
Tips to stay safe while exercising outdoors alone
1. Vary your route
Let’s face it, the world can be a scary place sometimes. It’s not a fun topic, but the random acts of violence—even in our own safe and familiar environments—are becoming more commonplace. It can’t hurt to play it safe by varying your walking or biking route. From commuters and store patrons to neighborhood residents and even other outdoor exercisers, there are a lot of people who are in tune to your routine. How many of us have observed someone while driving home from work and thought, “there’s that guy with the bright blue sneakers whose always running at 7:00”? You don’t want to become paranoid, but what’s the harm in altering your usual route on occasion to better protect yourself from possible threatening situations? Plus, it’ll be a nice change of pace to take in some different scenery!
2. Stay hydrated
While it may be a bit of a pain to walk with a water bottle or tend to the pouch of water in your fitness clothing, it’s very important to stay hydrated. I’ve had my share of dizziness, fainting spells and fingers that have swelled and wrinkled at the tips from lack of hydration. So, I make sipping water a priority. Always be sure to keep some on you while you’re exercising outdoors.
3. Don’t do it in the dark
Although you may have a schedule that allows you to get that run in only in the dark (early morning or evening), it may be worth trying to rearrange plans so you exercise in daylight. Despite streetlights and other light sources, your visibility is still limited and accidents can happen. For example, that rock that blends in with the asphalt may be enough to twist an ankle and cause a fall.
Plus, it’s not just you—driver’s also experienced reduced visibility; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities on the road happen three times more at night compared to during the day. Furthermore, even though only a quarter of all driving is at night, over half of all driving deaths occur then. This is mainly because a person’s ability to adequately see color changes at night, as does depth perception and peripheral vision. It’s not a fun thought, but the chance of getting hit by a vehicle—while possible any time—are more likely in the dark. If possible, consider exercising outdoors only in the daylight.
4. Carry your cell phone
No, this isn’t about browsing the latest Facebook scoop while you walk, but about your safety. In the unfortunate event you find yourself in a situation where you need help and are unable to walk (or run, or bike) to safety, a call to an emergency contact or first aid personnel from your cell phone—barring lack of reception, of course—can do the trick. It’s also not unusual for people to get out of emergency situations by posting a message on social media; do what you need to get the message out in the event a problem arises. Carrying your phone with you can help get you out of trouble when you’re out by yourself.
As always, be aware of your surroundings. Have fun, but be sure to take these tips into consideration so you're as safe as possible while engaging in outdoor fitness activities.
Sources for this article here.
All photos courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
Jennifer Lea Reynolds
Jennifer Lea Reynolds is a weight loss success story who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. A fan of the elliptical, roasted asparagus and remembering to put the lid on the blender, she’s appeared in many national and local print publications. She lives in New England where she writes professionally about health and wellness in online publications including Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, The Huffington Post, and more.