Safety Tips for Outdoor Exercise

GENERAL SAFETY

  1. Don’t Wear Headsets. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Using headphones, you lose the use of an important sense: your hearing.
  2. Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
  3. Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call. Know the locations of call boxes and telephones along your regular route.
  4. Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React on your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re unsure. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
  5. Alter or vary your running route pattern; run in familiar areas if possible. In unfamiliar areas, such as while traveling, contact a local RRCA club or running store. Know where open businesses or stores are located.
  6. Run with a partner. Run with a dog.
  7. Write down or leave word of the direction of your run. Tell friends and family of your favorite running routes.
  8. Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Especially avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
  9. Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information. Don’t wear jewelry.
  10. Ignore verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
  11. Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles.
  12. Wear reflective material if you must run before dawn or after dark.
  13. Practice memorizing license tags or identifying characteristics of strangers.
  14. Carry a noisemaker and/or OC (pepper) spray. Get training in self-defense and the use of pepper spray.
  15. CALL POLICE IMMEDIATELY if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is important to report incidents immediately.

– Ayne Furman, DPM and Cathy Fieseler, MD

SUMMER SAFETY

Running in the heat can be dangerous if the proper precautions and preparations are not followed. The following are some of the RRCA Sports Committee’s recommendations for running in a hot environment:

  1. Avoid dehydration! You can lose between 6 and 12 oz. of fluid for every 20 minutes of running. Therefore it is important to pre-hydrate (10-15 oz. of fluid 10 to 15 minutes prior to running) and drink fluids every 20-30 minutes along your running route. To determine if you are hydrating properly, weigh yourself before and after running. You should have drunk one pint of fluid for every pound you’re missing. Indicators that you are running dehydrated are a persistent elevated pulse rate after finishing your run, and dark yellow urine. Keep in mind that thirst is not an adequate indicator of dehydration.
  2. Run in the shade whenever possible avoids direct sun and blacktop. When you are going to be exposed, apply at least #15 sunscreen. Not only can the sun affect your skin, but also its rays can affect your eyes, so when it is sunny wear sunglasses that can filter out UVA and UVB rays. Wearing a hat with a visor will not only shade your eyes but also the skin on your face.
  3. When running, if you become dizzy, nauseated, have dry skin or the chills…STOP running and try to get a drink. If you do not feel better, get help.
  4. If you have a heart or respiratory problem or you are on any medication, consult with your doctor about running in the heat. In some cases it may be in your best interests to run indoors. Also, if you have a history of heat stroke/illness, run with extreme caution.
  5. Children should limit their running in the heat due to their lower tolerance of heat.
  6. Avoid plastic sweat suits, late morning races, salt tablets, and consuming drinks with high sugar concentration. Avoid running ill.
  7. Wear light colored clothing, check hair and body for ticks after running in the woods, drink plenty of water, listen to the race director’s pre-race announcements regarding the heat/humidity prior to racing, and tell someone your running route.

– Damien Howell

 WINTER SAFETY

The onset of winter needn’t bring a seasonal halt to a runner’s enthusiasm or routines. Outdoor exercise in the winter can be a pleasurable experience. The major risk posed by running in subfreezing air is frostbite and minor irritations to the respiratory tract. With some minor precautions these risks can be eliminated.

  1. Wear clothing in layers so that warm air can be trapped between the layers. Depending on the weather conditions, 2 to 4 layers on the trunk and 1 to 2 layers on the legs are appropriate. It is helpful if the outer layers have vents and zippers to allow excess heat to escape as you become warm. On windy days the outer layer should be of wind resistant material.
  2. Clothing made of material which carries the sweat away from the body is best, like wool, silk, or “space age” synthetics like polypropylene or polyester. Avoid cotton, as it tends to hold the sweat.
  3. Hat and gloves are crucial as these regions of the body have a substantial role in the regulation of body temperature. Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves. On very cold days mittens worn over gloves are very effective. Stocking caps or ski masks are desirable. On very windy days goggles or eyeglasses can provide additional protection.
  4. The outer layer should be light colored and have reflective material if you are running during darker hours. Reflective material works only if there is a light source. Blaze orange becomes poorly visible brown at night. Light colored material is visible even without a strong light source. During snowy days dark colors provide visible contrast and attract solar energy.
  5. Pin to your clothes or shoes emergency identification, preferably of a waterproof material. Let someone know where you are going to run and when you expect to return. Do not run with headphones.
  6. Plan your run so that you run into the wind during the beginning portions and with the wind behind you in the latter portions. Otherwise, built-up sweat may cause you to become too cold when you turn into the wind. Be alert when running in snowy, icy conditions particularly near vehicular traffic.
  7. Avoid overdressing. Feel a bit under-dressed and chilly as you start, knowing that later as you run in your layered environment the temperature will rise about 20 degrees.

RRCA Sports Medicine Committee
The Road Runners Club of America
Education and Advocacy

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