Running Safety: How to Be Prepared for Anything
Running is empowerment. Running is strength. Running is freedom. Running is not always safe—for women, in particular. According to Women’s Running, an estimated one-third of Americans feel uneasy when exercising alone outside, and Runner’s World reports that 43 percent of females experience some type of harassment or assault when running outside.
Despite the disconcerting numbers, it is possible to run outside and feel safe at the same time. Thanks to the following five strategies, you can maximize safety without compromising your workout.
Maintain Awareness of Your Surroundings
Stay alert to prevent an attacker from catching you off-guard. Allow yourself space to find an escape route. Limit distractions like music, podcasts or audiobooks, if possible. If you can’t forego your favorite playlist, keep the volume soft enough to hear your own breathing and footfalls. Better yet, wear just one earbud so you can still hear noises around you.
Know Basic Self-Defense Maneuvers
You don’t need martial arts training to ward off physical advances. You just need to inflict enough pain to assume the upper hand. Simply use your fingers, palms, knees, elbows or feet to make contact with the face, genitals and other sensitive areas, which will cause injury to an attacker and give you time to run away.
Practice these three basic self-defense techniques and don’t hesitate to use them if someone threatens your well-being:
- Wrist hold
- Front and back choke
- Bear hug
You can find explanations for each one in Self Defense Techniques: Be Responsible for Your Safety.
Note Safety Landmarks
Choose familiar running routes and areas that are also visible and populated. Ahead of time, or along the way, take time to identify locations in close proximity and that are easily accessible, should you need to veer off-course and reach out for help. Think: convenience stores, police stations, neighbor’s houses, and restaurants. Tell a staff member about what’s going on so they can help as needed, use the phone, or find a safe place to take cover.
Don’t Leave Home Without Protective Gear
Get into a habit of carrying mace (or pepper spray), specifically when running alone or at night. While this may sound extreme, pepper spray is one of the most effective self-defense products because it’s easy to use and gives you ample time to run away.
The best part: Many brands make running specific pepper spray that’s easy to carry. “Most pepper spray comes in a two-ounce size or smaller, which makes it ideal to have clipped to your running gear. There’s even specific ‘jogger pepper spray’ with a built-in sling that secures onto your hand,” explains Dave Artman, CEO of The Home Security Superstore.
Change Your Running Route Consistently
Would-be attackers look for victims who stick to predictable routines, so avoid running in the same location at the same time each day. If you can’t change your running time due to work or other scheduling conflicts, make a point to choose new routes near your home on a consistent basis. Runner’s Connect suggests rotating between clockwise and counterclockwise directions.
Striking a balance of preparedness without sacrificing your own independence will boost both your peace-of-mind and overall enjoyment on a run. Be smart. Be careful. And use basic self-defense moves or your pepper spray to fight back if necessary.