In life, family generally comes first. With exercise, safety is the priority. Whether you are alone or with your family or friends, keeping everyone out of harm’s way and free of injury is number one. At the gym, employees should help guide. But when you’re outside, it’s you who must be the most mindful. Below we’ve shared some helpful safety tips for when you exercise outdoors.
Dress for Success—especially outside
#1) Don’t be fooled by trendy exercise clothing you see in generic superstores. Sure, you want to look good in case you run into a cute neighbor or plan to take a selfie. More importantly, however, you want your clothing to “perform.” If it’s cold or wet, you want your jacket to keep you warm and dry. On the other hand, when it’s hot, you want to keep cool, but also protect your skin from sun exposure.
#2) With that said, it’s worth spending a little more on quality material and manufacturing. You only need one of each, really, for outdoor exercise wear: jacket, hat, hiking pants, merino wool shirt and leggings, long-sleeved UV protective shirt, shorts, and gloves. Unlike the gym, no one will comment that you’re wearing the same jacket again. In fact, outdoor peeps are used to seeing one another in their “signature” outdoor gear.
#3) Additionally, wear bright colors. You want to be seen, especially if it’s twilight, foggy, or you’ve fallen off the path into a ditch or ravine. Thank goodness bright blues, pinks, and greens are fashionable everywhere for
#4) Also, spend time researching and picking out proper footwear. Buy quality. If your feet get messed up, you’re not going anywhere. This is the one item worth buying a reputable, brand name, and spending the money. If they’re as good as they claim, the hiking, running, or trail shoes should last a while and keep your toes, arches, and ankles in good shape.
#5) Wear reflective clothing. Again, you want to be seen by cars, animals, and rescuers. (Bonus: most animals will run away if they see you first.) A lot of products now have glow-in-the-dark and reflective strips incorporated into their designs. Shoes, jackets, pants, and hats can all be purchased with this feature nowadays. You can also purchase reflective tape and add it to your favorite oldie outdoor wear.
TIP: Go to specialized stores. Speak to the salespeople and ask them what they recommend. Try stuff on. Take pictures and notes. Then, go home and log onto the Internet and find the items you want for less money elsewhere. Don’t feel guilty. Maybe your local store price matches? Also, outlets like REI have amazing sales several times a year.
You can always create a wish list.
Cracking Open the Safe…
For the most part, working-out indoors is safe because the environment is controlled. The main cause for injury would be performing an exercise incorrectly. You lift too heavy, drop a weight on your foot, or pull a muscle or tendon.
Conversely, when you exercise outdoors, there’s a host of unpredictable elements.
First of all, as we’ve touched upon, you’ve got the weather. This will affect how you dress, as well as your ability to forge through your workout. If you’re in the city, you’ve got traffic, lots of people around, and noise. In the suburbs, there may be predators—and not just animals. In the mountains or wilderness, there can be tricky terrain as well as wildlife to contend with. None of these factors, however, should scare or deter you from getting a safe, satisfying workout.
And so then, let’s take a look at some more safety tips so you can confidently enjoy your outdoor exercise.
#6) Bring a friend or let someone know where you’re going. Never go exercising outdoors without telling someone or leaving a note where you’ve gone. If you don’t return on time, won’t it be safer when someone is able to come look for you?
#7) Bring water—even if your plan is to jog around the block. Lack of hydration is the number one cause for heatstroke (besides the beating hot sun, duh.) If you are going on a prolonged outdoor adventure, make sure you bring plenty of water. A hydration pack (like a Camelback) can be a life saver.
#8) Check the weather report for the forecast. Be prepared for rain, snow, ice, and even scorching sun. A hat is always a must, regardless of weather, and sunscreen is also important, even in the winter.
Look and Listen for Safety’s Sake…
#9) Always have a light source. Your phone most likely has a magnifying light feature. A headlamp is lightweight and can always come in handy. (Just remember to change out the batteries every so often. Or, carry spares.)
#10) Speaking of phones… You should probably bring one. However, DON’T hike, run, or jog and concurrently look at your texts. That’s a recipe for a tripping disaster. If you must, stop completely, and check the message or the call. Always leave for the outdoors with your phone fully charged. If you have a pack, you can carry a lightweight solar charger as a back up.
In addition to a regular cellphone, if you’re far from civilization, you may want to invest in a satellite phone with GPS. They can be pricey, but your location can be found if there’s an unforeseen problem—which may get you help sooner than later.
#11) Bring a whistle. If, for example, you’re alone hiking and you fall, who is nearby to help? Who can hear you? Perhaps you don’t have enough energy to yell. That whistle may also scare off unwanted four-legged visitors…
City Mouse vs. Country Mouse
#12) First aid in the city probably isn’t an issue. There will always be someone around to help or guide you. In the burbs, you may want to consider carrying a few bandages for blisters. In the wilderness, obviously you’ll want to pack an anti-bacterial cleanser, bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, rope, a knife, and a snake-bite kit, among other supplies.
#13) If you’re adventuring outside a city, learn about the wildlife on your journey and destination. Do bears, cougars, moose, snakes, or other critters live where you will be going? When you exercise outdoors away from large masses of people, you can expect animals to be dwelling there.
Read up on how to behave if you’re confronted by a non-human. You might want to carry bear spray or a bell. Learn how to alert the wildlife to let them know you are traveling in their environment. (You never want to surprise an animal.) Remember, it’s their land, too.
It’s also wise to learn about the plants where you’ll be exercising. It’s important to recognize and protect against poison, ivy, oak, and sumac. And, don’t eat any wild berries or leaves unless you’re starving and know they’re not deadly if humans consume them.
#14) Behavior between humans can sometimes be unsafe when you exercise outdoors—whether in the city, suburbs, or out in the mountains, jungle, or plains.
When in a city, avoid walking or jogging near
dark alleyways or on industrial streets. Stick with the crowd. Speak up and turn in the other direction if you feel someone’s intentions are unsavory.
When in the suburbs, it’s probably best not to accept an invite into a stranger’s home if they offer you a drink or use of their bathroom. Additionally, learn to walk/run against the traffic. If a car slows down or stops near you, simply cross the street.
No matter what environment, if you feel in danger and need help, don’t be afraid to blow that whistle. Loudly.
What’s the Take Away
We certainly hope we haven’t frightened you from leaving your home or your local gym! Getting outside in nature—from a hike, to a trail run, to a walk in a city park—they’ve all shown to boost your immune system, improve your mood, and help keep your mind and body fit. And, you can be safe! We hope you’ll get excited to read some of our other articles on exercise, nature, and best health on GetThrive!
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Author and photographer: Carra Robertson
Pixabay: Dark city image and illustration