Exercising Safely Outdoors

Posted by Noah Gutierrez on

One of the benefits to exercising in a gym or studio is that it is tempature controlled and there are a lot of variables you can control.  I wrote this article for those who cannot contain themselves when the weather gets nice or people who just love the outdoors.  Dangers vary by location and weather but all I can do is go over some ways you can stay safe while exercising outdoors in general. Enjoy :)

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1. Keep Identification on you — Carry some form of identification on you. Most exercise gear has small pockets for this very reason. Ideally, you should have your driver’s license and/or a small card that lists your number and the number of an emergency contact. You can purchase arm bands designed specifically for this that can also stop the phone from bouncing as you jog which can get annoying if you have to readjust them. 

2. Hypothermia  - is abnormally low body temperature from exposure to cold temperatures. This occurs when your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia and are most at risk for older adults and young children are also at greater risk.Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.

3. Check the weather conditions - Especially in the midwest, weather can change drastically in a matter of minutes.  Check to see if there is expected rain, snow, extreme heat, extreme winds etc.  You do not want to slip on black ice, water puddles etc. 

4. Cell Phone - Having your phone with you can help keep in touch with family and friends and, if necessary, connect you with emergency services. In cases where cell phone reception is not good or your phone runs out of battery,

5. No valuable jewelry - Leave expensive jewelry at home for many reasons.  They can slide off with sweat, slide off as you are taking gloves off, they can bounce off without you even noticing because you are desensitized to feeling jewelry on you when you are so heavily focused on trying to breathe. Wearing expensive jewelry may bring unwanted attention to you and make you a target of thieves, so leave the fancy watch, rings, earrings, etc. back at home.

6. Dressing in layers - Dressing too warmly is a big mistake when exercising in cold weather. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat and the evaporation of sweat pulls heat from your body giving you that chilled sensation. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. Polypropylene draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton which will stay wet on your body. A layer of fleece or wool is good for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. may need more   Leaner people will probably need more insulation than someone who is heavier.  Keep in mind that stop-and-go activities, such as mixing walking with running, can make you more vulnerable to the cold if you repeatedly work up a sweat and then get chilly.

7. Know your route - It is best to be very familiar with your exercise route and know where there are any areas which may be potentially dangerous. Those areas include boarded up houses, poorly lit areas, desolate areas, dangerous neighborhoods, areas with stray or wild animals, areas with multiple registered offenders. To see areas or routes that may include the house of a registered sex offender you can visit http://www.isp.state.il.us/sor/

8. Keep moving - If verbally harassed or called out by an individual or group it is best to keep moving or ignore.  Remember the location and time as best as you can so you know to avoid it next time.  You also do not want them expecting you to be there at a certain time. If the verbal harassment becomes a physical threat then get to the nearest safe place, business, school, restaurant, retail store etc.

7. Family, partners or friends - Someone close to you should know when you are exercising, where you are exercising and when you are expected back. They are also a great idea for motivation, support and inspiration when you aren't "feeling it". It reduces your chance of being targeted. If one of you is in need of medical help, a partner can come in handy.  Many dangers where a friend/partner may come in handy include stray animals, being hit by a vehicle, heat exhaustion, dehydration etc.  If you have difficulty finding a running partner or someone who knows where you will be, you can join a running club near your area.  You can find one near your area at

https://www.rrca.org/forms/Clubs/search?Company_MainAddress_state=17&action=Search

8. Vary routes — There's always a danger in giving away your workout route to someone looking to use that to their advantage.  Knowing where you will be and exact time you will be passing through there can help a bad guy plan a robbery or attack.  It's a good idea to "change it up" regularly.

9. Keep volume low on headgear - As tempting as it is to help pass the time, don’t wear headphones while exercising outdoors. Your ability to pay attention to potential threats from traffic, barking dogs and other people is greatly reduced when you are listening to music. Wearing headphones also signals to potential threats that you are preoccupied and vulnerable.

10. Pay attention to your surrounding - It is great to get into the “zone” while exercising, but make sure to stay aware of where you are, who is around you and where you are going. Make sure to pay attention for construction zones, icy areas, puddles, potholes, mud, holes in the dirt or uneven surfaces, staying away from certain areas when its windy. 

11. Walking your dog - Walking your dog is a great way to get exercises without you feeling like you are out exercising.  A dog needing to urinate is a great motivation to get out of the house quickly and begin a routine.  It's a different kind of motivation than if you just tried on your own.  Large dogs or dogs in general often deter people from wanting to approach you, are great for protection, and it helps you scout out the neighborhood and see what's in your area.  You can learn a lot from seeing how your neighborhood runs on a daily basis. A dog's bark is enough to create a scene if you are in danger, that is a great deterrent.

12. Run against traffic and bike with traffic — This ensures that you are most visible to cars, buses and trucks. When possible, run on sidewalks away from traffic and ride in designated biking lanes.

13. Be visible — Avoid dark colors at night.  The glare of car headlights can blind drivers making you nearly invisible to them.  If exercising in the dark then make sure to wear bright reflective clothing. There are many products on the market with reflective material — hats, headbands, vests, arm bands, tops, shorts/pants and shoes. Stay in areas where joggers are expected to be (if possible) so that drivers are more cautious in that area.  If you are running on a main road with no sidewalk, they may not be as cautious when passing through. If riding a bike, headlights

14. Frostbite - At wind chill levels below minus 18 F (minus 28 C), frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.  Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing and is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose, ears,hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation.  Immediately get out of the cold if you suspect frostbite. Slowly warm the affected area  but don't rub it since that can damage your skin. Seek emergency care if numbness doesn't go away.

15. Sunscreen - Choosing the best sunscreen varies based on your skin type.  For help finding out which sunscreen works best for you, you can

visit https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/whats-best-sunscreen#1

16. Safety gear - Varies your activities but it's always a great idea to remember to wear helmets, knee pads, proper footwear, goggles, ear muffs etc. 

17. Drink plenty of fluids - It's important to drink water and sports drinks before, during and after outdoor exercise. You can become dehydrated in the cold from sweating, breathing, the drying power of the winter wind, and increased urine production, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather.
These are all ways to consider when exercising safely outdoors.  For when the gym is closed and you want some outdoor fun, I hope this list helps.  Thanks for reading, keep having a great day!