Running is one of my favorite forms of movement. I love how refreshing it feels to go outside and experience the world through my strides. Although going for a run can be enjoyable and relaxing, the reality of being a woman in our society is that practicing movement outdoors can put us in a vulnerable position.
As of today, I feel comfortable around the dogs of people I know. That being said, seeing, hearing, and even imagining an unfamiliar dog while I’m running alone is both intrusive and debilitating. If I hear a dog barking at me as I run past, I feel weary about taking the same route again or I’ll even change my direction in the heat of the moment.
Although my fear of dogs is both real and valid, the reality of the situation is that dogs are not the biggest safety concern for women going out alone. It’s a common experience that women have to worry about being attacked or cat-called when out by themselves.
I have prepared 9 safety tips for women (or anyone, really) who enjoy running outside. These tips may help keep you physically safe, however I also find that they are incredibly beneficial in terms of feeling secure while running. Our state of mind greatly influences the outcome of our run, so creating a more comfortable atmosphere can make a significant difference in our performance.
1. Be aware of your surroundings: listen to music with caution
While listening to music can certainly enhance the running experience, immersing ourselves in external media takes a major portion of our awareness from our surroundings. This means that we are less likely to hear a car veering off the road, an animal coming toward us, a branch falling, etc.
If you do listen to music, you can do so in a safer manner:
Play your music on low volume
Play your music out loud (not through earbuds)
Keep one earbud in, the other out
2. Let someone know your route / share your location with someone you trust
You can share your location via an app on your phone or you can explain the route and distance verbally to another person. This is useful in case of an emergency, and it also gives you peace of mind that someone has your back even if you run alone.
3. Wear bright clothing, especially when it’s dark outside
Bright clothes, including reflective vests, help drivers see you more easily to prevent a car accident. Additionally, if you prefer trail running, bright orange clothing protects you from hunters in the woods.
4. Use a headlamp for areas that are difficult to navigate/see
Headlamps also make you more visible to drivers as it is easier to see you, which can help to avoid accidents. The use of a light reduces the risk of injury as it illuminates obstacles in your route. Lights can also help to ease anxiety that is produced from being in the dark.
5. Carry a whistle/bell
This is one of my favorites: bells let animals know you are near, and it encourages them to keep their distance. A whistle can be used to signal that you need help in case of an emergency.
6. Run with others
Running with other people can ease a lot of anxiety that comes with going out alone, and there is safety in numbers as well. In my personal experience, I am far less anxious about unfamiliar dogs if I am running with a friend.
7. Change your route
When you take the same route everyday, your mind goes into autopilot and you’re less aware of your surroundings. On a more dire note, this can also make you more vulnerable to individuals with bad intentions. Switch between a few different routes to mix it up!
8. Stick to a route you know
A familiar path allows you to be less likely to get lost, be more aware of the triggers and risks that come with the route, and feel more comfortable.
9. Stay in a public area
You are less likely to be harmed in an area with a lot of other people, and this can also make you feel more comfortable during your run.
Practice some of these actions on your next run and pay attention to how you feel and how you perform.