Many times, people work out to gain a sense of freedom, clarity, and an overall notion of feeling good and mood boosting. No one should ever feel vulnerable or unsafe during a workout. We all know that having a consistent regimen of daily physical activity is loaded with benefits. We also know the many excuses that people have, and barriers to physical activity that people experience (e.g. lack of time, lack of motivation and energy, lack of resources and equipment, family obligations, lack of company, support, or companionship to join the workout effort, lack of enjoyment of exercise, fear of bodily injury – just to name a few), but feeling that your safety is at risk during a session should not be something that people, in this case women, should have to add to their list of concerns. Remember, the best workout session is the one you come back from safely.
According to a 2017 article in Runner’s World Magazine, at least 43% of female runners experience some form of harassment while on their running route in comparison to men, who experience harassment 4% of the time. These women have gotten cat-called, followed, and endured unwanted attention that definitely caused trepidation. In fact, 3% of women runners report even being flashed, grabbed and groped, and physically assaulted while on their running route! How alarming is that?!
For many, including myself, workouts like running bring a sense of escape – a moment of stress-release, and ultimately a feeling of enjoyment and accomplishment. So being harassed and feeling threatened replaces the exercise euphoria with stress. In addition, after the onset of a global pandemic, people are faced with new challenges in terms of how they can and choose to engage in physical activity. In this post, I’ll highlight some of the ways we women can feel safer and more empowered to take charge of our health by not only committing to a workout regimen, but also taking an active role in our fitness without being fearful of predatory individuals (or things) we could potentially encounter while working out / running alone. Please note that these tips are just being listed in no particular order or level of importance.
This first tip is probably one of the most obvious that we hear of all the time in terms of remaining safe – wear bright / reflective gear so that you’re visible, especially in low lighting.
Keep a Listening Ear
Remember, your ears are important. While out on a run, you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you – whether it’s oncoming traffic or a potential attacker (or keeping things on a positive note – perhaps, while you’re out on a run, you like to hear the pleasant sounds of nature, like birds chirping). I, for one, love, need and depend on music while I exercise and especially while I run. However, I ALWAYS make sure that I keep the volume on my ear buds just loud enough to enjoy the music, but low enough to be able to hear what’s going on despite the music playing. My earbuds also do have a noise cancellation feature, but I rarely ever use it because, of course, safety first! There are times when I also opt to leave one ear open and use only one earbud.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Plan your running route and avoid new routes until you’ve scouted them prior for safety. That way, you can get an estimate of the distance involved, approximately how much time it will take for you to cover that distance during a run, and allow yourself to grow familiar with your surroundings.
Involve Your Tribe
Let someone you trust know the route you’ll be running and approximate time of your return. Or better yet, if you’re fortunate enough to have company while on a run, run in numbers. Find a local running group or gather up a set of buddies to tag along.
Now, I know that running is generally a solo sport, and for some, it may be the only time you get to spend alone. So in addition to the tips provided above, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention carrying personal safety equipment in the form of pepper spray or a personal safety alarm because, being alone on an outdoor run can certainly be risky. In fact, due to the nature of the exercise itself, if you were to be attacked, it may be difficult to defend yourself because you’re already fatigued from running. That leads me to my next tip…
Arm Yourself (not so much in the traditional sense…)
That being said, I had the awesome opportunity to collaborate with SABRE to not only share tips on running and exercising safely, but also to spread awareness about their wide array of products to help you feel more empowered while doing it solo or in less than ideal safety conditions.
SABRE gave me several products to try. Hopefully, I’ll never have to actually use them! I highly recommend knowing how to properly operate personal safety equipment before carrying it on you. It’s important to also note that pepper spray is legal to carry in all 50 states. The only caveat is around shipping laws; some states do not allow the shipment of pepper sprays, so if you need one, you’ll have to try and find one in a store near you. If a situation arises, you need to be sure you’ll know exactly what to do when seconds count, you’re nervous, and your adrenaline is at an all-time high. One of my favorite products that accompanies me on every morning run is the Runner Pepper Gel. I love it because it has an elastic strap that hooks comfortably around the back of my hand so that I can hold it while my hands are positioned during running or even when my hands are in a neutral relaxed position. It stays put and with a quick maneuver, it’s ready to go! Another great thing is that it has a gel consistency, so it decreases the chance of wind blow back and it has a spray range of 12 feet so you don’t have to get too close to a potential assailant before you can engage in self defense.
I also received a Pepper Spray Keychain with a Quick Release Key Ring (ideal for attaching to your set of car keys so that you never have to remove your keys from the ignition and/or leave the safety of your vehicle in order to use it) and a couple of Personal Alarms (which function similarly to a home alarm system to warn of the presence of intruders, but it draws attention to you when you need immediate help), and it is REALLY loud!
SABRE offers a wide variety of safety tools that can be used both indoors and outdoors to ensure that you feel equipped to handle potentially dangerous situations that may come your way. And while these types of incidents are certainly not the majority, it’s definitely reassuring to know that there are products out there to help put your mind at ease so that you can get physically fit without adding on an extra layer of worry.
I just highlighted a few safety tips. Please share some additional tips in the comments.
Do you carry personal safety equipment such as pepper spray or personal alarms? Have you ever had to use it? Please share the experience!