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Be Fit, Have Fun, Be Safe!
Take Note of These Safety Tips When You're Exercising Outside

When the sun is shining, who wants to stay indoors? Especially when it comes to exercise. Why be cooped up in a gym or your living room when you can go outside and get some fresh air? Outdoor activities such as walking, running, jogging or a combination of all three, are excellent cardio exercise, as long as you play it safe. There is danger out there, whether you're on the streets or at a park - suspicious looking strangers and careless drivers are just a couple of things you need to look out for. Knowing a few rules can mean the difference between having a great workout and flirting with trouble. The following list is a general guideline. A lot of these suggestions are common sense, but it's always good to have them written down in black and white. Take the necessary precautions - then go out and enjoy yourself!

(Article continued below.)

  • Before you even leave your home, make sure someone knows where you're going. If no one else is home, or you live alone, leave a note detailing the route you are taking. That way, if something happens, your movements can be traced.
  • Leave your Walkman behind. Yeah, we all love listening to music while we're exercising, but out of doors those headphones will hide the sound of approaching cars, or footsteps coming up behind you. Music is also distracting - you might trip on that huge crack in the sidewalk, or fall over that exposed tree root in the park. Instead of losing yourself in your favorite CD (you can always play it when you're exercising indoors), use your outside time to practice appreciating the moment. Let the singing birds and the breeze blowing through the leaves be your soundtrack. Pay attention to how your body feels in the sunlight, how it moves, and how good it feels to be alive. Who needs music?
  • Bring your identification and some spare change. Your ID - including any medical problems you have - should be placed in the inside sole of your shoe, along with a contact number. If you collapse or are knocked unconscious, it will be easy to find out who you are, if you have any special needs and who to call. The spare change will come in handy if you need to make a phone call. If you have a cell, that's even better - bring it along. You can easily phone for help if you're in danger.
  • Runners and walkers alike should face traffic. You need to see the cars as they approach. A fast car can come up from behind and hit you before you realize what is happening. If you're facing traffic, you'll be better positioned to leap out of the way of a reckless driver. Be cautious when crossing an intersection, and let any cars have the right of way, unless the driver indicates that you can go.
  • Know your route. Are there stores or businesses open along the way? Where are the pay phones? Are there deserted streets, areas with few or no people? Avoid sketchy areas - especially near parked cars and bushes - and keep track of storefronts that may serve as an escape from a pursuer.
  • Be very careful about talking to strangers, especially if you are alone. The driver quietly asking you for directions may want you to come closer so he can grab you. Ignore anyone who is hassling you verbally. Even though you may be tempted to talk back or blow up at him, it's better to stay as far away as possible.
  • Be cautious around strange animals, too. We all love dogs, but even the friendliest one may have a quirk you're unaware of. Only reach out and pet that puppy if it's on a leash and the owner gives you permission. Actually, it's a good idea to be careful around cats too. A cat that doesn't know you may be cuddly one minute and go ballistic the next. Cat bites can cause major infections. And you already know not to touch even the cutest, friendliest squirrel, right?
  • Change your route frequently. Don't make it easy for someone to follow you by taking the same, predictable path at the same time every day.
  • Trust your gut instincts. Your intuition is often especially sharp when you're exercising (that is, if you're not zoning out - and when you're outside, you should definitely keep aware). If a situation or area doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Stay away.
  • Once again, awareness is everything. If you run into trouble or see anything suspicious going on, it's crucial for you to be able to remember license plate numbers and offer a description of someone's clothes and facial features.
  • Consider bringing along a friend. Exercise is more fun when you have company anyhow. There is truth to the old cliché, "There's safety in numbers." You're less likely to be victimized if another person is present. And the best exercise partner may not even be human - if you have a dog, take him along. A dog will never cancel out on you.
  • Don't wear jewelry. This should be a no-brainer. After all, this is a workout, not a fashion show, and those flashes of gold may attract a thief.
  • Carry a noisemaker, or pepper spray (get training on how to use the pepper spray first).
  • Make yourself visible at dawn, dusk and during evening hours. Wear white or light-colored clothing. Wearing reflective material is even better (and not just on your shoes. A reflective vest is your best choice).
  • Be especially alert at night - cars can't see you as well, you can't see your route as well, and muggers are on the prowl. Stay in well-lighted areas so you can see and be seen.

This article sponsored by the Red Cross.

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