Don’t learn these rules by accident: how to exercise outdoors safely

Whether it’s a quick spin around the block or a hitching up your heartrate on the heath, outdoor exercise is a great way to get fit and decompress. However, whatever your fitness goals, the top priority for runners and walkers, especially after dark, should always be one thing: safety.  

Accidents and incidents do happen, but by following a few key steps in this handy safety guide, you can minimise any risk while being able to relax while exercising outdoors. Don’t learn these rules by accident; find out how you can be safe by reading on… 

 1. Be aware

 Unfortunately, poor preparation, environmental conditions and even people can threaten the safety of those who exercise outside. It may sound like a lot, but the first step to stepping out the door safely is to be aware of specific hazards. Yes, sadly, runners and walkers will always have to consider ill-intentioned individuals – a rare but serious risk. But think as well about the area you are in; is it well or poorly lit? Is it residential – meaning that cars can pull out of driveways without warning? Do you have to cross many roads on your route? Think about this carefully and acknowledge any risks so that you can prepare for them. 

2. See and be seen 

Stop putting off that eye test! Whether you wear contacts or a pair of glasses that fit well, clear vision helps you to see hazards – dogs, toddlers, wet leaves, potholes, curbs, ice… the list goes on. For runs where there is little artificial light, an attachable running headlamp can be a good option, however we would always recommend exercising in daylight hours or at least running with a group if you exercise after sundown. What’s more, you should make a brightly coloured jacket your running wardrobe staple, for use in dull or overcast conditions. This will help road-users and pedestrians see you to reduce risk of accidents and collision.  

3. Unplug 

Don’t make yourself a target for theft or risk distracting yourself from your exercise by refraining from using electronics – yes, this includes headphones! Does this mean that you shouldn’t at least bring your mobile phone? No: take it, in case of emergency, just avoid getting it out to use it too often. Without distractions from your phone and music, you will be much more aware of your surroundings and reduce risking any hazards, such as oncoming traffic. 

 4. Obey all traffic rules and signals 

It can be frustrating to have to pause your run or walk at traffic lights or fight your way through pedestrians, however it is crucial that you follow the rules of the road on your run. Negative examples of this are skipping traffic lights to cross the road, running in the cycle path (or even the road) to dodge annoying pedestrians or expecting cars to yield to you at intersections. If your runs are very stop-start and frustrating due to traffic, its time to plan less stressful route. 

 5. Communicate 

Before setting off, let a friends, partner or family member know where you are running and for roughly how long. As mentioned previously, always bring a charged phone with you and consider downloading a tracking app, such as RoadiD or Strava Beacon which are designed for keeping you safe in emergencies.