Safety First

This post probably should have been written at the beginning of summer when everyone was gearing up for spending time outside, but better late than never, right? We love to know that you are getting outside to get your exercise, but we also want you to be safe! I’ve had several reminders lately of how important it is to be safe while exercising outside.

An ambulance trying to get through to an injured person during the Dam to Dam race in Des Moines on June 1.

An ambulance trying to get through to an injured person during the Dam to Dam race in Des Moines on June 1.

I (Cori) was doing my Couch to 5K run Wednesday morning and thinking about what I could write in this post. I had to laugh a little, because four different times there were cars waiting to turn until I ran past where they were turning. Every time they could have easily turned and cleared the path before I jogged by, but they were kind to wait for me. In my experience, drivers have been very careful and almost always wave for me to go first when our paths cross. My biggest danger has been drivers backing out of their driveway. Most people backing out are looking for cars coming down the street, not jog/walkers coming down the sidewalk. Probably at least once a week, someone is backing out that doesn’t see me. They usually have an “oh no! I didn’t see you!” look on their faces when they do realize I am standing there waiting for them to back out.

On Tuesday night, I was enjoying some almost chilly weather and watching my husband play softball. There is a guy who has played a few times as a sub who was playing that night, and his wife was along for the first time. They are fresh out of college and just got married in May. I did not know this gal, but some others sitting with me did. Everyone was curious as to how she was doing, because she is recovering from a bad bicycle accident. She and her husband were on our local bike trail, a very nice, concrete path that circles most of our town. There are a few tunnels on the path, and as she was going into a tunnel another biker was coming out of it and they collided. She sustained a head injury and was taken by helicopter to a larger hospital. She was hospitalized for a while and required extra care upon being released from the hospital. Not the way most people want to spend their first few months of marriage. She mentioned how she never thought she would get hurt on the bike path, and that if she had been wearing a helmet, she probably would not have been injured. Thankfully, she is OK now and was cleared to return to work and normal activity.

How about you? Do you have a story of a near-miss or an injury from something that happened while you were exercising outdoors? I hope you don’t! But, let’s share some basic safety guidelines to help keep you safe:

  • Always, always, always assume the other guy doesn’t see you. If you are walking, jogging, biking or rollerblading (do people still do that?), act as though other people out exercising or driving cars do not see you. Remember the term “defensive driving” that you learned in Driver’s Ed? Let’s use “defensive exercising” and assume the other person is going to mess up.
  • Wear a helmet while biking. They are annoying, I know. But the gal in the story above would not be in the story above if she had been wearing a helmet.
  • Bike with traffic and walk or run against traffic. Bikers should follow all the same laws that drivers do and travel on the right side of the road. If you are walking or jogging on a street, stay on the left side so you can see the approaching traffic.
  • Wear light colored clothing, especially if you are out when it is dark, so that you are more visible to drivers.
  • Pay attention to weather conditions so you avoid getting caught in a bad storm with no shelter.
  • Bring along some water if you will be out for a long time, especially in excessive heat. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
  • Protect your skin from the sun! If you are going to be out for a long period of time (or a short period, if you have skin that burns easily, like me) use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.
  • Protect yourself from crime by being alert to your surroundings, staying in familiar areas, varying your routes, carrying a cell phone with you and letting someone know where you will be.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something! What do you do to keep safe while exercising outdoors?

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