Be safe when exercising outdoors

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Enjoying the outdoors is what school holidays and long weekends are made of, right? But the news is full of horror stories that can make us fearful. The brutal roadside attack on athlete Mhlengi Gwala, the fatal stabbing of a Fish Hoek cyclist and attacks on hiking trails.

The reality is, South Africans need to be vigilant when exercising outdoors. This World Health Day, make sure that an increase in exercise does not decrease your safety.

Here are some safety tips to follow before, during and after exercising:

Before:

  • Find a friend. Co-exercising is a great way to stay safe. If there’s no one available, take your dog with you, or ask a friend if you can take their dog for some exercise.
  • Run with mace. It’s inexpensive, convenient to carry and easy to use.
  • Plan ahead. If you’re going solo, choose your route ahead of time and have a good idea as to how long it will take you to finish. Text or call a friend or family member and notify them of your start time, route, and your estimated end time.
  • Tech assist. A number of apps allow you to share your live location with someone. This is a great way for a friend to know where you. Make sure that you have @NamolaApp – www.namola.com/share – and that you’ve tested it so that you can #GetHelpFast if you need it. Remember to keep your phone out of sight.
  • Vary your routine. Try to avoid running at the same times on the same days and on the same routes.

During:

  • Keep your ears free and clear. If you want to use earphones, use only one and keep one ear free. And keep the volume down so you can hear people coming up behind you.
  • Stay visible. Run on well-lit, well-populated routes, paths, and trails. If you’re on a wider trail, stick to running in the center, away from any trees and shrubs that line the path, which make for excellent hiding spots.

After:

  • Add in some push-ups. Runners often tend to neglect their upper body strength, which is a really important part of fighting back. Your chest, shoulders, and triceps (all muscles worked in the good, old-fashioned push-up) are integral to building upper-body striking power.
  • Sprint to the end. You’ll blast calories and body fat, plus prepare yourself to quickly run away from an attacker, even when fatigued from your workout.
  • Phone a friend. Notify a friend of family member that you are safely back from your run. If you’re worried about forgetting, set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
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