Outdoor exercise safety tips

Running buffs Joan Magsaysay and Al Manaloto sent me road safety tips that they felt would be beneficial to runners. Actually, these guidelines apply to anyone who walks, runs, bikes or rollerblades for exercise or fun.

Go against the flow.
Go against the flow of traffic so that you know what's coming your way. This advice holds true even if you are walking on the sidewalk. In case of an emergency, like a drunk driver or car that has lost its brakes, you have time to jump out of the way. If you are going with the flow of traffic, you may never know what hit you.

Look before crossing the street.
When crossing the street, slow down to check both directions. Jog in place if you have to. If the cars slow down for you to cross, make sure you have made eye contact with the drivers to ensure that they have seen you. Never underestimate the speed of an oncoming car -- always assume that the driver is going at a faster speed than you think. When in doubt, don't cross.

Dress to be seen.
Make yourself as visible as possible by wearing bright colors during the day. At night, the best thing to use is a reflector vest, which you can buy in sports shops. Most running shoes have reflector strips but these are not enough.

Leave the Walkman at home.
Music is very motivating while you exercise but using a Walkman or similar device while running or walking may be fatal. Some runners and bikers have died because they couldn't hear warning signs like a car honking its horn. According to Magsaysay, you may also be bitten on the rear end by a mischievous dog! If you insist on using such portable stereo devices, leave one ear free to hear the sounds around you.

Clear vision.
Use sunglasses or a visor or cap on sunny days to protect your eyes and to have a clear view of the cars. On rainy days, the cap or visor will avoid the rain from hampering your vision.

Identify yourself.
Always wear or carry with you an identification tag with your name, telephone number and address in case of an emergency. It's also a good idea to tuck some money into your socks or shorts. You never know when you might need it.

Take side streets.
Avoid main thoroughfares, but if you have no choice try to use them at the beginning or latter part of your route when you are doing your warm-up or cool-down. You tend to lose your concentration during the more intense parts of your workout when you are more focused on your breathing and pushing yourself than the environment around you. Besides, you want to avoid all that pollution at the time when you are forcing your lungs to work their hardest.

Know where you are.
As much as possible, run in familiar places. If you are in a new place, survey the area in advance or look for a track c/o your hotel or the local tourist agency. The familiar track may seem boring but your personal safety should never be compromised.

Stay out of the dark.
Avoid unlit areas at night. Not only will you avoid unsavory characters that may be lurking in the darkness, but you will also avoid twisting your ankle on objects that you cannot see.

Watch out for dogs.
Dogs are territorial animals so when you pass by one, who is sitting outside its owner's house, be prepared for a bark attack. However, their bark is usually worse than their bite. If they come any closer, Magsaysay says a splash of water from your water bottle will do the trick. The dogs you have to watch out for are the ones who don't bark but growl as they crouch down low with their ears flattened behind their heads. A dog showing this kind of posture is ready to attack.

Bring your water with you.
If you are running for an hour or more, bring a water bottle in a special bag attached around the waist. Magsaysay suggests that if you know your neighbors, you can park water bottles at strategic stops. The ideal hydration program requires that you drink 8 ounces of cold water one hour before working out, another 3 - 4 ounces every fifteen minutes while exercising and another 8 ounces one hour after exercise.

Protect your skin.
A waterproof sunscreen will protect you from premature aging and possible skin cancer in the future. The sunscreen lotion should be worn whether or not the sun is out because the damaging rays are there even during a cloudy day.

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