How to be Safe While Working Out?
In the article, I discuss how to secure your workout including who to look out for, where we need to go in an emergency and how to make sure we’re not a target while working out.
I will look at some common ways you can be safe, and apply that to multiple forms of exercise and all the information given here can be applied to other parts of your life as well.
Running and exercising in public
Watch out for traffic!
Firstly, let’s discuss running and exercising in public.
The most common threat to runners in public is traffic.
As a runner, you have to keep your eyes on where you are going as well as on cars that are passing you.
So, run on sidewalks if you can, but if that’s not an option you need to run on the side of the road where you can see traffic coming toward you.
You do not want to be caught off guard by a car that’s coming up behind you.
Plus, if you are running in the direction of traffic you’ll be able to see any potential threats coming like a distracted driver, and you can use time to react and get out of the way.
Is your music too loud?
If you are hitting the trail or running in your neighborhood, you need to be careful about what you’re listening to.
If our music is too loud, it is going to negate our hearing, which is important for keeping our bearing and to detect threats.
Loud music can drown out the footsteps of a pursuer. If you have earbuds in, you may not hear a siren or a car approaching.
Consider running with one earbud in or keeping your volume low so you can hear outside noises.
Make sure you can hear cars passing by, dogs barking etc. If you can then that’s a good place to be.
Try run with someone
If you don’t have to run alone then I suggest that you don’t. Things can be safer with a second pair of eyes. This also applies at the gym.
If you do have to run alone you need to go ahead and plan your route.
Become familiar with where you plan to run
When you are considering running in a park or an open area like your neighborhood, drive that route first.
Look for places that open, well lit and have plenty of people around.
Let’s take this a step further – let’s avoid secluded areas with trees and bushes that can provide an ambush area for a potential attacker.
Don’t share your activities on social media
It always bugs me when I see friends on social media sharing their Strava runs or rides. Check out this article for some insight into the danger this poses.
Sharing your activity gives away too much information like where you run, your home (or starting) address and it shows your routine.
If someone wanted to hurt you they would just use the map that you posted on Facebook to know where you were going and how you were going to get there.
Let’s keep your running routes off social media.
Vary your routes
Speaking of routes, you should aim to vary your routes. Don’t become too predictable.
For example, let’s say you run in your neighborhood or around your apartment complex, and that neighborhood is a circle.
When you start your run on Monday morning, I want you to come out your door and go to the right.
On Tuesday come out, and go to the left.
On Wednesday start going to the right then swing back around to the left.
Thursday, skip that day, you’re doing well so far.
Then on Friday go halfway to the left then turn around and go halfway to the right.
And vary this out so people can’t just wait for you.
Also, if you have to run alone, text a friend or family member that you are going out and text them when you are done. That way someone will know where you went and if something has gone wrong.
This information will be very valuable to law enforcement if they have to try and find you.
What time of the day you exercise matters
We need to give consideration to the time of the day we exercise out in public.
You should schedule your activity when you other people are going to be around.
It is good to have witnesses to help determine potential criminal activity, and if we get hurt someone might be there to help us.
On the flip side of this, I recommend not running in public at night. While it may be cooler and the only time of the day that you are free to do it, there are more security challenges at night.
The normal streets that we see during the day change when the sun goes down.
There are fewer people out, plenty of hiding places for bad actors, our vision isn’t as good at night, you definitely don’t want to run with earbuds at night, it’s harder for cars to see us – the list goes on.
A tool for runners
A tool runners can use that would give them a great advantage is something called a belly band.
These big Velcro wraps have pockets. You can wrap one around your waist and tuck your keys and your phone into it to keep them safe and this fits underneath your shirt so your stuff is concealed.
Belly bands also free up your hands in case you need to protect yourself.
Be situational aware
As always, I want you to be situationally aware.
Mentally note if you see the same person or car passing repeatedly.
Look to see if people are loitering by their cars parked on the street.
Ask yourself questions like ‘does everyone and everything look like it belongs? Is something out of place? Is something missing? Is something there that wasn’t there before?’
Follow your gut feeling. Listen to the voice inside you, stop what you are doing and head home early if you have to.
There is an added bonus to running in your neighborhood – reconnaissance.
Make mental notes of the cars you see coming and going and from what houses.
Who has a new car?
Which neighbor just put a big TV box just outside the trash can?
Who leaves their garage door open all day?
Which homes have security signs in their yard?
Does anyone look like they are moving?
Is there a neighbor you just haven’t seen a while?
Note those things, not just in your run but in you your daily interactions as well. When something looks out of place in your neighborhood you’ll know it and you can respond to it.
What to do if you are threatened while working out in public?
Firstly, we need to signal for help quickly. You need to get out your phone and call the police.
And when you do, you need to know your route so well that you can tell the operator right where you are.
If you can say to an emergency response operator ‘I am moving towards the intersection between Main and Maple streets’ – that is so helpful for first responders.
If you can seek shelter in a store then do it. Tell the staff what is going on and the chances are they will help you until the police arrive.
Some places like parks and college campuses have call boxes in popular areas. These are great tools and I suggest you use them if you need them.
You run up to the box, hit the call button and you talk to the operator.
I have actually been told by campus police before that if you go to the first box, hit the button and tell the operator what is going on, and then run to the next box and do the same thing.
This will help authorities know which direction you are heading and where to send help.
Securing your workout at the gym
So, what do we need to do to secure our workout if we are at the gym?
Much like running, we need to consider the time of the day we go.
Most of us like to hit the gym when it is least crowded. While a crowd can slow you down it also means there are less people around, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The more crowded the gym, the less likely someone will do something weird or dangerous.
At some gyms there is staff there all the time. Sometimes there is no stuff at all. It depends on what your gym does. You need to figure that out.
When working out, make sure you know where the nearest exit is located.
In the event of a fire, you may not be able to calmly think about where to go so create a mental make of the gym so that in an emergency you can get out quickly.
Every time that you are at the gym, I want you to notice who is working out around you.
Do you see the same people every time that you go?
To help me remember who I see and keep track of them day-to-day I give people I don’t know nicknames like ‘short-shorts’, and ‘man bun’, and ‘Johnny Bravo’.
This helps us remember these people time after time.
Another thing to consider is not using the locker room. Show up dressed and ready to go. Keep your stuff like your phone and keys in a belly band or just carry a small bag around with your towel.
Don’t leave valuables in lockers without a lock.
If you have to use the locker room, try minimize your time in there by getting in and out quickly and showering at home.
Also, if you have to use the locker room – make sure you take out your ear buds.
If you end up feeling threatened at the gym, your best course of action is to leave right away.
Then from the safety of your car or your home, call the management of the gym to have it sorted out.
You may have to go over security footage with the management so make sure you know the time and the day and where things happened.
Also, remember to memorize details like their height, hair color, their clothing and things like that.
So there really are a lot of security things that you need to consider when you workout.
It is not just as simple as deciding to go for a run.
If you put these principles into place, after a while they are going to become second nature. You'll know the best time to go and what to look for when you exercise.