There are 3 crucial considerations for safe exercising when it’s dark – see, be seen and have a buddy. We’ll explain more about each of these in this article.
See Where You’re Going.
It’s obvious – if you can’t see where you’re going then you’re more prone to injury from falls, trips, slips, sprains, punctures and bumps. So it may be that the cross-country run or ride that you do in the summer isn’t as practical in the winter.
- How can you change your route to take in more predictable terrain?
- Do you have a summer run/ride in the country and a winter run/ride on roads?
- How can you better light your way? Is a head torch suitable? Or stronger bike lights?
- If you can, exercise in well light areas.
- Seeing where you’re going also involves being aware of your environment – who’s around, potential hidden dangers, are you being followed, which shops/businesses are open if you needed help, stay alert to what you’re doing and what’s going on, don’t wear headphones, which will dull your awareness.
- Stay clear of parked cars or bushes at the sides of the road.
Be Seen By Others.
Other road users need to know you’re there so they can avoid you. Being seen is easy:
- Wear a high visibility reflector vest or jacket. If you’re carrying a backpack make sure the vest covers this or the pack has its own high-vis cover.
- Wear lights front and back – the more the better, especially if you’re exercising on the road. Flashing lights are better than static ones as they are more noticeable.
- If you’re running, run towards oncoming traffic so that you can see the traffic and it can see you and what’s behind you. In the UK the Highway Code this is in the Highway Code (see https://www.gov.uk/rules-pedestrians-1-to-35)
- If you’re cycling then make yourself appear bigger and brighter so that you’re seen from a distance and vehicles can plan to overtake you safely.
- Stick to well populated areas after dark.
Have a Buddy.
This may not mean exercising with a friend as this may not be your preference or be practical. But:
- Exercise with a friend if you can. Are there clubs you can join that have runs/rides in the evenings? There’s safety in numbers.
- Always let someone know when you plan to be back. Let them know when you are.
- Let them know your planned route.
- Change your route every so often so that you are less easy to predict.
- If you think you are being followed, change direction and head for the safety of a shop that’s or house with its lights on.
- Always carry your (well charged) mobile/cell phone, but keep it hidden.
- Don’t carry cash or wear jewelry etc.
- Be aware of people in cars etc who stop you to ask for directions. Keep your distance from the door or window.
- Carry ID (driver’s license or similar) with you. Have your name, contact info and medical information printed on the inside of your shoe or in a pocket.
When exercising in a place that’s new to you.
If you’re staying in a hotel or away from home, it’s equally important that you are safe and that someone knows where you are and when to expect you back.
- Plan ahead – check an exercise route on a map before you get to your destination.
- Ask hotel staff for a safe route or where there is a fitness club nearby that you can use.
- Leave your room key with reception rather than taking it with you.
- Similarly, tell the receptionist your planned route.
- Carry a card with the hotel address as well as your regular ID.
- Be aware of your surroundings – as above.
- Instead of a cardio session why not plan a stretching/Pilates or yoga session in your room? If you travel with your laptop you’ll be able to play an exercise DVD.
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