Personal Safety and Sport
Exercising in the fresh air brings a psychological boost that is all part of the feel-good factor of getting fit. However, the downside of heading off round the park or through the local streets is that you are running the risk of meeting the wrong people.
For some, there isn’t a runner who passes, or a cyclist gliding by who they don’t feel is fair game for some personal abuse. It’s all too easy to file such verbal assault under the heading “Teenage anti-social behaviour”, but the age range of these abusers is surprisingly wide, especially if they feel there personal space on the pavement is being invaded by someone in running shoes.
Apart from the obvious upset of being shouted at, the real downside is that many people become self-conscious and more likely to give up their exercise routine. On the other hand, don’t be tempted to answer back as this may only accentuate the problem. The bottom line is, don’t let the abusers win. If personal abuse is a problem, pick up an MP3 player, download your favourite tracks and enjoy the music while you workout. The bullies can shout as much as they like; you’ll be in your own comfort zone courtesy of your personal top 50 countdown.
Clearly VisibleUnfortunately, verbal assault can be the least of the problems, so it pays to use your commonsense when planning exercise routines. During the winter months, those with a busy work schedule should aim to complete a session during their lunch hour rather than early morning or evening when darkness provides any potential attacker with a greater degree of cover. If the demands of the work schedule mean you can only exercise outside office hours, then take a long, hard look at your route. Does it involve negotiating dimly lit paths or tracks bordered by dense bushes or vegetation? If so, change it. Try to stick to areas where you are clearly visible to others and that provide little or no cover for anyone lying in wait. Remember also to tell your partner or a friend that you are going out and what time you expect to return so that they can raise the alarm should you be overdue.
Potential TargetClothing can help keep you stay safe, too. Runners, for example, should wear reflective clothing if venturing on or near traffic routes to signal their presence to drivers. In addition, the more visible they are, the less attractive they will be as a potential target to muggers because law abiding passers-by will be more likely to spot any ensuing struggle. The same rules apply to cyclists.
Reflective clothing also protects “pedestrians” because signalling your presence through what you wear means they can make allowances for your approach. They will be moving a much slower pace than you, so the further away they can see you, the more time they have to step aside to give you room to pass. Remember that you will be moving a lot faster than them, and any collision could be serious - certainly, the chances are that at least one of you is going to be injured - so be as visible as possible.
Ultimately, exercising outside comes down to using your commonsense. No one is suggesting that you are heading into a war zone every time you put on your running shoes or jump into the saddle; simply that by being cautious rather than complacent, your mind can be free to enjoy sport in safety.