Running can be both challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Brad Morgan, MEd, AT, ATC, with Lake Health Sports Medicine, offers some important tips to ensure your runs are also safe:
- Don't run alone. This suggestion can sound really hard to coordinate - and you may even prefer to run alone for the solitude it can provide. Finding a training partner or running group is a great way to have help if you get lost or hurt on a run - plus it may keep you motivated. If you run solo, be sure you have a way to connect with help if needed, such as a well-charged cell phone or even a whistle. Always carry a form of ID and emergency contacts.
- Dress for the weather - and daylight. For longer runs, dress in wickable layers and plan ahead to make sure you'll have the right gear for the duration of your run. If you'll be out past dusk, reflective clothing or blinkers help keep you visible to drivers.
- Embrace the cold. Colder temps don't always mean you need to stop running outside. Use the wind chill to determine how cold the weather is. Higher wind speeds can make a 30° run seem much colder than a 20° run. In extreme cold, make sure all of your skin is covered and plan routes that keep you on plowed roads. One of the worst things you can do is to get your feet wet on a cold run because this makes you lose heat in your feet faster and increases your chances of frostbite. Running in icy conditions is always risky. If you are having issues with slipping on ice, you may have to slow your pace significantly or find an indoor track to run on. Black ice is as big of a threat to an outdoor runner as it is to drivers.
- Beat the heat. During the summer, the heat index is a better measure of risk for heat illnesses than air temperature alone. On hot, humid days, make sure you hydrate well and wear light clothing. Don't forget to wear sunscreen.
- Stay hydrated. Hydration must remain a priority in cold temperatures, especially since it is easy to forget when you don't feel hot. For longer runs, consider bringing water with you or plan a route that allows you to stop for a drink.
- Plan your route. Exploring a new route or trail is one of the great adventures of running. It's important to have a basic understanding of the route you'll be running, as well as how long you expect the run to take. Tell a family member or friend where you'll be running and how long you expect to be gone - each and every time.
- Assume drivers might not see you. Be cautious of drivers, especially on narrow and hilly roads. Blind corners where trees and buildings obstruct views can also be dangerous, and you should approach them with caution. Remember, if you can’t make eye contact with the driver, they may not see you. Avoid roads where traffic is frequently dense and traveling at high speeds.
- Manage your medical conditions. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes that can make exercise risky, consult with your doctor before starting or ramping up an exercise program. A small waist pouch can help you carry any emergency medical supplies you need, plus a cell phone. Many smartphones have the ability to call 911 using a shortcut; search online for information on how your phone was designed and remember how to do this. In some emergencies, you may not be able to read your screen and type the numbers to get help quickly.
- Be careful about running with distractions. Running with headphones for music, audiobooks, podcasts, or news radio may seem like a good idea, but don’t let it distract you from your surroundings. Keep the volume down low enough that you can hear approaching traffic and other potential threats.
In addition to staying safe on each run, pay attention to these tips for ongoing safety and health:
- Invest in proper footwear. Running can be a fairly inexpensive activity, where your main cost is shoes and gear. Don't try to save money by running in a pair of shoes that is beyond their expected lifetime. Running in old shoes that can no longer properly support your feet is dangerous and can put you at risk for some serious injuries. Replace your worn shoes in a timely manner.
Ask yourself: Is it soreness or pain? While soreness after a run is not usally an issue, pain is a problem. Don't try to run through pain, especially when it involves lower extremity joints and the lower leg or is paired with numbness and tingling. Pain in these areas are often signs of a bigger problem that should be evaluated by a doctor.
Our Lake Health Sports Medicine team at the Brunner Sanden Deitrick Wellness Campus offers performance enhancement services to athletes of all ages to help fine-tune their performance and achieve their strength and fitness goals. Learn more.