Exercising is hard work. There you are, making an effort to do something good for your body, you’re sweating and sometimes swearing, or at least muttering profanities under your breath when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, and in the midst of what is already a FML moment, you are being accosted by an unsavoury character. Yes, you now suddenly have a very elevated heart rate and sweaty palms, but this is not how you intended to get there.
The above true to life analogy is the warm up (ba-dum-tss) to today’s article. A particularly timeous one, as there has been a startling increase in workout related incidents and opportunistic crimes of late, and we want you to stay safe, aware and, well, alive.
Nowhere is particularly safe. Whether you are running the obstacle course that includes the potholes and torn up pavement of your neighbourhood, enjoying a sunrise jog on the promenade, or trying not to tumble off your bike on a trail, every day there is another story of someone falling victim to their exercise routine.
And for what? Well, our watches/heart rate monitors are expensive (so there it goes, incidentally while working double time. Sigh… the stats would have been great), identification, keys, sunnies, phone and the 20 bucks you brought just in case (nobody knows for what… and it’s certainly not enough for an Uber, trust us, we’ve considered our options before). You didn’t think you had much on you… but, guys, this is a lot, and it makes you a target.
That said, here are some safety and security tips to help ensure your workout works out for you, because we have been informed from some reliable sources that some of you guys actually enjoy this whole exercise thing? (sounds fake, but OK).
Exercise Caution – Top Tips To Help You Play It Safe
How ever you plan to get from here to there (running, cycling, struggling), we are proud of you for trying. We know articles like this and the stories shared on your WhatsApp groups can be a bit demotivating, but ultimately they are warnings, which should serve you well, at a stretch.
1. Keep Your Personal Possessions to a Minimum
A good way to counter opportunistic crime, is to not make it worthwhile. Keep personal possessions to a minimum (and where possible, hidden). Don’t run with money, music, jewellery, and if you can help it, your phone.
We’re aware that telling you not to run/walk/cycle with your cellphone seems a little at odds with this story about safety. Because how do you call for help without it? But we’ll do you one better. How do you call for help when it’s stolen? See? So, maybe let’s not stop to take a picture of the sunset with sweat in our eyeballs, but rather leave it safely tucked away instead.
If you don’t have any other form of tracking, or simply feel safer with it than without, then by all means, keep your phone on your person, but if you do so, make sure that your emergency contacts are up to date and try and get an appropriate strap of some kind, so that you can secure it to your person without making it obvious or cumbersome.
2. Mix Up Your Route
It’s good to exercise in familiar areas, so you know what to expect (apart from the unexpected of course), but it is also good to mix things up so that you don’t have too clear a routine. If you do, and you shuffle past the same spot at 5.23 every morning, like clockwork, well, you are taking the guesswork out of it for would be criminals. Don’t make it easy for them.
3. Route Tracking (And Sharing Live Locations)
It is always a good idea to share your route, or better yet your live location, with a loved one. They are the ones that will flag things if you don’t check in, and it would be even better if they had an idea of where you were seen last as well.
Strava made their ‘Beacon’ safety feature free in 2021, in order to help humans that like to run and cycle out. This feature can be accessed from the ‘Record’ navigation menu and works by sending up to 3 contacts (they don’t have to be on Strava) a text message about your activity. This text contains a link to a live GPS-tracked map so that they can chart your progress. Updates are sent every 15 seconds or go, while the app is recording (and as long as you have signal).
4. Racing Daylight
As we already seem to be shifting into slightly shorter days, time is maybe not quite on our side anymore, and while challenging the dwindling daylight hours will do wonders for your PB’s and things, it’s not the safest option. Please exercise while the sun is up, and in areas that have a bit of activity.
5. Even if it wasn’t a Team Sport, it is Now
Join a club or group. Exercise in a community. Phone a friend. Bring a buddy. Honestly, the more of you working out together, the better, however, even so… don’t let your guard down. We find that sometimes people in two’s or small groups remain susceptible because they feel safer in their numbers and therefore are paying less attention.
6. Don’t be Distracted
You’re focused on your fitness, and that is great, but we need you to be focused on everything else as well. You aren’t going to like this one, so we apologise in advance, but take your headphones out, and switch that music off. We know the beats are important for your tempo (or whatever), but you want to be able to hear what is happening around you, so that you can react accordingly. Masking one of your most important senses is simply not safe.
7. Giving you Direction (Bike With, Run Against)
If you are cycling, stay in your lane (if you have one) and cycle in single file in the same direction as the traffic. This is to ensure you do not become the victim of an accident. If you are running however, run in the opposite direction to the traffic. This is to ensure that you don’t become a victim to a snatch and grab (of you and/or your stuff), and so that you can avoid an accident. Let’s be honest, people in cars aren’t the most observant sometimes.
8. Avoid Your Problems
OK, so, maybe your parents used to look at you sternly and tell you that THAT is no way to live, but let us set the record straight… it is in fact a great way to live. Especially if those problems you are avoiding are parked cars on lonely roads, bushes and dark alleys. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
9. Be Obvious
Often in life, we kinda shy away from the spotlight, however this is not what you want to do when exercising, especially in the twilight or early hours. And sure, maybe you don’t want to draw too much attention to the grimace on your face, but some things simply can’t be helped (it’s the price you pay for being all fit and healthy and stuff). Wear high visibility clothing to counter the general unobservantness (not a word, we just made it up, go with it) of other road users.
10. ID In Case Of Emergency
Always carry some form of identification on you. A runner’s ID. Your actual ID. Something. Anything. This should be a no brainer, except we seldom think of it. If you are in a ‘foreign’ place, like a different province (or country), take name and phone number of your accommodation with you, too.
11. Time to Panic
It is generally a good idea to have a panic app at your disposal in case something goes wrong during your exercise routine. Your GPS co-ordinates get sent directly to the control centre of the security/emergency team of your choosing and they can react accordingly. For what it’s worth, we have a great app that you should download. Maybe do that now? Also remember, you can call us In Case of Anything either way.
12. General Safety
This is a laundry list of things that we would like to think are common sense, but we’re all human and do stupid things sometimes, so here you go anyway:
- Apply sunscreen (yes, even in winter)
- Drink water
- Don’t leave your stuff unattended while you take a swim in the sea (yes, we’re judging you as we type this)
- And like your gran used to tell you, take a whistle so you can make a big noise. It works. Grans are always right… even when they’re wrong.
And that’s that… we hope you feel suitably armed (with information), because you are. Although you should also feel free to arm yourself with other stuff, like pepper spray/gel, tasers, and good choices.
Stay safe while you exercise out there Durbanites, and if you need us, we’re just a phone call or button press away. Plus we’ll come running… but in our cars. That’s much more efficient.