Before there was CrossFit or P90X or TRX Training, there was good old-fashioned running. No need for gym memberships, trainers or DVDs. The beauty of running is its simplicity. Whether you're training for a marathon or jogging the more recreational route, the exercise comes down to just you and the road.
But unfortunately, that road can cause some trouble. The meditative feeling of being one with your pounding heart and feet can be quickly destroyed when you have to jump out of the way of a passing car.
Be safe on your runs, so you're well enough to jog another day. Follow the road running safety tips below, which come from John Honerkamp, chief coach of the New York Road Runners organization, as well as the websites of the Road Runners Club of America and Runner's World.
Wear bright, reflective outer layers. In autumn and winter, shorter days mean less daylight for running outside, so those after-work runs by sunset may now be in the pitch-dark. And that black hoodie isn't helping anyone. "Wearing bright, reflective clothing is the best thing you can do, because then cars, bikes, buses and other runners can actually see you," Honerkamp says. "And if you can be seen, you're less likely to run into something or get run over."
Check online and at running and sporting good stores for jackets and outer layers that are brightly colored, reflective or both. While you may not plan to wear this neon yellow windbreaker to your next party, it's important to value safety over fashion when exercising. "It's better to look like a dork than be in the hospital with a cast on your leg," Honerkamp says.
If you don't want to shell out the money for a specialty running jacket – which can be pricey – Honerkamp suggests buying the kind of reflective safety vests worn by construction workers. These vests can be found online and sometimes at sporting good and hardware stores. Another option is to buy reflective tape and deck out in gear you already have, which can be a fun activity for a family or running group.
Leave the headphones. Can't find your running groove unless you're blasting Beyonce or Bach? Maybe you ought to stick to the treadmill. Forfeiting your hearing abilities while you're running outdoors in public is questionable at any time of day, but it's particularly risky when it's dark. If you're running by yourself with your headphones on, "not only are you more vulnerable to an attacker," Honerkamp says, "but, more likely, you can't hear a car or bus honk, or a bike on your left."
If you absolutely cannot be convinced to leave the iPod at home, then at least run with only one earbud in, or keep the volume level low.
Bring identification and a cellphone. Both will help if you find yourself lost, injured or in danger. And if you can, let someone know where you're going and about what time you plan to return.
Run against traffic. Stick to sidewalks and established paths in well-lit areas when possible. If you must jog on the road, face oncoming traffic so you can clearly see the cars and quickly react to them if they approach.
Respect the road. Now is not the time to forget any of the pedestrian basics. Look both ways before crossing a street, wait for drivers to wave you through when waiting at stop sign and watch out for cars backing out of driveways. And don't jaywalk, or jayrun for that matter.