Running is an excellent way to stay fit, and Chicago and the North Shore are absolutely packed with gorgeous nature trails, lakefront paths and pristine neighborhoods where you can pound the pavement for your daily dose of cardio. But it’s important to remember that no matter how safe you may believe your surroundings to be, it’s still important to remain vigilant.
Over the course of just a few months in 2016, three young female joggers were tragically murdered while out for runs in different parts of the country: Karina Vetrano in Howard Beach, Queens; Vanessa Marcotte in Princeton, Massachusetts; and Ally Brueger in Michigan. While we aren’t sharing the sad stories of these women to scare you, we want you to remember that it’s essential to practice common sense and basic safety skills every time you go out for a jog. Here are five safety tips to remember on your runs.
1. Be Familiar With Your Route.
Knowing your route will help you identify abnormalities or deviations from what you’ve come to expect. Common sense generally dictates what’s normal noise and behavior. Take notice of any changes such as a car repeatedly driving by or a stranger or a hazard unexpectedly appearing along your route. Stay alert and don’t allow yourself to be taken by surprise when such a change appears.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
In order to identify potential danger or a hazard, you need to pay attention to your surroundings. In other words, keep your guard up. There’s no need to become paranoid — just think of it as a low-level hum of mental activity, like when you look both ways before crossing the street. As you jog, take advantage of that mental calm that comes with exercise, but don’t zone out and get totally lost in thought. Scan your surroundings, and be aware of who and what is around you, including behind you.
3. Trust Your Intuition.
Intuition means knowing something without knowing why. If you get an uneasy feeling about someone or something, listen to that internal warning. Eighty percent of your brain is dedicated to the subconscious and you are constantly receiving input that could alert you to a danger. Take a tactical pause and ask yourself, how does my body feel? If you have an uneasy sensation in your gut, the hair on the back of your neck stands up, or you feel a lump in your throat, take that feeling seriously.
4. Maintain Your Auditory Power.
If you wear earbuds, you risk blocking sounds that may identify a danger or hazardous situation. The brain processes sound much faster than the eyes, as much as 20 to 100 times faster. Listen for noise behind you, and stay off your phone and avoid texting while running. If you must wear earbuds, consider using only one to give you a slightly better advantage.
5. Carry a Self-Defense Device.
I highly recommend the TigerLight D.A.D. It has police-grade pepper spray, a flashlight and a GPS alert system that activates when you use the pepper spray. It alerts your designated contacts that you are in danger and gives them your GPS location. Most importantly, it wraps around your hand. Your body has an autonomic reaction when you are surprised, and though your hands will automatically open, the TigerLight D.A.D stays in your hand. This device is also durable enough to be used as a bludgeon, though we hope you’ll never need it for that.
There’s no need to let fear keep you from getting out there and exercising. Just be vigilant, smart, safe — and have fun!
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Steve Kardian is a self-defense and criminal expert who regularly appears on television and in print. Through his organization Defend University he has taught more than 200,000 women practical self-defense techniques and strategies. His forthcoming book, “The New Superpower for Women: Trust Your Intuition, Predict Dangerous Situations and Defend Yourself from the Unthinkable” (Touchstone), is on sale August 2017.