Not Just Another Walk in the Park

Not Just Another Walk in the Park

park_racewalking-hp-fi7 Safety Tips While Walking or Running Alone
By Bette Vargas

When I started race walking, it wasn’t because I wanted to be healthy or live longer, I wanted a bigger butt and I wanted to look cute in my clothes! My four children ran track & field and all the athletes had great bodies. I learned that race walking was a sport for adults as well as children and if it was going to get me to my desired derriere, I was all in!

At first, I walked with a group. But when I realized I had talent and began to compete, I had to train alone on some days and dreaded it. I didn’t feel safe. Walking through my fear, I discovered ways to feel safer as I persevered to my first race walk championship. Here are five tips to consider before your next walk or run.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Oftentimes, music can be a distraction from the discomfort or monotony of an outdoor aerobic workout. It also prevents you from hearing activity or people around you. I was walking in the park on day and noticed this lady several yards ahead of me. She had earphones on and was dancing as she walked, oblivious to her surroundings. As I was about to pass her, I scared the crap out of her because by the time she noticed me, she realized that I was too close for her to react if I was someone with illicit intentions. Leave your music at home. Focus instead on your breathing, form, time, nature or your thoughts.

Wear Dark Sunglasses and a Cap
Sounds like an incognito celebrity disguise, but there are benefits to this attire. Dark glasses obviously shield your eyes from sunlight, and they allow you to see everything and everyone around you however, others can’t see you looking at them. A cap conceals your face in addition to absorbing sweat on hot days. In colder temperatures, a hat can retain heat in the body.

Walk in the Daylight
During the day, more people are around so anyone with dubious intentions may be less likely to cause harm. I like to walk early in the morning as the start of my day because there are fewer cars on the road so the air is cleaner. If you must walk or run in darkness, stay in open, well-lit areas and wear bright, reflective clothes.

Vary Your Routine
Have more than one partner and rotate them. It may require a bit of planning, but working out with different people at different times of the day and varying your route will keep anybody from tracking you! If you choose to go it alone, add some variety to your routine. Some variations I applied were walking to the park one day and driving to the park on other days; changing the direction I walked around the park; and changing clothes at work and walking home instead of taking public transportation. I calculated the distance to be approximately seven miles, which took me about an hour. This was great because when I got home, I could shower, eat a healthy meal and relax!

Keep it Moving
I’ve witnessed many negative responses when women snub greetings from male passersby. Once a car drove next to me to gauge how fast I was walking! We ignore them when we can because they are intrusive, but the slightest response may keep the peace. I’m not advocating stopping to hold a conversation, but a “thumbs up” or a “hey” without breaking your stride is more than enough acknowledgement.

Watch out for the Other Guy

Walk or run with the flow of traffic. There are two thoughts on this. I prefer to walk with the flow of traffic and on the sidewalk whenever possible. However, some walkers prefer to walk facing the traffic because they can see the traffic and be a better judge of what a driver will do. Assume the worst. Even though the rules of the road say that the pedestrian has the right of way, drivers rarely consider walkers. Never cross in front of a car unless it is completely stopped and don’t assume that just because a car slows down in front of you that it will stop.

Walking Buddy

If you don’t have a walking buddy, join a walking group. It’s a great way to meet other people who enjoy the same activity as you. Establishing relationships with people who can appreciate your same love of race walking will encourage you to stick with it and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

These techniques proved to be winners for me. Enjoy your workout!