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How to Stay Safe While Exercising Outdoors

By JARRETT ARTHUR

It may be cold, dark and occasionally snowy, but it would take much more than that to stop dedicated walkers, runners and outdoor exercisers from doing what they love to do. But exercising outside at any time of the year carries certain unique safety concerns and requires extra diligence.

Winter running safety

During the winter months, we see a slight uptick in potential danger for runners, primarily due to the fact that daylight hours are shortened and that they're bogged down in extra apparel. Here are my top personal-safety tips for outdoor exercisers:

General Safety Tips
These tips are applicable all year long, but they can be especially important during the chillier and darker months of winter:

* Leave your music at home. If you can’t fathom running without music, choose a small portable speaker that you can carry or zip into a pocket, but you want your ears open.

* Bring your phone. It's important to be able to call 911 if you find yourself in a medical or criminal emergency.

* Plan your route ahead of time. If you're headed out after the sun has set, it's extra important to choose streets and paths that will be well-populated and well-lit.

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* Notify a trusted friend or family member before you leave the house. Let this person know what time you're leaving, what route you'll be taking and what time they can expect a text from you that you've finished your run and are back home. Just don't forget to send that text after you get back!

* Remember your ID. Buy an ID wristband or ankle band for runners and write your name, emergency contact and any pertinent medical info on the insert.

* Self-defense device. Many runners choose to carry a safety device like pepper spray. It's a personal choice that you alone should make, but if you carry a device, it's imperative that you know how to use it and are prepared to employ it.

* Check your six. This is a military and law-enforcement term for "looking behind you." Make it a point to take a quick glance behind you every few minutes. By all means, use your run as time to decompress, but be sure you don't zone out. Having tunnel vision is a dangerous habit to get into.

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What to Wear
Most people don't think of their apparel as contributing to or detracting from their safety, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you dress for your workout in the winter:

* Choose light or white clothing for better visibility.

* Make sure you have reflective outerwear, such as a vest or wrist and ankle bands.

* Opt for jackets without hoods, which can be easily grabbed from behind

* Be careful of neck warmers and scarves. You want something that will tear or that can be easily removed by you from the front without having to lift it over your head.

* Choose gloves over mittens so you have the use of your fingers.

* Make sure hats and ear warmers don't muffle sound excessively.

* Tuck long hair up in a hat or use a side braid instead of a ponytail.

Commit to spending a few extra minutes of prep time and have an awareness of the importance of best practices, that way you'll be able to dramatically increase your personal safety and keep your runs sacred.

-- Jarrett

Readers -- Do you exercise outside after dark in the winter? Do you follow any of the tips mentioned above? What safety steps do you take when you run at night? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Jarrett Arthur is one of the highest-ranking female black-belt instructors in Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense) in the country. For more than 10 years she's been educating and instructing men, women and kids about the importance of practical, effective self-defense and personal-safety knowledge. In 2009 she founded M.A.M.A. (Mothers Against Malicious Acts), a self-defense system designed exclusively for moms and all people responsible for the well-being of children.

You can find out more about Jarrett on her website. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram

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