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4 Essentials to Keep You Safe Every Day (and Night)

I have been teaching my program called Stilettos and Self Defense for many years and have heard far too many stories of violent crimes against men and women, young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. They all had one thing in common; they never thought it would happen to them.

We eat nutritious diets and exercise to protect our bodies from disease and to fight flab. So doesn't it make perfect sense that we must also exercise our awareness to protect ourselves from harm? If you're a health and fitness junkie then practicing awareness and personal safety should also be a part of your wellness journey. A simple way to begin to strengthen your awareness muscle is to add personal safety techniques to your daily to-do list. After all, protecting your physical body is crucial to your health.

Walking alone

When I started my martial-arts training back in 2000, I wasn't motivated by my personal safety. I was looking for a way to get off of the treadmill and out of the gym. It wasn't until one night when I was grabbed by a predator on a NYC street that I started to become much more aware of my safety. I took my martial-arts practice to a whole new level and dedicated hours a day at the dojang (Korean word for a formal training studio). Not only did I become more physically fit, but I really started to build my mental muscles and hone my awareness.

Learning safety techniques is usually not high on most people's priority list, because it's something we take for granted.  Many of us have a false sense of security thinking that someone else is protecting us. We think our husbands, boyfriends, fathers and even our cell phones will save us if we are in a dangerous predicament. In my opinion, personal safety is the most overlooked dimension of our health.

In my quest to keep people strong, safe and sexy, here are four essentials to keep you safe:

1. Dress Safely
Yes, what we wear can hinder or help us in the face of adversity.

Be sure to buy gym bags and handbags that cross the body, leaving your hands free to defend yourself.

Hoods and oversized hats can block your peripheral vision. Beanies and earmuffs will keep you warm and allow you to see a potential threat approaching you from the side.

Mittens are a no-no for safety as you can't hold onto an improvised weapon, or use your fingers for protection.

And ladies, as my martial-arts Master always used to tell me: Don't wear any shoes that you can't run in! So start training in your stilettos STAT.

2. Run Safely
When running early in the morning or in the evening, wearing running gear with reflective lighting is great for avoiding getting hit by a car, but it also can make you a target to a potential predator. I'm not saying to stay indoors, just please be sure to keep your awareness heightened. Leave the headphones at home and sing to yourself or use mantras and visualizations to fuel your run instead of tunes, especially when it's dark.

3. Walk Like a New Yorker
I lived in New York City’s Chinatown for seven of my fifteen years in Manhattan and I learned a lot about walking. If you weren't aware or walking with a purpose you may just get knocked over. It's a busy neighborhood, and some streets are so crowded with people, fish markets, delivery trucks and bad smells, that you're in complete sensory overload. There's no time to “mentally check out.” That was good practice that I can take with me anywhere in the world.

The key to awareness when out and about is to avoid looking like a big walking target.

No more lollygagging around especially while traveling in foreign cities. Always act like you know where you're going, even if you don't. Travel with a map and study it inside a café or hotel before heading out into the streets.

Communicate with your body. Walk with your shoulders back and head up. Let your body language say, “back off!”

4. Drive Safely
If you live in a city, big or small, where car transportation dominates (such as Los Angeles where I live now), then car safety should be on your safety check list.

Always check around your car before you enter it.

Lock your car doors as soon as you get in. We often rely on newer cars to lock themselves once you put it in drive. However, if a carjacker or attacker wants to get in, chances are he's going to follow you in before the car takes off!

If you take cabs, be sure to have them drop you off directly in front of your destination if it's late at night.


Readers — Have you ever taken a self-defense or martial-arts class? If so, what kind? What steps do you take to ensure your safety when walking/running alone? Leave a comment below and let us now.

Jennifer Cassetta is a third degree black belt, clinical nutritionist and personal trainer. She loves kale, chocolate and wine. She loves to punch, kick, lift weights, meditate, and dress up in stilettos. She empowers people to be strong, safe and sexy through nutrition, fitness and self-defense, and you can read more at

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