As an avid runner and a women’s self-defense instructor (not to mention success and empowerment author and speaker) I have plenty of tips and tools for women to use when it comes to staying safe while out running (or walking).
First and foremost, it is important that women understand our empowerment is our responsibility. It is up to each of us to seek out our own knowledge, self-defense skills and work at improving our awareness and ability to protect and defend ourselves.
While it would be wonderful if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry or think about this topic – that is a utopian fairytale.
Too many women think, “That won’t happen to me.” Or “I have a husband and five brothers who will always keep me safe.”
While the good men in our lives mean well, as women (and busy mothers) it is not realistic to expect our men to be at our defense 24/7 nor is it okay for us to give our power away by refusing to become responsible and educated when it comes to our well-being and safety.
Becoming Fierce & Empowered (the name of my women’s self-defense program) requires us to step up and become educated along with taking action.
The following are some tips for improving your safety while out running or walking. These are only tips – and I highly encourage every lady who reads this article to find and participate in a women’s self-defense program.
Tip #1 Trust Your Instincts
Always! Women are much more intuitive than men are (instinctive about things), it is part of our built in defense mechanism. Listen to your instincts.
If a person or environment doesn’t feel right and your yellow warning flags go up – be alert and pay extra attention. If a red flag ever goes up – don’t hesitate, just leave. You never need to have another reason for leaving people or a location. A red flag is your instincts telling you something is not right.
Tip #2 Think Before You Go
Where are you going? Who with? What and who is there? What time is it? What else is going on then and there? Leave a note, tell someone (your spouse or best friend) your preplanned routes. Never share location/route details on social media.
*BTW keep your personal info off the internet/social media – don’t friend people you don’t know. Never share information about your running on social media (not routes, races etc).
Tip #3 Where Are You?
Pay attention to your environment when you go places. Where are the exits? What other routes can take? Notice who is there and what they are doing. Notice what is familiar and normal along your running routes and that which is odd. Are the right cars parked by the same houses? Do you know people along your route? That is – are there safe places for you to go along the way?
Who lives along your route? That is who will notice if you go one way and don’t come back like you always do a half hour later?
Same with your neighbor’s dogs – they have great instincts. They will know if something isn’t right too. Is a normally quiet calm dog barking insanely aggressively today? Slow down, look around – does everything else seem normal?
Tip #4 Create a Safe Spot
Only tell 2-3 people you trust where this safe spot is. It could be a friend/neighbor’s house, a gas station/store etc. Talk with that person and confirm you can use their place if you need to. Know the code to get in, their address etc. If it is a public place make sure it is well lit, actually safe and will have plenty of people around and cameras.
Tip #4 Be safe – Every Time
If think you are being watched or followed get somewhere safe, lock doors, and call police. Every time. Be silly, look stupid. It gets recorded every time. You don’t know if anyone else has been calling 911 that month about the same person/car/location. Don’t leave your safe spot until police can confirm the area is safe, and still call home for a pickup ride back home.
Tip #5 Don’t rely on Pepper Sprays
Truth – unless you have practiced a few times before using pepper spray you will likely either drop it, not be able to push the button or accidently spray yourself instead of your attacker. Don’t bother with it unless you are going to take the time to learn how the one you have works. Many sprays have a tab you have to lift before you press down which takes up the only 3 seconds you have to make it effective anyways.
Tip #6 Same with anything else you carry.
Keys, pocket knives, sprays, whistles, phones, mp3 players, water bottles – they are either in your pockets meaning you won’t be able to get them out in time to use them, or they are taking up your hands which also prevents you from using your hands in defense. Keep at least one hand empty all the time!
You always need one hand free, preferably two. One hand/arm can catch you if you fall to the ground and/or be used to protect your neck/head/face.
If you insist on carrying something – make sure you can drop it quickly and that it’s not attached to you. (ex – your headphones can fall out and away from your neck quickly.)
Tip #7 Always have an eye and an ear open.
It is very easy to get caught up in your run. Keep your music turned down low enough that you can hear cars and people approaching/passing. Keep an eye on your surroundings, not just the ground beneath you. Check behind you every so often, if you stop at an intersection for traffic, take 10 seconds and turn all the way around and observe.
Take a day and walk, meet and greet your neighbors and their dogs. Even a dog you aren’t fond of.
Same when running out in nature (trails). Drive through the park’s roads first and make sure things look normal and nothing stands out as unusual or gives you a creepy feel. Pay attention to nature around you – are the birds suddenly quiet or extra loud. Was the park full and now on your second lap it is suddenly empty?
If running on trails – take a running buddy along with you. If your running pals are faster than you – make them wait up for you every so often.
Tip #8 Run when you can and be wise!
Males will tell us to run in daylight, but they aren’t busy working moms and they don’t understand that it’s almost impossible to run in broad daylight around lots of people every time. We have to work out when we can fit it in, and we shouldn’t live in utter fear of being outside by ourselves.
That being said, if you run in dusk – wear bright colors, reflective items, run on busier streets, have a designated safe spot in place. Be sure to inform your family where you are going and how long you will be. It seems so silly and redundant but it is really important to inform them every time.
If you have a dog – take the dog with you and do a slower and/or shorter run.
Tip # 9 Keep Going
Don’t stop for drivers who slow down and roll down window to talk. Just keep going. Ignore cat calls and commenters, don’t slow down. If someone actually gets in your way, turn and run the other way or cause a very loud scene where others will have to take notice.
Never ever and I mean never get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know. I don’t care if you have a broken leg. If you do get injured and need help, flag someone down, ask them to call 911 and tell them to please wait over there. When help arrives (police, paramedics) question them and be on the defensive. Predators come in all shapes, sizes and wear badges (real/fake). Never go to a second location without first being able to call/text someone you know to tell them where you are and who you are with and where you are going. (Real help will allow you make a quick call.)
Tip #10 Be your own savior!
No matter who is around, where you are, or what – if any help arrives, don’t expect anyone to step in and save you if you find yourself in a situation needing help. Expect to have to defend and protect yourself and be able to escape on your own. This is where taking a self-defense class will come in handy.
If you do find yourself in a bad situation and attacked – remember this – you never want to be taken to a second location. You stand and defend and fight for yourself right where you until you can safely get away. Then get away to a safe location and call for help asap.
Being your own savior means developing greater awareness of yourself, your habits, your decisions and your surroundings, learning to act on those instincts and taking preventative measures to ensure your safety.
Bonus Travel Safety Tips (for races)
#1 Wait to Share
Don’t share your selfies on social media until you are back home after the event. Don’t announce where your next race is! Don’t share the title of it. Don’t share any travel details at all.
#2 Know Who/When/Where
Check in with those you know who are going, (night before, before race and after), and once yo get home. Keep an eye on your gal pals. Let your family know when the race is over and when you leave and what time you expect to be back.
#3 Stay in the Crowd
Never go into other locations with any guy by yourself or even just one friend. Stay where there are groups of people. Use busy bathrooms even if they are on the gross side. Travel in pairs to and from vehicles – or tell a friend you trust you are going to the car and will be right back. (Often we have to park away from the race and away from crowds.)
#4 Get it yourself
Don’t accept food or drinks/water from others – always get it yourself! Especially at bigger events.
If you notice a stranger watching you too closely – toss your drink and get another.
If you notice anyone watching you way too closely – call for help, find the nearest race volunteer – ask for the director and report it.
#5 Plan ahead for the journey back home
Pay attention after the race and on the drive home – you are tired and make easy target. If you need to take a quick rest stop – make sure it’s well lit, other people are around and the neighborhood seems safe. Fill your gas tank before it gets dark out. (Make sure your gas tank is filled the day before your race – often you won’t have to fill up on the way home).
Image © Dollar Photo Club