In a collaborative effort with Scott over at Straight to the Bar, we will be writing about exercise equipment throughout the month of January.
In a similar vein to a few weeks ago when I wrote about toys for runners, I would like to describe some of the safety equipment that you can get to keep yourself safe while you are out on the roads.
Running barefoot can be very good for your feet when done properly, but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of you use running shoes. I list them as the first piece of safety equipment because choosing the proper shoes will help you prevent you from getting injured, and any shoe will help keep your feet safe from glass and ice. If you want to know more about shoes, I wrote a series of articles about how to choose and care for your running shoes last August.
Carrying some sort of identification with you is important in case the worst should happen and you can not identify yourself. I prefer to wear a Road ID dog tag, because it is very easily recognizable, very easily carried, and includes my name, emergency contact info, and some vital health statistics such as blood type and allergies. If I am unconscious, then my emergency caretakers will know enough about me to keep me alive and will be able to try calling my wife, my mother, or my place of employment. Somebody will know where I am and what happened to me. Carrying your license, or getting something that you can wear on your wrist or shoe works as well, but I prefer the dog tag because I am more likely to have it with me and it is more likely to be easily found and recognized.
Wear clothing appropriate to the weather. In the summer, wear light, breathable clothes. In the winter, layer up with fabrics that can wick your sweat away from your body and provide a nice layer of insulation away from your skin. You want to be cold at the start of your run, unless you are running somewhere that you can discard layers as you warm up. Hats, masks, head bands, and gloves can go a long ways toward keeping you warm.
Wear something reflective; even when it is not dark, you will be more likely to be seen. If there is any snow on the ground, you want something that will stand out. You can usually find running clothes that have reflective bands on them; if you are out in the dark, I recommend getting something a little more substantial like a reflective vest. A little strip of tape is not usually enough to identify to a driver that there is somebody in the road. I want there to be no doubts about that.
Flashlights and Headlamps
One way to make a driver absolutely sure that there is somebody in the road ahead of him is to carry a flashlight; better yet, wear a headlamp. A headlamp makes it so that you can see where you are going without having to alter your stride to account for your swinging arms, and you do not have carry anything in your hands. I was not sure how much good my headlamp was doing to keep me visible, but now that I do not have street lamps every 15 feet on my road I needed it to see where I was going. After having passed somebody else wearing one, they are certainly visible and noticable. Even if the driver doesn’t know that a runner is in the road, they will see the moving light and know that there is something that they need to avoid.
Strobe lights are another way to get a drivers attention. You can attach them to your front or back. A flickering light is more likely to grab someone’s notice than even the bobbing of your headlamp. They will not illuminate your path, but they can let drivers behind you know that you are there. A headlamp really is not very visible from behind, despite the small bit of illumination it provides in front of you. Used together, then you at least know that they saw you.
The single most important safety item that you can use when running, though, is definately water. Water breaks down the fuel that you eat so that you can use it. It keeps you from getting dehydrated. It keeps you from getting sick. Your body is made up mostly of water. I recommend that you drink plenty of water throughout the day, ever day. Be sure to drink some before and after every workout. If you are dehydrated then no amount of safety accessories will be able to keep you from falling and hurting yourself. If you would like to know more, then read about how to hydrate in my archives.