By Daniel Arnett, USAT L2 Coach
Lately the fitness community has been abuzz about a few random attacks that have occurred. Immediately the focus has been directed on what women can do once attacked. This is an incomplete view of the situation and if we don’t take a complete look, it will be detrimental to us all. This is not only a female problem; it’s a fitness community problem that should be appropriately addressed.
Unfortunately most men “feel safe” in general, but everyone needs to be just as vigilant. Men and women are equally in danger. Keep in mind that a 200lb male not paying attention makes a better target than a 110lb female that is vigilant.
These attacks were not committed in some desolate area in the wee hours of the night, but rather on heavily traveled paths during peak times. It should also be noted that these random acts represent an extremely small percentage. But that is not to insinuate that they should not be taken seriously. Safety is not only a female issue; it’s a fitness community issue as a whole.
Before the point of actually being physically attacked, both men and women are equal in the potential victim category. It’s the choices we make that allow us to be placed into the small % that become victims. Don’t place yourself at undue risk, make good choices and be a responsible fitness community member. We want to see you out there day in and day out.
There are a few simple things that we all should be doing to be smarter and safer.
1) Don’t be a target
– Attackers look for victims that are ‘easy targets’. This does not mean that everyone is a threat, but rather that you should not be oblivious to the world around you. Simply pay attention. Look around you when training, greet people and look them in the eye. This lets them know you are paying attention and is helpful to you in identifying someone that might be a threat.
2) Use your gut
– More times than I can count I have been running or riding on a well traveled path and my gut just says something is not right. It’s at that moment that my workout becomes secondary. I change my route or head back the way I came. Many people are too ‘zoned out’ to pay attention to their gut. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t mindlessly train.
3) Pay attention
– Too many times I have startled other runners, male and female, simply by running past them. That is unacceptable. If you’re constantly startled when running you are willingly placing yourself at undue risk.
I’m not going to suggest that you never run with music because most athletes would rather cut off their right arm than give up their iPod. Instead use it as background noise not to cut yourself off from the world noise. Ladies can easily accomplish this by wrapping the ear bud around their bra strap and turning it up a bit. You can hear your music AND things around you. Men can similarly find a clip and put that ear bud on your hat or the top of your shirt.
4) Running/training with a friend isn’t always possible
– The run with a buddy concept is a great one on paper but as athletes with training schedules and plans it doesn’t work well in practice. Even a group run becomes a set of individuals after the first few miles. If 5 people start the run, wait around for all 5 to finish the run. You’d want them to wait for you to ensure safety, do it for them.
Run on paths where you’ll encounter other runners. If most people run a loop in a certain direction, run the opposite direction so you’ll encounter more people. It’s almost like you’re not running by yourself.
5) e-crumb from RoadID
– A large number of people now run with the smart phones. A great and free app that can be a huge safety check is e-Crumb (https://www.roadid.com/ecrumbs). It allows your friends and family to track you in real time and also has a stationary alert if you’ve been stopped for longer than 5 minutes.
The main purpose of this article is to minimize your chances of becoming a victim by putting these suggestions into practice. This applies to everyone in the fitness community as a whole. We want you to be safe and not let fear and a small probability of something bad happening keep you from staying healthy. So follow these simple tips, stay alert and enjoy the outdoors.