Walking or running alone can be scary. Read on to learn our five tips to walk or run safely.

When I started racewalking, it was fun and I walked with a group. But as a competitive racewalker, I had to train alone on most days and dreaded it. I didn’t feel safe. Walking through my fear, I discovered ways to feel safer as I persevered to my first championship. Here are five tips to consider before your next walk.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Oftentimes, music can be a distraction from the discomfort or monotony of an outdoor aerobic workout. It may even help to increase your walking speed. I’m probably going to lose a few readers here, but leave your music at home. Music prevents you from hearing activity, traffic and people around you.

Is the area well lit? Are there lots of people walking or running? Are you away from traffic or will you need to be aware of traffic stops and lights? These are some considerations when you step out for a walk. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, but drivers aren’t always attentive to foot-travelers. To alleviate boredom, focus instead on your breathing, form, time, distance, nature, your thoughts or the people walking by. Walking can also be an amazing opportunity to problem-solve!

Wear Dark Sunglasses and a Cap
Sounds like an incognito celebrity disguise, but there are benefits to this attire. Wearing dark sunglasses shield your eyes from sunlight and allow you to see everything and everyone around you. If someone on your path is acting suspiciously, you have the option of changing your direction well before you’re noticed. No one can see you looking at them unless you want them to notice you. Acknowledging other walkers and runners works to your benefit if you frequent a specific route. If someone recognizes you as a “regular,” on the route, and you give a nod or a wave when you see them, they will be more inclined to help you if you’re in need.

A cap absorbs sweat on hot days so you don’t run the risk of having it get into your eyes obstructing your vision. In colder temperatures, a hat can retain heat in the body.

Walk in the Daylight
During the day, more people are around so anyone with questionable intentions may be less likely to cause harm. If you must walk or run in darkness, stay in open, well lit areas. Run with the flow of traffic so cars can see you and whenever possible, stay in the middle of the street. This way, if someone is hiding in bushes or behind a building, you have a head start getting away.

Vary Your Routine
Have more than one partner and rotate them. It may require a bit of planning, but working out with different people at different times of the day and varying your route will keep anybody from tracking you! If you choose to go it alone, add some variety to your routine. Some variations I applied were walking to the park one day and driving another; changing the direction I walked around the park; and changing clothes at work and walking home instead of taking the train. I calculated the distance to be approximately seven miles, which took me about an hour. This was great because when I got home, I could shower and relax!

Keep it Moving
I’ve witnessed many negative responses when women snub greetings from male passersby. We ignore them because they are intrusive, but the slightest response may keep the peace. I’m not advocating stopping to hold a conversation with anyone, but a “thumbs up” or a “hey” without breaking your stride is more than enough acknowledgement.

These techniques proved to be winners for me. I hope they are for you as well.