Many fitness classes celebrate the benefits of exercising with a group, and the trend seems to be growing. You can work up a sweat at a boot camp class, head to a treadmill studio, or spin to some thumping music. As wonderful as those options can be for motivation and accountability, they’re not for everyone. Some people prefer to exercise solo, and they might be on to something. U.S. News and World Report explained that working out as an individual really allows you to focus on your own fitness goals and offers unbeatable flexibility for an unpredictable schedule.
It also happens to be the perfect time of year to take your workout out of the gym to enjoy some beautiful weather while escaping from the hectic pace of work life. An abundance of hiking trails and bike paths make it pretty easy to squeeze some heat-pumping activities into your day. Before you step out the door, though, it’s a good idea to remember that going solo carries more risks than exercising with a group. Follow these 6 tips, and you’ll have a workout that’s both fun and safe.
1. Wear flashy clothes
For some reason, black is often the color of choice for athletes. It has the uncanny ability to slim any physique, and it also carries a certain attitude that other colors just can’t match. For those breaking a sweat alone, though, picking bright colors is a better option. Why? Visibility. SparkPeople explained wearing bright colors and reflective materials is absolutely critical for people who exercise at night. A black ensemble will make you blend right into your surroundings, putting you at a greater risk of a collision with a bike or vehicle. Even if you’re able to escape during lunch for an afternoon run, About Health says it’s still important to keep visibility in mind.
If you prefer to exercise in the extremely early or late hours of the day, those neon tights and shoes probably aren’t going to be enough to make your presence known. Consider investing in gear specifically designed to make you pop when it’s dark. Greatist featured a whole host of options that will work for any number of activities. In this instance, the more obnoxious, the better. Instead of fixing a regular light to the back of your bike, go for one that blinks. The Chicago Tribune explained the flashing bulbs draw more attention than ones that are just a steady stream of light.
There’s also the fun factor. Decking yourself from head to toe in neon can be kind of fun. According to She Knows, it could also help boost your mood. So go ahead and buy those crazy shoes.
2. Get some wearable identification
Apart from throwing keys into your pocket, it’s unlikely you carry much else with you when heading outside to get your heart pumping. After all, it’s no fun to weigh yourself down with a bunch of extra stuff. We recommend that you add just one more item to the mix: identification. Most people don’t consider the possibility that they could get seriously injured on a run, but there’s always a risk. Instead of carrying around your driver’s license, invest in an ID band. Competitor.com shared a few stories about men who were involved in accidents that required emergency responders. The tags on these men’s wearable IDs provided paramedics with contact information for their families and also shared important health information, including allergies to certain medications.
3. Avoid isolated areas
Many athletes wave off warnings that exercising in secluded places can be dangerous. After all, a lot of the most beautiful trails and paths go through wooded areas that don’t see many people. But they can be dangerous for individuals. Women’s Heart Foundation recommended avoiding any isolated areas, and also suggested notifying someone of your intended route.
Even familiar areas can be a risk if you’re heading out during off hours. FOX40 reported that a female runner was assaulted when running alone at night earlier this year. Along the same lines, being alert and aware of what’s going on around you will clue you in to any situations that could be dangerous. If something looks or feels suspicious, it probably is.
You don’t have to give up on ever hiking or biking through the woods as long as you’re smart about it. Save the trails for days when you might want to chat with a friend or look for trail races. You’ll be surrounded by others and also get the opportunity to push yourself during the heat of competition.
4. Plan for hydration
Staying hydrated seems simple enough. When you get thirsty, drink some water. Hydration is a lot more complicated than that, though, especially when you’re adding a workout to the mix. Adrian Cohen, MD and a consultant for Survivor, told WebMD that “thirst is typically a poor guide.” Symptoms like headaches and difficulty concentrating may occur long before you feel like taking a swig. Get too dry, and you could find yourself dizzy and in need of medical attention.
Planning your fluid needs around your exercise is the best option. Live Science said it’s important to start out well-hydrated before you begin, because it’s hard to catch up while you’re sweating. Every individual is different, so the article also recommended weighing yourself before and after to find out exactly how much fluid you need to replace. Don’t forget about electrolytes, either, because they’re just as important as water. Livestrong explained an electrolyte imbalance can lead to a number of health problems.
For shorter efforts, staking out a few key water fountains will do the trick. For longer periods of exercise, you may need to invest in something you can bring with you. Cyclists have the benefit of holders for water bottles on their bikes, but there are also choices for people going by foot. Runner’s World suggested hand-held bottles, waistpacks, and over-the-shoulder models, depending on your needs.
5. Tell a friend
One of the best ways to protect yourself during a solo workout is also one of the simplest. It’s as easy as telling a trusted friend or family member about your plans. Just give them a call or send a quick text message. The Huffington Post recommended that you let someone know that you’re going to be out, where you’re headed, and how long you’ll be gone. If something should happen, they’ll be clued in when that 45-minute run stretches to 2 hours. Just make sure you let them know when you’re back so they don’t go into panic mode.
6. Ditch the headphones
Listening to some tunes might be good for boosting your mood and helping you keep a rhythm during your workout, but music can also be a dangerous distraction. Runner’s World explained wearing headphones robs you of one of your most valuable senses. You won’t hear a dog racing up from behind you, the crackle of a falling tree branch, or a potential assailant approaching while blasting heavy metal.
If you’ve never hit the sidewalk without listening to music before, give it a shot before you dismiss the idea of giving up your favorite songs. One journalist told The Guardian he enjoys going for a run more without bringing his earbuds along with him. If you really miss your tunes, save that playlist for some post-workout stretching when you get back.