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As a runner, there are many things to consider before, during, and after each run.  I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you in hopes to make your runs safer and more enjoyable.  There’s nothing a runner hates more than personal injury (especially in the middle or close to an event or race).  Again, I am not a running expert by any stretch of the imagination; I merely want to share with you those things that work for me. 
Gear Basics
Not all people are alike; each individual has their own shape and form.  Serious-to-professional runners are very well aware of what gear they prefer to enhance their workouts.  Most runners (like you and I) don’t know so it is critical that we are aware of what our bodies require.  Everyone has their personal preferences too, so take great care in choosing the appropriate gear.  I won’t go too much into detail about the gear I use because I’d like to keep that in my “Gear Review” page…. 

Shoes:  In my opinion, shoes are one of the most important gear items (regardless of the cost).  I have had two knees surgeries and over the course of my life my feet and form have changed significantly between the two operations.  I made sure to have a running analysis done to determine what type of shoe I require to remain healthy.  So I began my search and have determined that there is one shoe that met my needs (Brooks Trance).  I used to wear a cushioning shoe (Asics Gel Nimbus-11’s) and have noticed that over the last year I’ve transitioned into needing more of a support shoe; enter the Brooks Trance…..  “My feet never felt happier!”

Clothes: proper running clothes ranks up there with regard to gear.  Of course, you can’t go running without this item; your run can be affected by wearing improper clothing.  I spent my teen-years growing up in the 80’s, and if you recall that era was notorious for its style.  One of the most popular items of clothing was sweatpants.  Obviously, styles have changed (thankfully) and technology has too.  I always run in moisture-wicking material (for circulation) and wear compression shorts/thermal tops and wind/water proof outer shells (to protect me from the elements).  I also throw in a hat and/or beanie hat and gloves to keep my head and hands warm during colder seasons.  Bottom line is: wear what is comfortable for you! 

Electronics: with today’s technological advances, electronics are getting smaller and more affordable.  I always run with music and a GPS device.  Regardless of what brand you choose, make sure you have done your research before dropping a ton of money on any one of these items.  In some cases, you can combine music and GPS into one device (saving you money).  Note: always remember to take good care of your electronics.  I have methods of ensuring my electronic devices are well secured, dry, and away from harm’s way to ensure longevity!  

Misc: there are tons of miscellaneous gear-items out there that you can choose to run with.  I don’t run with anything more than my electronics but I’d like to add a few safety items that could come in handy.  First, I always try to carry my cell phone with me in the event of injury or severe weather.  I place my cell phone into a snack-sized zip lock bag and then secure it into a SpiBelt brand runner’s belt.  I also carry my ID card (so others can identify who I am in emergencies) and some cash (cab, food/water, etc.).  You can also look into runner’s packs, bottle belts, and so on…..  Again, run safe and comfortably within your means.  If you are taking off for a run and feel like “Robo-Cop” you may have too much gear….. 

Safety Items: Reflective belt or material, a whistle, emergency ID bracelets or contact card all come to mind…..  One thing that I would like to add is letting your friends or family know where you are (IE a “run plan” so we know where to look for you if you don’t return home).  Have a well-planned route and try to run with another partner.  I avoid running at night because I hate gearing up with reflective material, lights, and headlamp…..  Plus, it is much safer to run during daylight hours because you are more visible.  If you must run at night (or early morning); run indoors on a treadmill or outdoors on a well-lit running track.  Have a first aid kit available at home (just in case you return home from a run and need minor medical attention).  Items should include band aids, antibiotic spray/cream, wraps and/or a split device, and ice packs.  Seek medical attention for serious injuries!  Bottom line: “safety is paramount!

Some Basics
Prior to each run, I always ensure that I am well nourished, properly hydrated, and stretched…..  I already know before each workout whether or not I am “up for the challenge.”  So, if I feel that I am not prepared (both mentally and physically) I will cancel the run.  There is no shame in cancelling a run due to your “gut feelings.”  Only you know your personal limits; don’t exceed them!  This could lead to possible injury or death.  I am not going to go into depth about running nutrition, hydration and/or stretches because each individual is different.  There is a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet and everyone has their personal “routines.”  

Nutrition and Hydration
I try to maintain a well balanced diet and eat 6-10 meals each day.  I also keep well hydrated throughout the course of the day.  I am typically drinking on average of 10-12 cups of water a day (with an additional 2-4 cups of coffee in the mornings).  I basically drink bottled water (we have home-bottle water service) and also own several water thermos-bottles (to minimize waste).  Don’t worry, we recycle!  I like to add crystal light powder mixes to my water…..  I also incorporate a lot of Gatorade products into my daily hydration plan (cut 50-50% with water).  

There’s a ton of runners stretches to choose from that covers all of the necessary parts…..  I have my personal preferences and I seem to have luck with what I am doing.  I want to point out that proper form and adequate time (recommend 20-30 seconds per stretch) are critical to ensuring you are “loosened up” properly.  I start out with a standing toe touch and work my down to a seated groin stretch.  I try to thoroughly hit up all of the areas: quads, calves, hamstrings, hips, shoulders and back. 

I also start concentrating on my breathing during stretches, thus preparing my lungs for the upcoming workout.  After a few minutes of stretching, I stand up and get “mentally prepared” for my run…..  I do this by hopping around and shaking my hands/arms loose, start my iPod music, and rolling my head/neck around in circles (and maybe throwing in a “little dance”).  I know it may appear to look silly, but I am trying everything I can to get “pumped up.”  Again, everyone is different.  

The Elements
Ok, I live in an area where we have four seasons.  It is a nice change but definitely a pain to train in the winter months.  Some hardcore runners will run outdoors regardless of the temperature or cover (snow or ice).  I have run in the winter months on both snow and ice and I do not like it!  Snow cleats (such as Yak Tracks) are nice items to consider for those of you running on snow or ice.  They are very affordable and add traction.  

Cold weather: Proper layering is important.  I always run with compression running thermals (tops and bottoms) and work outward from there.  Depending on the temps and wind chill, I choose a long sleeve under layer, middle layer running jersey, and outer layer wind/rain shell.  I wear a beanie (or balaclavas), gloves and some form of glasses.  Take some time to read up on the warning signs of cold related illnesses.

Warm weather: For those of you lucky enough to live in warmer more temperate climates, you really don’t have to worry about the snow or ice…..  Instead, you’ll need to pay close attention to the heat-factors associated with your area.  Those can include high temperatures, humidity, and sun (IE sunburn).  According to my southern friend, “heat injuries can really mess ("f") you up!  Hydration and workout moderation needs to be properly balanced to prevent heat-related illnesses…..  Take some time to read up on the warning signs of heat related illnesses.

Severe weather: Another noteworthy item to consider is the severe weather associated to your local area.  One thing comes to mind: Thunderstorms…..  I really don’t like to run in the rain, but I learned a while back that I had to incorporate some “rain-runs” into my training regimen to better prepare me for these soggy conditions.  I ran in a half-marathon where it rained the entire time.  I developed a couple of blisters and was very miserable during the run.  Well, back to T-Storms.  Do not run in them!  They produce such phenomenon as lightening, hail, and severe micro-bursts.  These are not fun at all, so don’t get caught outside during these conditions!  

Blizzards, snowstorms, and heavy rain = the same advice as above, do not risk it!  

Traffic Safety
For runners who train outdoors, traffic safety is one of the most important items to consider while planning a route.  I train both in and outdoors, but always remain cognizant of my surroundings regardless of where I am running.  For Indoors workouts, I run on my treadmill (which is located in a spot that prevents any of my children from interfering with me).   Outdoors, I am always paying attention to local laws, codes and regulations; some locations have stricter laws for bicyclists and pedestrians that you need to be aware of…..

Route: plan out a well-traveled, secure location that you are familiar and feel comfortable with.  I suggest running with a partner, but for most runners this is difficult to do.  So, I recommend running on a well-known and patrolled path or running track (whichever has the least amount of vehicles to contend with).  In most cases, runners aren’t afforded the opportunity to run on a track or path, so we have to compete with unpredictable surfaces and traffic.  Step cautiously as to prevent rolling an ankle and tripping or falling.  As for traffic, “In a battle with flesh against metal: flesh always loses.”  Again, while bicycling, running, or walking; you always have to adhere to the traffic safety codes and/or laws so be aware of them.  Try to stay on the sidewalks as much as possible!  

Intersections: not all intersections are protected with lights and/or crosswalks.  Use extreme caution when crossing at intersections (or streets where no intersections are provided).  Look both ways, consider vehicle speeds vs. braking distances and always use sound judgment when navigating the “concrete jungle.”  Take out your earphones while crossing intersections (so you can hear vehicle traffic ~ horns).  Some local laws prohibit you from wearing earphones while running or riding…..  Motorists: please be aware of motorcyclists, bicyclists, runners, and walkers too!  They are difficult to see!  

Encountering Wild Animals
This may seem odd to some of you, but ask those who are in remote areas or out in “BFE.”  Let’s face it people, animals are everywhere!  From the tiny and helpless rabbits to the rabid raccoons; we are not alone here!  Most of these animals are here because they are getting “free hand-outs” (from our garbage or pet-bowls).  Do yourselves a favor and keep your garbage and pet food secure.  This way we can mitigate the amount of wild animals drawn into our living areas…..

It won’t eliminate all of them.  Safe route consideration should incorporate the “wild” and avoid as much of it as possible.   Sometimes we cannot avoid everything but you need to know how to handle the animals when you do run into them (no pun intended).  Be aware of those wild animals (or domestic) relative to your areas.  Most of the time we are going to get chased by some dog or attacked by an animal trying to defend something close to them (den, offspring, or territory).  I cannot go into depth for each and every animal relevant to the world; that’s where you come in…..  “Do your homework!”

Remember, safety is your responsibility and don't take any unnecessary risks or chances.   Know and understand your limits and always be aware of your surroundings!