A recent survey by Adidas found that 92 percent of female runners expressed concern about safety during outdoor runs, but only half took precautions. The survey claims more than half of women have experienced unwanted attention, and more than a third have been harassed. These numbers seem shockingly high and saddened me, because it doesn't have to be this way. 

Let's look at some tips to keep you safer while exercising outdoors.

Table of Contents

Carry a Self-Defense Tool
Learn Self-Defense & Train
Use the Buddy System
Plan Your Route & Mix It Up
Stay Alert & Be Visible
Share Your Location With Someone
Trust Your Instincts 

Carry a Self-Defense Tool


Pepper spray, flashlight, pocketknife, tactical pen for self defense
Consider carrying self-defense tools like pepper spray, tactical pens, tactical flashlights, and pocket knives if you're not ready to carry a firearm. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

As a Second Amendment and women's safety advocate, I suggest carrying a firearm for self-defense. Learning to shoot and carry concealed is the best way to protect your safety and yourself. If you train often, you will gain confidence and feel empowered. The best way to survive an attack is to avoid it altogether, but a firearm is your best bet if you can't.

These Alexo Athletica carry leggings have a stiff, sturdy waistband that holds up the weight of small pistols like my Glock 43. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

These days there are many options for carrying concealed in athletic clothes, too. Alexo Athletica makes a fantastic line of "carrywear," so you can exercise your Second Amendment right while exercising your body. I have worn their leggings and bike shorts for years and highly recommend them. You can also wear a bellyband with a Kydex holster clipped to it or the Phlster Enigma, which allows you to carry in almost any outfit.

If you're not ready to carry a firearm, or permits are hard to come by where you live, you have other options. Self-defense tools like knives, tactical flashlights, sharp striking devices, pepper spray, or tasers may save your life if you're attacked. Remember, you must train with these tools as you would with a firearm. I prefer tools that can inflict damage instead of personal alarms, but they may also be a deterrent. And don't forget: your voice is a built-in alarm if you can use it.

Related: Do I Have to Ditch My Personal Style to Carry Concealed?

Learn Self-Defense & Train


Books about self-defense
Books on self-defense are a great way to educate yourself and develop a self-defense mindset. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

Self-defense classes will teach you essential strategies for surviving an attack. I've found these classes also instill necessary confidence in women. If you can't get to a class right away, take advantage of books, videos, and online courses. Nothing can replicate one-on-one training, but you can learn quite a bit at home.

You also need to educate yourself on and train with the specific tools you plan to carry. A firearm, knife, or taser won't do you much good unless you know how to use them. It's also crucial to train situationally with these tools. It's not easy trying to deploy a tool under massive stress, but practice will make you better. 

Related: 3 Self-Defense Books Every Woman Should Read

Use the Buddy System

We all know there's safety in numbers, and one of the best things you can do is run with a buddy. For women, this can be difficult because we're usually trying to squeeze our exercise in either early or late in the day. Many running and walking groups like to meet during these hours, which is also a great option.

And if you can't make that work or prefer a solo run, take your dog along. Dogs are great companions who also may act as deterrents to criminals. Plus, there's no better accountability than a pup waiting for you to take him outside to exercise!

Plan Your Route & Mix it Up


Woman tying running shoes on sidewalk
Stay alert at all times when running outside and use situational awareness to assess your surroundings. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

Find somewhere with a familiar route that's in a well-lit and populated area. It should go without saying, but if a place feels scary, it's best to avoid it. Don't let your sense of independence cloud your judgment here. As good as it feels to run in the woods while the birds are chirping and the sun is coming up, it's not the safest idea if you're alone. You don't have to be a hermit, but you must weigh the potential for harm when choosing where to run.

You also want to mix it up. As a creature of habit, this is a tough one for me. It's so easy to slip into a routine when exercising daily. I'm always tempted to take the same route. The path of least resistance, so to speak. But this is the best way for someone looking for a victim to know where you're going.

If you run clockwise in your neighborhood, throw in a few counterclockwise or zig-zag patterns throughout the week. Don't overcomplicate this to the point of disrupting your exercise. Vary your times slightly or look for new routes that are close.

Stay Alert & Be Visible


Earbuds and headphones
Earbuds are great for outdoor exercise, but I only wear one, so I can still hear surrounding noise. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

Situational awareness goes a long way when running. It's so easy to get into a meditative state, which is great on the treadmill, but not so much outside. You must fight anything that makes you feel complacent or in a trance and stay on top of your surroundings. Body language can tell you a lot about the person you're about to cross paths with.

I'm an over-the-ear headphones kind of gal, but I ditch those for outdoor exercise. Instead, I opt for one earbud and keep the volume low so I can still hear as much as possible. You can also opt for bone-conduction headphones that don't cover your ears or audio sunglasses.

Reflective strap and tactical flashlight with visor clip
Left: If you don't have reflective clothing, you can pick up a sash like this one that has flashing and solid light bars on either side. Right: Instead of a headlamp, I clip my tactical flashlight to the brim of my hat when it's dark out. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

You want people to see you, even when it's dark. Wear bright, reflective clothing and carry a flashlight or invest in a headlamp. I have a tactical flashlight that clips to the visor of my hat. I can use it to light my way and grab it to use as a striking device if needed. 


Share Your Location with Someone

Never leave for an outdoor run without informing someone where you're going. If you live alone, connect with a friend or family member. Let them know you'll be sending a text when you leave and get home and give them the location of your runs. My husband and I share our real-time locations on our phones, just in case.

If you run with a smartwatch that can call 911 for you, learn the shortcut for dialing. When your body is under stress, performing routine tasks is difficult, so practice getting to the buttons (without actually dialing) ahead of time. It's also a good idea to set or update the emergency contacts on your phone and carry your ID, just in case. 

Trust Your Instincts


Woman holding tactical flashlight
My tactical flashlight can be used as a striking tool if needed. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)

And lastly, trust your instincts, no matter what. I cannot stress this enough. Your intuition is there for a reason, and you should always listen to it. If alarm bells are going off, prioritize your safety, even if it means you're erring on the side of caution.

Trusting your instincts can look like crossing the street, turning around, or going another way. It can also look like raising your voice, calling for help, screaming, or running away. Don't worry about being wrong. It's better to be safe and unharmed, even if you feel embarrassed afterward.

It can be scary for women to exercise outdoors, especially if we're alone. Sometimes it feels unfair to deal with this, but it's best to accept it and act. You can continue your runs and walks safely by making intelligent decisions and taking a few basic precautions.

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