NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Running is one sure fire way to stay fit and ready. More than 50 million people over the age of six years old actively participate in single activity exercises like running, cycling and walking. In 2008, 4,378 pedestrians were killed from traffic crashes in the U.S. and another 69,000 were injured. On average that is about one fatality every two hours and an injury every eight minutes.
Are you aware that most pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occur at night and in non-intersection locations? While running, jogging, walking during hours of darkness, ensure that you are facing traffic. Having your back facing traffic increases your likelihood of getting injured or even killed.
Facing traffic allows you to react quicker when something goes wrong. Always be especially alert when coming to intersections. Drivers often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street. Choosing to run, jog, or walk on the sidewalk rather than the street is simply safer.
What you wear can also have an impact on your safety while running. Wearing retro-reflective clothing, carrying LED lights or flashlights will make you much more visible to motorists during hours of darkness or reduced visibility. Your clothing is not the only important aspect to remember. Your footwear is important too. Choosing a running shoe appropriate for your body and running style can prevent running related injuries, such as shin splints and joint pain.
Running technique is important to not only get the most out of your workout, but to avoid injury as well. Here are a few tips. When running or jogging, push off your big toe with your foot slightly behind or under your hips. This helps you disperse your force evenly and effectively throughout your lower body. If you are a heel striker try and make a slight forward lean with your back straight. This will cause you to use your forefoot which will reduce your repetitive stress injury rate. When running downhill avoid being tempted to lengthen your stride and ‘brake’ on your heels. Instead run like you’re pedaling a bike by rolling your feet from mid foot to fore foot. This keeps you from drilling your heels into the ground. When you run, your body absorbs about three times your weight with each step that you take. Proper running technique will optimize shock absorption and minimize potential damage.
The path you take will also determine your potential for injuries. Choosing dirt, grass, or sand over asphalt or concrete can help alleviate some of the potential injuries associated with pounding the pavement. Running on a trail or terrain other than the running track will force you to change your stride lengths and direction, which will utilize different muscle groups and reduce stress on muscles and connective tissue. This allows for a better recovery and less risk of injury. Running cross-country trails can have psychological benefits, such as forgetting you are running and getting in touch with nature. The beautiful view helps your mind wander.
Running style, technique and location differs from person to person. Use these tips to help find what works best for you. Always make safety your first priority, choosing proper footwear, reflective clothing, and a safe path of travel. Take time to warm up properly beforehand and to stretch afterward. Most of all enjoy!