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Staying Safe on Runs and Rides

Posted on April 12 2018

Safety Book Cover

Bicycling and Run Safety for Women

Being super awesome gutsy triathletes, we have a few things in common. We’re strong, we’re driven, and if we’re not fearless, we’re definitely hella brave.

Mountain Biking Safety

At Coeur, we constantly see examples of bravery and determination

But, real talk: sometimes the same bravery and drive that helps us excel at (or at least participate in) our sport can also lead us to put ourselves in less-than-ideal positions—and I’m not talking about your bike fit.

No, we make training a priority, and that means sometimes, we head out on a solo run before the sun comes up, or we take ourselves out for a spin on a road less cycled even if we don’t have a riding buddy for the day. It’s unavoidable, we tell ourselves – most of us can’t reasonably expect to get in all our training with a buddy or in a group setting, and what are we supposed to do? Wait around for a chaperone? Hell no.

But, if you’re anything like me – and, as I said in the first paragraph, I’m betting you are – you can probably be at least a little smarter about your training. I certainly can. And sure, it would be great if we all took self-defense classes and knew the exact moves to use if attacked from the front or the back, or with a knife, or with a gun, or with a pair of swim goggles. I took that class in college, and it was great – I got college credits for learning to kick some ass! But that was … well, a couple of decades ago now (get off my lawn!), and while I’m sure I looked like La Femme Nikita during my final exam, I suspect my moves today would more closely resemble a really pissed off octopus.

So, I asked Alex Allred, a fitness instructor, motivational speaker, self-defense expert, and author of the book Trumping the Rape Culture & Sexual Assault for her thoughts and tips on what we should all know – and what we should do – to keep ourselves safe.

Alexandra Allred Book

1. Be aware.

Allred cites a study about iPhones being stolen, and the easiest marks were women ranging in age from 16 to early 30s. “Why? It’s easy because, first, the phones are always accessible, and second, the user is super distracted, staring at her phone,” she says. “Aggressors will watch their victim anywhere from 15 minutes to several weeks—I know, so creepy—and most often the women have no idea.”

How many times have you been waiting to meet a friend, or stretching alone after a run, staring at your phone with little thought given to your surroundings? Yep. Thought so.

“Pick your head up. Look around. Know where you are and who’s around you,” says Allred. “Bored while waiting for a friend? Play a game: How many people can you count with mustaches? How many people are wearing shorts with a heavier jacket? By doing this, not only are you aware of your situation, know what people look like, could see if someone might be watching you, but you will also be a great witness. Bad guys rarely pick the person who is uber vigilant and aware.”

And, when it comes to those solo rides/runs/swims, situational awareness is vital. Allred suggests the following:

  • Keep your head up so you can see who’s around.
  • Keep your music low so you can hear footsteps or cars approaching.
  • Change up your routes and times so a potential aggressor can’t plan to find you.
  • Pick safe routes, and in non-daylight hours, avoid going it alone in areas with lots of tall trees or private paths. “I know it sucks,” says Allred. “You want to train alone, you need that specific time, but you can find a treadmill (ugh) and/or a training partner or, at the very least, drive into a more populated and well-lit area, even at 4 am.”
  • Make sure someone knows where you are, where you’re going, and when you expect to be back.

    2. Stop worrying about being so nice.

      I asked Allred about the biggest mistake her students make, and her response was immediate. “Hands down, we're nice. We ignore that inner voice that tells us someone is creepy or icky or weird because we don't want to hurt the icky man's feelings. Instead, we put our head down, try not to make eye contact and block out the creepy guy—which is exactly what Mr. Creepy wants,” she says. “It is hard to be a good eyewitness, it is hard to escape/evade, and it is hard to defend if you do not see the assault coming.”

      Don’t worry – nobody is suggesting you walk around looking for a fight. But, “you should make eye contact—let him know that you see him, you could identify him, you will know his next move,” says Allred. “Resist the female instinct to smile and be pleasant. If your inner alarm is suddenly blaring, this is for a reason and you need to listen to it.”

      Now, as someone who generally just wants everyone to be happy and have nice things, this does not come easily to me, but Allred makes another good point that made a world of difference for me: “I teach my classes that a serious expression with a firm head nod, as though to say, 'Hey, how's it going?' and, 'I see you' is what it is—to a regular guy, I'm just acknowledging him, but to a bad guy, I am debunking the idea that I'm an easy mark.”

        3. Nail the one move every woman should know.

          Allred admits that a 3 or 4 hour training can teach a few solid moves, but, “in that moment of crisis, you will NEVER REMEMBER! In that moment of surprise attack, it is difficult to remember how to crank a thumb, twist the arm, swivel the hips, etc.,” she says. “The standard self-defense moves are good, and they do work but only with weeks and weeks (if not more) of practice.”

          But there’s one move you already know how to do, and it’s the best weapon in your arsenal. Ready to practice it?

          “Go somewhere secluded (car in the garage, your closet) and yell. I mean, full on yell,” says Allred.

          Embarrassing? Probably. But it’s definitely worth it. “You train so hard as an athlete for your race, you studied so hard in high school and/or college for that degree … but you have never once thought to practice your power yell that could save your life?” asks Allred.

          While any noise is better than none, a power yell that’s loud and lower in tone is what you want to aim for.

          “A feeble 'eek' is an encouraging sign for a bad guy,” says Allred, “while a loud, roaring, don't-mess-with-me yell does three instantaneous things: calls for help, lets this guy know he may have just bitten off more than he can chew, and psychologically amps you up. This is your life. It's go time!”

          Look, I know you’re super tough, but you know what? You’re also worth taking care of, and if making a few tweaks to your schedule is the difference between putting yourself in danger or not, those tweaks are seriously worthwhile.

          And on that note, I’ve gotta go. I need to practice my very serious, “’Sup, bro, I see you and you might be very nice but if you’re a bad guy, you definitely don’t wanna mess with me,” face in the mirror before my next run. (Anyone who’s ever joined me at karaoke knows that making very loud and unpleasant noises without embarrassment is … not going to pose a problem.)

          About the Author

          Kristen Seymour

          Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.