Sports

Stay Safe, Fit and Healthy

When running safety should always be a concern. If you are not careful it is easy to be hit a vehicle that’s not paying adequate attention or place yourself in a vulnerable position. Therefore there a few tips you should always adhere to whenever you run.

Firstly, tell someone that you are going out so they know to be suspicious if you do not return. Better still, try to run with another person or join a running group so you have safety in numbers. Some people also enjoy running with a dog, yet if you are fit and running long distances a dog can actually struggle to match the running endurance of a human.

Always run with at least a mobile phone so you can contact someone in case of an emergency – this might include getting help for yourself, but also for someone who you encounter who is in trouble. If possible it’s also best if you carry ID with you so that if you do encounter trouble and fall unconscious people can identify you and locate emergency contacts. Many runners also attach medical information to an item that they bring with them on a run, or write it on the inside of their shoes.

It is also wise to carry some cash with you just in case you need to ring a taxi or take public transport back home instead of walking or running or need to buy anything in emergency.

Always presume that cars can’t see you and take personal responsibility for your visibility, wearing high-visibility and reflective gear when running along roadsides. If running in the dark, invest in a head light or another lighting option. It may feel awkward, but safe and awkward is better than comfortable and dangerous. It is best to avoid running during the night altogether, if possible. At the very least if you are running during the night, stick to public and well-lit places; never run down an alley or deserted street by yourself.

When running down a road, run facing towards the traffic, instead of having it behind you, which enables you to see if a car is possibly going to collide with you. Drivers generally have an easier time seeing you if you are facing them as well.

Avoid listening to music whilst running, especially if you do run anywhere where vehicles are nearby. Jamming to the newest beat isn’t worth being hit by a bus that you couldn’t hear approaching. If you must listen to music whilst you run in a public place, only keep a single headphone in your ear at a reasonable volume so you can stay aware of surrounding noise.

Be careful when running early in the morning and late in the evening. People can be tired and cranky at this time, making their driving worse. Also be aware of the potential danger that other people may present and avoid groups of people and isolated places where you may be vulnerable. Use your own gut instinct here – if you feel like something is wrong, just take a different route or double-back and return later.

Make yourself clear to any people that you may encounter as you run. People are notoriously spatially oblivious to runners and you shouldn’t expect them to move out the way of you – call out ahead of you to make sure people get out of your way, especially down narrow paths.

Avoid antagonizing or responding to any verbal harassment. Some people, for some unknown reason, find it hilarious to laugh at struggling runners, catcall or perform some other idiotic provocation. Just ignore them and keep running – there is no need to turn a minor problem into a bigger issue.

If you are strongly concerned about your safety, you can use tracking devices which friends and family can link to in order to know your location as you run. You can even alter your route to make it harder for people to know your running patterns and anticipate your behaviour if you fear that you may be being stalked or followed.

Some people also feel the need to carry mace or pepper spray with them in order to deal with any potential attackers – it can never hurt to be prepared, especially if you are particularly vulnerable or you know you are running through a high risk area. Alternatively some runners also take it upon themselves to learn basic self-defence in order to fend off attackers as well as carry a noise alert or distress siren in order to gather help.

Of course in most circumstances this level of preparation will be somewhat excessive but go as far with your self-defence as you feel necessary; some neighborhoods are more dangerous than others.

Dealing with Immediate Injury

In the previous chapters various methods of injury prevention were outlined. However knowing how to deal with an injury that occurs whilst running is also important.

Firstly, it’s important to make a distinction between immediate and sharp pain and mild pain or aches that slowly grow and escalate over time. The latter suggests that there is some problem caused by poor form or weakness that is getting worse. This needs to be dealt with, but you can complete your run first then research what you are doing wrong later.

A rapid on-set, immediate and severe pain suggests something is heavily wrong and that you should probably stop immediately. If you have difficulty breathing and aching in your chest, be mindful of any sensations of faintness, extreme sweating or aching in the neck and shoulders, as these might indicate problems with your lungs or heart. If the problem subsides within a few minutes you are probably ok, but it is best to check up with your GP nonetheless.

Watch out for severe incremental pain in the foot which eventually becomes unbearable. This may be caused by a stress fracture, where the bones in the foot fracture and can no longer bear weight. Stop running immediately and seek treatment.

Also never continue to run if you have swollen your ankle, especially if swelling and redness has occurred. You may be able to tough it out and complete your run, but continued activity will damage your ankle more and cause you to take longer to recovery.

Hay Fever

Hay fever can play havoc with a runner’s ability to run long distances and enjoy their runs, but with a few simple steps the condition can be mostly alleviated. Hay fever is caused by your own body’s immune system reacting to pollen, resulting in inflammation and soreness in the sinuses, eyes and throat.

Pollen can be separated into three large categories; tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen. These tree types of pollen are released during different times of the year with tree pollen typically being released in spring to the beginning of summer, grass pollen is released from the end of the spring to the start of summer and weed pollen is mostly released during late autumn.

If you suspect that you are suffering from hay fever understanding what type of hay fever you are suffering can help you be prepared to cope with your symptoms. Hay fever is more prevalent in people who are related to other people who suffer from hay fever, asthma or eczema.

Above and beyond annoyance and irritation, hay fever poses a legitimate obstacle to running performance as it can drastically block your nasal capacity, reducing the amount of oxygen that can enter your lungs. It can result in your body becoming tired due to your immune system fighting an invisible threat and sap your concentration, affecting your technique.

To reduce the impact of hay fever there are several options. Air pollution can exacerbate the impact of hay fever, so trying to run away from urban places and roadsides where air pollution is prevalent can help. However avoiding places with lots of vegetation and pollen sources is also wise, so you can either try to run indoors or find an open place that lacks fauna growth.

Wearing sunglass can help limit your eyes exposure to pollen, although this can be somewhat impractical and difficult during the run. You can also avoid running during the time of the day where plants pollinate – early morning or late afternoon. If you are fortunate to have a flexible schedule, this means either running during the middle of the day or waiting until the evening. Some people even resort to taking their running gear with them to the office and going for a run during their lunch break.

After you have run ensure that you wash and clean your clothes regularly, as during the pollination season pollen will settle on your clothes, causing an allergic response sooner the next time you wear those clothes. In a similar manner avoid airing or hanging your post-workout clothes indoors as this will just spread the pollen inside.

In terms of diet, making an effort to consume a high amount of vitamin A can help keep the lining inside your respiratory system working effectively, reducing the build up of allergic effects. Vitamin A is particularly prominent in liver, sweet potato and fresh vegetables, including spinach.

Vitamin B5 is also known to be influential in allergic reactions and can be found in most meats and eggs. It can also be found in peanut butter. Other dietary supplements or requirements to manage allergic reactions and hay fever can include zinc, found in bran, poultry, red meat and shellfish as well as numerous fortified products. Likewise magnesium is also beneficial and can be found in a wide variety of foods, including leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, dark chocolate and some whole grains.

Ultimately if you eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet you shouldn’t need supplementation to consume enough vitamins and minerals. However if you do want to go the extra mile, cod liver oil contains a high amount of vitamin A and may be able to help.

In addition to taking anti-histamines and eye drops to help solve hay fever, you can also try buying some locally made honey. Local honey will be produced from bees that collect pollen from local plants, therefore containing some of the chemical compounds that are triggering your allergic reactions. This isn’t a bad thing however – it is though that by ingesting these compounds through eating honey you can develop a tolerance to local pollen, as if the honey were a vaccine.

For people who suffer severely with hay fever seek medical advice from your GP or pharmacist. It is important to be as proactive as possible as therapeutic solutions to hay fever are typically most effective when treatment starts before the pollination season.

Asthma

Running also poses significant problems to people who suffer from asthma. However don’t let any initial difficulties you face deter you, as exercise is beneficial to people with asthma. In fact exercise is great for asthma, as it boosts the efficiency of the lungs, bolsters the immune system and therefore reduces susceptibility to colds and coughs, promotes weight loss which is a contributor to asthma symptoms and improves mood, which can also worsen asthma symptoms.

Furthermore asthma doesn’t have to limit athletic performance with many athletes and people in physically demanding jobs having asthma themselves. The key is managing your asthma symptoms well. If your asthma is particularly severe currently and your fitness levels are lacking, it may be wise to use a gentler form of exercise to improve your condition first. Avoiding areas which are heavy with air pollution is also wise for people with asthma, so avoid roadsides with petrol fumes and areas with high pollen counts of freshly cut grass.

It can also be beneficial to construct your runs in a particular way by having recovery sessions in the midst of your running. Some people can suffer from exercise induced asthma when their body is under particularly high stress and they need to breathe especially deeply to supply their body with oxygen. Allowing your body to calm down and for your breathing to become deep and slow will ensure you do not put yourself in a position where an asthma attack can occur.

Likewise you can also avoid training for speed and timing and focus on long distance running. Speed running generally is more exerting and more likely to trigger an asthma attack.

Taking a bottle of water with you can help keep your airways from becoming too dry, which can leads to coughs and soreness. However cold water can also tickle your throat, so taking lukewarm or warm water is best, especially on colder days. Warming up can help your body adjust and your core temperature to rise, helping you deal with cold air better, so don’t try to skip it.

Furthermore it’s also important to cover up any time the air is cold. Most people make the mistake of just trying to cover up their chest and torso without covering their mouth and nostrils to prevent sharp cold air from directly penetrating their lungs. Purchase a light face mask specifically designed for exercise in order to receive enough air.

Also, inform your friends and family that you are going for a run before you leave, so they are aware if you get into trouble and do not return. Above all other advice, ensure that you always bring your inhalers with you so if an asthma attack does occur, you are prepared.

About the author

Dr. Arthur

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