Spring is coming and it is getting increasingly warmer out. As the weather improves, people are starting to move their activities to the great outdoors. Jogging, biking, and hiking are increasingly popular activities in the springtime. Whether in your neighborhood, on a trail, or in a park, outdoor activity comes with innate levels of risk that you should be prepared for. Below, we share some important tips for safe and fun activities outside.
One of the most important tips to keep you safe and having fun is to keep your body hydrated. While it is important to drink enough water each and every day, it is especially important to stay hydrated when exercising outside. Water increases energy, improves brain function, helps joints and muscles function properly, and maximizes physical performance. These benefits will help you function when increasing activity outside. Look for signs of dehydration including, feeling thirsty, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or feeling tired. If you feel these symptoms, be sure to take a break and rehydrate.
Map Your Route Ahead of Time
Some of us are not as geographically or directionally inclined as others. It is a good practice to map out your exercise route ahead of time so that you know where you are going. This also allows you to share your route with a trusted friend or family member. This will help you in the case of an emergency. If something happens to you and you don’t make it back in the expected time frame, your friend or family member can notify the proper authorities or emergency personnel and potentially save your life.
Bring Your Cell Phone
While some people prefer to stay “unplugged” during exercise, bringing your cell phone with you when exercising outdoors is a best safety practice. If the unexpected occurs, you have a chance to get help if needed. Even if it is as simple as becoming too fatigued to make it home, you can reach out and get a ride home. Even for seasoned athletes or avid workout enthusiasts, exercising in outside can prove to be increasingly more challenging than exercising indoors. It is best to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.
Wear or Bring Proper Safety Gear
Depending on the type of exercise you are doing you may need certain protective and/or safety gear. The time of day affects the need for protective gear as well. If you are walking, running, or riding your bike early in the morning or at night, you’ll want to wear reflective clothing or a reflective vest to alert drivers of your presence. If riding a bike, make sure that there are reflectors on the bike as well as your helmet. When hiking, it is a best practice to bring whatever you may need to get through the full hike plus extra supplies in case of an emergency.
Check the Weather
Whether you are willing to brave the elements or not, it is important to know what you are working with so you can be adequately prepared for it. In cases of extreme weather, it is best to stay inside. But if Spring brings a light shower, some are comfortable wearing a rain jacket and carrying on with their plans.
Since you’re bringing your cell phone, you can find your favorite podcast or a motivational speaker to listen to. Music can be relaxing or motivating while exercising, depending on what you’re going for. Bring a friend or partner along for the adventure. Make it a family activity. There so many different activities you can practice safely for outdoor exercise. From walking, jogging, running, biking, playing sports, swimming, hiking, or even interactive games. Enjoy the great outdoors but remember to stay safe!
Our Local Favorites and Best ofs when it comes to outdoor exercise
We would like to thank Ann Williams for her contribution and feedback on these local favorites!
- Best Local Bike shops -- Richardson Bike Mart and Dallas Bike Works.
- Best clothing to wear for men and women – Padded bike shorts with longer, compression legs. Pearl Izumi is my go-to brand. Yes, they look dorky, but they are anti-chafing and help with longer rides. Your behind will hurt no matter what shorts you wear on longer rides. And for Pete’s sake, don't wear underwear with padded bike shorts.
- Best beginner bikes The "best" bike doesn't exist. There are so many types of bikes. You should know what kind of riding you want to do. There’s Off-road, mountain, hybrid, city, and cruiser road. Personally I use two bikes. One for off-road / hybrid -- I can go on dirt trails, gravel, bumpy roads, and over curbs. I use my road bike for longer rides on hard pavement. The best bike fits your budget and your body. Go to a reputable shop and find the best size for you. They will adjust your seat height, fore-aft, and handlebars to your body geometry. If you find a bike you love on Craigslist, it’s smart to be sure the frame fits your size. It may need to be properly adjusted. An ill-fitting bike can be uncomfortable and dangerous.
- Favorite Routes -- Dallas has miles and miles of dedicated paths -- and miles of off-road / mountain trails. Dallas parks and rec has maps. My go-to route is White Rock Lake with the south and north extensions. I used to ride on the streets, but drivers are being more and more aggressive. I have had too many near-misses. Please be careful!
- Bike Safety and Courtesy -- I can't stress this enough! ALWAYS wear a helmet and get a bell. Yes, again with the dorkiness factor, but ANNOUNCE (or ring your bell) when you pass a pedestrian or another bike. This is what gives bikers a bad name and can cause accidents if you’re not careful. Also, use your hand signals when stopping, turning /or making a lane change. It’s always a great idea to put some lights on the bike and turn them on at dusk. Red flashers, reflective and bright clothing are always my go to apparel. If you like to listen to music it’s a great idea to use only one earbud. You must keep the other ear open to hear traffic and other bikers. You could use a speaker. Yes, it's annoying to other people who have to listen to your choice of music, but it is safer. And for the record please don't use your PHONE while riding its best to pull off the path first
- Best Bike vacation -- Of course this is up to your personal preference and budget. Always think about your goal. Do you want a guided experience or a map and a destination? Do you want to be pampered or rough it? The options are, in fact, endless. The BEST way to see a city is by bike. You can park anywhere for free (Make sure and pick up a bike lock), you can cover a lot of ground versus walking, and you get fresh air and exercise. We have done day tours in Tuscany ending at a lunch and a winery and we have done self-guided tours in Paso Robles, NYC, and Santiago. Our next trip from Bruges, BE to Amsterdam, NL will go thru the tulip fields and will be multi-day, but self-guided. (Unfortunately, postponed until 2022.) One of our best guided trips was in Paris at night with a river cruise along the Seine and an amazing case of wine.
- Best Run Stores in DFW – Luke’s Locker and Run On
- Best Run Stores In San Antonio – iRun and Fleet Feet
- Best Clothing to Run in - Technical clothes, that wicks perspiration from your body, are best. But just a t-shirt and shorts will work too. The best tip I learned from a running coach was to dress if it was 15-20 degrees warmer than it is. Your body warms up quickly and it’s a hassle to have too much on.
- Best Running and walking trails Dallas - White Rock Lake, Katy Trail, Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, and Eisenhower State Park Denison.
- Best Running and walking trails San Antonio - San Antonio Cultural Arts Walk and also Eisenhower Park in San Antonio
- Best Walking Vacations – The Freedom Trail Boston. The Seven Peaks of San Francisco and the Camino Santiago, a 500-mile trek across Northern Spain.