Seasonal Safety Tips for Walkers
SUMMER WALKING SAFETY TIPS:
- Time matters: The American Heart Association’s Summer Walking Guide advises against walking outside during the hottest part of the day, typically 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. Walk early in the day or late. If it’s too hot outside, try walking at a large mall or join a gym.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you drink enough to avoid thirst. Take water with you even if you don’t think you will need it. You will become thirsty faster in hot weather.
- A note on hydration: On average, a person who exercises may need an extra 1.5-2.5 cups of water a day to make up for fluid loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Keep water cool: Fill a water bottle halfway and then place it in the freezer the night before a hot summer walk. In the morning, fill the rest. This will keep your water colder, longer.
- Take a break: If you are walking in the sun, take frequent breaks in shady spots.
- Apply sunscreen: Did you know you can get a second degree burn from the sun? Prevent blisters, burns and skin cancer by applying sunscreen before an outdoor run. Use a sweat-proof sunscreen and apply it generously 30 minutes before you go outdoors, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Smart feet: Warmer weather calls for shoes that breathe well and are made with mesh-type fabrics. Mesh will keep your feet cool and help the sweat dry faster, which will keep you from getting smelly shoes later. Keeping your feet cool and dry, will also help prevent blisters and chafing. Wear socks that wick moisture away from the skin to help prevent this, as well. Running socks work well. You may also experience extra moisture under your arms and between your thighs. Moisture-wicking shirts or shorts with polypro or CoolMax® can help with this, but you may try an anti-chafing lubrication product, such as those found on this site, to prevent armpit discomfort and/or chafing thighs. Learn more about preventing chafing on our chafing page.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to these warning signs of heat illness (from WebMD):
- Cramps that suddenly begin in the hands, calves or feet
- Hard, tense muscles
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Confusion or anxiety
- Drenching sweats, often combined with cold, clammy skin
- Slow or weak heartbeat
- Dizziness and or fainting
FALL WALKING SAFETY TIPS:
- Hydrate: Just because it is cooler, doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fluids when you sweat. Remember to drink when you’re thirsty. Sip hot chocolate or cider to warm you from the inside, suggests writer Brad Viles in an article in the Bangor Daily News.
- Time change: Don’t forget that it will get darker earlier. Pack a working flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries. If you are walking on trails, remember it will get darker faster because trees block the sun, reminds Viles.
- Changing weather: It may be cool when you start your walk, and heat up during the day (and then get very cold as the sun goes down). Layer clothing according to the weather conditions.
- Watch for animals: If you plan to walk on trails, don’t forget you are sharing them with wild animals, especially bears that are binge-eating in preparation for winter. Here is some advice from the Colorado Division of Wildlifeon what to do should you come across a coyote, snake, bear or mountain lion:
- Coyotes: Use a loud, authoritative voice and walk towards a coyote. They will typically run away.
- Bears: The most common species of bear in the U.S. is the black bear. Brown bears (Grizzlies) live in the northwest U.S. and in Alaska. If you are in bear country, be sure to make plenty of noise so you don’t surprise a bear. If a bear acts aggressively, give it a “wide berth by stepping off the trail on the downhill side.” Tyler Baskfield, Communications Manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, says you should, “Look as big as possible, talk to the bear, and back away slowly…Don’t run or climb a tree because that’s prey behavior.” If attacked, the general advice is to play dead.
- Mountain lions: Baskfield says people who are on trails should pay extra attention to their surroundings. Don’t wear hats, visors or headphones, and if you see a mountain lion, you should react as you would in a bear encounter. “Look as big as possible. If you’re wearing a coat, hold it out. Raise your arms slowly. You want to look like a formidable opponent to a mountain lion.” If you are attacked, fight back. Try not to crouch or turn your back, but Baskfield says you should throw things, fight, and go for their eyes.
- Snakes: Watch where you step. Snakes can usually feel the vibrations of the ground and will leave the area, but if you see one, tap a stick on the ground. It will most likely slither away. Baskfield says in the spring, snakes often sun themselves on rocks, so avoid rocky untraveled areas.
WINTER WALKING TIPS:
- Stay hydrated: Sometimes it’s easy to forget to drink in the cold weather months, but your body is still losing sweat. Remember to drink when you’re thirsty.
- Walk slower: An article by Weight Watchers suggests walking slower during the winter months since roads and sidewalks can be slippery or icy. “The bigger your strides, the higher your risk of falling.”
- Wear layers: Wear a thin synthetic layer underneath a breathable shell layer made of nylon or Gore-Tex®. The first layer will wick the cold sweat away from your skin and the second layer will keep out the cold. If it’s very cold, you may also need a middle layer, such as fleece. Avoid wearing cotton as it will keep cold moisture close to your skin. Remember to avoid overdressing as it can cause excessive sweating. Don’t forget to wear reflective clothing so vehicles can see you through snow and rain, or in the dark.
- Protect hands and feet: Mittens will keep hands warmer than in gloves as the fingers insulate one another in mittens. If it’s really cold, you can try putting hand warmers inside your mittens. Cold-weather sports or running socks will wick moisture to keep feet dry and warm. Some companies, including Drymax, make dual layer running socks for very cold weather.
- Protect your head: We lose up to half of our body heat through our heads. On his website, running expert and Olympian Jeff Galloway recommends choosing a hat that covers your ears and your entire head. Hats made with moisture-wicking materials work best. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from snow-blindness if there is snow on the ground.
- Appropriate shoes: Wear shoes with more traction. An article on the Weight Watchers website suggests light hiking books (but not big, heavy boots for climbing) are a good option, too. Or buy treads you can fasten to your regular shoes, like Polar Cleats.
SPRING WALKING SAFETY TIPS:
- Start slow: If you haven’t been walking much over the winter, make sure you build up your mileage slowly to avoid injuries.
- Watch for animals: Springtime means wild animals are outside again. See Fall Walking Safety Tips for advice on what to do if you encounter an animal.