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Defensive Running

Lynne Marie Wanamaker, a National Women’s Martial Arts Federation-certified self-defense instructor, provides life-saving advice and strategies that every woman runner should know.


As women, we should be able to run anywhere and at any time of day without thinking about our safety. Unfortunately, safety concerns are a reality in today’s society. If you’re planning to go out for a run, remember these safety precautions that will only enhance, not hinder, your routine.

What are some tips to stay safe while running?

Be aware, not beware, your surroundings:
Run in a familiar location where you will be able to find help quickly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in trail running. Instead, run on trails that are familiar to you. Save exploring new areas for running or hiking with friends on weekends.
Leave an Itinerary:
Make sure your family or friends know where you are running and when you expect to return. Bring a cell phone in case you need to call for help or to let family or friends know you’ll be running late.
Be Visible:
It is important to be aware of the people around you. It is also important for people to be aware of you. Wear reflective gear that makes you recognizable and memorable so the people you pass on the running path register that they saw you.
Use All Your Senses:
Most people enjoy running while listening to their iPod. However, you shouldn’t sacrifice one of your senses, especially if you are running in an isolated area. For example, if you are running on a busy city street that is well lit, chances are nothing will happen if you run with an iPod. But once you veer onto a trail where you might not pass another person for half a mile, you should run without it.

What self-defense strategies are essential for every woman to know?

We hear stories in the news of women who are assaulted while running, but we never hear about the cases of women who avoid a dangerous situation or successfully defend themselves from an attacker. Self-defense is a term that describes all of the mental, verbal and physical strategies used to protect our wellbeing. Being aware of your surroundings and making a choice to move away from an isolated path and toward a populated street is a self-defense move. If a woman can get herself out of a potentially dangerous situation using verbal skills and assertive body language, this is the perfect scenario. Every woman should know these four self-defense strategies:

1 | Think: Women have excellent intuition. As a result, it is important to give yourself every opportunity to notice through sight, smell and sound what is around you. If you have an uneasy feeling running in a certain location, trust your senses and steer clear immediately. This is true for all self-defense situations. Women avoid potentially life-threatening situations every day by trusting their gut.

2 | Yell: If somebody approaches you in a way that makes you feel unsafe, speak in a powerful voice and use strong declarative statements. Instead of asking, “What do you want?” yell, “TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT.” Other strong declarative statements include: “NO,” “BACK OFF,” “LEAVE ME ALONE,” “I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.” Usually, a perpetrator is not looking for a fair fight. Rather, he or she is looking for someone to overpower. If you take a stance immediately with an assertive voice and body language you can change the dynamic of the situation and what the perpetrator expects.

3 | Run: If you are able to do so, run away from a dangerous situation. Do everything in your power to escape from a perpetrator and find help.

4 | Fight: Only after a woman has exhausted the above strategies should she fight. In self-defense, the intention is to find ways to defend one’s self in a way that places us in the least amount of harm and does the least amount of harm to another person. With that said, it is vital to do what is necessary to get out of danger. If you are in danger, target the knees, eyes and nose. Knees are low and accessible. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to cause injury, rendering an attacker unable to chase you. The eyes are vulnerable, no matter how tough a person may be. The nose can be easily broken, causing the eyes to water. No matter how tough an attacker may seem, there are vulnerable parts on every person’s body.
It is important to understand that the decision to fight or not fight is based on the individual and situation. According to Susan Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, “While the responsibility to prevent an attack is clearly on the perpetrator, there are steps runners can take to help reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted. Self-defense classes taught by trained professionals who understand the dynamics of sexual violence can be helpful. But, ultimately, the victim is in the best position to assess the level of danger posed by the perpetrator and decide what action or inaction presents the best chance for her physical safety and survival.”

Should every woman take a self-defense class?

Yes. The real benefit of a self-defense class is empowering women. I am committed to the concept of big picture self-defense, which includes mental, verbal and physical strategies. Physical skills are valuable, but the mental and verbal strategies can prevent a physical altercation from occurring in the first place. Self-defense training can shift your mindset and allow you to know what you are capable of, which is half the battle.


Lynne Marie Wanamaker has been training in martial arts and self-defense for 22 years. She is a first-degree black belt in Goju karate, a second-degree black belt in Shuri-Ryu karate and a National Women’s Martial Arts Federation-certified women’s self-defense instructor. She holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the City University of New York and certificates in Group Exercise Instruction and Personal Fitness Training from Holyoke Community College, as well as industry certification in Personal Fitness Training and Perinatal Fitness. Visit her blog at blog.mindbodymama.com.

 

As told to Breanne George