Tips to be safer during these dark winter months.
I've held off writing this because I'm not going to lie, this stuff is really obvious. Yet it's amazing how often as humans we ignore the obvious stuff and make things as complicated as possible. I held off until I felt compelled to, and as the clocks recently went back I felt now was the time.
Meeting your heroes can be awesome!
Last year I was lucky enough to meet one of my heroes, Dan John. He's an athlete, a coach, a philosopher and a total legend in the strength and conditioning world. Add to that he's a really lovely guy too. If you've not heard of him you've missed a trick so check out his weekly musings in a brilliant newsletter called "Wandering weights" which is insightful, thought provoking and funny.
Simple, not easy...
One of the things that Dan is famous for is the way he can strip concepts back to their fundamentals and simplify them so mere mortals like you and me understand them. He has a saying "simple, not easy" and I like that a lot. Want to lose weight? Simple, eat less and move more. Easy? Ah, not so much, unless the billion pound weight loss industry is a passing phase. Want to start your own business and spend your days working on something you are truly passionate about? Simple, quit your day job and start hustling. Easy? Nope - your bills don't pay themselves and if it was that easy no-one would have seen a ranty Gary V vlog as they scrolled through their Facebook feed.
What has this got to do with being safer?
Ostensibly this has got nothing to do with keeping yourself safer as the evenings get darker, however, I am trying to set a scene here about how humans just don't value simplicity. Time and again humans have shown they are drawn to complexity, even if it's inferior. What's more efficient, not walking down dark allies on your own with your earphones in or spending 10 years becoming an Expert Level krav maga practitioner? I would suggest the former. Yes, I am being deliberately provocative here but hopefully, you get my point.
There has never been an original thought.
I've listed some things that are relevant all year round but especially so in the Winter as the dark nights are upon us. As I said this stuff is obvious but that doesn't mean it isn't useful or important to remember and crucially to actually do! Nothing here is earth shatteringly amazing or original, I cannot and do not lay claim to be a gifted genius in offering safety tips. What I am determined to do is bring to your awareness your bias's around your personal safety and remind you that we all do stupid stuff now and then. Most of the time we get away with it, but sadly there are times when we don't.
1) Be situationally aware.
This is especially important if you don't know the area very well. Make sure you are using all of your senses. Don't just treat your commute home as another boring part of your working day. Play a game if you have to, try and remember things about the street you are walking on or the bus/train you are travelling in. Hold your head up high and look around you. Put your phone away, those cat video's will still be there when you get home! At the very least if you have to use your phone, make sure every now and then you are checking out your environment too. Has anything changed? Is anyone too close? Where are the places you'd hide if you were a predator? Who is walking the same direction as you? Is anyone acting a bit weird? Making a note of each of these things may or may not mean too much at any given time. However I can't think of a downside to making sure you know precisely what is going on in the area around you. I would welcome your input in the comments if you can.
2) Ditch the earphones.
For the love of all that is holy please do not walk/run/travel with both earphones in. If you have to listen to that latest podcast use one earphone with the volume turned down low. This is related to the previous tip about being situationally aware. Yet it's so important because how can you fully appreciate your environment if you negate an entire sensory input? For many years I would run/walk with both earphones in, I'm not proud of it but after a scary experience I finally realised it just wasn't worth it. Now I try and make the most of my time outside in nature and I make it part of my mindfulness practice. There is something pretty cool about running without music. I am aware that a lot of people really struggle with this but it's like everything else, start small and build upon it. Run for 1 minute without music and go longer. Finish the last 5 or 10 minutes of your run and take out the earphones. Then 15 minutes, 20 and more. You can definitely do this, you just have to try! Henry Ford said, "If you think you can or you think you can't you're right!"
3) Let people know where you are going and when you'll be back.
This is not about being paranoid, this is such a simple thing and is really relevant even if you just like hiking, walking or getting outside in nature on your own. My husband is a photographer and I like to have an idea of when he'll be home so I know he's not hurt. The chances of him falling over are much higher than him getting mugged but either way, I'd like to make sure if he's not back on time I can at least call him and make sure he's ok. There are apps available that have GPS tracking where you can share your location with your partner/loved ones. I have an iPhone so there's the "Find Friends" app - if you know the Android one let me know in the comments.
4) Don't walk down dark alleys.
Do I even need to say this? Well, to be honest, I think I do. Not because I think you're an idiot but mostly because I've done it myself. The dark alley route or park shortcut takes 10 minutes off my journey home and I'm tired so I'll just risk it because nothing is going to happen to me, I'm bulletproof right? Wrong. Everyday horrible things happen to good people who were just going about their day. It's not worth the risk. An important point to raise here is DO NOT ignore your instincts or intuition. If your spidey senses are firing listen to them. Sure you may be being paranoid but that doesn't mean you don't listen to them. Better to take the long route home that is well lit, where there are other people and places to get help than to take a chance. Our ancestors were the ones that got to pass on their genes because they were a little bit paranoid. They didn't hang around to see if that noise in the forest was a sabre tooth tiger or a cute little rodent, they just did a runner. We need to be thankful for that because if they hadn't been so paranoid we'd not be here! A few years ago my niece was mugged in a park in London as she took a "short cut" home with her friend. Fortunately they weren't hurt but they lost money and jewellery that had sentimental value. They took a chance and it didn't pay off. When I asked her why she did that it was because despite the fact it was dark, it wasn't late at night so she thought she'd be ok. Taking chances and risks is all part of life, I am not a fan of wrapping everyone up in cotton wool. Just know the risk/reward ratio and figure out if it's worth it. No amount of time saved during your journey should encourage you to take dodgy routes.
5) Last but not least phone the police.
Again this may sound totally obvious but if you feel you are in danger ring the police. It's their job to help you. Do not concern yourself with what they will think. Do not worry about "looking silly" that is literally the last thing you should worry about. There is a cool feature on the iPhone that I didn't know about that my husband told me about last week. Tap the power button 5 times and you get the option to swipe to call the local police.
So as I said there is nothing earth shatteringly new about this stuff. Not one thing. Yet how many times have you had a little fright because someone got a bit too close when you weren't paying attention? It may have been totally innocent on their part, maybe they weren't paying attention on their journey either. Maybe they were engrossed in the latest cat video on Youtube as well. We are lucky that the majority of people on this planet are wonderful, good, honest and kind. Don't let the fact that you are a good person mean you assume that there is no-one out there that means you harm. Sadly a small minority do so be prepared. There's a Chinese Proverb that goes "Better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war." Don't be a gardener.
Most of all, be happy and stay safe.