When it comes to training, Americans are pushing themselves harder than ever. Participation in marathons and triathlons continues to rise every year, and extreme adventure racing events, which require participants to navigate obstacles and endure sometimes brutal conditions, are becoming more numerous.
The feeling of accomplishment that goes along with completing any of these tests of strength, endurance and mental fortitude is unparalleled, which is a major part of the attraction. But in order to get to the finish line in one piece, it's important to consider your safety both during your training and on race day.
ICEdot, an emergency ID and notification service that partners with some of the nation's biggest races, including the Primal Mud Run, Tulsa Tough and the Woodlands and Route 66 marathons, offers the following tips to help keep you safe.
During your training:
* If possible, train with a partner. If you must train alone, as is the case for many of us, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. If you're running alone, it's never a bad idea to bring your phone in case of an emergency.
* Wear an emergency ID that can get your emergency information in the hands of first responders faster if something should happen. ICEdot works with emergency medical service (EMS) to educate them on using these types of devices to identify victims quickly. These types of services allow you to quickly share information such as medications you are taking, allergies and chronic conditions and allow first responders to notify your emergency contact with a simple text message.
* If you're training at night, wear reflective clothing. A reflective vest, headlamp and reflective arm and leg bands are all good items to have.
* Always have a plan for water and food along the way. If there aren't drinking fountains or convenient stores along your route, bring snacks in a pouch that can be worn around your waist. Food or drinks that are high in electrolytes, such as gel packs or energy bars, are great to have on hand in the case of emergency.
* If you must train with music, try to keep it low and keep at least one ear open to hear what's going on around you. Not being able to hear cars approaching can be deadly, and you can open yourself up to an attack if you can't hear it coming.
* Hydrate. This is especially important in climates that have higher temperatures and during the summer months. Hydrating throughout the day, before you're thirsty, is the key to proper hydration. Dehydration and heat-related illness is the leading cause of preventable sport-related injuries and death, which is why hydrating is such a big deal.
* If the race offers emergency ID services, take advantage of them. ICEdot offers a free safety service to all participants in events they cover, called ICE.events. ICE.events is a system connecting your bib number to your identification, medical information and emergency contacts. In case of emergency (ICE) a first responder can text message a participant's bib number to a short code and receive the participant's information right away.
* If you have a crew that will be helping you, be sure to have a detailed plan and make sure that everyone understands where and when they should meet you. Practicing this routine before race day is not going over the top - it's a smart move if you are able to do it.
* It's OK to push your limits, but know when to stop if your body is breaking down, especially if you're facing high temperatures. The thought of not finishing may seem unbearable, but you don't want this to be your last race.
* Know the course before you race it. Most races release a race course map before the event. Knowing what obstacles or hills are coming up can drastically help you safely determine when to push your limits. For triathlons, it's always best to swim the open water course before the race so you're mentally prepared and know what to expect.
The allure of pushing your body to the limit and accomplishing a major fitness goal is something that many people crave. If you find yourself in this camp, remember to train safely so you can continue to add to your list of accomplishments. For more safety and training tips, visit icedotathletes.com.