In the last post, I mentioned the importance of being observant to personal safety. What does this mean exactly? Should we walk around paranoid that a bad guy lurks behind every corner? Of course not.
Really it’s just about mindfulness and focus. Being mindful of where you are and what is going on around you.
I like to compare it to driving.
When you’re driving in a familiar place, in a familiar car under normal conditions, you are relaxed but alert. Perhaps you’re listening to the radio but still looking up at the road ahead and occasionally checking your rearview mirror to make sure everything’s okay. You’re alert enough to react if an animal runs across your path or a car pulls out in front of you.
What happens when you’re driving in an unfamiliar location or if the weather’s bad? Your driving attention is more focused, right? You might turn the radio off and put more of your attention on the road.
Finally, how do you react when someone pulls right out in front of you? Your attention becomes hyper focused on driving. Your heart rate and breathing increase. You tune out any unnecessary sounds. You are completely attuned to the task of driving evasively.
You can use the same techniques when running. When you’re on a familiar trail, you are relaxed but alert to anything unusual. Your head is up, your eyes are relaxed but scanning the path ahead. You’re listening to nature and can pick up on any abnormal sounds (because you’re not wearing headphones, right? RIGHT?).
Perhaps you see a lone man walking up ahead. You may not recognize him, but it’s a public trail and seeing other people is normal, so no need to panic. However, your attention should focus a bit. You should stay relaxed and confident. Scan the trail ahead – are there other people nearby? If something were to happen, where could you run?
Perhaps the guy makes you feel uncomfortable (that’s intuition talking!). Maybe he’s staring at you or utters something crass. Maybe something just feels…off. This is the equivalent of a car pulling out in front of you. You should be on high alert. You may not need to run away or fight…yet. But you are prepared to do so at any time. And (as we’ll talk about in a future post) you’ve determined what constitutes a “go” response. In other words, when do you flee or fight?