SINGAPORE - With mass participation sports events like The Straits Times Run going virtual and team sports unable to resume fully because of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are pounding pavements and park connectors for exercise and fresh air.
However, runners should take precautions to ensure they carry out their exercise regimens safely.
Here are some tips to guide you:
Watch your health
1. If you are feeling under the weather, do not attempt to run that day. After all, many virtual events allow you to complete the races over a certain time frame. For example, you have 60 days to complete the ST Virtual Run's 175km race, which ends only on Dec 17.
2. If you feel unwell at any time during or immediately after your run, stop at once and seek help from passersby or use your mobile phone to ring emergency hotlines or your family.
1. Under Phase 2 guidelines from Sport Singapore, all runners should keep a distance of at least two metres from other people and avoid running in the slipstream of others.
2. Avoid crowded areas. Avid runner and 96.3 Hao FM DJ Ong Teck Ming, who goes on 20-22km runs every week, said: "It's best to avoid the peak hours when a lot of people are jogging or taking a stroll in parks or park connectors. It's better to pick a quieter place or do a run during off-peak hours."
3. Avoid direct contact with high-touch points such as traffic light buttons and handrails.
4. You may run in a group but the current limit is five persons at a time.
5. Take a mask with you on your runs. You are expected to wear it before and after your run, or if you stop to use a toilet or enter a shop to buy a drink.
Make sure you drink up. With public water coolers available only for refills, carry a small water bottle or a light foldable water bottle or bag on your runs, especially if you are doing a long-distance one.
For those who find a bottle too heavy to carry while running, ActiveSG running coach Steven Quek says to plan your runs so that there is a water point you can stop at.
Or if you are doing loops, find a safe place to stash your water bottle.
"We should make sure we're well-hydrated all the time, not just before and after our runs," said Quek, 52. "The heat is an issue here and the next two weeks are projected to be hot during the day, so runners should take precautions and stay hydrated because heat injuries can be fatal."
Running at night
It is important to remain as visible as possible to all other road users, especially at night. Wear bright colours or something with reflective elements.
But if you do not have bright-coloured exercise clothing like lawyer and avid runner Reine Jong, you can use a clip-on light on your front and back so motorists, cyclists and other runners can see you easily.
Jong, 33, clips the device on her running vest when she goes on her 45-90 minute runs at the park connectors thrice a week. She said: "The light pulsates and that makes me very visible."
1. Avoid running in unfamiliar or secluded areas alone.
2. If you are running alone, stick to places that are well-lit and familiar to you. But if you are bored with your regular routes and want to explore new ones, arrange to go with someone else.
Quek also recommends going to recce the place beforehand or doing research online. He said: "Now with the Internet, you can search and read about other people's experience in the places you're interested in and read about what it's like there."
3. If you are running off road or on different terrain like the nature trails in the reservoirs, beware of unstable, uneven or slippery surfaces. Make sure you bring your mobile phone with you in case you fall and get injured, or lose your way.
4. You should also share your location/route with someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend. It is also advisable to give them an estimate of the time you expect to complete your run. Remember to check in with them when you are done.
5. If you feel unsafe at any point along your route, turn back or seek the fastest way to reach an area where there are other people.
6. There are some mobile phone apps - such as ROAD iD, bSafe and Glympse - to help keep runners safe though you should check if they are available for use in Singapore. Another option is the Share My Live Location function in WhatsApp and Telegram if you do not want to download another app.
Be alert to your surroundings when exercising, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place.
Jong noted: "I make sure I'm not too tired so I can be alert to my surroundings and blind curves on the road where I'm not visible to approaching cars."
To that end, Quek emphasised the importance of sufficient rest, explaining: "We should make sure we're well-rested so that we'll have enough energy to complete our runs and we can concentrate on running safely."
If you listen to music, make sure you can still hear the sounds of traffic, bicycles, scooters or people around you. Do not turn up the volume of your headphones too much.
Loh Guo Pei, coach of the New Balance Running Club who also helms an advisory column for The ST Virtual Run also suggested: "If you're listening to music, it is advisable to just plug into one side."