For starters, what kind of surface are you going to be on? Are you running indoors on a softer treadmill, on the soft astro-turf of an enclosed track, or out on the road? The asphalt road is the hardest of these surfaces. You may need better quality shoes with more cushion or support, depending on your exercise surface. Exercising on hard surfaces too often, without the proper shoe, may cause damage to your bones.
Think about your shoe quality. You may want to go to a specialtly running store and be evaluated by an associate. Do you have high or low arches? Do you overpronate, underpronate, or are you neutral? Do you need arch supportive shoes, or more cushioned shoes? The associate will be able to fit you with the correct shoe for your experience level, body type, weight, arch support level, and foot width. The proper shoe is the difference between being a happy, healthy, injury-free exerciser, and an injury-prone, tired, and hurt one. The proper shoe will help prevent all sorts of injuries and soreness, including your back muscles, legs, neck, pelvis, and even your feet.
You may need to adjust your gait or stride depending on your cirucumstances. For example, if you are running downhill, uphill, or on uneven terrain (like a broken sidewalk), you will probably want to shorten your stride and take smaller steps. This will help you not to trip and to perform at your peak when ascending or descending hills.
Be aware of your surroundings. For example, are you alone on a dark street with little lighting? You may want to take another route to a more well-lit area. Are there dogs who may chase you? Is there a lot of traffic or construction which will make it unsafe for you to be on the road? Be aware of all these factors, keep alert, and this will contribute to your safety.
Some people advise road runners & walkers not to listen to music while they exercise, because not being able to hear traffic compromises their safety. It is possible to exercise safely while listening to music, but it will require you to be much more alert and constantly surveying your surroundings. You may not be able to hear ambulance sirens or someone yelling.
Think about weather conditions and the duration of your run. If it’s cold, will you need to wear extra-warm layers with gloves and leg warmers? You can always shed layers later, after you get warm. If it’s hot outside, you should probably wear sunscreen on any run or walk longer than 20 minutes. You may also need a hat and extra water. If you’re run will last longer than 45 minutes, you should probably bring a healthy snack (like a handful of almonds), or an energy bar or gel to give you needed nutrients while you are exercising.
What about your performance? Are you trying to meet a time or distance goal? If you have specific goals in mind, you will probably need to bring a watch, stopwatch, heart rate monitor, or a GPS to suit your needs. These devices will let you know if you are meeting your goals or not. But if you are just outside running or walking for leisure, then you may only need a watch. You be the judge and decide what your goals are, then decide what equipment you need.
If your safety is forefront on your mind, you may want to invest in an ID in case you are in an accident while outside and cannot speak or call 911. This “Road ID” will have your personal & medical information on it, so the paramedics will know how to treat you quickly. Go here to check it out: http://roadid.com/Common/default.aspx
Above all, your safety should be your number one priority. Do your research, make the preparations, and stay safe out there! No one will help keep you safe as much as you can.