When preparing for a walk, run, or hike outdoors, taking the time to plan and know the route you will follow can make the difference between a successful outing and a disaster.  Whether following a well-worn trail through the local woods or weaving up and down city sidewalks, pre-planning your route is one of the easiest ways to ensure your walk remains safe and enjoyable.  Here are some ways in which knowing the route you mean to follow can improve your overall experience:

You Won’t Get Lost

It almost seems too obvious to write out, but it’s true–having a good understanding of where you are going and how to get there dramatically reduces your risk of getting lost while on your walk.  By knowing your route beforehand, you can enjoy the beauty of your surroundings and the calming effects of walking without wasting brainpower trying to navigate home.  While I’ve found that the best ways to find good routes are to have friends and family show me firsthand, in the current climate such interactions may be limited.  Luckily, there are plenty of free, online route-mapping tools like MapMyRun, where you can browse existing, user-shared routes or map your own.

You’ll Train Smarter

Once you’ve accumulated a few favorite routes, you can begin to evaluate the physical attributes of each and specify different routes for different roles.  Have a long, meandering trail through the forest?  That becomes your distance route, perfect for weekend mornings.  Have a paved, suburban route with a (or a few) big hills?  That becomes your ‘workout’ route, perfect for some pre/post-work exercise.  Have a short path to the nearby pond or park?  That becomes your ‘cooldown’ stroll, perfect for a walk with a spouse or pet.  Knowing the different physical attributes of your walking routes can help you pick the correct route for your physical condition on any given day, and adds variety to your daily exercise.

You’ll Stay Safer

Knowing your walking routes, and communicating your routes to friends and family, can directly improve your general safety while out on your walk.  While we’ve already touched on the navigational benefits of knowing and planning your route, it is also worth noting that by creating your own routes, you can consciously keep your path within the areas and trails that you feel most comfortable walking.  Further, by describing your walking routes to family and friends, and communicating your time of departure and expected return, you greatly increase the chances of help finding you in the event of an emergency.  While you should always notify someone when you walk/run/hike alone, if that person also has a good idea of the route you mean to take, they can more effectively provide aid.

About the Author:

Meet Jack: Jack Pelletier is a rising senior at Georgetown University studying Government, English, and Journalism.  Currently based in San Francisco, Jack loves walking, running, and otherwise exploring his outdoor surroundings.  As a member of the Netwalking team, Jack is excited to channel his passions for nature and movement into the Netwalking mission of connecting others through walking.