20 February, 2014

Early Morning Workouts and Being Afraid of the Dark

This might sound ridiculous, but the one thing stopping me from getting up at 6am and going to my local gym for a morning workout is the darkness (and also the fact that I love my bed!). It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, it's that I'm afraid of what could happen in the dark. Despite the fact that my gym is less than a 15 minute walk away from my apartment, I am consumed by fear of going there when it's dark. The route there consists of  a very steep hill and some back streets and it cannot be reached by walking along a busier, main road. I don't own a car so I can't drive there and there are also no buses that pass by either.

However, all of the above makes me angry. I'm not angry about the lack of public transport, I'm angry that as a woman I'm afraid of walking these streets and this short route because of the fear I might get attacked. The fear that I'm unsure if it's really a safe area and whether the decision to go for a morning workout and make better use of my day may result in something worse. It sounds dramatic I know, and I also equally understand that the same frightful situation could also occur during daylight. I did think I was only woman who had these thoughts until I heard a colleague at work explain the exact same thought process. She wants to go running in the morning before work or in the evenings after work, but by the time she gets home and has eaten, it's dark.

She too has a fear of jogging in her neighbourhood and has recently heard reports of women being attacked as their ran their local roads. As an intern, she doesn't earn enough money to join a gym so for her, working out cheaply usually means taking to the outdoors. She wants to train for a 10k, but at present is limited to the weekends or until the evenings get brighter and she feels safer.

It angers me that there are people out there that pray on women who are walking solo with a particular destination in mind and I want to take control of this situation and simply be able to get up in the morning, at a time of my choosing and go to the gym before work. Be it when it's dark or not. The clocks will change soon and roll forward an hour which will mean brighter evenings, but it will also mean the mornings will remain darker for some time yet. Perhaps my only option is to workout from home in the mornings with a well chosen exercise DVD until the bright mornings return.

I don't wish for this post to sound like I'm making excuses not to workout but as I'm still discovering lovely Manchester, I'm unsure as to what areas of the city are considered safe to wander in the early hours. Gut instinct, will of course always prevail and my other half believes that as we live in a residential heavy area, full of apartment blocks, that its pretty safe, but there is still nothing worse than the fear that you're being followed or when you turn a corner to see a stranger on the opposite side. You get that feeling, that fight or flight feeling and your brain tells you to walk fast. Not so fast that you appear scared, but confident fast. Fast enough to get you to your safe destination. Maybe you get your house keys out and place them between your fingers, a possible weapon. Just in case. Maybe that's just what I do. Maybe I'm overreacting?

I do know I've always been like this. A move to Manchester hasn't suddenly brought on this irrational fear. I can remember being in New York and leaving the city early so I didn't have to travel the subway late at night while I traveled back to Queens. I once even paid $40 for a taxi instead of taking the subway. I also did the same in Berlin and ended up being in my apartment by 7pm with nothing much to do except eat chocolate and watch German TV for the very same reasons.I am scared of the unknown, of strangers, of....well putting it bluntly, being attacked. I'm pretty sure my newly toned legs are down to the quick paced walking I've been doing around Manchester in the evenings and not because of my increased gym activity. (During daylight hours of course!)

Tell me, do you have these fears? If you're an early morning workout person, I salute you, but tell me how do you make it to the gym safely without crazy fears blowing your mind? What makes you less of a scardy-cat? Share your experience.

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