PSA: Tracks have rules.

As we approach the new year, with its time-honored tradition of buying gym memberships and abandoning them three weeks later, I’d like to address a point of etiquette too many people ignore:

Track lane usage.

If you join a gym with an indoor track, please take a minute to find out the rules for using that track — and then follow them.

Most gyms ask track users to run clockwise one day and counter-clockwise the next. To avoid head-on collisions, find out the day’s direction before you step onto the track.

Blind curves are an unfortunate reality of most indoor tracks. The shorter the track, the more blind curves per mile — so for safety reasons, gyms with multilane tracks usually designate separate lanes for runners and walkers.

When you run in the walking lane, you risk crashing into an unseen walker as you round a curve. This risk is particularly high at the hospital-owned gym I use, where many walkers are rehabbing from injuries and have limited mobility. They can’t get out of the way if a wrong-lane runner suddenly comes barreling around a curve.

You also risk confusing walkers, who may end up in the running lane in an effort to stay out of your way. This endangers both the walker and any runners who might be cruising along in the correct lane, unaware that a slow-moving obstacle is just around the curve. There is a big difference between a 10:00 mile (my top sustainable speed) and a 20:00 mile, and if I come around the corner at 6 mph to find someone dawdling along at half that speed, I have little time to react.

This is annoying at best — I’ve just been forced to alter my pace for no good reason — and dangerous at worst, as it forces me to risk injury by stopping on a dime or changing directions abruptly to avoid a painful collision.

This scenario is even more dangerous on outdoor trails shared by cyclists and pedestrians, as the speeds are faster, and bikes tend to be harder and have more pointy edges than people. Trust me: You don’t want to be involved in the aftermath of running in the bike lane, or vice versa.

For safety’s sake, stay in your lane.

Please pass this information along to anyone who might be thinking of joining a gym after the holidays. A little forethought can prevent a lot of pain.

Emily

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