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Here are some of the best spots for walking and running - and how to get out there and exercise safely. (PHOTO: Flickr/markheybo)

7 top trails in the Milwaukee area: Get outside with safety in mind

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If this weather warm-up hasn't gotten you outside yet, perhaps you might be enticed once you become familiar with the amazing running and walking trails right in your own backyard!

Take a look at our recommendations for the top local running and walking routes and consider what you can do to stay safe as you get out and get active.

7 Top Milwaukee and Local Recreational Trails

Milwaukee County

Oak Leaf Trail located in Milwaukee County, offers more than 115 miles of mostly smooth pavement in and around the city of Milwaukee. From flat rural plains to hilly city streets, this trail also hugs the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.

The Beer Line Trail in Milwaukee County runs north to south along the western side of the Milwaukee River. The trail is named 'Beerline' because of its location near many former Milwaukee brewery locations.

Hank Aaron State Trail located in Milwaukee County provides a continuous connection from the lakefront to the Milwaukee/Waukesha county line going through urban, river, prairie and wooded surroundings.

Ozaukee and Waukesha County

Ozaukee Interurban Trail is based on the Interurban railway that connects Ozaukee County to the City of Milwaukee and Sheboygan. The 30-mile paved trail spans the entire length of Ozaukee County, connecting Mequon, Thiensville, Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington and Belgium.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that highlights glacial ice sculpted landscapes across Wisconsin. With a path that leads through Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties locally, the trail spans the entire state of Wisconsin. More than one million people use the Ice Age Trail each year to hike and snowshoe, backpack and run.

New Berlin Recreation Trail located in Waukesha County, is a 7-mile lineal recreation trail that connects to the Milwaukee Oak Leaf Bike Trail in Greenfield Park and offers a connection to the State DNR Glacial Drumlin Trail.

Glacial Drumlin State Trail was developed in 1986, and is considered one of Wisconsin's best bicycle trails. The 52-mile long trail runs between Cottage Grove and the Fox River Sanctuary in Waukesha.

Don't Forget to Consider Running Safety

When it comes to outdoor activities, there are many opportunities around the city to get out and get active, but have you even stopped to think about safety? Whether you are a runner, walker, bicyclist or driver, consider key SAFETY tips.

S – Switch up your route

Getting into a routine can be one of the best ways to stay on track with your training. But, routine can also be dangerous. If you go on your run at the same time every day and take the exact same route, it is easier for others to predict your actions as well. If you alter your route, the time of day you go for a run, and the length of each run, there are less opportunities for someone to target you.

A – Abide by traffic signals

When you are running, the last thing you want to do is stop when the "don't walk" sign is illuminated. However, the signs are there for a reason and the reason is to help keep you out of harm's way. In order to keep moving, try to run in areas where there are few traffic lights.

F – Find a running buddy

There is something to be said for safety in numbers. Running with a friend is the best way to look out for your safety. For example, if you trip and sprain your ankle, a friend will be there to help you.

If your running schedule does not align with your friend's schedule, there are other options to consider. Running with your dog or using a running app can help keep you safe. Today, many apps are available for cell phones which track you as you run and can send alerts to your family and friends if you stop mid-route for an extended period of time or if you need help. If you do not have the capability of using one of these running applications, at least notify a family member or friend about when you are going out for your run and when you anticipate returning.

E – Eliminate distractions

Most people enjoy listening to music while they are running. However, listening to music can be a distraction. Being aware of your surroundings can be one of the best ways to stay safe. If you decide to run with earbuds, turn the volume down or only wear them in one ear to make sure you can stay informed of your surroundings.

T – Take a cell phone along

Always run with your cell phone. Today, you can purchase an armband that is compatible with your cell phone. If you need help or are not feeling well during your run, help is at your fingertips. Having a cell phone is also important if you are running alone because tracking devices and location information can be tracked by family and friends to make sure you are safe.

Y – Yield to vehicles

One of the biggest mistakes runners can make is to assume a vehicle or bicyclist sees them. Even in broad daylight, a vehicle may not see you as you are running. If you are running on a road without a sidewalk, make sure to face traffic. This increases the likelihood that a vehicle will see you. However, do not assume they will see you and move over. Watch out for your own safety and move as far to the side as possible so the vehicle can safely pass without any close encounters.

The same is true if you are running in the city. Just because you have the walk signal does not mean that cars will see you. If it looks like a vehicle is going to make a right turn on red, don't step out into the intersection even if you have the walk sign. Wait for the driver to wave for you to cross. This is especially true at night. At night, it can be more difficult for drivers to see runners so you should take extra precautions to make sure you are visible.

Keep these running safety tips in mind as you get out and enjoy this warm weather!


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