As we approach the winter solstice, less than three weeks away, the shortest days of the year are upon us.

It can be a discouraging time for people who want to get outside and exercise at a time of year that you need it more than ever.

For me, part of that reason is just safety, particularly when darkness combines with the inattentiveness of text messaging and other distractions.

And while the ideal this time of year is to carve out some time at lunch to exercise at high noon, and get a little mood-lifting sunshine, the reality for most is that we’re doing it in the dark.

So with that fact in mind, it’s time to assess a few things, from running, walking and biking defensively to taking some practical second steps with clothing and identification.

The big D

When I say “defensively,” I take this approach: When I’m running in the dark, I assume every driver doesn’t see me. I forget the whole “pedestrian has the right-of-way” mentality.

Be hyper-alert. Slow down a bit. Run or walk against traffic. And get rid of the ear buds.

While I’m not a fan of running with a cell phone, it also is a good idea in case something happens.

And just in case the unimaginable happens, have identification on you. The go-to is Road ID, which, by the way, is a great stocking stuffer.

Light it up

Long ago, I can remember my sister buying me one of those reflective vests for running at night, but I didn’t like it and never wore it.

And while a reflective vest is probably a good idea, there are plenty of other reflective gear and lighting available these days that isn’t quite, well, so geeky.

Take inventory of what you’ve got and add to it.

The full arsenal for running, biking and walking should include small but bright LED lights, head lamps, reflective bands (one of my favorites wraps around a wrist or ankle). and reflective and fluorescent clothing.

I could go into specifics, but it would read like a commercial.

Go to your local running and biking stores — Charleston has plenty — so that you can see what your buying and support local business.

Seek light

Yet another option, instad of running on a dreaded treadmill, is to find well-lighted, protected places to run. The Cooper River bridge pedestrian lane is one of the safest places I know to run outdoors at night, but stay out of the bike lane. Public outdoor tracks when recreational activities are going on and lights are turned on is another option.

Don’t forget, after Dec. 21, the days start getting longer and it will be just a few months before we don’t have to worry about the issue.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.