CNET UK posted a humorous(?) article today on ways to avoid being mugged for your iPod. Apparently, robberies in the UK have risen nearly 8 percent over the last year, in large part due to the number of cell phones, iPods, and other expensive gadgets that people are increasingly carrying with them. These items are easy for robbers to spot, and even easier to sell quickly for cash. I wouldn’t be surprised if most major cities were experiencing the same trend. While I don’t recommend any of the suggestions in the article (especially the “Christopher Walken method”), it did get me thinking about the risks of running with our iPods and what we can all do to make our workouts as safe as possible.
It used to be that runners didn’t have much to worry about when out for a run. We were focused, alert, and aware of our surroundings. We didn’t carry wallets or purses, had very little cash (if any), and even our shoes were generally unpopular and unattractive. And on top of all that, we were running. A robber would have to put in too much effort for such meager spoils. Today, things have changed. That $250 iPod can not only distract us and cut us off from the world around us, but can also attract the attention of criminals who may decide that it’s worth the chase. Luckily, there are some simple things that we can do to help keep us, and our iPods, safe when we’re on the street.
1) Keep your volume down. It’s extremely important when running “in the wild” to be aware of your surroundings. This includes being able to hear the traffic and pedestrians on your path. Car horns, brakes squealing, bicycle bells, and all other audible cues are the only way you have of knowing what’s going on outside your field of vision. I realize that many runners use their iPods to block out just these kinds of distractions, but because most people aren’t expecting a runner to dart out into the street or past a doorway, we have the responsibility for making sure we’re tuned in to what’s going on around us. We also help avoid being surprised by a criminal who may have run up behind us. Think of your running music as background music, never setting the iPod’s volume past the half-way point. The added benefit is that by doing this we help protect ourselves from hearing damage that can be brought on over time by listening to loud music through headphones.
2) Ditch the white iPod earbuds. Apple knew what they were doing when they made the decision to include white earbuds with their iPod music players. They were simple and strikingly unusual at the same time, and and worked to identify their users as iPod owners at a glance. With that recognition has come some backlash, however. When you wear the white earbuds, everyone, including those who may have sinister motives, knows you’re carrying one of the hottest products on the planet. Make the would-be thief think twice about the value of your music player by not advertising its brand so conspicuously. He’ll have a much harder time unloading a Creative Zen or iRiver and may decide it’s not worth it to find out what you’re carrying.
3) Hide your iPod. iPod armbands for runners are growing in popularity, due to their comfort and convenience (and some clever marketing). But they also put your expensive gadget right out there for everyone to see. If you must run with an armband, make sure that your sleeve covers it completely, and run the headphone cord under your shirt and out the back of your neck. This way it won’t be immediately apparent what or where your music player is. If you use a belt clip to attach you iPod to your waistband, wear it toward the front rather than the side, and leave your shirt un-tucked. Check yourself in a mirror to see that the iPod is covered. The best place for the iPod would be in a small pocket at the waistlband of your running shorts. Again, run the headphone cord under your shirt so as not to give away the exact location of your iPod.
4) Don’t check your iPod in public. Many runners like to walk a few blocks to cool down after a run. This is not a good time to pull out your iPod and check your running stats or select a new playlist. You’ll probably appear visibly tired and out of breath, which might signal “easy target” to an opportunistic thug. Wait until you’re at home or in your car before pulling out your bling.
5) Run with a friend. This is an obvious safety measure which is often overlooked. Whenever we hear about something bad happening to a jogger in the park, most of the time that jogger was out running alone. Don’t take the risk. If you don’t have any friends who are into running, or don’t run at the same level as you, consider joining a local runner’s club. It’s a good way to meet a running partner in your area who can keep up with you. Running with a partner also has other benefits. It’s harder to skip a run when you know someone else is relying on you to show up, and you may be more motivated to stick to your goals when you share those same goals with someone else. If you absolutely have no choice but to run alone, please do it in a well-lit, populated area and make sure you know where you would go for help, if you need it.
Obviously, depending on where you live and how you run, some of these tips may be more important than others. And some runners may feel that they need more protection (pepper spray, safety whistles, reflective clothing, etc.) than I’ve outlined above. However, if you can stick to the basic principles of these tips, you’ll have gone a long way toward ensuring that your workouts are as safe and enjoyable as possible.