Running with Apple

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There’s a small Southern California town called Hermosa Beach. Some call it heaven.

It just might be my imagination, but everybody here appears to jog with an iPod. The iPod-Killers must be off to a slow start. Meanwhile, “they” … are gaining ground:

“i can see PodPeople. They’re everywhere. They run on the strand. They run by the water. One of’em … wrote … this article!”

A 4-year-old 10GB iPod used to be my running companion strapped to a Marware armband. While it worked well, this old iPod was a bit on the heavy side. On runs that were much longer than 20 minutes, I found it sporadically skipping as it likely tried to buffer the next batch of songs while my arms were moving.

I still use it in the car with an FM-broadcaster, and at work, as it plays all day.

The 1GB iPod Shuffle was the obvious solution. I truly don’t need a whole Gig, but hey, what’s an extra $50 for some convenient extra storage to move files around? The solid-state nature of its memory ensures I can shake the thing as much as I want, for as long as I want without ever experiencing a skip: there are no moving parts .

I also decided to upgrade my head phones and discard the ones that came with the iPod.

At BestBuy, I found a pair of Nike “behind-the-head” headphones: “The HJ020“. They’re comfortable, resilient, with a good sound quality. I’ve been very satisfied with them. They’re a perfect running companion to the iPod Shuffle.

A few practical tips:

  1. Fit the headphones on your hears, but there’s no need to try to wedge them in there. They’ll just “clamp” your ears and stay in place.
  2. Ensure the mini-jack extremity of your headphones is plugged into the iPod Shuffle
  3. Run the iPod + audio cable behind your left shoulder, then right under your arm, so you can hold the iPod Shuffle and extra cable your left-hand.
  4. As you run, you should be able to easily control the iPod Shuffle with your left thumb, as you spend most of your time running with the iPod Shuffle fitting nicely in the palm of your hand, with your fist comfortably enclosing it.
  5. When you’re done running, start a cool-down walk by ceremoniously wearing the iPod Shuffle around your neck, as your arms and hands relax freely

While there are many accessories available for running with an iPod, I’m finding this set-up to be highly satisfactory on my 45 to 50 minutes runs.

It comes down to ergonomic design. Too many solid-state MP3 players out there have spheric, rounded designs that are only fit to be held between a thumb and an index. They’ve got LCD screens that are hard to read, and controls that are hard to blindly feel our way around. Miniaturization for the sake miniaturization is pointless. I wish more industrial designers would ask themselves “Why am I making this smaller? What shape should my device have?”. I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that Apple’s simple, yet effective design addresses those issues head-on.

On an unrelated note, I’ll be at WWDC this year, who’s all going?

1 Comment

Nick Santilli

As someone who liked the iPod Shuffle, but saw no realistic use for it – but got one as a gift anyway – I LOVE my Shuffle.

As you said, it’s pretty much unbeatable for working out. I actually use it for a lot more than just working out, but that’s my favorite application of the newest iPod.

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