Walking and Listening

This post has been gestating for an entire month, since Mother’s Day (May 10), when I made an impulse purchase that has had repercussions related to my walking experience. The fact that the purchase was made specifically for walking only makes the situation more complicated, and it’s taken me a while to process the results.

Many of the walkers I encounter are clearly listening to something. That is, they have headphones on or (more commonly) earbuds in their ears. They speak or wave distractedly, obviously lost in their own self-contained world. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to join that insular population.

On the other hand, it often happens that, when the time is right for me to hit the street, I’m engrossed in something on the radio. This is especially likely on Saturdays, when I may be listening to Bob Edwards Weekend. It had therefore often occurred to me that it would be nice if I had some kind of small portable radio that I could take with me when I went out walking.

My husband succumbed to an iPod last June and has recently finally gotten around to getting it set up, ripping his entire CD collection and storing most of it on the device. Although somewhat late to the party, he is a rabid iPod fan and can’t get over how cool it is. He got an adapter so he can play it through the tape deck in his car and a cable so he can play it through our Bose Wave Radio/CD (thus eliminating the stacks of CDs on the floor, which can now theoretically be stored elsewhere).

Although I can readily see the coolness factor of all this, if I want music, I’m pretty much willing to take whatever happens to be on the radio. A friend of mine who is a member of the 100 Mile Club at the Christian Life Center where I’ve been using the “fitness center” showed me her tiny clip-on MP3 player (I believe it was an iPod Shuffle—I’m no expert on these things). She said her daughter had put a lot of bouncy Broadway show tunes on it that really punched up her walking speed. I could see that, too. Still, I wasn’t sold. What I really wanted was a radio.

Enter the Sansa Clip. On Mother’s Day, my husband offered to take me out to lunch, and we chose a restaurant near Office Depot, since he also had business there. As we walked into Office Depot, I was arrested by a display, on a clearance table, of small MP3 players. I guess what must have caught my eye was the information that the player incorporated an FM tuner. Aha! A radio!

The device was marked down to a price that seemed like a reasonable amount to venture ($29.99), so I took the plunge. I won’t go into all the ins and outs of installation. Suffice it to say that nothing computer-related is ever simple. The mini-CD that contained the (as far as I can tell largely irrelevant) software had a folder that was supposed to contain the documentation, but it was completely empty. I did find the manual online, along with a discussion forum from which I learned that the reason I couldn’t charge the device and Windows couldn’t see it was that I needed to upgrade to Windows Media Player 11. After that, things went pretty smoothly.

Then came the realization that the earbuds that came with it were just not going to work for me (they won’t stay in my ears). It took a couple of tries to find some headphones that were satisfactory (by which time I’d doubled my initial expenditure). Finally everything came together and I was able to really test it out, both on the street and at the CLC. Although there have been some setbacks (low battery, etc.), I have reached several conclusions:

  • Any distraction makes the elliptical machine easier to bear. I can’t really read while using it, so listening to the radio helps.
  • No matter what I’m listening to, I can still hear the TV in the fitness center if someone has it on.
  • I prefer reading over music when on the treadmill.
  • Unless there’s a program I especially want to listen to, when I’m walking outside, I prefer the company of my own thoughts and the sounds of nature to radio or recorded music.

I also decided, since I listen to a classical radio station, that it might be helpful to put some of my own music on the device, since I can’t count on WHIL‘s offerings to be the right tempo. It took me a while to get around to that, but I found that WMP 11 makes it dead simple, and I now have four CDs’ worth of music (Paul Simon and the soundtrack from The Big Chill) on the player. Presumably I’ll eventually add more, though I don’t feel any particular urgency about it. (The capacity of the device is just 2 GB, so I won’t be adding much, anyway.)

Saturday morning when I went out to get the paper, it was surprisingly cool and pleasant, and I was tempted to just walk outside, but I’d made up my mind I was going to go to the fitness center and try out my recorded music. When I discovered that the Clip’s battery was a little low, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take the time to recharge it: after all, the fitness center would be the same temperature all day. So instead of leaving at 8:30 a.m., I was out the door at 10:30—and home again ten minutes later. I had found a sign on the door of the CLC saying it was closed till June 13 for Vacation Bible School! Although the door was open and the place seemed deserted (no sign of VBS), there was no one at the reception desk, which was dark, so I came home and walked (sans music) in air that was almost ten degrees warmer!

So I’m still figuring all this out, but I’m hoping that in fact the device will (eventually) enrich my experience and offer added incentive to exercise.

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1 Response to Walking and Listening

  1. Luc Sanders says:

    I share your problem with the earbuds, They just always fall out. I use the Zune, which also has a radio included. I bought it with my MVP-bucks, one of the perks of being an MVP.
    I mainly download podcasts of my favourite radio programs on the Zune. Which make it easy to listen whenever I have the time.

    There is music on it too, but no videos, I find that videos are not suited for the small screen. Or maybe it is just my eyesight which is not improving over the years.

    By the way I loved the photos of your granddaughter.

    Greetings from Belgium

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