I used to be a runner. Not a jogger, which connotes a slow and easy speed. That word has been around for a long time, but hadn't really come into general use at the time I hit the road. This was back in the day when Runner's World's shoe issue was two pages, and the first pair of shoes I had were racing flats, because that was all I could find locally, and I didn't know it mattered.
I started out with a couple miles a day, moved up to six, ten miles on the weekends, working on the idea that I was going to go to Boston and run the marathon. Back when there were only a couple of places you could do that in the U.S.
Eventually found some decent training shoes -- New Balance -- learned how to tolerate Gatorade, got my resting pulse to fifty, and achieved my leanest, lowest weight since age fifteen. I was mondo aerobically fit, and training in Louisiana in the summer, which often meant the temperature at midnight was still eighty and the humidity approaching 100%. Sweat doesn't evaporate in such conditions, it runs down your body and legs and soaks your socks.
I never made it to Boston. One night, a drunk careened out of the Federation of Eagles Christmas party, a few blocks down the street from where I lived, and to avoid being run over, I hopped off the road -- into a conveniently-placed hole in somebody's front yard, wherein I tore up my right ankle. Spent six weeks in a walking cast, and before I could get back into trim, we moved from Louisiana to Oregon, whereupon I discovered that running and ice storms don't go together ...
This was in the day when such things as portable music weren't part of the program. Kind of hard to do seven-minute-miles with a boombox on your shoulder. CD players and iPods were in the distant future, decades down the line.
All of this is to bring us to this report. A woman, jogging in a park in Philadelphia, was killed by a branch that fell out of a tree. Died instantly, the local police said. Thirty-foot-long branch dropping fifty feet.
You have to figure that this poor woman's number was up. Half a second either way, the branch misses her, and she was in exactly the wrong place at precisely the wrong time.
The local police theorize that the branch would have made some noise when it broke, and that the unidentified woman didn't hear it because she was wearing an iPod.
You see people walking or jogging with their iPods frequently these days. You pass somebody going the other way, they have a blank look, or they are singing along. They are exercising, but they really aren't in touch with it, and certainly not the world around themselves.
Guys in the gym, pumping iron, you can hear the music from across the room. People on stationary bikes or treadmills, reading magazines or watching TV, and unfocused on what they are doing for their bodies.
Me, I think you need to get into it, and music can be a part of that. I've tried listening to tunes in the background when I've lifted weights, and it can give you a rhythm that sets a pace. Like marching in time with the band or counting cadence, there can be a flow that helps move things along.
I find, however, I get a better workout if I'm concentrating on each rep of each set, on each move of every form. I do my martial arts exercises out back, no music. (Sometimes in the garage when the class works out, there is music playing, but I tune it out. I used to try to write with a CD going in the b.g., too, but if I'm paying attention to the task at hand, the music fades. I notice when it clicks off, but mostly don't fasten any attention to it.)
Yes, there are arts for which music is considered a part of the formal process -- capoeira, for instance. Some of the Indonesian stuff features gamelan. You can work up a good sweat dancing any kind of dance, and music goes with dance. But bouncing in the aerobics room is not the same as doing it effectively deaf whilst crossing a four-lane street during rush hour. You have to wonder how many people are hit, or almost hit, by cars because they didn't hear them coming.
For a serious martial artist -- and we'll have to have that discussion, I suppose, about what constitutes "serious" -- not paying attention to one's surroundings is kind of like having a couple beers too many in public. You can do it, and you can get away with it, but these aren't good ideas generally.
It's illegal to use a hands-on cell phone while you are driving in Washington state, and is about to become so in Oregon, and as somebody who has been tailgated by teenage girls talking or texting on such things, I am happy to see this. People bitch about the state playing nanny, but if laws are to protect people from each other, I would be happy to see Brittney back there at seventy-five on the interstate watching the road and not letting me do her driving for her, thank you very much.
Talking on a cell phone is, they say, equivalent to having three alcoholic drinks. Texting on one is worse. And I don't think having a BlueTooth earpiece or a speaker is demonstrably safer. Your phone rings while you are driving? Tell them to hold on and pull over to take the call.
Back to iPods:
Having your hearing blocked, shutting off the second most important sensory input for most people behind sight, the consequences might be, as in the case of the Philadelphia jogger, fatal. I wasn't there, so I can't say for sure, but maybe if she'd heard the branch cracking, she could have gotten out of the way.
Seems as if she would have had a better chance, at least.