Digital Safety for Runners: Is Fitness Sharing Putting You in Danger?
By Grace Henderson
Technology can make fitness and running much more fun and engaging. From social media to fitness tracking apps to online fitness communities, there are a million ways to take your workout digital and get interactive online.
With so much fun technology, though, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. We often talk about the importance of safety while running outside, but your digital footprint is also something that needs to be protected as you work out. Predators can track your social media posts, app check-ins and more as a way to follow you and/or potentially do you harm, which means that sharing too much information through these digital channels can unintentionally put you in danger.
Staying safe while running, then, means knowing the digital traps to avoid as well.
Running on Social Media
Social media can be a great way to share your progress, motivate yourself and inspire others. However, with this expanded reach of shared information comes an increased danger from those looking to use this info against you.
Don’t announce your running routes or times on social media ahead of time. Letting someone know where you will be can be like an invitation for a potential attacker. If you’d like to share your route, wait until you’re finished and no longer in the area. Also, if you run the same route frequently, it’s best not to share a frequented route at all, unless you’re running with a group.
Geo-tagging locations in photos can be dangerous, especially mid-run. Location checkins are a fun way to show off the great places you run, but, imagine you post a photo in the middle of your run on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (or all 3). All of your followers now know your exact location. If you post frequently, they might also be able to guess when you’ll be there again. Having a live feed of where you are can be dangerous, especially if your profile is open to the public. If you want to geotag your location in photos, wait until after you are done running, and again, take care not to create a pattern for those who might be watching.
Running with Fitness Apps + Devices
Make sure your fitness apps’ privacy settings are set appropriately. Apps such as MyFitnessPal, Nike+ and Strava and fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit, Garmin and Apple Watch are fun ways to track your distance and pace while connecting with your running friends. However, if you’re not careful, you could be sharing this very detailed personal information with strangers, too. Check that your apps’ settings only allow approved friends to see your info.
Similar to social sharing, be mindful of sharing route specifics in apps as well. Apps and devices often display maps of your running routes as part of your fitness tracking. If you regularly set out for your runs from home or work, this pattern can be noticed by others and easily located.
Additionally, some apps have a “live tracking” feature that allows friends to see where you’re running in real time. This can be a helpful safety precaution to have your friends watch out for you, but it can also backfire if people other than your friends can see it. Only use the live tracking feature if you feel comfortable with everyone on your friends list seeing where you are.
Running with a Cell Phone
Making sure your phone is fully charged is about more than just being able to listen to your music or use an app. A powered up phone is important in case you need to call for help, to get a ride or an Uber; or to pull up your emergency medical information in the event something happens. Both Apple and Android offer ways to put in case of emergency (ICE) info into your phone, or you can use an app to set up this feature.
Running with Headphones
Ideally, it’s best to run without headphones when you are alone but, if you must, make sure to keep one earbud out. You should always be able to hear what’s going on around you. Newer technology in some headphones can also cancel out surrounding noise, making it easy to get in the zone and focus on what you are listening to and less likely to pay attention to surroundings. A good rule of thumb is to keep the sound low enough that you can hear your own feet hitting the ground.
Wearing headphones may also make you appear vulnerable to potential attackers. If they think you aren’t paying attention, you could be seen as a target. Continue to look around and behind you to observe your surroundings for anyone that may be watching.
Technology can be a runner’s friend, but taking the right precautions is important to ensure that your digital running footprint is a safe one.
Have any tips for staying safe while using social media and fitness apps? Share them in the comments below!
Follow Grace’s journey on Instagram @naturalgracedaily
Grace Henderson is from St. Louis, Missouri and currently serves in the U.S Air Force, with more than 10 years of service. She enjoys staying fit through running and promoting a healthy lifestyle through a plant based diet.