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The hillbilly solution to a dry, hands-free, accessible iPod while working out.


iPods are finicky little gadgets, and they don’t stand up well to the sweat they are subjected to during an hour or more of of cross-training.

In other words, a sweaty iPod is a frozen iPod.  

So you need a way to keep your iPod safe from workout-induced sweat and grime, right? But you also need it’s buttons to remain accessible in the event that a motivation-crushing downer of a song decides to come on, so that you can press the “forward” button in a panic before you are seized by the sudden notion to lay on the floor and weep, right?

Okay, so the obvious solution to this quandary is an armband.

Not. Worth it.

I regret to report that on Apple’s website, these freaking rip-offs range from $30 to $40.

HEY APPLE, THIS JUST IN: That’s $30 to $40 dollars we’d all rather spend on just about anything but a few inches of synthetic fabric and plastic.

What’s the alternative for cash-strapped future graduate students who presently subsist on a volunteer stipend?

On the stationary bike or the elliptical, just wrap the iPod in a plastic baggy and stash it in one of compartments for waterbottles. The buttons and volume wheel all still work through the plastic, the iPod stays dry, no freezing occurs, and this all means you’ll avoid having an expletive-fueled war with your temporarily-out-of-commission music-producing gadget and thus, you won’t draw the attention off the fake workouter to your left who is wearing sweatpants and chatting loudly on her phone while reading US Weekly and ellipticizing at the speed of a slug. Problem solved.

Plastic baggies. Free when mooched from cafeterias, fast food restaurants, or parents' kitchen drawers.

But on the erg (a.k.a rowing machine), that doesn’t fly. You can’t leisurely flip the pages of a magazine on an erg. You can’t take your time and fiddle with your playlist on an erg. There is no waterbottle compartment on an erg. My point is, they are no fun.

My real point is, your hands are occupied by holding the handle the entire time, and the only opportunity to change a song or adjust the volume is a quick reach between strokes, unless you want to totally interrupt your workout.

So, unfortunately, you can’t just put it in a plastic bag and call it a day.

And if you’re in a standoff with Apple about purchasing one of their annoying overpriced armband products, you need to do your own thing.

“Your own thing” might not be this.

iPod + plastic baggy + headlamp = ADORABLE.

Yes, that’s a headlamp in the fourth picture. This ridiculous set-up has been working like a charm for me for over a year.  The added bonus is that it’s a great way to repel other people from talking to you at the gym, because they probably catch an immediate whiff of weirdo. (Edited to add: I would never use this for running, because I rarely run with music. But it does the trick for gym cardio machines).

I typically turn the lamp part around and pretend it blends in with my hair in order to cut down on mystified stares from fellow gym-goers, but maybe I’ll just keep it to the front and turn it on. The better to see through the gloom of my styleless future.

In truth, an adjustable stretchy headband would probably look slightly less gooftastic than my old camping headlamp, but I don’t seem to own one.

What are your strange, thrifty solutions to common running, crosstraining, or general fitness dilemmas? We’ve all heard the advice to do bicep curls with cans of soup when you don’t have access to dumbbells, but there must be more kooky DIY stories out there.


Training log excerpts:

  • Yesterday: 9 mile progression run, 7:45 pace average. Oh, it felt good and like a more proper pace than what I’ve been struggling to piece together recently. I changed my shoes and followed it immediately with an easy Free-sy three-sy, for 12 miles total.
  • Today: 20 KM on the rowing machine, alternating 2 minutes “slow” with 1 minute “slightly less slow.”  Took about 90 minutes.   So, yeah, not exactly a 20 KM PR…


Do you own an iPod armband? Is life easier with it? Would you like to give me one for free?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/25/2010 16:27

    very funny about sweaty ipod = frozen ipod. so true. mine broke a while back and i just haven’t had the heart to lay down the $$ for a new one.

    oh and AWESOME progression run. those types are my favorites 🙂

    • 08/25/2010 17:34

      I hear ya. It slays me to part with my money for things that aren’t food or road races.

  2. 08/25/2010 16:45

    ummmm headlamp = awesomeness! I would pay money to see someone wearing an ipod in a baggy strapped to their head. It’s so Hunter S. Thompson-y.

    I’m in the same boat right now — just got a new ipod that doesn’t fit in the old armband. I’ve been using one of those little runner waist packs (I prefer not to call it a fanny pack) but I have to zip it for the thing to stay in. I just might have to buy a headlamp.

    • 08/25/2010 17:27

      Hunter S. Thompson, hm? — I’m googling him as we speak. I was thinking “It’s so Jed Clampett.”

      “Runner waist pack” is to “fanny pack” as “sun-dried plums” is to “prunes.” Mmm, prunes…

  3. 08/25/2010 17:08

    My solution? One of these. About the same price as an Apple-approved strap-on.

    I’ve got two of ’em. “Throatpunch” – for my terrible metal songs and “Fairypants” for my terrible pop songs. I could probably consolidate though, want one? I didn’t buy either one, feel like I might as well pay it forward.

    • 08/25/2010 17:30

      I had one of those once, and loved it’s clip-on convenience. Almost as much as I love editing out your swears. ❤

      NOTED: You name your iPods. That. Is special.

      • 08/25/2010 19:15

        They’d be worthless without the clip. Just like I am sans expletives.

        I started with just two playlists with those names, but it seemed more appropriate that I just name the whole darn thing.

  4. 08/25/2010 17:29

    I run without music 😉

    • 08/25/2010 17:32

      Oh, me too! My silly iPod headstrap would be no good for running anyway. But for gym machine crosstraining, it’s nice to have some kind of brain engagement outside of the machine screen…

  5. 08/25/2010 18:34

    hey girlie!!
    I used to run with Nike+(before I got a Garmin) an I’d wrap it in a sandwich baggy instead of buying an expensive case for it too! I run without music most of the time…but once a week when I bring my ipod I wear an armband to protect it that I got on for 15$…so not too expensive! I hope youve been having a great week!

  6. 08/25/2010 21:21

    wow… that’s attractive there with the headlamp. i have no suggestions, as i don’t even use an mp3 player/ipod for gym-cardio.

    another source for plastic baggies is the airport – load up when you grab one for your travel-sized toiletries!

  7. 08/25/2010 21:48

    That is awesome and hysterically funny. The audacity of Apple to even make a portable music device that freezes when it gets sweaty is just sooo annoying. Same with Garmin–I have to lock the bezel on every run except in the winter.

  8. 08/25/2010 22:43

    I have one of those itty-bitty iPods for run emergencies only and I wrap it in saran wrap for protection from the rain. It doesn’t seem too bothered by sweat. Although by typing that I have now cursed it and it will likely corrode on my next run.


  1. Five reasons why it’s great to get back into the habit of very early morning runs. « Sweaty Kid.

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