Securing Your Fitness
With the theme of "safety" being a hot topic for us on Pedalnorth.com, our Florida based writer David West gives an insight and some helpful tips on how to stay safe when working out, using devices and social fitness apps.
In this day and age, smart-phones, tablets and apps have become an intrinsic part of the health and fitness industry. For many, they provide a source of motivation, as well as a way of monitoring progress, and helping to keep those fitness goals on track. With so many social fitness apps out there to record and share your progress, connecting your workout to the web is a great way to find motivation and inspiration for what can often be a solo activity. But could posting your fitness activity publicly put your safety at risk.
Some fitness apps allow you to not only share your completed activity but also broadcast your location live. You should carefully choose what you share, especially when the general public could learn where you live or see your popular fitness routes and schedule. If used strategically, these features can actually act as an additional security feature for yourself as you work out. Some people share their routes and live workout with family and friends so they know exactly where they are, just in case they get a flat tire or run into trouble while they're working off last Friday night!
What should you do if you feel like someone is using your fitness information to track your location or bump into you at times you don't expect? If you are concerned for your safety, firstly, you should of course contact your local police department. I also recommend working out with a friend, in person, an actual physical being (not just an online workout partner). Just having someone with you can deter unwanted company. If you're passing through parks, dark streets, or areas you aren't comfortable with, I'd suggest changing your route. If you can't change your route then maybe consider working out indoors sometimes.
Here are the recommended settings for five popular fitness apps to increase your personal security. I'll start with a personal favorite of mine, Strava (http://www.strava.com/), which allows you to share your fitness routes, find other athletes you have passed along the route, win KOM / QOM segments (King/Queen of the Mountains), and even broadcast live activities.
Beacon (Premium Feature) - Share your Beacon link with trusted contacts only
Enhanced Privacy Mode - Turn On
Hide Your House/Office - Enter the address where you work-out most often. Create the widest privacy zone possible, which is 5/8th mile at the time this article was written.
Private Activities - Private (default). You can always change the privacy setting as you post your activities. This also prevents accidentally posting those not-so-amazing workouts that you may want to keep to yourself!
Social Connections - Only connect social accounts that you are comfortable sharing your activity on. Instagram is a great way to easily import your sexy schmexy workout images; however, this could also help other athletes find you on Instagram if you use the same username.
LiveTrack - Invite trusted contacts only
Who Sees My Profile - Only Me or My Connections
Who Sees My Activity - Only Me or My Connections
Map My Ride/Map My Run
Profile Privacy Level - Private. Do Not Share
Allow Other Users To Find Me By My Email Address - Uncheck
Routes - Private. Do Not Share (default)
Workouts - Private. Do Not Share (default)
Sleep & Body Mass Settings - um... choose wisely
My Fitness Pal
My Profile & Badges - Myself Only
My Tracker - Myself Only
Privacy - Only Me
Share Settings - Only connect social accounts that you are comfortable sharing your activity on
Connected Apps - Only connect apps that you are comfortable sharing your activity on
Regardless of which apps you use I recommend that you start with the Principle of Least Privileged (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_least_privilege). Grant the least amount of access and provide the least amount of information publicly that is necessary to accomplish your goal. Your default settings should always be set to private. If you want to make a particular activity public do that at the time you post it. Share specifics and details with friends and contacts you trust. These tips are especially important for children who use fitness apps. They may not realize the risks of sharing their personal information and location online.
One other important note: Don't store your payment information in any online or mobile apps. Some apps may require it if you are purchasing premium features. I suggest paying in full up front if possible, to avoid storing your payment information indefinitely. If it's not there it can't get hacked.
Now go work out!
Click the link below for one of my favorite off-road cycling workouts, 45 gruelling miles. Join me if you dare