RUNNERS AND CARS (from Editor's Notes, July 1999)
By Woody Green
Runners and cars have a lot in common. If you ignore basic
maintenance tasks such as oil changes, wheel alignment, and
flushing and filling the radiator your car will meet with
mechanical misfortune. Similarly, runners who don't
stretch, hydrate, replace worn shoes and get enough sleep
are likely to become ill or injured.
Ever hear a funny sound under the hood of your car, but
decide to ignore it? I know I have. Later, you may have
found yourself stranded with a dead automobile on the side
of the road. Maybe that funny sound turned out to be
something important like an oil pump or alternator. Ignore
a sore hamstring or tight calf for too long and the same
thing can happen. There is no longer journey than the slow
walk you must make when a muscle or joint stops you in the
middle of a run and forces you to limp home. I know since
I've been there a couple of times.
The key with your running body is to treat it like you
should treat your car. When something seems off, find out
what the problem is and figure out how to fix it. If you've
had a sore, tight hamstring for several days, it's time for
ice and a couple of days off. If you have an injury or
chronic soreness that just doesn't go away, it's time to
see a mechanic... er, sports medicine professional. Go to a
physical therapist, a chiropractor, or a physician who
specializes in sports related injuries. Do not pass go, do
not collect $200. In fact, expect to pay a few bucks.
Nobody likes parting with cash, but ask anyone with a
serious injury if they would have paid a few bucks ahead of
time to prevent the injury from becoming serious in the
first place. The answer is always, "yes!"
The analogy continues. When a car is wearing tires out
quickly, or it pulls to the left or the right of the road,
it is a sign that there is something wrong. Could be the
alignment, a problem with the suspension, or just a tire
that is low on air. Let the problem go and it will cost you
money. Runners with a chronically sore left hip, tight
right calf, or who land much differently on one foot than
the other have a similar problem. It could literally be an
alignment problem. Sometimes misalignments of various body
parts leads to problems, and the most common culprit here
is the feet. Problems in the feet will cause misalignments
and biomechanical problems all the way up the body. That
sore knee may be sore because your foot is forcing your
knee to twist ever so slightly with each running stride.
Over time, it causes irritation that is a sign of problems
just like a tire showing uneven wear on your car.
The key is not to just hope a sore or tight spot goes away.
If the normal precautions of a little ice and rest don't
cure the problem, don't just keep running on it, seek help!