Symmetry and Asymmetry

london-july18-0679There has been a lull in my running activity of late, mirrored by a lull in posting on this site. Now, that’s a kind of symmetry!

The starting point for this topic was the observed asymmetry between my differential proneness to injury. Until last weekend, it was usually the case that injuries sustained during my running training tended to disrupt my martial arts training. We now have more symmetry –  thanks to a misplaced and poorly executed roundhouse kick to a shield, I badly hurt my big toe and this has led to enforced abstinence from running. This is an apposite description, because running does have an addictive quality – I can feel myself getting grumpy and frustrated if I can’t train, even though there are also times when the thought of hitting the road does not feel that appealing. Oh, the ambivalence! To quote Erica Jong, “Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own”. And to continue the symmetry theme – I get grumpy if I can’t make the time or find the inspiration to post here. I fear that I will lose my creative and/or running mojo.

To put this in perspective,  injuries are thankfully not frequent occurrences. I have little incidents that might affect me for a day or two, but rarely anything that incapacitates me for a significant length of time. If I step back to view the bigger picture, it is also the case that recently I have allocated higher priority to activities other than running. This may be partly due to compensating for my neglecting these other activities while focused on marathon training, and also because currently I do not have a specific target event upon which to focus my training.

My thoughts then moved to wider notions of symmetry and how facial symmetry is an important aspect of physical attractiveness. The power of aesthetics. I began to think of symmetry in running. Well, to be more accurate, I was thinking about the marked asymmetry of my running. I have previously described my running style as “poetry in commotion”.

This is not just a question of aesthetics, because a lack of symmetry in running can have harmful biomechanical consequences. Any weakness or imbalance on one side of your body will have to be compensated for by the other side of your body, putting that at risk of injury. We are all asymmetrical to varying degrees, both in our physical appearances and in the way we run. At least with our running we can strive to reduce the asymmetry, such as with the judicious use of taping and other supports, and by not running when a sprained ankle or other obvious injury puts an increased strain on other parts of our body.

We also need to be sure that when we are engaged in muscle building and stretching, we attend equally to both sides of the body and to opposing muscle groups (e.g., working both hamstrings and quads). Targeted training under the guidance of a personal trainer can help to reduce asymmetry, although this is not something I have tried. Since the Edinburgh marathon, the asymmetry I suffered when I injured my right hip flexors has miraculously disappeared. Maybe Musselburgh has curative properties and we should rename it Muscleburgh?

If ambivalence is a wonderful tune, then asymmetrical running is a cacophony of limbs moving through space. And on that note…


3 thoughts on “Symmetry and Asymmetry

    1. LOL Everything about me is out of kilter! 😀 I’m so out of kilter I tend to tip over! Great post, Derek. I love it that you’re honest enough to admit you can be ambivalent.


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