“Don’t let your engine outpace your chassis”

The quarter life crisis, branded in the 1990’s, it appears in the early twenties when young people suffer an identity crisis and struggle to choose career paths and find love (Rossi & Mebert, 2011). The realisation that expected goals in life may not have been achieved, and in fact, they may never be. The reality of bills, mortgages and retirement fund contributions hit – how depressing!  The “midlife crisis” is next, it emerges between 40 and 60 years of age and often results in a reassessment of life and its meaning (Jaques, 1965). Its supposedly caused by the emotional and physical changes facing a person during these years – the decline in athleticism [you tend to get fatter (Williams & Wood, 2006)] or the stagnation of a career (you get sick of trying to impress the boss).

Nobody talks about it, but the quarter life and midlife crises have a miserable relation – the third life crisis. It hits after 30 years of age and it is sourer than its younger counterpart. I rebelled against my “third life crisis” and I bought my dream car, a 1973 VW Beetle, because I was still young, spontaneous

my "third life" crisis
my “third life” crisis

and care free. I invested heavily in the engine, having bought it I needed this car to be reliable, and after all it had to get molly to Montessori in the mornings no matter how cold. I concentrated on the engine and planned to do a bit of work on the chassis later……. But I never did and now the engine is tearing the car apart.

But Runners do this all the time. The heart is the engine of the body, it responds to training and grows strong at a much quicker rate than structural and muscular changes occur in the body (Houston et al., 1979; Thompson, 2007). The engine outpaces the chasis and this is a recognized cause of injuries in runners of all levels. The heart and lungs are ready to run 10 miles, but the posterior tibialis muscle can’t handle the distance and as a result the inside of your “shin” becomes sore or the glutes are too weak resulting in knee pain.

The heart (the body’s engine) gains the ability to run a hard effort long before the body (muscle) is ready for it (Houston et al., 1979). Building a stronger body is vital for runners in order to keep pace with the cardio respiratory strength, avoid injury and even run quicker. The addition of resistance programmes to a runners training has been associated improved running economy and neuromuscular coordination – it makes runners quicker (Jung, 2003; Balsalobre-Fernandez et al., 2015).  Runners who replaced 30% of their running training with strength training improved their 5k time by 3.1 % compared to athletes of a similar ability who did no strength training (Paavolainen et al., 1999). The addition of strength training in a runner with a 5km PB of 20 minutes could result in an improved PB of 19mins 20 seconds. A strong body of muscles, ligaments, and tendons guards against the impact of running and leads to a consistent gait and stride. Strengthening programmes both protect against, and should be used in the management of, common running injuries (Niemuth et al., 2005; Cichanowski et al., 2007). If the legs are struggling to match the pace set by the cardiovascular system it may be a sign of a dangerous imbalance that may lead to injury and time off. Like my car it may be time to take the body off the road and get it strengthened to avoid irreparable damage.





Cichanowski HR, Schmitt JS, Johnson RJ & Niemuth PE. (2007). Hip strength in collegiate female athletes with patellofemoral pain. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39, 1227-1232.


Houston ME, Bentzen H & Larsen H. (1979). Interrelationships between skeletal muscle adaptations and performance as studied by detraining and retraining. Acta Physiol Scand 105, 163-170.


Jaques E. (1965). Death and the mid-life crisis. Int J Psychoanal 46, 502-514.


Jung AP. (2003). The impact of resistance training on distance running performance. Sports Med 33, 539-552.


Niemuth PE, Johnson RJ, Myers MJ & Thieman TJ. (2005). Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners. Clin J Sport Med 15, 14-21.


Paavolainen L, Hakkinen K, Hamalainen I, Nummela A & Rusko H. (1999). Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. J Appl Physiol (1985) 86, 1527-1533.


Rossi NE & Mebert CJ. (2011). Does a quarterlife crisis exist? J Genet Psychol 172, 141-161.


Thompson PD. (2007). Cardiovascular adaptations to marathon running : the marathoner’s heart. Sports Med 37, 444-447.


Williams PT & Wood PD. (2006). The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain. Int J Obes (Lond) 30, 543-551.


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