If `sidewalk limbo' is part of exercise regimen, look out!


May 27, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

We cannot underestimate the importance of trimming trees to prevent injury.

I'm not speaking about decorating Christmas trees, although I did once experience some discomfort when a fully trimmed Christmas tree toppled over on me.

But such a trimmed-tree incident was nothing compared with the untrimmed one that nearly felled me last week.

Those of us who like to walk or jog through our neighborhoods truly appreciate those of you who trim the limbs of your trees -- the ones that line the sidewalks -- to an above-the-average-head-height level. We are protected from traffic on the sidewalk, and we can enjoy the intermittent canopies of shade. But lots of times, we have to head out into the street, because we grow weary of ducking under tree limbs that hit us mid-face or even mid-torso. It is almost impossible to walk or jog when the game of "sidewalk limbo" is interjected randomly into one's exercise program.

On the street, I routinely encounter other hazards, the worst of which is being stuck behind the trash trucks when they make their weekly runs. This so often happens to me, I am close to becoming their official mascot. Soon, many trash trucks will have carved figureheads of me affixed to their grilles -- my arms pumping energetically, my hair unattractively parted by the wind and asymmetrically plastered to my head. Unlike the mermaids on the prows of ships, however, I will be fully clothed in my seductively oversized Marriotts Ridge High School Mustang 5K T-shirt.

Believe me, I try my best to sprint ahead of the trash truck, but I am such a slow jogger, I always end up behind it. I've often felt I should just give up and pitch in; grab a random trash can, haul it over and toss its contents into the widening maw of the truck's crushing mechanism. Not only would such an activity give me a truly anaerobic workout -- it would also be my ticket to becoming one of those legendary members of the general public whose actions are talked about for years around the office water cooler.

So I resist the temptation. Sometimes the workers jog over to pet my dog, who cannot believe his continued good fortune at witnessing this weekly sensory extravaganza up-close. With every loadful dumped from every house, he is treated to a miasma of aromas: last week's crab feast, last night's pork chops, wow, can that be a whiff of worn-out carpeting mixed with moo goo gai pan?

On the other hand, I am trying to breathe as shallowly as possible as I make my way toward the infinitely more treacherous, yet less nauseating, sidewalk.

Sometimes a neighbor will stop his or her car to say hello, and I will pause in my run to have a chat. And it is precisely this that caused me to forget about the treachery of the sidewalk.

I waved goodbye to my neighbor and turned briskly to jog afresh with an impressive stride down the hill to my cul-de-sac, only to be clothes-lined by a branch at forehead level. My dog continued on while I tried, from the ground, to comprehend how he had suddenly multiplied into two, perhaps three, identical dogs. The men from the trash truck came running over. I think they were very nice, but I can't really say for sure because they didn't speak English and at that moment, neither did I.

Luckily, I am familiar with the research on sports concussions conducted by Dr. Yrreg Aioig, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy, even though his work has been the subject of national media attention. Dr. Aioig no doubt would advise me to take it easy for a few days and to avoid running on my neighborhood's sidewalks and stick to the main roads, such as Interstate 95, where it is less dangerous.

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