Why you should see your body as a car that needs fixing

Ian Warner. Photo: Altis

If you’re interested in becoming a guest writer for the Athletigen Blog please contact Sean McCullum (Sean.mccullum@athletigen.com).

To be honest: I don’t know much about cars.

I’ve never actually changed a tire and the only reason I know when to get my oil changed is because my mechanic puts a sticker on my windshield.

And I’m not alone.

Most people just hop into their car and expect it to work.

Which is also how most athletes treat their body; they just hop up and expect it to work, only going for a tuneup when things break down.

My point isn’t that my body’s a high performance machine. Which it is. Or that there are a lot of complex mechanisms that work together to give me speed. Which there are.

What I’m saying is that my body, much like a car, is always giving me signals. And if I can learn to recognize and understand these warning signs, I can stay on top of any fixes before I break down.

I think of my body as having 4 main indicators: the oil light, the check engine light, the gas light, and the seatbelt light.

The oil light

I have a friend who lent his car to his roommate while he traveled. She drove it daily, not noticing that the oil light was on. Soon after the engine had to be replaced.


Our bodies are the same. They send signals when there’s an issue, but if we don’t understand the warning signs, we can’t fix it. Learning to recognize tension, pain, or stiffness, and communicating it to coaches or mobility professionals, can be the difference between seizing up and running smoothly. And if you need help recognizing your body’s warning signs, don’t hesitate to ask a professional like a physiotherapist.

The check engine light

Arguably, this warning light has got to be the worst. It’s saying ‘there’s 1 of 30 things wrong with your car — could be the gas cap, could be major engine trouble — better find out’.

When your body is firing off warning signals but you’re not sure of the cause, it’s understandable to want to take advice from other athletes and coaches. But that’s like bringing your car to a mechanic and having them guess what’s wrong without opening the hood or hooking up the computer.

Outside advice may not work for your body and could even make the problem worse. I prefer to have data to support how I’ve been feeling and how my body’s been reacting to training. Which is where Iris comes in. It makes sure everyone’s on the same page. It also saves me from myself; having clear data means I don’t have to rely on just words to explain how I’m feeling.

The gas light

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped in the car after my wife used it, pumped about wherever I’m going, only to find the gas light on. Filling up is a hassle now but that light sure saves me from disaster later.

Unfortunately, we’re our own gas lights. Every athlete needs to take the time to learn what fuel their body needs — and not everyone is the same.

When you look at an athlete’s DNA you can see inherited traits that relate to how their body metabolizes and transports certain vitamins and minerals. Like, if you’re experiencing low energy, you may be a poor metabolizer of vitamin B12. In that case, you may need to increase supplementation or eat more B12-rich foods like mackerel, crab, beef, or All-Bran.

The seatbelt light

My dad often tells me about a time when seatbelts were new. Back then, he found it uncomfortable and barely ever wore it. Now he’s uncomfortable if he’s not wearing it — for good reason.

That seatbelt light is your car telling you that there’s a super important feature you should be using. That light is knowledge.

When it comes to human performance, we have access to so much more knowledge than we used to. Not using this information is like driving without a seatbelt just because that’s how people used to do it. It doesn’t make sense to ignore info and tech that can optimize your performance and give you a deeper understanding of your body.

With Iris, I can understand my DNA within the context of my daily training to see whether I’m susceptible to certain injuries. I can then customize my training to avoid risk.

What I’m trying to say is this — you can wreck a few cars and still live happily. But you can’t lease-to-own a new body. You’ve got to dig deep and pay attention to any warning lights on your dash so you can keep that body purring like a kitten.

Uncertain how Iris works? Check out this video.

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