The French President & Jogging – What Went Wrong

In France, jogging is a running joke. But more of that later..

Mr Sarkozy, the French President , collapsed on Sunday after 45 minutes of jogging in a typical hot summer’s day  in Versailles. Initial fears had it that he might have got a heart attack. However, as the clearer picture emerged, it became obvious that the real culprit was a vaso-vagal attack, which was precipitated by dehydration in the hot weather and also the fact that he was on a new strict diet & exercise regime.


Sarkozy (in white) with wife Carla Bruni making the rounds in Paris

What exactly is a vaso-vagal attack?

This is a nerve stimulation of one of the 2  involuntary nervous systems that we all have, called the parasympathetic system( the other being the sympathetic system). This stimulation is the one that enables us to pee and poo but it also causes the heart to slow down (bradycardia) and that, at the same time, affects the nerves to the blood vessels in the legs permitting those vessels to dilate (widen). As a result the heart puts out less blood, the blood pressure drops, and what blood is circulating tends to go into the legs rather than to the head. The brain is deprived of oxygen momentarily and a faint episode occurs. TV fans who rush to the washroom to pee quickly during the commercial break are liable to experience similar symptoms. Read more here.


Jessica Simpson jogging - even celebrities can get the Big Five(see text)

This incident illustrates the importance of preventing dehydration, rather than waiting for thirst to appear before starting to drink. Just watch the Tour de France or the marathon events and you will see what I mean.

The other thing to do to prevent a vaso-vagal attack is to warm down properly afterwards so that the heart rate, blood supply and the muscles can return to normal gradually.

Personally, I do not recommend road-running as this can be bad for the joints. The five common complaints of joggers has always been shin splints (sore shins), runner’s knee (also called patellofemoral pain or PFP), plantar fasciitis (foot irritation), iliotibial band syndrome (thigh irritation) and Achilles tendinitis (lower leg irritation). Try the treadmill instead!

And why is jogging a running joke in France? Mr Sarkozy, usually wearing his black NYPD  T-shirt, has been accused of aping certain Western leaders’ penchant for jogging. Besides, athletic coaches say Sarkozy’s arms hang down, he bends too far forward, his stride is bad and his feet strike the ground incorrectly!

3 responses

  1. Doc,
    Treadmill could be boring. Of course watching TV could “cure” the boredom. But then why confine ourselves in a room.

    So I think cycling is a viable alternative to jogging or even treadmill. I was told that cycling is less stressful on the joints.

    And personally, I enjoy cycling more than jogging. Partly due to “slight” knee problem that I have. Hehehe…

    Doctor2008 comments: If cycling’s your meat, by all means enjoy it! The main thing is to do something you enjoy. Just remember to wear protective headgear to prevent head injury and hope your joints improve!

  2. I have constipation problems and might not visit the toilet for 5 days or more sometimes. Now I understand why sometimes after massaging my legs especially below the knees, I can poo better. Possibly just have to do that massaging more often .. yeah Doc?

    Doctor2008 says: Not too sure its the parasympathetics thats doing it or because you’re increasing the pressure within the tummy when you bend forwards; but whatever works!

  3. I think walking at a fast pace is bad for the joints, too.

    Doctor2008 says: Walking fast under optimum conditions (proper warm-up,suitable footwear, even ground) should be ok. Otherwise, follow the Ventures’ maxim: walk, don’t run. 😉

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