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sportsgene

The Sports Gene

This past week I read The Sports Gene by David Epstein. The book looks into the genetics of sports and seeks to determine why select people, or groups of people, excel at certain sports. Epstein delves into touchy topics of race and ethnicity from a scientific standpoint and gets down to the details of what really matters. For far too long the field has been neglected as people have always been afraid of it being seen as only a “race issue”. Lucky for us, the answers are slowly but surely arising. We all come into this world with different talents and traits and that’s okay. It should be celebrated, not tucked away. We have gifts to give and certain geographies of the world are better at different things.

(amazon.com)

(amazon.com)

If most of you reading this are like me, then you will be most interested in how this applies to running. The first topic that comes to mind is Kenyan runners and is addressed in the book. Epstein looks into a tribe in Kenya named the Kalenjin. They represent about 12% of Kenya’s population of 4.9 million people. Interestingly enough, more than 75% of Kenya’s best runners who go on to become some of the world’s best runners come from this tribe. Many studies have been done on the Kalenjin to investigate what makes them so great. One such study performed by the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre compared Kenyan Kalenjin boys to Danish boys living in Copenhagen. Most of the standard running metrics such as VO2 Max and proportion of slow twitch muscle fibers were found to be the same in both sets of boys. However, the Kenyan boys were on average 2 inches shorter in overall stature, but had legs that were 3/4in longer than the Danish boys. Not only were their legs longer, but also skinnier and possessing less mass. Less mass in the lower legs makes for a more efficient pendulum swing, therefore creating a more efficient runner since they need to expend less energy to swing their leg through.

I won’t give away all the findings of the Kenyans and the rest of the book, but rest assured Epstein does a fantastic job at looking into a variety of other topics and factors in a myriad of sports. This type of research made me wonder what “my people” and my body type are best suited for. Given my lack of funding, research laboratories, and travel budget; I resorted to Google to research what sports my ethnic background ancestors were best at. To do this, I simply googled olympic medal history for my countries of origin of Scotland, Ireland, and England. The findings: my ancestors were damn good at rowing and shorter distance cycling.

So how does this stack up against my own personal performances? As much as running is my top passion, my genetics are not best suited for it. I have a lot of mass in my thighs and calves which makes my legs a very heavy pendulum to swing through the running gait as compared to a Kenyan. I tend to have a lot of power on the bike, but do better in the shorter races where quick expenditures of power are beneficial. What I found most interesting, was the prowess in rowing. In my short 6 months of rowing I showed more success (physically, not technique) than in any other sport in my history. My legs allowed for great explosive power to pull the oar through the water and I had a tunable upper body to develop strength for the end of the stroke. Endurance for races of 2K to 6K was of no issue, the latter being my better event.

Rowing

I think there is a lot to be said about this research and I do hope that the bounds of being “politically correct” start to come down. While I believe it had good intent at the start, I think it is actually starting to have a negative impact in the opposite direction with people not being allowed to say anything. The Sports Gene is a great step forward to analyze our genetics and to discover what activities best suit various types of people. For me, Epstein gives me a ray of hope when he refers to a “hard working gene” in a chapter about ultrarunners. Perhaps there is a chance for my running prowess yet:)

Always in Stride,

Jack

From The Healthy PUSH

My Complex…Keep Running

A family of five winds along the asphalt path beneath the tree line canopy of Ohiopyle State Park. Each pedals along on their bicycle at a leisurely pace, or so it seems. Though it may look relaxed, within the mind of the 10-year old boy it is an all-out race. To him, everything that can be a competition is a competition. As the group enters the final miles of the ride, his sister begins to pull away and the boy gives chase. This will prove to be a common theme for him growing up, chasing the footsteps of his two older sisters.

I have recently come to a conclusion, one that has been in the works for a while:  I have a complex. I can’t quite say where it came from or what sparked it. I know for sure it’s not family as I have one of the most loving, encouraging, supportive families one could ever hope for. It’s just that to me the idea of what is “enough” is an ever-moving target as I grow older and I’m not sure any personal performance will ever live up to my standards. I have convinced myself that being content is to grow complacent, something that I never hope to do. I know that these viewpoints can come off as extreme and unrelenting but it is how I keep myself progressing, or as a good friend once put it, staying in a state of “relentless forward motion”.

I think that this is one of the reasons I am so drawn to running and triathlons. There is no end. You could be a world-class athlete, but someone better will always come along. World records are not made to stand, nor are titles. I keep on telling myself that if I just do this race or complete this one goal, then I will be happy with my performance. However, this is never the case. I live in the moment and enjoy my races for what they are, but do not allow myself to savor it for too long. For the most part, I cross the finish line with a smile, enjoy a moment with those I am close with, and then say inside my head “What’s Next?”

My best way to describe it is a lyric from the end of Kid Cudi’s Up Up and Away: “The end is never the end. A new challenge awaits. A test no man could be prepared for. A new hell he must conquer and destroy. A new level of growth he must confront himself. The machine in the ghost within. This is the journey of the man on the moon.” In short, as our video of the week puts it “Keep Running”.

I’m curious to hear if anyone else has the same type of “complex”?

Always in Stride,

Jack

Song – Up Up & Away – Kid Cudi

Quote – “The end is never the end. A new challenge awaits. A test no man could be prepared for. A new hell he must conquer and destroy. A new level of growth he must confront himself. The machine in the ghost within. This is the journey of the man on the moon. “ – Kid Cudi

Video – Keep Running Short Film 

Well-Done Wednesday (4/18/2012)

Hello Everyone! I apologize for missing last week’s Well-Done Wednesday! It was an insane week with so much going on and the final prep for Ironman St. George. Fear not, we are back this week! Check these out!

1. Amazing Ironman Video that I almost used for this past week’s post – The story of Brian Boyle and his journey back from a car accident that nearly took his life along with his will to live. Will have you misty eyed for sure.

2. Great story about this past Monday’s Boston Marathon – From Ben Kaplan at National Post

3. The Sum of My Parts – Great post from Daniel Colameco contemplating what really makes up the self.

4. Reasoning on the Decision to take on the Ironman – A look into the drive and decision to take on the Ironman along with everything that goes along with it. –  from ironmaninthesnow.

5. Running Errands and I’m Crazy – Fun post on when life needs meet running needs:) from Run, Sweat, and Sparkle.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week!

Always in Stride,

Jack

Well-Done Wednesday (3/28/2012)

Happy Wednesday! Last week we got a great response to Well-Done Wednesday so we are going to be continuing on this new addition to the blog! Here are this week’s picks!

1. We Need More Runners Like This One – “I tell you this because all this positive energy tends to spill out onto random people when I run. When I see someone out running, working really hard and you can tell it’s tough, I always smile at them. Or if I see someone who just has to come to a stop for a rest, I’ll say “You’re doing a great job!”” from asolorunner!

2. Inspiring Running Challenge With a Wonderful Purpose – “Each morning or night before our runs we hold hands in a closed circle and share who we’re dedicating our run to that day – why we’re running! The circles bring smiles, laughs, and tears. Most importantly, they remind us why we’re running 3,080 Miles over the next 21 days.” from Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults!

3. Great Guide on a Lot of Things Running – “Today I came across this Infographic on the Greatist.com website and HAD to share it with you.  Even if you’re not a runner, it has some interesting facts.” from Fancy Oatmeal!

4. Amusing London 2012 Olympics Commercial – I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited for London 2012! This commercial put a smile on my face:)

5. I’m a Runner Moment – “I just had my first, “hey, I’m a runner moment” last night.” from Run Big Boy. Fun post about the running community and how easy it is to make a connection with other runners.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week or what you think of these pieces! It just might get included in next week’s 5!

Always in Stride,

Jack

Well-Done Wednesday (3/21/2012)

Hello my wonderful readers! I am now going to be adding more content to the website in the form of other blogs/posts/videos for you to check out and also a new section for training articles! We’re starting with “Well-Done Wednesday“, a collection of blog posts, videos, and photos that I have come across that I think you’ll enjoy. Check them out now!

Beautiful trees I'd love to run through. Picture via Flickr(LostPizzaBoy).

1. 25 TED Talks You Should Show Your Kids – Provided to me by one of our readers, a great compilation of wonderful TED talks. “Living Beyond Limits” with Amy Purdy is fantastic, be sure to check it out!

2. A Night With an Old Friend – Great post on simply being in the moment and simply “being here” by good friend and fellow runner, Daniel Colameco.

3. Ego and Faking It – “An Ego on its game does not go into overdrive, it does not take a day off. It remembers the sting of failure to meet expectations and yearns to experience sweet victory every day.” – Great piece on the ego and using it to your advantage from an old teammate and awesome friend, Alli Shutt.

4. Feel Good Video on “Validating” Those Around Us – Uplifting and catchy:) If this video doesn’t put a smile on your face and put you in a better mood, then I don’t know what to say.

5. Running With Gratitude – ” I should be thankful for every single step I run because there are so many who cannot.”A touching post I found on being grateful for the ability to run from “I Broke my Umbrella”.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week!

Always in Stride,

Jack