Things I learn at work

Sometimes work is slow and sometimes work allows your brain to wonder. So instead of listening to tunes all day, I have begun to listen to a lecture series on resistance and cardiovascular training to learn more about studies in training as well as medical and biochemical mechanisms and theories within exercise.

Sounds boring to some, but for those of you looking to train, or get better, or lead a healthier life style, some of this may interest you. Here goes. Today, I learned:

A few important things about speed in running.

  1. Genetics consists of almost 90% of your speed
    • Studies have shown that the-best-of-the-best sprinters have a vast majority of fast-twitch, type II, muscle fibres. These are the fibres that use anaerobic (or lack of oxygen) metabolism. This means that during heavy exercise, you don’t need to have the oxygen you normally would to create energy. In fact, these do best in short bursts, giving nearly the same energy as slow twitch fibres. The difference is these fibres do not have the endurance and therefore fatigue quicker (hence used in short bursts for sprinting). If you follow, the marathoners at the top of the hill had a large majority of type I muscle fibres. These have a significant endurance to the energy they produce, but need oxygen to do so.
    • In this respect, you don’t have much control over how fast you go. You were born as a sprinter or a marathoner. If you are rich enough or desperate enough, you can go organise a biopsy to find out which it is, or you can go out and do what you love anyway, because here’s the second thing I learned…
  2. Training transforms the body to be capable of more
    • Stride length
      • This is absolutely not seeing how far out in front of your body you can stretch. That’s a great way to throw off your natural stride, which you will ultimately revert back to, as well as cause some wicked hyperextension.
        This is what you don't want to happen... don't stretch out to lengthen stride.
        This is what you don’t want to happen… don’t stretch out to lengthen stride.

        Instead, the transformation comes in the conditioning of your quadriceps femoris and the muscles that make up the Hamstring (biceps femoris, semitendinous, and semimembranous).

        These muscle help to do the “pulling” that is required to absorb force as you land and “pushing” to propel you forward. Think of when you jump in front of you: to start you are pushing off the ground, and finishing, you recoil and pull in your legs to absorb shock. Since running is just controlled falling, this is the repetitive motion you want to achieve. When these muscle become stronger, you can put Newton’s third into effect (for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction). In other words, you can take in more force, then translate that force into a horizontal motion, propelling you further forward, or lengthening your stride. Remember, hyperextension is great for ballet, not for running.

    • Endurance
      • After continued repetition, muscles begin to adapt to new environments. This is the reasoning behind people at high altitudes being able to “breathe better” than those that live at lower altitudes. There body becomes accustomed to increased pressure in the atmosphere, they go to a lower pressure, and their bodies are that much more efficient in delivering oxygen with the relaxed pressure. In running, your muscles will actually do a few things, two important ones being the formation of new capillaries and an increase in mitochondrial density. Capillaries, being the mainstay of getting blood to muscles, are necessary for getting more blood to the muscle that need it which means more oxygen which means more energy. The more capillaries that grow from vessels to the muscle, the more blood your heart can supply to those that need it. Mitochondria, on the other hand, is where your body gets its energy. The more  present, the more units your muscle has to create ATP, the more energy the muscle has to produce for movement.

These two things can improve speeds by a lot. Not to mention, as you train, your heart will become more efficient at pumping blood (larger ejection fraction), your maximum oxygen volume will increase (VO2 max), and your mental capacity to keep going well increase (…psychology).

There is evidence that most running specialty comes from genetics, but don’t be fooled. Training can get you where you want to go. Remember, evolution is encouraged by genetics handed down and changes that take place during the species life. You can control one of those.

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