Running: one in five will never improve and may even get worse

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Smile-n-Nod

Level 5 Valued Member
Here's an interesting article on running: click here

It says that about 20% of the population has genetic make-up that makes them bad at running, and "no matter how hard they push themselves they will never improve and may even get worse."

I've often wondered if this were the case. I've tried running a few times, mostly when I was in college. I never could run more than about 3 miles comfortably, no matter how much I trained. I was about 180 lbs at the time (on a 6'1" frame; big, not not overweight), but was always exhausted after running about 25 or 30 minutes. In contrast, I've know people who decided to run a half marathon and, after a couple months of training, ran that distance with no problems.

I can walk for an hour or two pretty comfortably, but running just never has been my thing. This article gives me a clue as to why that may be the case for me.

The article recommends that people who are poor at running concentrate instead on strength training. That's why I'm here!
 
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Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
The article recommends that people who are poor at running concentrate instead on strength training. That's why I'm here!
Bad idea! Not the strength part, but focusing on strength and neglecting endurance. I think we covered this a lot over the last couple of months on this forum.
Strength training thickens your heartwall to the point that the inner diameter of the ventricles are reduced -> less volume -> less place for the blood -> less oxygen rich blood can be pumped out of the heart -> weak aerobic capacity and other health issues.
Strength training also makes your heartmuscle stiffer. Over time this leads to diastolic dysfunction which greatly increases the chance for distolic heart failure and ultimately death.

There are tons of positives health effects from strength training, but you need to counter/reverse the few negative sideeffects that come with it!
The only way to do this is to increase the inner diameter of the ventricles (esp. left) and increase the flexibility of the heartmuscle through stretching.
Both things can only be done by the classic endurance events (running, swimming, rowing, cycling etc.) and not by other means (e.g. bodyweight circuits, crossfit-like high rep weightlifting, etc.).

Just being bad at running is no excuse for not doing it. As a human being you are born to run. It's in your genes from hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of years as hunter-gatherers. You might not be "as much" born to run as others (e.g. marathon runners), but that only means you get the same health benefits (e.g. the ones outlined above) at a slower pace than the marathon runner.
Btw I don't consider marathons healthy. As a human you should be able to cover certain distances without much effort, so yes you should be able to cover 42km over the span of a day (e.g. walking at 6 km/h for 7 hours without stopping inbetween), but doing it in 2 hours or less is ridiculous.

If you're bad at running and don't like it just use something different like swimming, cycling, walking, rucking or rowing.

The bottomline is if you do strength training you also must get your endurance work done!
You don't have to win endurance events, but at least get the minimum effective dosis to reverse the negative effects of strength training.

Btw this isn't some kind of rant against you @Smile-n-Nod , but against the author of that article and that professor in there. I definitely don't believe his 20% theory and he lost all credibility when he recommended MMA for those "aerobic non-responders"...because MMA doesn't require aerobic capacity at all, right? :rolleyes:
 

Smile-n-Nod

Level 5 Valued Member
Btw this isn't some kind of rant against you @Smile-n-Nod
I understand. I believe that both strength and endurance training are important; this article just helps me understand why I've never been good at running. I'm sort of a "hard gainer" at endurance.

I appreciate your offering another perspective. The dialog is helpful.
 

mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
I used to think I was bad at running, and I was. Then I actually spent months, then years running consistently and found out that I am actually pretty good at it. Not elite good but generally top 5% in my age group and often times top 10% overall (in my 40s). You can't determine if you are good or bad at running until:

1. You get down to 10-15% bodyfat (males), 18-25% (females)
2. You spend at least 6 months running a minimum of 20 miles per week

Deciding anything before meeting those two criteria is just guesswork.

Besides, you don't have to be good at running to derive benefits from it. You'll reduce your risk of chronic disease whether you get good or not. In fact, if you are bad at running, you are likely to burn more calories than someone who is good. Inefficiency burns lots of calories.

Finally, you don't have to run. Walking is underrated, but can really help with weight control and improve health.
 

Phil12

Level 7 Valued Member
There is also a big difference between marathon running -- what this study is about -- and being able to run a couple miles without discomfort.
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
The guy, prof. Timmons, said all that back in 2013.

In relation to non aerobic responders, he said: “The genes that underpin the development of the oxygen transport system also play an important role in ligaments and tendons as well. There may be a link between people who respond poorly to this sort of training and susceptibility to injury, but that still needs a lot of work.

And further, "We are still early in the life of this kind of use of genomics, but hopefully we will get better at being able to understand how genes determine people’s performance and be able to offer them advice".

.....and where we are now with DNA testing to determine strengths and weaknesses with athletigen, 23andme etc. And then there is epigenetic influence of diet and lifestyle whether they are on or off. Big massive can of worms there......
 

Questionfear

Level 4 Valued Member
I'll weigh in here with my purely anecdotal experience. I have never been a fast runner. My best 5k time is 29:29, and it took me months of racing to get there. I can run/walk myself for long distances with quick recovery (I've run 4 half marathons) but I am not fast-my best 1/2 time is 2hrs 37m, and despite my best efforts I was never able to push below a 2h30m 1/2, though my 5k PR did come just a few months after my PR half. Basically, I have the endurance to keep going, but I have zero speed skills.

On the flipside, strength comes a bit easier for me. I am currently doing RoP, and I can easily handle 5 ladders to 4 rungs with a 30lb bell, and can swing a 50lb bell comfortably. I've noticed that unlike with running, consistent training does lead to consistent improvement for me in strength work-if I keep at it and work hard, I can move more weight and more volume, an outcome that was always in some doubt with running. I suspect this is somewhat genetic; my brother takes after my mom's side of the family and is much more stereotypically athletic and fast, while I take after my dad's side, which I am pretty sure was descended from Polish farmers.

However, I am not inclined to throw up my arms and just give up on cardio because I am slow, and I firmly believe walking/running/hiking is something genetically programmed into all of us, even if we're not all marathoners.
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
Walking is okay instead of running if done long enough like for well over an hour at a time. Running at least for a few minutes at a time is something we're made to do as creatures equipped to survive in this world. In Canada it's cold much of the year and I don't like running outside breathing in the cold air so I walk instead, and if I want the excitement of running without this inconvenience I jog forwards and backwards in my basement to music. It's actually quite exhilataring doing this from time to time.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
An interesting conversation. I'm not sure times are relevant here. Although I never set any land speed records, I did manage a 1:36 1/2 marathon and a 20 minute 5k, but I've always felt like I'm not suited to running. I like to sprint and, in fact, any time I had a layoff from my normal distance running during the couple of decades I did it, I'd always come back by doing 1/2 mile runs at a brisk pace to find my form, then work on gradually increasing distance and slowing down while trying to keep the flow of my faster-paced runs. Maybe it's some-kinda-twitch muscles sort of thing, but my point is that one can run at least faster than average and still be one of those people who feels like he/she just isn't suited to running.

-S-
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
I really believe that lengthy walking is a very good way to develop and maintain a base for asymmetrical load exercises. Walking was my only supplement to judo and MMA for many years, and while I'm smarter now because of SF and I have good upper body strength now too, also because of SF, the walking did give me a lot - I certainly noticed the difference on the mats when I didn't walk (i.e. LONG walk training) for a few weeks! I still need to walk to keep strong. I tried stopping it and only doing S&S but I definitely noticed some of the same problems as before when I'd stop walking. There just isn't any replacement for this most natural of human exercises for the human body.
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
I remember having a terrible bench press of only 180lbs when I weighed 180lbs. Then, I spent a summer in Korea (long ago) where I walked everywhere for 2 months. At the end of it I could bench press 240lbs. That's a big improvement with doing NO weight training AT ALL, just walking.
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
I really believe that lengthy walking is a very good way to develop and maintain a base for asymmetrical load exercises. Walking was my only supplement to judo and MMA for many years, and while I'm smarter now because of SF and I have good upper body strength now too, also because of SF, the walking did give me a lot - I certainly noticed the difference on the mats when I didn't walk (i.e. LONG walk training) for a few weeks! I still need to walk to keep strong. I tried stopping it and only doing S&S but I definitely noticed some of the same problems as before when I'd stop walking. There just isn't any replacement for this most natural of human exercises for the human body.
How long of walks were you doing? Were you carrying a pack?

I tend to feel better when I walk more and I'm interested to hear about other people's experience.
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
How long of walks were you doing? Were you carrying a pack?

I tend to feel better when I walk more and I'm interested to hear about other people's experience.
I've found a good amount of time to walk is 75 minutes or more. Of course when I've carried packs it's more exercise, but this has more to do with the fact that the pack makes balancing a bit more of an effort for my upper body than it is really about loading much more weight onto my legs. I think the pack tends to help develop the so-called "core"muscles. I weigh 100kg anyhow, so a long walk is giving me a lot of weight-bearing weight-moving exercise!

One VERY nice thing about walking for someone like me doing martial art training 4 times a week is that I can be very sore from training and still walk, and this walk will still benefit my conditioning and strength.
 

RichJ

Level 6 Valued Member
a little bit winging it here, @offwidth can probably recite verbatim, but the authors in Training for the New Alpinism mention some significant aerobic adaptations that really need (here comes the winging..) 60 to 90mins plus to occur. routinely do a simple 90 to 120 min ruck with a relatively light pack (30 to 55lbs). pretty easy and nice to get out on the trails. walk or a run probably works - would guess most people do the runs at too high a heart rate.

not clear what it takes to maintain those adaptions, but i've had similar experience as @Kozushi - where i very definitely notice their absence. the ability to just go on and on and on is pretty valuable to some pursuits.
 

Kozushi

Level 7 Valued Member
I think a rough minimum of 75 minutes of walking is needed to make it into an athletic pursuit above and beyond a mere "healthy" pursuit.
 

Darren Best

Level 6 Valued Member
The author clearly doesn't understand base endurance training at all.

@RichJ is correct, it takes a minimum of 30 minutes in the correct heart rate zone just to get the adaptation started, that's just to get it started, after that you are actually training your heart for base endurance and growing the needed mitochondria in the muscle fibers.

Push the heart rate too fast, as the author suggests and the left ventricle doesn't fill up with enough blood to get the stretching needed for it to adapt.

YES, walking is vastly underrated. People should be able to crank out four miles in one hour and not feel trashed at the end before they start even thinking of running/jogging.

There is a pretty big penalty for bigger people, but big guys can run, @aciampa is a perfect example, they just burn more calories doing it and efficiency/form becomes much more important. Al showed me this, I can walk for hours non stop, even with a 40 pound pack. But the instant I started running, boom heart rate went through the roof. Nothing I did changed it. Al gave one small suggestion and now I can run at a easy breathing pace no problem. Just in the last two weeks I've done two 90 minute runs and easily could of kept going.

If you do an hour run and feel wasted afterwards, you either pushed too hard, have bad form or your base endurance sucks or all of the above.

@Steve Freides is correct, race times are not relevant to training, in fact they are hugely detrimental. No racer runs at his or her training pace on race day. At least, they shouldn't be.

Don't focus on distance, don't focus on how fast you go, get your heart rate in the correct zone and stick to it. Walking, rucking or running, it doesn't matter. Training base endurance is the least specific of all. But if you want to be a better runner, you are going to have to practice it.

Training for the New Alpinism is excellent reading.
 
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