Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with using technology and science to better understand human sports performance. Both in the athletes I coach and understanding myself. This blog dives deeper into that rabbit hole. How our DNA predisposes us to speed or endurance.
I started writing this blog topic, two other times over the last six months, and never posted it. I thought it would be too controversial. But today I got some information that reinforces my belief that although training affects performance our DNA ultimately decides if we will be best at speed or endurance races.
With triathlon we can choose to compete in events that last anywhere from less than an hour to 15+ hours. The question I pose is are you competing in the race distance that will give you the best results?
As a runner I’ve always been fast in short events, even with little training. As a teen I had good success running the 800 and mile in track before I turning to soccer full time. Later in life I raced everything from 5K’s to Marathons. And although I was a decent marathoner, I was able to win 5K races.
The same has held true in multisport. I’ve competed in events that took as long as 12.5 hours. At a National Age Group level I had the same results as running, excellent at sprint distance, good at middle distance, and fair at long distance. Yes, I modified my training to match the distance of a target A race, but on a World or National Championship level I only got podium results in a Sprint Race.
Recently I heard that genetic testing now looks not only hereditary but also about health factors. I was curious if my DNA data would match my race tested results.
I got the results today and the report said “Greg, your genetic muscle composition is common in elite power athletes.”
This really confirmed what I already knew. If I was racing with an Elite field my age, my best change would be in a short race. Maybe because this comes more natural to me I also enjoy short fast races rather than slogging it out all day.
If you are not sure if you are more fast twitch or slow twitch, and this gets back to the blog I started writing a while back, look at your peak power curve on the bike. If it has a high shoulder on the left and high max wattage you are likely more fast twitch. If you have a more slow twitch make up the curve will be flatter. You could even have your DNA tested!
The takeaway is find a race distance you are good at and enjoy, and it’s likely to give you your best result!