September 8, 2022 – There’s an old running joke:

Q: What is the best way to make the Olympic team?

A: Choose your parents wisely!

It’s funny because it’s laced with scientific truth: no aspiring athlete has ever been slowed down by good genetics.

Consider a recent study from Spain who explored the relationship between trunk size – ribcage and height – and the ability to run fast.

The researchers used a 3D surface scanner to measure the trunks of 27 male volunteers who ran at different speeds on a treadmill. At moderate speeds, there was no difference between men with different torso shapes.

But when they reached 85% effort (hard work) or perceived 100% effort (full race pace), the fastest body type became clear: “a relatively narrow and flat torso.”

So your inherited torso shape can give you an edge. Or not.
You see a lot of these tight, flat torsos at the Olympics. This body shape can contribute to what coaches call running efficiency, an important part of fast running — but not the only one. There’s VO2 max – how your body uses oxygen. There is the relationship between “fast twitch” muscle fibers (sprinting) and “slow twitch” muscle fibers (running). And there are also abstract things like mental toughness and motivation.

You don’t need a perfect torso to have these traits or enhance them. This is good news for runners everywhere, as research shows that running can improve your health and help you live longer.

How running helps your health

Even small amounts of running reduce the risk of death from heart attack or stroke, according to a 2014 study led by Duck-Chul Lee, PhD, of Iowa State University.

The researchers followed 55,000 adults for 15 years. Just 5-10 minutes of running, several times a week, even at modest speeds (6 mph or a 10 minute pace) pushed the needle to better health. Runners lived on average 3 years longer than non-runners.

Running reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, says Russell Pate, PhD, one of Lee’s fellow researchers.

“And we’ve learned during the pandemic that fit people generally have better outcomes against COVID-19,” he says.

Pate is now 76 and a research professor in the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina. He’s a lifelong distance runner with three top-10 Boston Marathon finishes, so you can guess what his torso looks like.

But as a researcher, he focuses on promoting lifelong fitness habits for all ages. Pate says running is a smart choice because it’s “very accessible, relatively inexpensive, and the United States often has ‘community support systems’ such as local running clubs or planned trail systems that recreational runners find it inviting”.

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which Pate helped develop, recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. That’s about 20 minutes a day, which should be doable if you’re looking to get fit and stay healthy, he says.

For runners, that might be less than 20 miles a week, while someone training for a half marathon or even a 5k can easily top that mileage.

But before starting a running program – or returning to it after a break – get cleared by medical professionals.

Improve your running, whatever your body type

Running coaches know the importance of running efficiency. And it does not start in the legs, but in your “heart”.

“A strong core helps a runner maintain their center of gravity late in the race, when running form begins to deteriorate due to fatigue,” says George Buckheit, former American runner at Bucknell University and founder of the club. Capital Area Runners. in the Washington, DC area.

Doing basic planks at home is an easy way to strengthen your core.

In addition to putting on miles, Buckheit says certain exercises will help you go faster:

Form drills such as “high knees” and “kicks” reinforce proper mechanics and increase range of motion. High knees resemble jumps, while butt kicks bring the foot directly below, near the buttocks. He recommends Lauren Fleshman’s video to see how to do these and other exercises.

Running from the hills also reinforces good form. Even a moderate climb requires an active, rhythmic swing of the arms and a sharp lift of the knees.

Interval training can increase your VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body uses when you train as hard as possible. Once every 7-10 days, try a faster workout on a flat, measured track or track. Run for 10-15 minutes, do some stretching or light exercise, then do four 800-meter runs at (or slightly faster than) your actual 5K pace. Do a 2-3 minute “cool down” of walking/jogging between each 800-meter run, and finish with 10-15 minutes of jogging to cool down.

Pushes you to build mental toughness and confidence, which will come with harder or longer workouts. Add a few miles to your longest run and include some hills. If you are considering a marathon, be sure to participate in 5K or 10K races to get used to the physical and mental demands of competition.

Quick work can help you overcome all shortcomings of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles, which is just a roll of the genetic dice. Short, fast sprints (five or six bursts over 40 or 50 meters) can eventually make you faster and more explosive, while accumulating weekly mileage or increasing the duration of your long runs at a steady pace will activate the slow twitch endurance muscles. .
run away from drugs

A man from the Buckheit running club has reportedly failed the Spanish “trunk test”. He was in his late twenties, weighed well over 200 pounds, and was taking heart medication.

“I was afraid I needed my CPR training for this guy,” Buckheit says.

But a well-planned running program – and an athlete ready to do the race – took the story in another direction. The rookie from Buckheit ran 4 hours for his first marathon, and through diligent training a few years later, he ran one in less than 3 hours. It’s less than 7 minutes per mile.

“When he did this,Buckheit said, “I thought, ‘Well, he can’t go much faster.'”

But the former rookie with heart problems recently dropped his personal marathon best to 2 hours and 37 minutes (running at 6 minutes per mile for 26 miles).

“I think he really benefited from the responsibility and camaraderie of being at a running club,” Buckheit said. “And one day he came to practice and said, ‘My cardiologist wants to know what I did. He took my heart meds off.

But can running help you ditch your meds or, better yet, avoid them altogether? Yes, suggest the findings of a London-based study published in 2020.

The study put 138 first-time marathoners – men and women between the ages of 21 and 69 – on a 17-week program of less than 30 miles per week before the London Marathon. Blood pressure and arteries were checked before and after.

Their conclusion: reduced blood pressure and aortic stiffness in healthy participants. It was as if they had reduced the age of their blood vessels by 4 years. The benefit was greater in older, slower male runners with higher baseline blood pressure.

Coach Buckheit’s ‘surprise star’ and London Marathon study results are refreshing reminders that no everything our victories are celebrated atop the medal stand.

Any body can be a runner’s body

The early running boom of the 1970s was dominated by gnarly, wiry men. Now, 44% of marathon runners are women. Over the past few decades, runners in the middle of the peloton (or back of the peloton) have been encouraged by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and The runner’s world columnist John Bingham, also known as “The Penguin” because of his waddling gait.

Neither had torso measurements that would have impressed Spanish researchers. But Oprah completed a marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes.

“Oprah made a lot of people believe,” says Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon. , why can’t I? “”

And Bingham’s column made him the pied piper to the plodder – luring slower runners with encouragement and humor – on his way to a life of better physical and mental well-being.

” We would not have dared run a race like this, with all these fast runners, if it wasn’t for your column,” a fan told him at a marathon expo.

Bingham smiled and said, “Just remember this: there are many more we that there is no their.”

Mark Will-Weber is a former editor of The runner’s world magazine and the publisher/author of the quote runner.