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Genetics And Running

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in my early teens, and I can’t speak highly enough of the benefits this has brought. It clears the mind, improves the mood, gets you outdoors and in touch with nature, keeps your cardio-vascular system in good order, and keeps you slimmer, fitter and healthier than even many other types of exercise can do.

I think the main reason I started running as a recreational activity was because, having previously always thought I was pretty average at sport (if not at everything), I suddenly discovered that I was able to finish ahead of many of my classmates in school cross country runs. This was very self-affirming. I had suddenly found something I was good at, and received recognition for it. And of course then I discovered the extra enjoyment and benefits that started to come from doing it more regularly on my own.

Having said that, I am not a champion runner by any means – just averagely good, perhaps. On the (rare) occasions that I have raced I seem to place quite well in comparison with the bulk of others who enter the races, but never anywhere near the very best. In illustration, here is a record of my most recent training run – in preparation for the Sydney City to Surf run in two weeks time – faster than some, slower than others. 🙂

But why was I relatively good at running in the first place? Presumably it must be my genetics. In fact my mother recalled that prior to my birth, her doctor had told her that he thought I would be good at sports, because he had detected a slow fetal heart rate. The implication there is having a cardio-vascular system which is inherently capable of higher work rates. And of course the other factor is having a suitable frame and musculature, and on that front not only are both my parents naturally slim, but they also had been good at sports, at least in their youth.

So the question I now ask myself is, if I had not had this genetic foot-up (so to speak) what chance that I would have developed a lifetime sport habit?

I suspect that without that boost to my self-esteem at an early age, I may well not have taken to sports at all, or if I did then probably in a far less enduring or beneficial way. And on this basis, I have to feel a lot of sympathy for those who find it much harder than I to keep up the discipline of regular exercise or sport.

If you are one of those who do struggle to exercise regularly, all I can do is to encourage you to ignore the genetics, to forget about comparing your sporting performance with the super genetically-endowed champions, and simply enjoy the benefits of what it bring to you – which is simply a higher quality of life, and personal enjoyment of it.

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