SMRC Running with Moe RRCA
  Home About the Club Current News Club Runs Places to Run TX Running Clubs Running Links Useful Stuff  
  Upcoming Races Race Results Country Roads 10K ARA-Moe's Better Half Marathon Running with Moe Contact Us!  

June 21, 2015

Debunking the body type myth

I heard from a friend this week who had an unusual story that she related.

She graduated from Texas State a few years ago and eventually went on to earn her doctorate degree. While she lived in San Marcos she was very active in fitness activities. She was a ranked bodybuilder on a national level but also did well in races here in town. She placed in my Better Half Marathon one year.

Lately she has been entering triathlons and doing very well. She also enters bike competitions and often places in some of these events. The problem she related was when she went to buy an upgrade for her bike for triathlon competitions.

The salesperson said that she had a very muscular body, and then told her that she was not in good shape for triathlons. If she wanted to be competitivem she would have to change her body shape to fit that of a triathlete. She was somewhat confused by this, and was asking friends on social media what shape triathletes were supposed to have.

The response from her friends was very supportive for her; they knew how well she fared in various fitness events. Most made comments that competitors in triathlons vary in shape, height, weight, and muscularity. Some competitors are better in the swim portion; others excel in bike riding, and several stated that it was the runner who will be the favorite in a triathlon.

It basically came down to the point that, if you want to be an elite athlete, you need the body build and muscles for a triathlete. What this shape is I am not sure, as there are many elite triathletes competing and doing very well with all sorts of various body shapes. A triathlete does not need big strong arms, and wants a muscle composition that can endure long stretches of activity.

This goes back to exercise physiology of red or white muscle fibers in a person’s body. One is suited for short, fast bursts, and the other is intended for long, continued contractions. A little shift in your muscle makeup can be done with specific forms of exercise, but most of this is determined by your genes.

This is what makes a runner who can break 10 seconds in a 100-meter dash, versus a runner who runs a marathon in just a few minutes over two hours. And each of them may do well in their event, but could not do well in the other event. Most average people can train hard, but will never accomplish this level of athletic ability unless the muscle composition is built for it.

A few sessions on a treadmill with a mouthpiece in your mouth to collect expired air as you go for broke will give you a good indication of where you rank on the scale of aerobic capacity. The research people take this expired air and put it through an oxygen analyzer, and will be able to tell you what you might be capable of.

I was told I might be able to run a three-hour marathon some day, and reached a time just under 3:04 that I thought was close enough to the three hours that was predicted.

For strength, the method comes down to a muscle biopsy. A small incision is made in the calf muscle of your leg, and a muscle fiber is removed and put under a microscope to see if your makeup is mostly red or white fibers.

I have not had this done; but after running track in college, I knew that I was not going to run close to a 9 second 100-yard dash. This leaves me in the middle of the road for being an elite athlete. I wasn’t really fast at either the 100-yard dash or the marathon.

For myself, and for most other runners, the reason for running is not to be an elite athlete, but to be the best you can be with what you’ve got available to you. To be the best you can be takes just as much training and effort as the elite athlete, but your goals are a little different.

Many runners are content to enter a race, have a good time, get some calories burned, and be happy with that. The extra time and effort to reach that highest potential is not a priority as much as the fact that they are doing more than many other people, and are satisfied with being better than the person who does not train or remains sedentary.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

Recent “Running With Moe” Columns

HomeAbout the ClubCurrent NewsClub RunsPlaces To RunTX Running ClubsRunning LinksUseful Stuff
Upcoming RacesRace ResultsCountry Roads 10K & Kids RunMoe’s Better Half Marathon“Running With Moe”
Contact Us!