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Born to run

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Our ancestors came down from the trees and ran for their food. No matter what your body type, you can run too.

Are you a runner? Do you want to run? Concerned that you may not have the ideal body type for the sport? Experts agree that most people can run safely, but you need to know your limits and work with—not against—them.

On the positive side, we are all descended from successful runners. When early humans came down out of the trees of Africa, they evolved not only to walk on two legs but to run. Homo erectus had large glutes and legs made of springy tendons, ligaments, short-fibre muscles and short toes—all needed to run.

According to the endurance running hypothesis, this combination allowed early humans to run down prey with a combination of endurance and the occasional burst of speed. It even explains that mysterious runner’s high.

The type of running that comes most naturally to you depends on your body type. There are three main body types: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. Ectomorphs have a small, lean body. Mesomorphs are more heavily muscled with a larger frame. Endomorphs have rounder bodies and shorter legs.

Most people are some combination of the above. All three types can run. If you are an endomorph, you may just need to train harder to achieve the same results.

Natural sprinters tend to be mesomorphs: tall with a muscular build and more fast-twitch muscle fibres. The large muscles store fuel to deliver anaerobic power. Fast-twitch muscle burns more glycogen than oxygen to generate energy. While your body can’t increase its fast-twitch muscle, strength training can decrease oxygen use to improve sprinting ability.

The best long distance runners are average height with a slim build and thin legs. They have a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle that uses oxygen efficiently to provide energy over an extended period. As well, training gives their muscles a high storage capacity for glycogen.

But that doesn’t mean that only perfect ectomorphs can run. Most injuries are usually a result of things that have nothing to do with body type, Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic in Calgary told The Globe and Mail.

Mechanics, strength, flexibility and alignment play a much greater role in injury, and injury prevention, than body type, he says. “I firmly believe that anybody can run a marathon. It’s taking into consideration those four factors,” he says.

Someone with a small, slight frame might be able to tackle a marathon after just four months of training, while someone who is stockier might need up to one year.

To train, heavier runners should begin by running shorter distances at a slower rate because more weight means more stress on the body. People with muscular physiques may want to cut down on the weights.

All runners will also benefit from exercises such as Pilates and yoga that develop flexibility, core strength, and stability.

More Inspiration: We may all be born to run, but we might also get shin splints, so check out this article on how to deal with them.

Author: David Holt is associate publisher of HUM@Nmedia and Optimyz. He’s an avid writer and in summer can often be found in his kayak on a lake.


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