Over the last year, I have logged a significant amount of time training for events. I’d like to think that my fitness has improved since I first started. I wouldn’t know for sure because I didn’t take a fitness test before I got on this journey. Based on my gut-feel, I don’t think I have made as much progress as I should have given how hard I have been training.
I was pondering on this when I stumbled across a reference to a study on the link between our genetics and the effect of training on our aerobic capacity while reading the book Top Dog. In the study, 473 volunteers went through 5 months of vigorous training to see how much their aerobic capacity improved. These were the results:
- The top 24 volunteers improved by as much as 40%. These were the individuals who had the potential to become elite athletes with the right training.
- The bottom 24 volunteers improved by only 4%. In other words, exercise did nothing for them. Their bodies just didn’t learn to adapt and it wasn’t because they were lazy or that they weren’t training hard.
Bouchard, the lead researcher, found that these differences were due to 21 genes. The volunteers with 19 or more or these genes were high responders to exercise and they improved their aerobic capacity by an average of 26%. The volunteers with 9 or less of these genes were low responders. They only improved by an average of 9%. It would seem that not everybody gets more fit no matter how much exercise they are forced to do.
Since I don’t have any means of knowing just how much I have improved, I can’t say for certain that I belong in the group for the high or low responders to exercise. All I can do is make a guess at it.
One week after the Spartan Race, I took a basic fitness test. Yes, I know, it is not exactly a definitive fitness test, but it does give me some results to monitor. These were my results:
- Step Test: 90 beats per minute.
- Balance Test: 42 seconds.
- Flexibility Test: Able to reach heels.
- Strength Test: 37 sit ups.
Now that I have some baseline measurements, I can repeat the test in the next 6 months to a year to see if my fitness has increased or decreased. In the meantime, according to the chart for the 3 minute step test, my cardiovascular fitness falls under “good” for my age (assuming I did the test correctly). Certainly not “elite” category but it does suggest that I might have some of those exercise response genes. Maybe all this training hasn’t been in vain. What a relief to know.
Fitness tests aside, I do feel stronger and fitter coming out of my Spartan Training. I can certainly do things I couldn’t before and running doesn’t totally destroy me the way it used it. Now that’s got to be something.