Get to know your body -- the makeup of your muscular system can help you determine whether you are more suited to be a sprinter or a long distance runner. A full grown adult typically has 250 million skeletal muscle fibers. These fibers grab onto one another and pull during muscle contraction, allowing people to move their bodies.
Speed running, also known as sprinting, is characterized by a runner's ability to cover short distances as fast as possible. On the other hand, fatigue resistant running -- also known as long distance running -- is a style of running in which a runner maintains a moderate speed over a long period of time. The ratio of slow-twitch to fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibers in an athlete's body can help determine if he is better suited for a sprinting style or a long distance style of running.
Become familiar with muscular anatomy. There are two main types of muscle fibers: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers burn through small amounts of energy quickly and are responsible for explosive movements. These muscles contract at a fast pace and get tired quickly in comparison to slow-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch muscles burn through large amounts of energy slowly, allowing people to work out for extended periods of time.
Try to get a general sense of your fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fiber ratio. Most humans develop an equal number of both; roughly 50 percent of their muscle fibers are fast-twitch fibers and the other 50 percent are slow-twitch. However, it is not uncommon for elite track and field athletes to have disproportionate ratios. For example, a world class sprinter's leg muscles may be made up of 80 percent fast-twitch fibers. Conversely, a world class marathoner's leg muscles may be made up of 80 percent slow-twitch fibers.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses pertaining to movement. If you excel at jumping high, starting and stopping abruptly or other explosive movements, you may have a muscular system abundant with fast-twitch fibers. If you find yourself to be a person with good general endurance but lack dynamism, you may have a muscular system abundant with slow-twitch fibers.
Understand that body type and physique go a long way in dictating whether you will be better at sprinting or long distance running. If you place a professional sprinter next to a professional marathon runner, most people will instinctively be able to tell which is which. Professional sprinters have incredibly mesomorphic bodies while professional long distance runners are more likely to be short and lean. Consider your physique and ask yourself which you more closely identify with. The answer will most likely reveal the style of running you should pursue.
If you are having difficulty determining whether you are a speed runner or a fatigue resistant runner based on muscular anatomy, time yourself in a sprint and a long distance run of three miles or more and compare your results with age-related averages. This will give you an indicator as to whether you are better at sprinting or running long distances.
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