What Genetic Testing Can Tell Runners

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Is genetic testing right for your training plan? What Genetic Testing Can Tell Runners www.runnerclick.com

For some of us, it would seem that running comes more naturally than others. It does not seem as difficult for some people to run long distances at quick paces than it does for others, who might have tried their hand at running for a while but gave up and opted for a weight lifting strength routine instead to stay in shape (because running was just that hard for them). Even among runners, there are people who are naturally faster for shorter distances and excel in track events, while those who are running and winning half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons seem to have an innate ability to endure – endure longer distances, endure aching muscles for an extended period of time, and endure the mental strain of such races.

No doubt, the people who are running races regularly have worked hard in their training programs, and gotten themselves into excellent shape. Especially those who are out there winning them! They do not lose their focus easily, and stick to their training plans.  They also are extremely mindful of their nutrition and fueling strategies, and get plenty of sleep, rest, and recovery.

But there is also a genetic component to running (and athletics, in general). We all are aware of this. You can work and train and discipline yourself as much as the next guy, but still end up way behind the winner of the race. So if genetics are THAT important to running, what can genetic testing tell us as far as athletic performance is concerned?

Genetic Predispositions

By and large, genetic testing first can tell us if we are more genetically prone to be better at cardiovascular endurance or at strength training. This information alone can be incredibly useful for runners.

Suppose you have been running your whole life. You enjoy it, and regularly participate and compete in races. But you feel like you have plateaued in your race time and can’t seem to get any faster no matter how hard you train. If you find out that you actually have a genetic predisposition for weight lifting, then that does not mean you should quit running altogether, but it does mean that picking up some weights a couple times a week may actually prove to drastically increase your running performance. It should be noted, though, that there is no one specific gene that points to athletic performance. Rather, genetic testing will look at data from several genetic factors and how they work together to predict an athlete’s physiological training response.

Customized Training

Secondly, genetic testing can actually help build a more customized training plan specific to your body, your needs, and what you are more apt to respond positively to. We all know that increased performance (in all things, really, but in this case, running performance) only happen when our bodies are challenged. We must overcome previous limitations to get better. Genetic testing helps us pinpoint exactly the ways in which we are more apt to adapt easier, and in which ways we will be challenged more.

This knowledge helps professionals create a training plan that manipulates such factors as rest, intensity, strength, and endurance to best fit your genetic adaptability and athletic progress. As an athlete, it especially pays in spades to know your VO2 Max, which gives an indication of how “in shape” you are. It tests your oxygen intake and output for both endurance and shorter sprint distances, and can help you gauge what kind of training plan would best work to help you improve your performance.

Knowledge of Specific Competitive Advantages Over Others

Another unique benefit of genetic testing is the results that it gives about how our body’s different metabolic systems work. We can learn all about how our metabolic heart rates, digestive systems, hormonal systems, and generally how our bodies might function more efficiently than the Average Joe’s. This can be advantageous when designing our own individualized and specific training plan.

If genetic testing tells us that our digestive systems are fast and efficient, that probably means they respond well to food and using carbohydrates, fats, and protein efficiently to benefit us and our workouts. This would mean that you can eat closer to the time you plan to run, and your body will actually use those nutrients you consume to help your running performance- as opposed to folks who do not metabolize nutrients as quickly or efficiently, and subsequently would want to plan ahead more to make sure they are not eating too heavy of meals too close to the time they plan to train.

Types of Genetic Testing

For the vast majority of athletes interested in genetic testing, you will likely opt for DNA testing, which looks at your specific genes and genome within your DNA. This is commonly a simple procedure that involves taking a bit of blood to be examined and tested. While a more economical and easier option might be a typical direct-to-consumer genetic test, these are often given out by genetic testing companies. Consider getting a DNA test from a doctor or at a physician’s office, and go through your results with them.


  1. Maureen Salamon, Genetic Testing for Athletic Ability, Genome Mag Online Article
  2. Jason Koop, 3 Ways Genetic Testing Can Make You A Stronger Athlete, Train Right Post