Phillips, E. (1992). No simple explanation for Kenyan's dominance--running. San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 June, p. D-2.

This excerpt is taken from a report on the research conducted by Bengt Saltin during his visit to Kenya and his observations of Kenyan runners.

Only the slow-twitch muscle-fiber theory was found to be totally unfounded. Saltin's research involved comparing a group of seven elite Swedish runners with a group of Kenyan runners, and he found that they all had the same muscle makeup.

Saltin's research involved mainly high school runners, ages 15 to 17, on the Kenyan side. On his trip to Africa, he estimated that 500 of the young Kenyans who showed up for one meet were as good as or better than the Swedes, who were not identified but were considered the very best from their country.

He also found that the high schoolers were doing incredibly simple -- and apparently incredibly effective -- workouts. Each morning they'd run 4 to 6 kilometers (about 2.5 to 3.5 miles) over rolling terrain, with the first kilometer done easily and the last 3 to 5 as fast as possible.

Afternoons, they would do 8 kilometers -- 4 out easy, 4 back as fast as possible. They'd do these workouts six days a week, starting and finishing at their school. The first ones back to school would be the ones to represent the school in competition.

No messing around with anaerobic thresholds, lactate thresholds, intervals, on long, slow distance. They'd just lace 'em up -- or not even bother to put them on -- and go. Fast.

Implication. Simplicity of training removes the possibility of maladaptation due to erroneous prescription of training stimuli. One is led to ponder whether modern coaches have made training so complex in order to fit many unfounded theories that, more than ever, athletes are subjected to excessive overloads in irrelevant activities.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.