ABOUT THE KENYAN'S TRAINING PROGRAM FOR RUNNERS
Phillips, E. (1992). No simple explanation for Kenyan's dominance -- Running. San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 June, p. D-2.
"OK, so Kenyans win a lot of races. Why? (Whoever said "Because they run fast" is excused and may go straight to the reading Gallery.) Running Research News posed that question to Swedish exercise physiologist Bengt Saltin, who went to Kenya last year and conducted some running research of his own."
What he found was that, predictably, there is no simple reason why Kenyans as a people tend to be superior distance runners. RRN discusses some of the recently traditional explanations:
- Kenyan young people, especially those living in the country-side, spend hours running and walking long distances every day.
- They are highly motivated and willing to work hard.
- They follow healthy, low-fat diets and they lead healthy, low-stress lifestyles.
- They live and train at moderately high altitude.
- They have unusually high concentrations of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which contribute to high capacities for aerobic exercise.
Although the newsletter says, flat out, "Several of these hypotheses are pretty shaky," further discussion by editor Owen Anderson and researcher Saltin put most of them into something no worse than the yes-but category:
- Yes, Kenyans do develop great muscle, tendon and ligament strength in their legs, because of the amount of time they spend walking and running, often barefoot.
- Yes, they are motivated. Young Kenyans with athletic talent have basically two venues in which they can use their talent to get out of the neighborhood and make a better living -- running and soccer. And the first of these is running. No basketball or football scholarships. No baseball bonus babies.
- Yes, the things they eat are high in both proteins and complex carbohydrates and many live in bucolic surroundings, but they remain superb runners when they move to the hustle, bustle and junk food of Europe and the United States to go to college or to compete.
- Yes, many of them live and train at altitude, but many of them don't. Besides, current thinking is that while living at altitude is good for aerobic development, training at altitude isn't necessarily beneficial.
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