“In this world there are two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst.”

Oscar Wilde

Usain Bolt, courtesy of friskytuna
Usain Bolt, courtesy of friskytuna

Incredible displays of super-human power-to-bodyweight ratios will be on display this week, as The IAAF World Track and Field Championships take place in Berlin, Germany, beginning this weekend. The marquee matchup,or course, is in the men’s 100 meter race, where Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and American Tyson Gay will go head-to-head for the title of “World’s Fastest Man.”

It’s interesting to note how the body types of the winners of the “World’s Fastest Man” title have changed over the years, spreading out my favorite indicator of athleticism — the power-to-bodyweight ratio — over more and more slender, aerodynamic frames.  Check out this interesting blogpost, from Dan Peterson of the very cool blog, Sports are 80 Percent Mental, for a more in-depth look at this phenomenon.

And for those interested, here’s the television schedule (courtesy of the Versus network) for the week’s events.  If you get a chance, take in some of the competition.  Track and Field is a most beautiful and elegant sport, and I wish that it (along with bicycle racing) were as big here in the US as it is in Europe and the Caribbean.  And while you’re at it, consider the body types of these athletes in relation to their chosen events.  Consider the yin-yang of the nature-nurture confluence here.  While it’s true that genetics, for the most part, chose at birth the events in which these athletes would excel — no one would argue that Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay, even with the best in training techniques available, would become world champion shot-putters — there is a certain aspect of the desired phenotype that can be trained for.  We may be born with a marathoner’s or a shot-putter’s physique, but we can certainly influence our end phenotype by training, for example, like a 100 meter athlete (if this is the phenotype you desire).  Short bursts of high-intensity work done in an intermittent and infrequent fashion, coupled with a Paleo-like diet will influence your body to drop bodyfat and manufacture and retain a high predominance of fast-twitch muscle fiber.  The rest, as I like to say, is mere commentary.

Have a great, and I’m sure, well-deserved, weekend.

In health,

Keith

7 COMMENTS

  1. just a thought … watching the 10,000 mt womens final I realize how these athletes look so unhealthy compared to sprinters.

    • By necessity, the distance athletes have to shed muscle in order to compete. In contrast, explosive athletes have to produce tremendous amounts of power relative to their body weight; that, of course, requires a good bit of muscle. And produces a healthy, and pleasing, look.

  2. I was a distance runner for years (not very good at it, but that is my “natural” physique). I don’t enjoy the world championships or any big event as much as I might if I didn’t think that 80% of the top guys and gals (even the distance athletes) are probably on drugs. I’d bet it’s no better than cycling. At that level, there is too much money around, and money corrupts everything.

    But Bolt is *something*, isn’t he? I just hope he doesn’t turn up dirty like most of the rest of them.

    • Bolt is amazing. A bit slow (relative, of course) out of the blocks, but wow, what a top-end speed — and he’s able to maintain that speed for the duration of the race. Just incredible. And yeah, I hope he doesn’t “pop positive” as well. Lots of pressure on these kids, lots at stake.

  3. OK, so now we know … he can run 100m in 9.58. He’s 6’5″, too. Here’s the *real* question … can he catch a football?

    • Seemingly unnoticed in all of this is the fact that Tyson Gay ran a flawless race, set a new American record…and still came in a distant 2nd. Just an unbelievable performance by Bolt.

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