Saturday, October 15, 2011

What athletes can learn from purebreds

My husband and I were watching TV the other night and we landed on a program about dogs (yeah, it looks like I am talking about dogs humping pictures this time, I swear!).  I thought it was a really interesting show because it was talking about genetic variation in dogs.  Dogs, in general, have incredible genetic variation (thanks to a large number of tandem repeats..gee can you tell I was a Bio major), but purebred dogs have such limited genetic variation that they are susceptible to disease.  Each breed has been bred for a certain job or trait, but with that trait often comes a congenital defect.  Labs were bred for retrieving/ hunting but often suffer from hip dysplasia.  Border Collies were bred to herd but the can suffer from epilepsy.  Miniature Pinscher were bred to be annoying but often suffer from the inability to be house broken.  See, all purebreds have both genetic gifts and pitfalls that come from lack of variety.

Watching that show just so happened to coincide with the onset of my foot injury.  As I watched it, I couldn't help but draw some parallels between lack of genetic variation in the purebred world and lack of cross training in my world.  I realized I had been focusing way too much on running.  I wasn't taking the proper breaks, I wasn't riding my bike or swimming very much, I had stopped weight training.  Basically, I was losing my athletic variation.  Could this be part of the reason I got injured?

Temporarily losing the ability to run has made me realize two important things.  1) Focusing too much on one discipline might increase your likelihood of injury.  2) Don't put all your exercise eggs in one basket because if that basket breaks what are you going to do?

Not running has pushed me to get back to some of the other exercises I have been ignoring.  Thankfully, I do enjoy cycling and swimming, which has made the whole not running thing bearable.  I was bummed I wouldn't be able to run for awhile, but not devastated because I knew I could still be working out.  It has also gotten me back into weight training, which is something I don't love and have been ignoring.  As much as it is not my favorite thing, I know it is a necessary thing.

Variety is good and I am going to use this time off from running to diversify my athletic life.  I will leave you with this picture of a little genetic diversity that my mom grew in her backyard.  You know, some genetic variations are good...and some aren't. 
She grew this thing 4 years ago and I still crack up every time I see it.  I never claimed to be very mature...or classy.


  1. Thank you for this insight!! I do zero cross training...mainly because I don't belong to a gym and I don't own a bike or have access (right now) to a pool. I can find all sorts of excuses!! Any ideas for my situation? Is walking really a form of cross training? It sounds SO boring, but at least I know I can do it anywhere. Sometimes I will get down with push ups and sit ups...

    Love the peach. And the fact that you called out min-pins for what they really are. ;)

  2. Ha, ha on the peach!

    You're right--we all need a little diversity in our lives, both trainingwise and lifewise. I've learned this the very hard way with my long layoff from running. Glad you can still crosstrain--makes a world of difference.

  3. I do crack up every time I see this picture. We have not had such a fine specimen on the tree since this famous peach was plucked off and photographed into stardom.

  4. I totally agree about the lack of diversity in muscle movements causing injury. This injury has forced me to totally reevaluate my training...

    Uhh - that peach is priceless. Ha. I just showed my hubs, and he looked stunned, and then said "That is OUTSTANDING." ha.

  5. You are lucky you enjoy cross-training. I like my occasional spin class, but road biking annoys me because of all the equipment and maintenance and swimming....well, I just can't like it. At all.

    What's the genetic downside of greyhounds? They are my fave dogs.

  6. I agree!!! I tell ya. I did yoga/weight training diligently in combination with my marathon training last winter. I totally believe that it helped me stave off injury BIG TIME. It's just so hard to find the time to diversify! Dang it!