The HURT 100 is ten days away and I’m going to need some fast feet if I want to keep a respectable pace during the race. HURT 100 is in Hawaii and the rain forest root systems can be treacherous. They practically grab ahold of your toes and don’t let go until you have hit the ground with your ankle at a stomach turning angle. Over the last few months I’ve been working on my agility in preparation for this hard truth.
The issue is this, I’m an endurance runner. My focus is sustained energy and effort rather than cyclone feet and legs. I asked a friend of mine to show me some agility exercises I could do to improve my foot work. He’s a soccer player, you see, so he has really fast feet.
I’ve been working on this for about three months. I’ve improved, but I’m nowhere near his speed. And I never will be. Why? Because I’ve never needed to develop those fast twitch muscles. I don’t have to run while keeping control over a ball as people are placing their feet between mine and in front of mine to get the ball away.
There are two general types of skeletal muscle fibers known as fast twitch (T-1) and slow twitch (T-2). Your fast twitch muscles are the ones give you that burst of speed or movement. Slow twitch are those endurance slow burners. Even as an endurance runner you recruit your fast twitch muscles when your slow twitch become tired. And as a sprinter you use your slow twitch muscles as your fast ones recover.
You can improve both sets of muscles, but your genetic make-up determines much of what you have. To build and improve your fast twitch muscles, focus on HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Weight lifting and explosive movements, to make it more fun you can play competitive sports, such as soccer, basketball, football and the like. You have to get outside your comfort zone and push your body. Then you rest for a bit and do it again.
For those slow twitchers a sustained lower level effort will increase their efficiency and longevity. You can’t change one type of muscle into the other, at least there is no evidence that supports the ability of muscle fibers to be converted from one to the other.
You have to work with what you have by choosing events and distances that rely your strengths. But it’s also good to step outside your box and chose events and distances that don’t.