Momma always told me…

You can be whatever you want to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a hopeless optimist just like the next guy, but neuroscience has taught me to approach that statement with a skeptical V1 (the area where your eye projects in the brain).  Sometimes you just have to accept what you’re given.

Have you ever noticed professional athletic scouts filming possible recruits while they’re training?  What do you think they’re looking for?  Speed?  Vertical jump?  Which players eyes will match the color of their future uniforms?  They’re actually doing the next best thing to biopsying a chunk of the muscle to examine the size of the athlete’s axons.

There are two types of axons, fast and slow.  Fast fibers will allow an athlete to jump higher and sprint faster.  Likewise, slow fibers are better equipped for long distances.  So what would happen if a high jumper started adding long distance running into their exercise routine?  Sound like a good idea, right?  I mean, no one everyone loves running, right?  This would actually decrease the jumper’s vertical height.   Endurance training leads to an increase of the slower fibers synapsing onto the muscles.  That’s why you would want to make sure to keep your running distances short (high jump isn’t sounding so bad, now, is it?)

And although you can train to push your axons to favor one fiber over the other, some people are just born with it.  To quote Lady Gaga, “Baby, I was born this way.”  That’s why a lot of long distance runners are really skinny (besides their metabolic activities) they have the slower, smaller axons.  Fast axons used in strength training are a lot larger.   See, now don’t you feel better about yourself?  Don’t blame that cheesybread with the extra cheese dipping sauce, blame  your high jumping parents for endowing you with mad hops.

(alright, so that last part might be stretching it a little bit, but I’m just trying to give ya a little hope!)


2 responses to “Momma always told me…

  1. i´m still confused

    • What are you confused about? The moral is that you can tell the function of a muscle axon by examining its physical features. Larger axons synapsing onto muscles are for strength and “fatigue” easily while smaller axons are made for endurance. Does that clear things up a little bit?

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