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New Releases


By Owen Anderson
ISBN:   978-0-7360-7418-6
Binding: Paperback
Pages:   Approx. 560

Price: $27.95
Available: June 2013

Are genes magic bullets for running success?

Renowned journalist reveals the hard science behind running performance

Champaign, IL—Runners, coaches, and exercise scientists often wonder whether running performances are determined primarily by genetic factors or by the environment. If performances are indeed primarily shaped by genes, coaches and serious runners will begin using cheek swabs to learn what their DNA dictates about their running futures, and gene doping could play a prominent role in elite competitions. But according to Owen Anderson, author of the forthcoming Running Science (Human Kinetics, June 2013), both genetics and environment play a vital role in determining running performance.


According to Anderson, East African dominance of distance running is often cited as evidence that genes are the strongest determinants of endurance performance: African male runners captured 8 of the 12 gold medals in the 1500-meter, 5K, and marathon competitions in the 2012 Olympic Games. “Such African dominance was not present as recently as 20 years ago, when European runners ruled supreme at all competitive distances from 800 meters to the marathon,” Anderson says. “The problem was not that the European runners had suddenly begun to run slowly, but African runners, particularly the Kenyans, were running extraordinarily fast times.”


The majority of Kenyans competing at the elite level came from one rather small tribe of about three million people, the Kalenjins. “Observers of this transformation have been tempted to conclude that Kenyan runners have some inborn capacity for long-distance running,” Anderson explains. “In competitive running, nature seems to be winning out over nurture: Kenyans and other East African runners appear to have the right genes for elite performance.”


However, concluding that genetic differences are the paramount factor underlying success in endurance performance is premature. “In many cases, further analysis of the actions of specific genes reveals that the effects are not always consistent or that the genes that seem to have the biggest impact on performance are not necessarily monopolized—or even present—in groups of high-performing endurance runners,” Anderson says. “Many other possibilities for the determination of performance, such as training, are apparent.”


“Even the biggest advocate of nature over nurture must admit that training plays a large role in determining what the race clock reveals when a runner crosses the finish line,” Anderson adds. In the case of East African runners, there is considerable evidence that Kenyan training differs dramatically from the training carried out by endurance runners in other parts of the world.


According to Anderson, geneticists interested in performance often try to establish what is called heritability of a trait, or H2. But, research using the heritability model has revealed that heritable factors are important but not exclusive determinants of several physiological variables that contribute to success in endurance running. “Taken together, the heritability studies suggest that an individual’s distance running capability is determined by both genetic and environmental factors, and the exact proportioning of influence is unknown,” Anderson says.


In Running Science, Anderson presents the latest research-grounded knowledge in running physiology, biomechanics, medicine, genetics, biology, psychology, and training and racing. For more information, see Running Science.

About the Author

Owen Anderson, PhD, is a regular contributor to Running Times, Running Fitness (UK), and National Geographic Adventure. In 1992, he was named the most outstanding running journalist in the United States by the Road Runners Club of America.


Anderson is currently involved in a research project at Pepperdine University concerning the effects of running-specific strength training on running economy and endurance performance. He is a coach of elite runners, including Canadian national 100K champion Jack Cook and 7-time Welsh cross country champion Catherine Dugdale. He is coordinator and director of the Malibu Running Camp, which is attended by runners from all over the world.


Anderson earned a BS in zoology from the University of Rhode Island, where he was named most outstanding undergraduate student. He was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship en route to his doctorate in zoology and physiology from Michigan State University.







Prologue: The Quest for Knowledge in Running


Part I Genetics and Running

Chapter 1 Running’s Nature-Versus-Nurture Debate

Chapter 2 Genes That Influence Performance

Chapter 3 Genetic Differences Between Elite and Nonelite Runners


Part II Biomechanics of Running

Chapter 4 The Body While Running

Chapter 5 Refinement in Running Form

Chapter 6 Running Surfaces, Shoes, and Orthotics


Part III Physiological Factors in Running Performance

Chapter 7 Maximal Aerobic Capacity (VO2max)

Chapter 8 Running Economy

Chapter 9 Minimum Velocity for Maximal Aerobic Capacity (vVO2max)

Chapter 10 Velocity at Lactate Threshold

Chapter 11 Maximal Running Speed

Chapter 12 Resistance to Fatigue


Part IV Training Modes and Methods for Runners

Chapter 13 General Strength Training

Chapter 14 Running-Specific Strength Training

Chapter 15 Hill Training

Chapter 16 Speed Training

Chapter 17 Cross-Training

Chapter 18 Altitude Training


Part V Training Variables and Systems in Running

Chapter 19 Volume and Frequency

Chapter 20 Intensity

Chapter 21 Recovery

Chapter 22 Periodization and Block Systems

Chapter 23 Strength Training for Endurance Runners


Part VI Optimal Training for Specific Conditioning

Chapter 24 VO2max Increase

Chapter 25 Economy Enhancement

Chapter 26 vVO2max Gain

Chapter 27 Lactate-Threshold Upgrade

Chapter 28 Increasing Maximal Running Speed

Chapter 29 Promoting Resistance to Fatigue


Part VII Molecular Biological Changes in Running

Chapter 30 Training Effects at the Molecular Level

Chapter 31 Training Favoring Molecular Enrichment


Part VIII Distance-Specific Training

Chapter 32 Training for 800 Meters

Chapter 33 Training for 1,500 Meters and the Mile

Chapter 34 Training for 5Ks

Chapter 35 Training for 10Ks

Chapter 36 Training for Half Marathons

Chapter 37 Training for Marathons

Chapter 38 Training for Ultramarathons


Part IX Sports Medicine for Runners

Chapter 39 Running Injuries and Health Risks

Chapter 40 Prevention of Running Injuries

Chapter 41 Health Benefits of Running

Chapter 42 Health Considerations for Special Running Populations


Part X Running Nutrition

Chapter 43 Energy Sources and Fuel Use for Runners

Chapter 44 Eating for Enhanced Endurance and Speed

Chapter 45 Fueling Strategies During a Run

Chapter 46 Weight Control and Body Composition

Chapter 47 Ergogenic Aids for Running


Part XI Psychology of Running

Chapter 48 The Brain and the Experience of Fatigue

Chapter 49 Psychological Strategies for Improved Performance

Chapter 50 Addictive Aspects of Running


Owen Anderson
Owen Anderson


 Background Facts


  • For beginning runners, frequency can have a profound impact on improvement in aerobic capacity. Research indicates that among initially unfit runners with low VO2max, a training frequency of five or six times per week can increase VO2max by up to 43 percent. With a frequency of two to four times per week, VO2max increases average just 20 to 25 percent.
  • Cooling down, compared with resting, produces a more gradual decline in body temperature after strenuous exertion. However, no research has ever demonstrated that more temperate reductions in body heat optimize recovery processes or lead to better performances. Similarly, the link between cool-downs and stronger immune-system activity is quite tenuous. There is an indication in the scientific literature that good cool-downs can lead to improved sleep.
  • No single workout can serve as a magic fitness bullet, and therefore workouts need to be varied over time in order to optimize all seven variables (VO2max, vVO2max, running economy, lactate-threshold velocity, fatigue-resistance, running-specific strength, and maximal running speed). Finding the most productive workouts—and arranging them in an optimal way—is one of the key challenges of endurance training.
  • Many coaches and runners believe that altitude training (conducting workouts at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet, or 1,527 meters, or greater) is highly beneficial, and elite athletes often structure their overall training programs to include periods of high-altitude work. The fact that the majority of elite Kenyan and Ethiopian runners carry out their training at altitude (when they are in their home countries) provides anecdotal support for the practice. 
  • A criticism of cross-training is that its movements are seldom specific to the kinematics of running, but many exercise physiologists believe that the regular use of cross-training in a running program can decrease the risk of running-related injury (via strengthening and a diversion from a relentless recipe of daily leg pounding on the roads), promote leanness (by potentially enhancing the number of calories burned during exercise per week), heighten average workout intensity (it’s easier to slip a demanding bicycle workout into an already-full running program, compared with adding another tough running session), and bolster overall strength (quadriceps strengthening from cycling, leg  strengthening from running-specific resistance work).
  • Like running economy and vVO2max, running speed at the lactate threshold is a strong physiological predictor of endurance performance. In individual runners, running speed at lactate threshold responds readily to training, and lactate-threshold upgrades lead to major improvements in race times.

Facts taken from Running Science.



Interview Questions


  • Explain the block system of training.
  • What are the keys to improving maximal speed?
  • What is running economy?
  • Does altitude training enhance running economy?
  • Are there genetic differences between elite and nonelite runners?
  • Why is cycling an ideal cross-training activity for runners?
  • If runners wish to improve their performance, why can’t they train the same way all the time?
  • Explain the three cycles of periodization.
  • Why is VO2max (maximal aerobic capacity) a surprisingly poor predictor for running performance?
  • Is running on hard surfaces really bad for the knees?
  • Do certain types of running shoes provide greater protection against injury than other types of shoes?

Media Contacts

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Maurey Williamson
Publicity Manager



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+44 (0) 113 255 5665



Christine Traverse
1-800-465-7301 x11



Vanessa De Bernardinis
(08) 8372-0999


New Zealand

Bec Rosewall
Toll Free: +61 (0) 8 8372 0999


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