Nature or Nurture

Continuing the discussion from Discussing the news:

to achieve what?

True elite level needs some amount of natural talent, whether that’s lever length, VO2 max, muscle fibre types and balance between them, height, lung size, size of feet etc , but I do believe most people could get to a decent level in say marathon running, with the right prep, right circumstances , ie, lose weight if required, plenty of undisruptive sleep, good recovery, eat well, train consistently and progressively. For me that’s where it falls down as we all have outside influences that we prioritise


I agree. I’m not talking elite, and as I said, I’m not sure where the line is between elite and good. But so many people say to me they can’t run a marathon because they don’t have the genetics. I think if you want to, then you could. But it might not be a priority to you compared to your family, work, other hobbies, watching TV. And that’s OK, just don’t blame genetics if the real reason is time and priority.

I hardest thing about endurance sport is finding the time to do it.


Im 6ft5 and have a dodgy knee and Ive done it numerous times. I could be even faster if I actually had a good run into it :wink:



In the old days people believed in Fate, then people realised that was rubbish…and believed in Genetics instead.

Same same.

Are we talking just endurance sports?

what does it matter, on TT nothing ever stays on topic for long. We will be discussing the merits of fuelling with mince pies soon :wink:


Is the metabolic effect of fuelling with mince pies a genetic characteristic ?


It is believed that there is a metabolic advantage to fuelling with mince pies if you went to Grammar School


I use endurance sport because I think it removes the ‘gifted genius’ from the discussion when a degree of skill is involved.

I heard a podcast recently that said very few endurance sports actually improved someone’s lung capacity. Rowing and I think swimming were exceptions, but runners just get better at using the oxygen they have available to them. So everyone has a limit, but very few people will approach that limit.


circumstances usually dictate that we will never reach our genetic maximums so keep at it, stay consistent and keep improving.

So the 2nd half of the question - what is the limit? What could anyone* achieve if they dedicated enough time, and what is beyond mere mortals.

I always thought any young, able-bodied male should be able to run 7min/ml for 10K.
I’m sure @Hammerer has a view on what anyone could swim for 1500m with the right training.
40km TT anyone? Roughly equates to what FTP could anyone reach?

*assuming reasonable fitness and health

Depends how much time. If I took a 40year old male, he trained 1.5hrs in the pool 5 days a week with a decent coach overseeing every session then anything is possible. its hard to put figures on it, but nothing stopping them being one of the first out of a tri swim, unless the race is occupied by ex swimmers!


I’d have thought it was the other way, maybe 50/50 or leaning towards nature.

Even with a life time of training and everything else elite athletes get, there’s no way anyone outside the top 10% generically is becoming an elite athlete. Is there?


What is elite? Lionel Sanders and Joe Skipper exceptional gifted or just train bl**dy hard? I honestly don’t know.

The Norwegian’s currently using all the science, could they make anyone good, just not quite as good as Blumenfeld and Iden?

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I tend to think the answer is always “both”, probably in equal measure, but does it matter ?

You will never know what your potential is unless you put the work in.

There are so many genes involved, it will be a long time before anyone has a simple test for genetic talent for endurance sports.


I started doing Ironman with two mates. We did most of our training together, similar amounts overall learning the same stuff.

It was frightening how much quicker they got ‘Kona Q’ good - 3 years for one, 5 for the other. It took me a decade to even get on the fringes, by which time they both done Kona twice, retired from Ironman and long gone onto other things.

I’m not bitter……


“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”


I wonder if its less physical skills, or even physical skills associated with genetics…. and more mental structures (no idea how much that is nuture vs nature though)… the classic central governor model… some people just have a really robust early braking system!…. I even know a few, as we will all no doubt do too, who can’t get off the brake pedal at all!

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