Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mind Over Genes

There's an article in the NY Times this morning about a company offering a test claiming to help determine what kind of athletics would best suit a child - speed/power or endurance. It has to do with a variant of a gene that makes a protein found in fast-twitch muscles.

The article is full of caveats - there is an Olympic long-jumper from Spain who has the "wrong" gene variant for his sport, for instance, and hundreds of genes are probably involved in setting the foundations for successful athletes. And there are lots of cautionary quotes in the story about narrowing down a child's options for sports.

But I'm sure the website of the testing company, atlasgene.com, will get a million hits today.

In a way, I'd be curious to know if, by taking up martial arts late in life, I "wasted" a lot of potential - or whether, by contrast, I would have always run into pretty severe limitations.

But I also think it might undermine me psychologically to find out that, say, I don't really have the right gene variants for top fast-twitch muscles. Maybe it would make me work less hard on push-ups, for instance, making it easier to say, "Oh, I'll never be able to do enough."