dna, triathlon

[Guest Blog] Combining my love of Science and Sports

May 31, 2017 -

dna, triathlon

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My name is Dario Vazquez, I’m a Spanish scientist living in Denmark since 2013 and currently practicing one of the most physically challenging sports in the world, triathlon. I am also lucky enough to work in science, which I blog about as a hobby.

As a scientist I love working on experiments and trying to find answers to big questions, but I think I’m not your average science nerd, I have a slightly different perspective on life than a lot of my colleagues. You could say that I am somewhat of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Scientist during the day and dedicated amateur triathlete at night, or at least in my spare time.

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As an amateur athlete I’m always looking to improve and when I first heard about AthGene I was immediately interested in their product as it not only brings together my love of science and sports, but it uses science to help be a better athlete. I have taken the DNA test and am currently awaiting the results.

Shortly after I moved to Denmark I set out a testing myself in triathlon with the goal of completing a triathlon as fast as I possible could. I have always been interested in triathlon, since I was a child in fact, and although I practiced athletics when I was younger, and was a promising steeplechase athlete, I never reached an elite status. Too busy making my way into the science world perhaps.

 

I believe my physical attributes, being slim and lean, made me a decent medium distance athlete, as judged by my good results in running and swimming in high school. So I often wonder if these features are somehow reflected in my genetic background and what impact they have on my performance. For me it’s pure scientific curiosity!

As a scientist I am constantly amazed by the kindness and at the same time mercilessness of evolution. Evolutionary pressure is something that any living organism on this planet cannot escape. Some mutations in our genes create a fitness advantage. If so, these mutations will usually pass on to the next generation selecting individuals with such advantage. For example those who are able to store more fat and withstand long periods of famine or those who are able to cover long distances walking while seeking for food. These kinds of factors have shaped humans fitness performance attributes. We may not yet be able to point at a specific gene or mutation responsible for a given fitness attribute since other environmental elements play a role in this natural selection. But quite often certain gene variants can be associated with a fitness attribute. For example, a widely described mutation in a gene that encodes for the ACTN3 protein located in the muscle fibers, has been repeatedly associated with slow-twitch muscle fibers in endurance athletes. What clinched it for me to try AthGene was that they are able to help me identify what my genetic fingerprints are and match it with their knowledge about certain fitness attributes.

In 2016 I was very excited when I debuted in the short distance triathlon KMD 4:18:4 in Copenhagen which is one of the most important in the Danish capital. I did not only fulfill my dream of finishing my first ever triathlon, but also got a surprising 24th place in the Thursday heat, being the second best runner of the day and the highest finishing non-Scandinavian!

Interestingly enough, when you look at the World Triathlon Series, the current top 3 triathletes are Spanish, two of them originating from the same Spanish region, Galicia. Curiously, part of my family descended from this region. So here is the big question, are there any genetic traits for people from this region related to increased performance in this sport? Unfortunately there is no answer at this moment as scientific studies have yet to be conducted in this region.

In the meantime my goals for this season are to seek the best outcome in a Sprint and Olympic distance triathlon in Denmark. Finding out some genetic indicators associated to, for example endurance or muscle composition, could give me clues on how to adapt my training accordingly. Here AthGene is definitely well positioned to satisfy my scientific curiosity and my sporting interest. Most importantly, this way I could work more specifically on my possible fitness weaknesses and minimizing injury risk. I’m terribly excited to know what my genes can tell me.

Keep a look out for my next post where I will update you on my training and tell you my AthGene results. I look forward to keeping you posted about my progress and encourage you to pursue your dreams. What is yours?

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