Why are some people faster than others?

This article originally appeared on The conversation.

Usain Bolt the world's fastest humanran a 100-meter sprint at a speed of 23.35 miles per hour (37.57 kilometers per hour).

That's astonishingly fast for a human. It's about the same speed as driving a car through your neighborhood or in a school zone. It may not seem that fast when you're in the car, but for a person? Few runners in the world can even come close.

There are several reasons why some people can run very fast, while others tend to run slower. Genetics – the traits you inherit from your parents –play a rolebut so do your choices and experiences.

As pediatric excercise scientists, we create and evaluate programs that help children be healthy. The exciting news is that while you can't control your genetics, you can train to improve your speed.

Fast twitch, slow twitch

A major factor that affects your ability to run fast is the structure of your body, including the way your muscles work.

The human body has more than 600 muscles that work together, allowing you to move in different directions and at different speeds. These muscles are made up of groups of fibers. There are two main types: fast twitch and slow twitch.

Muscles have different mixtures of these fiber types. For example, the calf is made up of two muscles: one is primarily a fast-twitch muscle, which is the gastrocnemius, which is used for sprinting and jumping. The other is usually a slow twitch muscle, which is the soleus, which is used for walking and jogging.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers are larger and help your body move quickly and generate significant force. Sprinters usually have an abundance of it fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, these types of muscle fibers also tire quickly, limiting the duration of running at top speed to relatively short distances.

Slowly contracting muscle fibers are smaller and allow you to run slower but with greater endurance. Long-distance runners and competitive cyclists usually have a lot of these muscles.

How much of each type of muscle fiber you have – fast twitch and slow twitch – is largely determined by your genes, so you'll have to work with what you were born with when it comes to muscle types. But exercises can help train those muscles.

Your brain plays a big role

Physical ability is not just about muscles. Your brain also plays an important role.

Your skeletal muscles are controlled by your brain–you think about your actions and then execute the movements. You, for example can control how long is your step, how your arms movehow your feet hit the ground and even the techniques you use to breathe.

You can teach your body to use the best running techniques. That includes right attitudeso that your body is upright, and an economic stepso that your feet land underneath you instead of too far forward, where they can slow you down.

You can also improve your running form by using your entire body, pumping your arms in the opposite direction of the legs, running on your toes, and maximizing the time you spend in the flight phase with both feet off the ground. Using proper running techniques allows the muscles to create more force and work together, allowing you to run faster.

The more you practice an activity, the better you become. As your ability to run fast increases, challenge yourself to run even faster.

How to Train to Run Faster: Debunk Myths!

Maybe you've heard your friends talking about ways to increase your speed or you've searched the Internet for tips on how to get faster. Time to bust some of those myths.

Myth 1: You need to run as fast as you can to train to be faster. That is not true!

You don't have to run as fast as you can to get faster, and it even helps to take short breaks to recover between activities that involve sprinting.

Myth 2: You have to lift heavy weights to get faster. False!

Functional strength training involves performing exercises that help you get better at specific movements. They involve using average weights or just the resistance of your own body weight. Making planks, falls out, steps or jump squats are great examples. These activities focus on the muscles that play an important role during running.

Myth 3: You need to specialize in running early in life to become a fast runner. False!

Choosing one activity to focus on early in life can actually limit your ability to develop into a fast runner. Doing different physical activities can help you develop new skills that will improve your running. For example, the movements and endurance used in football can translate into the ability to run faster.

Myth 4: Exercising isn't fun. False!

Training programs can take many forms. You can play running games with your friends, work on quick footwork using an agility ladder or create obstacle courses. There's nothing like a little healthy competition to motivate your training.

What's important is that you have fun while exercising and regularly participate in activities that promote walking speed.

So whether you want to be the next Usain Bolt or just win a race against your friend, remember that with a little genetic luck and hard work, it just might be possible.

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