DNA test for your sports gene

A test can now tell you if you have what it takes. It'll also tell you if your kid has it too.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

I’ve been waiting a couple of days to write about a front-page story I saw on last Sunday’s New York Times. In short, it spoke about the rise in testing kids as young as two to see if they have the genetic markers to be great power athletes or endurance athletes, or a combitnation of both. The lead anecdote in the story quotes a well-meaning mother in Boulder, Colorado who says, upon hearing about the test, “I think it would prevent a lot of parental frustration.”

The article goes on to talk about the new industry of gene testing services coming online that can take a swab of your saliva and then figure out if you’ve got the gene for smashmouth football or ultramarathons. At first, I was seething about the article: mostly because I suck at every sport I love, and I’d be pissed if my parents had figured that out before I knew any better and kept signing me up for football every year. If that had happened, I probably never would’ve stumbled on the luxurious mental escape that biking provided me in high school and both biking and running offer to me now.

I don’t know if my life would’ve been better for having my spit decoded back in 1972. For all I know I may have actually thrived and developed differently if I was confident in a sport. Maybe I wouldn’t have needed the escape of those long, solitary bike rides after school each day—yeah right. Like that would’ve altered the trajectory of my life. Something tells me that I would’ve gradually made my way over to the endurance sports world even if my genes said otherwise.

But I digress. After stewing about this article for a few days, I have to be honest, now I’m curious to know what a test like that could tell me. And I’d be interested to learn how I could take that information and tweak a fitness plan to take advantage of it. I wouldn’t change my interests, mind you. I’m not going to eBay all my bikes simply because a test said I should become a powerlifter. But maybe, just maybe, I’d train differently to take advantage of what I’m supposedly good at.

And after cooling off for a few days, I admit that I can see how a parent might be tempted to submit their kindergartner to a DNA test. As a parent myself, I’d be mildly distraught if, as a different mother from the article puts it, “(m)y son could be a pro football player and I don’t know it?” We always want to give our kids the best opportunities to succeed. It’s why we shell out money for private school or a pricey mortgage for a house in a good school district. That’s just what parents do. At least the ones I know.

Trending on Backpacker