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Now that we can appreciate the value of mitochondria to your performance on race day, let’s examine how mitochondria contribute to your long-term development.
Most importantly, the volume (total number) of mitochondria contained in each muscle cell takes years to fully develop. In fact, most coaches believe that you can infinitely increase mitochondria volume; however, there is a point after a few years where increases are minuscule. The main thing to keep in mind here is that after years of running you’ll develop a mitochondria powerhouse that will enable you to realize continual gains in your fitness.
Mitochondria volume represents the macro cycle of training. In each training cycle, you’ll develop more mitochondria and carry over those positive gains to your next training cycle. It’s a slow process, but it’s why Olympic caliber athletes train for many years to get to the top of their sport. For reference, in The Anatomy of a Medal, Dr. Joe Vigil outlined the training of Deena Kastor during her transition from a good college runner to bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Dr. Vigil attributes the majority of Deena’s success to the slow and gradual progression from 40 miles per week to 110+ miles per week.
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