I found this article in a folder deep in my computer whilst I was rummaging around one day. It was obviously sent to me by some kind contributor. I to my shame have no idea who sent it, so if you find it my friend please mail me and I'll give you due credit.
Disorganized of Ashtead
SO YOU WANT TO BE LINFORD CHRISTIE?
No you haven’t picked up “Today’s Runner” by mistake. But I did and it changed my attitude and approach to playing the guitar completely in less than twenty minutes.
I will start by declaring that I have NO interest in sport in any way, shape or form. (My wife does.) The prospect of hundreds of hours of sport on the TV this summer (the Olympics) horrified me to the point of doing up the garden. But this is the second time in my life that sport, or at least the written word on the subject, has had a profound effect on my playing.
The first was a little book entitled “The Inner Game of Tennis” by W Timothy Gallwey. TENNIS!!? Yes. I couldn’t believe it when a seriously good pro session guitarist recommended it to me. The idea that a book on Tennis could somehow improve my playing so intrigued me I withdrew it from the local library the same day, and, it did improve my playing.
The subject, being Tennis, was irrelevant. It was about mental approach. Getting the brain to visualize a perfectly executed forehand stroke etc. until the body responded to the correct signals to perform it. A technique that can equally be applied to executing a phrase on the guitar. I now have a serve like Boris Becker but the ball disappears into the D hole on the backhand return!
So, my first contact with literary sport encouraged me to THINK I could be a great guitar player. The second left me in no doubt that I never would be.
FAST TWITCH MUSCLE FIBER. I don’t have them, or at least not enough of them.
The ability to raise and lower my little pink digits on and off the strings while moving up, down or across the neck of my guitar at anything remotely resembling the speed and agility of players like Birelli Lagrene or Stochelo Rosenberg will, I’m afraid, never be mine. (You will note that I am leaving Django out of this picture because I cannot imagine Linford doing the 100 meters in 9 seconds flat with one leg strapped to his bum like Long John Silver. Can you?)
The article I came across was asking “Why was Linford Christie one of the fastest men in the world and why, for example, the marathon runner Steve Jones was not? Why were Coe, Cram and Ovett great middle distance runners? And, so on.
How is it that, given the right training, Linford may complete the London marathon but not in 2 hours 8 minutes as Steve Jones did? Or that Jones, Coe, Cram and Ovett will never cover 100 meters in 9.93 seconds as Linford has.
The answer is FAST TWITCH MUSCLE FIBERS.
I couldn’t get technical on the subject if I tried, and pages of data on muscle fibers complete with pictures of dissected legs that look like the aftermath of a pileup on the M1 are not what I think you want to see. But, should you wish to read up on the subject, you will need “Today’s Runner” August 94 pages 36/37. Available via Smiths etc.
With grateful thanks I spoke to Dr Adrainne Hardman here at Loughborough University, which you may or may not know, (or even care) is regarded as the home of British athletics, particularly with regard to the technical/medical side. It would appear that we contain 3 types of muscle fibers, these being SLOW twitch type 1 red and FAST twitch types 11a and 11b white. I was assured by Dr Hardman that these so called Fast twitch fibers extend throughout the body and that of course includes those that drive the fingers. It seems that, through genetic accident, some of us are endowed with these fibers in large amounts and others are not. This genetic link can be seen, for example, in Fapy Lafertin and Stochelo Rosenberg, who I believe are closely related by blood. There are other, younger members of the Rosenberg family, who also show outstanding dexterity.
In common with all muscle fibers the fast twitch fibers, which govern explosive action, (sprinters, weight lifters etc.) can be conditioned (trained) to respond on demand. As Coe or Cram would say, “Step up a gear”.
If you have a trainer who can recognize which category you may fall into, sprinter, middle distance or marathon (equating to a lot, some or very little FTMF) he or she could work out a program of training that could take you to the peak of your performance. As George Gandy has for many British athletes like Coe.
Substitute the names Lafertin for Gandy and Rosenberg for Coe and you will (I hope) start to see what I’m getting at.
As with all genetic problems, such as hair or eye colour, it could, with a lot of study, be worked out which generations/sexes would demonstrate this feature. But it is enough to say that, if the father was a sprinter it does not necessarily mean that the son will be. It just makes it more likely, and likelier still if the father, two uncles and his granny were.
Don’t however let this dishearten you if you get out of breath when your nose runs, because anyone who has tried to play the guitar knows, there is a lot more to it than being fast. It just helps.
There are a lot of nutters - sorry “club runners” - out there who train as hard (if not harder in some cases) than top athletes and still get great satisfaction from doing so despite not qualifying for Atlanta.
You could change events. Marathon work requires even pacing and endurance. So does being a good rhythm guitarist. Hop, skip and jump - sorry Triple jump - requires a reasonably quick approach with some very odd bits at the end.
Maybe a glissando with a sweep picking style arpeggio to finish will create a similar impression. (Koen De Cauter of WASO often uses this little trick to good effect.)
I hope this has given you some pause for thought and, like me, a damned good excuse for not being a good player.
If the feedback to the editor is good, I will continue my research on muscle problems in articles on such topics as “Small bore rifle shooting for violinists” and “Pole vaulting with the double bass”.
Any way enough for now. I’m off to Smiths in search of a magazine called “Yesterday’s Jogger” - more my style.
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the publisher, or any other sane person.)
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