This NY Times Bestseller (foreword by Malcom Gladwell) explores how limits are simply an illusion and how the science and psychology of endurance, reveal how we can all surpass our perceived physical limits to achieve anything we set our minds to.
As humans we we all have attributes such as our ability to process oxygen and our muscle stength that contribute to our success. We can work on these abilities. However it is our ability to endure that can push us to go above and beyond. Everyone feels pain, even elite athletes, but it is our ability to learn how to manage that pain and train for that pain that can help us to endure.
This Week's Conversation
Early exercise physiologists postulated the human body as a machine and theorized that the athlete with the perfect vitals would be able to run the perfect race. Oxygen intake is one attribute they believe which had a direct influence on an athlete’s abilities. During training, athletes can measure their maximum oxygen intake through their "VO2max"--the equivalent of the body’s horsepower. The more oxygen a person can take in (the bigger their engine is), and circulate through their body, the better they’ll perform – especially in endurance sports. An athlete can improve their VO2 max efficiency by running intervals for 2-3 minutes at their “VO2 Max” pace (which is a pace a moderately fit person can sustain for roughly 6 to 8 minutes).
Training at your VO2 max and lactate threshold paces, building muscle strength, improving lung capacity and other factors all contribute to your endurance. They improve your vitals - however they also teach you how to better endure pain. The original theory was that the athlete with the best vitals would be able to break the 4 minute mile. "Endure" lays out numerous examples that these factors, while important, are not the full picture. Early research continues to be challenged. We see this in the hour ride and in Nike's infamous quest to break the 2 hour marathon.
Is an individual’s physical limit set by their body or their brain? Highly skilled athletes feel pain, but it is their pain tolerance, their ability to endure and push through that pain that allows them to go further than others.
What have you found most interesting about Hutchinson's research?
What tactics do you use to push through the pain and continue on?
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