Welcome to the Chaski Book Club. Your home for reading books about and/or in the context of endurance sport.
We read a new book each month, with weekly discussion prompts as well as space for open conversation. You can join the conversation in our Chaski Book Club Facebook Group.
November's pick is: "The Comeback Quotient": A Get-Real Guide to Building Mental Fitness in Sport and Life by Matt Fitzgerald
A good comeback makes a great story. In The Comeback Quotient, sports journalist Matt Fitzgerald shares the stories of top athletic comebacks, to give you inspiration and tools for your own comeback in sport or life.
Every sports fan loves a great comeback. Is there a special quality shared by top athletes who triumph over great challenges? And can anyone acquire it? In The Comeback Quotient, celebrated sportswriter Matt Fitzgerald supplies the answer to both questions. He identifies these mega-achievers of astounding athletic comebacks as “ultrarealists,” men and women who succeed where others fail by fully accepting, embracing, and addressing the reality of their situations. From ultrarunners like Rob Krar to triathletes like Mirinda Carfrae to rowers, skiers, cyclists, and runners all over the world, Fitzgerald highlights and speculates on just what makes these comebacks so compelling. As for whether anyone can stage his or her own great comeback, the answer is a resounding yes: Anyone can become an ultrarealist to some degree. In the tradition of his best-selling How Bad Do You Want It?, The Comeback Quotient combines gripping sports stories with mind-blowing science to deliver a book that will forever change how you perceive the challenges you face, giving you the inspiration and the tools to make the next great comeback you witness your own.
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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?