Friday, April 6, 2018

Alex Hutchinson’s Endure: A Book Review

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Alex Hutchinson’s Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance is a must read for humans in general. Yes, the book is focused on athletes, specifically those who run, bike, and swim (as well as those who coach them or love them), but the book provides genuine insight to the human mind, to motivation, and to our unique ability to accept and endure both pain and life in general. Hutchinson, who has written on endurance sport for years, explores every facet he can. Not only does he quote both scientific studies and real world examples, but he packages the data in an easy to read format that is both relatable and informative. He tracks adaptations, exceptions, and oddities—and in doing so allows a reader to carry over information into both endurance sport and life.

To do so Hutchinson follows the stories down their rabbit holes. He climbs Everest through those that have in order discuss oxygen deprivation and the central governor, he examines a long walk in the desert to discuss dehydration. More importantly, he digs into the science in a meaningful but approachable way. For example: Hutchinson notes how if one is mentally taxed, they are then going to see an increase in perceived effort to do what is normally relatively easy. So could school alter an athlete’s performance in an evening track meet? Of course. But the idea goes deeper when he integrates that a complex video game might mirror the rigors of a work day, that playing video games all day might leave you in a mentally taxed state and thus alter your performance when it comes to an evening event. Play eight hours of video games at a track meet and you might find that the 3000-5000 meter event feels a lot harder. Likewise, a tough workout, a mentally arduous set of intervals, might interfere with the ability of an athlete to give a coherent interview or study for their final exams. These facts sit right on the surface of a book that explores everything from oxygen to pain to hydration to motivation in a must read.

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