Alex Hutchinson: How Much Can We Endure? Exploring the Brain, Performance Limiters and How To Push Harder and Farther
January 24, 2018
This episode is brought to you by Precision Hydration, the sweat experts who provide personalized hydration strategies and drink mixes to athletes of all levels. Not sure about your sweat and sodium loss? You can start by taking Precision Hydration’s free entry-level Online Sweat Test and get a recommendation for a formula that fits your needs, or go the next step with their exercise-free Advanced Sweat Test. Then use the code “ENDURANCE15” to get 15% off your first order.
On this episode, we welcome back sports journalist Alex Hutchinson, who’s written a fascinating new book titled Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Pre-order your copy here (ships out out in February). Endure is a must-read for all endurance athletes! In addition to authoring books, Alex is Outside Magazine’s Sweat Science columnist and a long-time elite runner. He was on Endurance Planet back in 2015, listen here. On today’s show we dive into concepts presented in Endure.
- The division in the science world on defining limiters of human performance: Those who take the the human machine view (basic pays) vs. it’s all in your head view (the brain).
- Alex spent years researching for this book and also has a lot of personal interest tied up into the book, as he tried to better understand his own running performances.
- Alex’s story of ultimately nailing a sub-4 mile and how it very likely happened because he was being misled on his split times.
- What seems to matter arguably more than anything is how the brain interprets what is going on and how the brain can limit or enhance our performance.
- Central governor (CG).
- Alex’s time with Tim Noakes observing him and learning more about CG from the source.
- The most convincing argument in favor of CG: We slow down in a race, yet have the ability to speed up at the end? Why is this and why does it matter for CG? Alex explains the science of how we pace ourselves in a predictable way.
- Pain vs. effort – in order to understand your limits, you have to understand the difference between the two!
- When you’re racing a marathon for example, there’s a difference between pain vs. effort slowing you down.
- The importance of effort, the borg scale and RPE
- Other areas of research regarding the brain and performance
- The work of Samuele Marcoca on mental fatigue and brain training to boost performance. (Did it work for Alex?)
- The idea that training in a mentally fatigued state can be beneficial – considering so many of us have to train after a long day of work when we’re feeling flat.
- Transcranial direct current stumulation (tDCS) and the experiments done in this area.
- The recent Red Bull “brain zapping” experiments.
- A “neuropriming” device called the Halo. What does this thing do, does it work, and is it worth the $750 price tag?
- Brain doping – are we entering a scary new world where athletes can manipulate their brains to boost performance?
- The research is fascinating, but what about the real-world application to boosting brain power? Will it work? Does it go too far? Does it tarnish sport?
- What it comes down to…
- “You can do all this shit, but it comes down to two guys on a bike trying to beat each other.” – Jesse Thomas, quoted in Alex’s book.
- The extreme value of the placebo effect – it works, as does believing in yourself, to enhance performance.
- The same cycling and caffeine study Tawnee mentioned in ATC 248 talking about CG is mentioned in Alex’s book in regards to the placebo effect and belief.
- What are the take-home messages in Alex’s book. What did he learn from researching and writing this book? What is our biggest limiter – or is it a combo of factors?