Alex Hutchinson is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist who writes about the science of endurance for Runner’s World and Outside, and frequently contributes to other publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker. He is the author of several books, including “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.”
In this interview, Alex starts by talking about his background and how he got interested in the science of fitness and endurance. He reveals some of the biggest things he’s learned through the process of being a journalist and writing on these subjects. He also explains how the research in recent decades has shifted from the body to the brain to understand the mysteries of endurance. Chris and Alex share their insights on the gap between theory and application. Alex then discusses where he got the idea for his book Endure.
Next, Alex talks about the most surprising and important things he learned during the research and writing process, as well as where the knowledge is still emerging. He explains how people can use subliminal messages to alter their performance. He then goes into more detail on extreme feats such as free diving. Chris and Alex also share their thoughts on Wim Hof and his extreme cold tolerance. Alex expands on the ultimate limits of human performance, and discusses why human athletic records keep occurring.
Alex then expands on the connection between mind and muscle, and explains the difference between muscle fatigue and brain fatigue. He talks about how physical limits are often controlled or influenced by the brain, and reveals how to use motivational self-talk to change our performance. Alex also emphasizes the importance of differentiating between opinions and scientific facts, while also being open to new discoveries. He talks about where he comes across new knowledge through his research.
We ask Alex about some of the other physical limits of the human body that he discovered while writing his book. He dispels a common myth about lactic acid, and touches on the limits of hydration and heat. He clarifies the difference between warning signals and our actual physical limits. Alex also expands on the muscle repair process and explains how muscle memory works. Finally, he offers strategies for training our minds to increase endurance and performance levels. He ends by going into more detail on his research and writing process.
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