Review: Hutchinson’s Endure


Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Alex Hutchinson

Anyone who has followed this site for any length of time knows I’m obsessed with human endurance. Why (and how) do we push through pain, how do we keep getting faster? Why are some people so much better at this, and how did they get that way? How much is genes, how much is training and how much is will?

If you care about these questions, and I certainly do, then this book is a must read. Hutchinson writes probably the most scientifically based journalism in Runners World and Outside magazine and here he takes that experience, and PhD in physics smarts and melds it with years of personal running experience and real journalistic chops. He meets with some of the best runners and scientists in the world and does as good a job as anyone has in explaining the science and psychology behind remarkable endurance performances, such as Nike’s attempt at a sub-2 hour marathon.

If you have any interest in the science of endurance sports, you’ve probably already this gem, if not, you should. Even if endurance sports aren’t your thing, there’s lot to learn here from Hutchinson’s clear writing on the possibility of human performance.

Recommended for the Enthusiast

Alex Hutchinson

Alex Hutchinson

Reset: fitness

I’ve been rethinking my fitness and diet regime (again). As a dude in his mid-forties, I’ve begun to feel some of the aches and pains of middle age, and I’ve begun to think much more about how to train to be fit for a lifetime rather than fit for a specific high performance endeavor.

With that in mind, I’ve added back into my routine more strength training, more flexibility and mobility work, more balance drills. If I plan to be active and healthy well into old age, I need to focus on these essential skills now.

To make room for this work, I’ve taken the running back a step. Still doing it, but focusing on very slow MAF style runs*, and not at all concerned about weekly mileage or time. The goal is to be active every day in a production, injury free way.

Here’s the plan for the week:

Monday: The recommended routine from reddit’s bodyweight fitness group coupled with addition flexibility and mobility work and a short, extremely slow, run

Tuesday: An hour long, MAF style run

Wednesday: The recommended routine from reddit’s bodyweight fitness group coupled with addition flexibility and mobility work and a short, extremely slow, run

Thursday: An hour long, MAF style run

Friday: Off.

Saturday: a long run or bike ride

Sunday: an hour long run and an extended flexibility / self massage session.

Nothing fancy, nothing hard right now. In three months of so, if this goes well, I’ll reassess and determine if I its time to switch it up again.

*The MAF method, for those that don’t know, is the method of running developed by the controversial endurance coach Phil Maffatone. Maffatone has a whole philosophy for fitness, not all of which I buy it, but I do like the simplicity of his heart rate based training approach. It is’t simplest form, its 180 minus your age give you the highest number your heart rate should hit during training. For an old man like me, this means I never train above 138.  Clearly, this is an over simplification, but it’s one I find helpful.

Top 20 Posts and Pages

Milo just went over the 200,000 hit mark, which is pretty cool. By far the most popular section of this sprawling mess is the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire, which, if you’re a runner, is worth checking out. But in this post, I thought I’d highlight the 20 most popular posts on that aren’t related to the Boston Marathon.

Its an odd mix. Here they are in reverse order:

20 —  Book Nerds: Richard Prince — A look at the astounding book collection of one of the most important contemporary arts alive.

19 — Our Pre-term Baby — The story of my daughter Anna’s rather dramatic entrance into the world.

18 — How I Read 52 Books A Year — With illustrations from the Wire!

17 — Classical Sources of the Milo Stories — Just what it says it is, a resource page for some of the myths about our man Milo

16 —  Phil Coppess: Hero to Working Stiff Runners — Some thoughts on running legend Phil Coppess, who ran some incredibly fast times while also raising two kids on his own and working in a factory.

15 — Alex Honnold and the Viewers Guilt — My thoughts on watching the incredibly talented climber risk his life

14 — Weight and the Marathon– A look at the role weight plays in marathon success

13 — Some Thoughts On the Early Days of Strength Training — Just what the title says.

12 — The Hero Brought Low: Representations of Milo of Croton in Art – Some thoughts on the way our favorite Greek wrestler has been depicted in art through the ages.

11 — Running Heroes: The Women of the 1972 New York City Marathon — A brief peice about the women who staged a protest at the New York City Marathon and changed running forever.

10 — 2014 – My Year In Books — A round up of all the books I read in 2014.

9 — Divine Madness – A resource page collecting information on a now largely forgotten running “cult”

8 — 2015 My Year In Books – A round-up of all the books I read in 2015, the first year I start really paying attention to the diversity of voices in the books I read.

7 — Milo of Croton — A resource page for information about the Greek wrestler for who this website is named.

6 — The Egoist and the Fixed Gear A Polemic against a certain type of New York City Bike Rider

5 — S Town’s John B. Mclemore: A Reading List — A collection of the books reference by John B. Mclemore in the excellent podcast S-Town

4 — David Goggins Inspired Bodyweight Workouts — A collection of body weight workouts inspired by David Goggins training of Jesse Itzler in the hilarious Living With A Seal

3 — The Runnable Bridges of New York City — Just what the title says this is an interactive map of all the bridges you can run over in New York City.

2 — 2016 My Year in Books — My recap of my reading int he eyar 2016 when I tried to have my reading reflect the diversity of America.

1 — Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals — And finally, number 1. A light hearted post about the fitness habits of Generals McChrystal and Petraeus that has now inexplicably become my most popular piece of writing. Go figure.

Friday Inspiration: Nassbaum’s Morning Routine

I’ve long admired Martha Nussabum’s work in philoosphy, now I have to admire her work-out regime as well. Should I mention that she’s 69?

 

She divides her day into a series of productive, life-affirming activities, beginning with a ninety-minute run or workout, during which, for years, she “played” operas in her head, usually works by Mozart. She memorized the operas and ran to each one for three to four months, shifting the tempo to match her speed and her mood. For two decades, she has kept a chart that documents her daily exercises. After her workout, she stands beside her piano and sings for an hour; she told me that her voice has never been better.

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Back to Basics (Again)

When was the last time you were fast?

Check the log. Winter 2010 to Summer, 2011.

What were you doing?

Running. A lot. Up to fifty miles a week, all of it easy.

Why did it end?

Too much too soon. Got greedy, started speed work, pulled you groin. Then the job got crazy, then the kid came, then another, and here you are. Older, fatter, slower.

What were those days like?

It felt great. You set a 5k PR at the end of a fifty mile week. You had a marathon PR in your sights. The daily miles flew by. You weren’t wearing a heart rate monitor. You weren’t fretting about zones or MAF ranges.

You were running.

Let’s give that a try again. Build up slowly. Take your time.

There’s no hurry.

Let’s not over think it. Let’s put in the miles. Do the time. Enjoy the process. See what happens.

 

62 Day Challenge: Day 4 Not Everyday Is Interesting

Reflection: Another long day of work and social engagements (PURIM PARTY!), but got the miles in and stuck to the diet. Not everyday is interesting. In fact, most days won’t be.

Day 3 done, 60 days to go.

Daily Weight 179.2 (weight, why you no move?)
Breakfast ½ avocado, 1 cup of strawberries
Lunch Hummus and tomato sandwich, fritos, diet coke. (I know, I know, I eat way too many chips)
Dinner Salmon with sweet potatoes and green beans. Apple tart. Boulevardier
Run: 5.25 miles in 51:39
Bike: 0
Swim: 0
Strength/ Flexibility: 5:00
100 push-ups (22,18,10,20,20,10)
Total Exercise Time(day/week) ~1:00:00/2:30:00
Mediation: 5:00
Steps (goal/actual) 12424/18555

2015: My Physical Year

What is there to say about my physical year? I did more than I did in 2014, but still not nearly enough. It’s never enough. I could beat myself up over that, but instead, I’ll let the numbers do the talking.

Running

  • I ran 1383.6 miles in 2015. That’s about 300 more than in 2014. I was shooting for 2000 (again) and guess what? I failed (again).
  • Those 1,383.6 miles were spread across 176 sessions, for an average of 7.85 miles per run. In total, I spent a little over 228 hours running.
  • Nearly half my running (631 miles) was done in Prospect Park where I ran 80 different times.
  • My longest runs were my two marathons, Vermont City and New York City. I also ran one other race, the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

Cycling

  • For my fortieth birthday this year, E got me a very nice bike. So far, I’ve put 416 miles on it.
  • I also put 206.8 miles on my dear old Pista for a total of 622.8 cycling miles in about fifty hours.

Swimming and other stuff

  • I swam a bit this year as well, not much, but some. It ended up being only about 5 miles in only about three hours.
  • In addition to my running races, I also did the New York City Triathlon, which I loved, and which I hope to do again this year.
  • I also did the occasional body weight work, but not enough to really track.

Conclusions

I had high hopes of this year, but again did not meet them. I think in the coming year, I need to revaluate how much time I really have, and how much commitment I genuinely have, and set my goals appropriately. But that’s for a post for a later day.