Are Physical Limits in Our Heads? Interview with Alex Hutchinson

We’ve long known the biggest barriers in running are those we create in our own heads, but according to Alex Hutchinson and the latest research, there are ways we can bypass these barriers to push farther and faster.

A National Magazine Award-winning journalist, Alex’s work revolves mostly around the science of endurance, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ve read some of his stuff. He contributes to Runner’s World, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and he also has his own column in Outside Magazine called Sweat Science.

In this episode, Alex will share with us a little about his upcoming book, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

In the book, Alex explores the controversial new science of endurance that suggests our brains are just as responsible as our bodies for the physical obstacles we encounter in running.

In other words, most of the limits we experience are illusionary, and, with some groundbreaking techniques Alex will share with us today, we can actually push through these imaginary limits to unearth our true physical capabilities.

P.S. Alex has also been generous enough to offer one lucky winner a signed copy of Endure, so if you’re interested, you can enter at The contest will end Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 12pm EST so be sure to get your name in fast!


Questions Alex is asked:

3:51 How and when did you first start running?

5:30 How did you transition from competitive running to writing about the sport?

8:11 What is your favorite topic to write about?

10:25 How did you manage to shave so much time off your PR in the 1500 your Junior year?

14:39 What can you tell us about some of the studies that show how our performance is limited by our brains?

20:43 Regarding the Psychobiological Model and the Human Machine Approach, what are they and which do you subscribe more to?

30:02 What is your experience with endurance expansion methods, including Electric Brain Stimulations?

34:51 Are the Halo Neuroscience headphones comfortable and do they play music? How do you use them?

36:02 Were you skeptical regarding Nike’s “Breaking 2” event and what are your thoughts on it now?

42:01 In your book, Endure, you talk about the ways different athletes exceeded their limits; what athlete’s example was your favorite and why?

46:25 What techniques can listeners employ to expand their limits, either during or before a race?

50:27 What is on tap next for you once your book is released?

Quotes by Alex:

“Because I had a science background, the science of endurance sports is the area that I’ve focused on.”

“In my own competitive career I had these instances and situations where it was clear that the relationship between my training and my racing was not linear. There were times when my brain was really pushing me forward and times when my brain was really holding me back.”

“There’s something really fundamental about the way we perceive effort and the way we spread our effort out over a race that when you know you’re able to stop, you’re able to access some reserves that you weren’t previously able to.”

“There’s a real, measurable physiological contribution that the brain makes to determining how hard you or fast you can go.”

“I don’t think I know, or anybody knows, what the full truth is or exactly how everything works, but we have a lot of interesting research that points in some intriguing directions.”

“If you’re panting or is your legs are feeling heavy, that doesn’t mean your going to die of lack of oxygen or that your legs are going to fall off, it just means that you’re going at a pace that you’re not going to be able to sustain indefinitely.”

“Learn some skills on controlling self-talk and eliminating negative self-talk and replacing it with motivational self-talk.”

Take a Listen on Your Next Run

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Join the Run to the Top Facebook Group

Alex’s homepage

Book: Endure – by Alex Hutchinson

Enter to win an autographed copy of Endure

Run To The Top Interview with Alex on Nutrition

RunnersConnect: Tim Noakes and Central Governor Theory

Ross Tucker: Fatigue and the Brain

Video: Mind over muscle? Limits to Endurance Performance | Professor Samuele Marcora

Professor Samuele Marcora’s study: Athletes perform better when exposed to subliminal visual cues

Can Electric Brain Stimulation Boost Your Endurance? – Runners World article by Alex

Halo Neuroscience homepage

Wired magazine: The Epic Untold Story of Nike’s (Almost) Perfect Marathon

YouTube: Breaking2 Documentary Special

Follow Alex on Twitter

Runners World – Sweat Science

Outside online – Alex Hutchinson

Jeremy Noessel Audio homepage

Follow Sinead on Twitter

Follow Sinead on Instagram

Email Sinead

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