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


  1. The author walks us through the incredible adaptability and flexibility the human body has to push itself to incredible limits

Key Takeaways

  1. Athletes are generally graded based on vo2 max (capacity), efficiency, and ability to endure pain. We all feel pain, but differ in how our brain interprets it. The most accomplished athletes tend to be able to convert pain to a sort of pleasure
  2. We’ve all heard “mind over matter,” but how they each impact each other and how they are intertwined is just getting started to be understood.
  3. Our understanding of fatigue is, at the very least, incomplete, or else how could ultramarathoners be able to sprint when they see the finish line? This means they should have been able to run faster throughout the race. (goal gradient hypothesis). More experienced athletes have trained their bodies to save less in reserves, meaning their end of race sprint isn’t much faster than what they did the rest of the race. Perceived effort is really the final arbiter. If something feels easier, you can do it faster and better. Being mentally fatigued makes things feel harder and decreases your performance even if your body is rested. The power of perception! Combining effort and motivation gives you the best results. If you could train the brain to get comfortable with fatigue, you can push yourself to do more and better
  4. Being fitter doesn’t increase pain tolerance. How you get fit matters. You have to suffer. The inspiring thing is that pain tolerance can be greatly increased!
  5. It is the build up of carbon dioxide more than the lack of oxygen that makes us pant
  6. The discussion around hydration has fluctuated from extremes. It seems like avoiding thirst rather than dehydration is optimal. The feeling of thirst increases perceived effort which in turn slows you down
  7. A high fat, low carb diet is great for increasing your health and endurance, but the downside is that it decreases your fast-to-release energy for quick sprints decreases
  8. Sports drinks are surprisingly effective and led to the discovery of sensors in your mouth that detect carbs and this helps relax your brain’s margin of safety. Just swishing it in your mouth helps!
  9. Brain training to decrease perceived effort has a lot to do with building capacity for struggle and building up towards response inhibition. Working out and training when you are mentally fatigued is a great way to build this. Elite athletes are able to increase their performance through struggles more than an untrained person. They are able to be more non judgmental and simply deal with the situation at hand

What I got out of it

  1. Perceived effort is everything! Training past your limits allows you to push your pain tolerance, increasing your endurance and performance