A meticulously researched profile of the physiology and psychology of athletes.
Even readers with the most sedentary of lifestyles will find something intriguing in this book from Outside columnist Hutchinson (Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise, 2011, etc.), formerly of Runner’s World. The narrative is part ode to athleticism with a focus on distance running, part examination of current fitness research, and part fascinating exploration of the mysteries of the mind-body connection. The author has a true gift for writing compelling sports stories and combining them with deft analyses of cutting-edge research that never get lost in jargon or become oversimplified. To the contrary, Hutchinson reinforces the uncertainty of current controversies in modern exercise science without forcing his readers to pick a side. Specifically, he investigates what is at the heart of the limits of man’s endurance: is it the body’s mechanistic breaking point or the brain’s upper threshold of belief? He answers with descriptions of counterintuitive exercise studies that show, for example, that an athlete’s performance improves when a thermometer is doctored to read the temperature as a few degrees cooler than reality or when she swishes a sports drink in her mouth but doesn’t actually consume any extra energy from it. Alongside those facts, the author’s passion animates his own personal stories as well as those of others, such as the tragic death of a high school football player during a hot summer practice and a woman whose traumatic brain injury made her into one of the most elite ultra-endurance runners of all time. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in the foreword, Hutchinson “writes about the mysteries of endurance as a student of the science, a sports fan, and a keen observer of human performance—but also as a participant.”
A captivating and often moving book with something to offer readers interested in health, athleticism, neuroscience, and the human condition.