Endure is full of stories of individual athletes, coaching teams, scientists and corporate studying the nexus of the mind, brain and body to help humans break barriers on limits that seem impassable. Each chapters covers an element like pain, muscle, oxygen, heat and thirst, and how a belief in our own abilities enables us to push past our limits.
The brain has a myriad of checks and balances that stops us before we reach our full potential or a point of self-harm. So your perceived effort is what influences how long you can keep going. This book outlines the ways in which humans and science are working to alter that sense of effort. He provides clear analysis of research and results on both sides of an issue, for example, the debate around dehydration and heat stroke and how the connection between the two is more complex than we know. A well-hydrated athlete can get heat stroke, and a dehydrated individual can not suffer heat stroke, so how does the body handle water and heat?
Books about the science of the human body reference a parade of animal studies. I don’t spend time on them but this time, here’s a selection of experiments that this book outlines in the study of human endurance – a horse taken up in a hot-air balloon till it bled from its nose and ears. Ducks with their feet tied and then dunked in water or strangled to see how long it took for them to die. Frogs with their legs cut off and electricity run to their muscles to see how long they twitched before exhaustion – all done in the name of science.
The author is a journalist who covers the science of endurance and fitness and competed as a marathon runner for the Canadian national team. For those interested in pushing their own limits, or learning more about neuroscience and the biology of human effort, this pacy read traverses stories of runners, swimmers, cyclists, climbers getting to the top of Mount Everest and historical figures attempting to cross the Arctic Tundra.