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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Endure

Most of my favorite activities can be classified as endurance sports: cycling, hiking, swimming/snorkeling, and (recently) stand up paddle boarding). I picked up Endure thinking that it would give me insights as to how improvement in those sports could work. Alas, the book's mostly about running, which is one of those sports I'm not super-interested in.

All through the book are interspersed chapters on the attempt by Nike's tech people to engineer a sub-2 hour marathon by deploying groups of runners so the primary runner can draft, and providing a super-shoe.
British researchers found that skipping breakfast resulted in a 4.5 percent drop in 30-minute cycling time trial performance at 5 p.m. that afternoon, even though the subjects had been allowed to eat as much as they wanted at lunch. (Page 180)
So don't skip breakfasts. That's great. Another intriguing section of the book discusses an attempt to switch people into high fat diets with extremely low carbohydrates so that for multi-day endurance events, you don't have to carry so much food. Apparently, not all weight loss after a long event like a marathon is water loss!
Part of the explanation, according to University of Cape Town researcher Nicholas Tam, is that not all the weight you lose is water. During prolonged exercise, “you will use fat, and you will use carbohydrate,” he explains, “and once you’ve burned it up, it’s not there anymore.” The chemical reactions involved in burning fat and carbohydrate produce two key by-products: carbon dioxide, which you breathe out, and water—which actually adds to the amount of fluid available in your body. Even more significant, your body stores carbohydrate in your muscles in a form that locks away about three grams of water for every gram of carbohydrate. This water isn’t available to contribute to essential cellular processes until you start unlocking the carbohydrate stores, so your body sees it as “new” water when it’s released during exercise. For decades, these factors were assumed to be insignificantly small. But in 2007, British scientists at the University of Loughborough estimated that a marathoner could conceivably lose 1 to 3 percent of his or her body mass without any net loss of water. (Pg. 171)
 Another tidbit discusses how even at 1900', you get significant performance loss from reduced oxygen. But other than these 3 tidbits, the rest of the book was about the relationship between pain and endurance sports, and how brain training can improve performance (but there's no free lunch, that brain training also takes time, and you can't skimp on your marathon training because of your brain training). There's nothing about technique (though there's one about freediving, but nowhere close to the coverage we got in Deep), very little about injury prevention (not even the discussion of the barefoot running stuff that became popular a few years ago), and nothing about the joy of motion.

I also wanted answers to questions like: "Why do cyclists ride at 90rpm on flat ground, but it feels easier to ride at lower rpms on serious/long climbs?" None of that was addressed here.

The book wasn't a complete waste of time, but it came pretty close. I wouldn't recommend it though.

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