Taking Our Bodies to the Limit

Ironman 1997 Finish

Did you watch the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona this year? Did you see anything that impressed you? Yeah, so did we.

Some humans (see: endurance athletes) have this "thing" that's just a little bit different about them. A certain drive and determination--perhaps even "a screw or two loose" in their brains. But what IS that extra drive? Where does it come from, and can it be controlled?

In case you're interested in what zealios employees listen to on long car rides to/from triathlons and swim meets, this is your little bit of insight. 

First, listen to this RadioLab podcast called 'Limits of the Body'--it's one of our favorites. Ironman triathletes Julie Moss and Wendy Ingraham recount their own epic feats of testing their limits (watch Julie in 1982 and Wendy in 1997). Yes, they both finished their races on their hands and knees.

How about biking across the entire country (3,000 miles with 170,000 feet of climbing) in just 8 DAYS. SOLO. That's what riders are doing in the Race Across America.

These are feats that seem beyond our limits. Physical feats that our rational, emotional selves must surely refuse! And yet, we do them. People are completing these races and pushing their bodies to limit all the time, and in greater and greater numbers.

So how are they doing it?

Referenced in the RadioLad podcast is something called the Central Governor Theory, first introduced by a professor named Tim Noakes in the late 1990s. This central governor (a circuit in the brain that regulates endurance performance via locomotor muscle recruitment) may be the real secret behind our ability to test these limits. It's the "thing" that tells your body to either GO or STOP through little pain signals to your body.

If you want to join our book club next month, crack open How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald. The book explores the idea of the Central Governor through a series of real life races and epic showdowns between athletes of different eras, and across endurance disciplines. For those of us nerds who watched the entire IRONMAN World Championships live (yes, for 9 hours...what else is a Saturday for??), you'll be glued to this one.

Our challenge to you: listen, read, and then tell us your story! Have you ever found your physical limits and then pushed beyond them? We want to know.

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