GAINcast Episode 59: Take It to the Limit (with Dr. Michael Joyner)

How far can we take the human body? Can we break two hours in the marathon? Or will Usain Bolt’s records ever fall? Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic has spent his career asking that very question. On this week’s episode of the GAINcast, Dr. Joyner joins us to discuss the limits of human performance, what training and sports science need to improve upon to take us there, and more.

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To start out, Dr. Joyner, a former runner himself, discussed how a historic look at training shows their is no one path to reach human potential:

Look at the 1964 Olympics: there are lots of ways to reach your biological potential as a runner. Click To Tweet

Joyner has been writing about the topic of human limits for decades and back in 1991 was one of the first to analyze the possibility of a sub 2-hour marathon. The path to breaking such barriers will be slow and gradual. By the 1950s and 1960s, people were already train as hard as they can. Sports science may be able to help improve performance here or there and move us closer to the barriers, but it is not going to magically transform results overnight:

There's a million ways to train, but there were a million ways back to 1960s. There's no magic elixir. Click To Tweet Drink the sports science cool aid, but in small doses. @DrMJoyner Click To Tweet

How can sports science help athletes then? By helping helping coaches take a critical look at their own methods:

Data is only as good as the questions you ask. It has to be put in context. @DrMJoyner Click To Tweet

To hear more about this topic you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further Reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:

  • Dr. Joyner will be on the faculty of this year’s GAIN event. Applications for GAIN are still being accepted, but space is filling up fast. It will take place from June 13 to 17, 2017 in Houston. Listen to GAINcast 41 for more details about GAIN or register here.
  • Also check out our upcoming seminar in London on May 20 with John Kiely and myself. We will discuss topics like periodization, performance, planning, and more in detail, including real world examples of smart planning in practice. Register early at a discount.
  • You can learn more from Dr. Joyner on Twitter @DrMJoyner and on his personal blog.
  • One post on the blog we discussed was his look at the varied training methods used by the 1964 Olympic medalists in the 5000-meter run.
  • For a look at his work on the possibility of a 2-hour marathon, read his original article on the topic or this more recent article.
  • At the end of the episode we Dr. Joyner discussed the overlooked importance of physical education as most university departments have shifted their focus towards exercise science. For more on this topic listen to GAINcast 37 with Greg Thompson and GAINcast 25 with Steve Myrland. Both will be faculty members again at GAIN this year.
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