Would you like to get into sports writing?
Canadian sports journalist Alex Hutchinson is the author of the New York Times best-selling Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.
But he wasn’t always a writer.
In his early twenties, Hutchinson competed with the Canadian Athletics Team while training as a physicist. As his running career came to an end around 2006, he transitioned into sports journalism.
The book blends Hutchinson’s passion for running with his scientific training in an attempt to probe the link between the human body and mind in top athletes.
In this interview, Alex explains:
- How top performers push past discomfort to accomplish more
- Why he decided to write a sports science book
- How he got into sports writing
- The link between an introverted activity like writing and physical training
- Why sports mantras work and how anyone can use them
And lots more.
I start by asking Alex to describe how he transitioned from a career as a physicist to becoming a sports writer.
Bryan: Can physical training help you become a better or more focused writer? That's a question I've often wondered about, and it's a theme that I've explored in articles that I've written and occasionally [inaudible 00:00:40] Become a Writer Today podcast, and it's also one I want to dive a little bit deeper into in this week's podcast episode. I had the chance to catch up with the author of one of my favorite books published in recent years. The book is called In Your Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. And it's by Canadian sports journalist and author Alex Hutchinson. Alex is a prolific runner, and he's also a well-regarded sports writer and author. So, I was interested to learn, not just about his writing process, but perhaps if you had a few tips for me that could help me learn how to run a little bit faster.
Now I've talked about running on and off on the Become a Writer Today podcast. I enjoy long distance running, and I've competed in several marathons over the years. And I find running is a great way to switch off if I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk or a lot of time writing or if I'm just stressed or struggling with a problem. Typically, I'll go for a five or 10 kilometer, that's about six miles, run in the afternoons or in the evenings after the working day. And at the weekend, I might go for a longer run with members of the running club that I'm in, which is in Leixlip, which is about an hour outside Dublin in Ireland. I found running is a great release because writers spend a lot of time alone in a room and running is a good way of seeing other people. But it's still in a way an introverted sport, much like writing, because at the end of the day it's you and you alone in a race. A team can't help you finish the race, you've got to do it yourself.
I got into running about eight or nine years ago, and it was actually connected to my writing process because at the time I was spending a lot of hours each day hunched over my desk and hunched over my keyboard and mouse. And I was struggling with a bad case of RSI or repetitive strain injury. And I was able to fix that, in a way, by swapping out my mouse on my keyboard by taking longer breaks from the monitor and from work. But then I started to get sciatica as well, and I never had anything like this before. But basically, pains started shooting up and down the right side of my body. At one point, my right toe even went a little bit numb. I didn't know what this was at all, until I went to a physiotherapist. He got me to perform a series of exercises and tests, and then he asked me about my working day.
And I explained that I was spending about eight or nine hours sitting down, working. And I remember he shook his head and said, that's not a healthy way to spend your day. And he recommended I started going for a walk in the afternoons or even going for a run. And at the time, a friend had just taken up running. I think he was going to use it as a way to meet some women. I was married, so that wasn't really a goal of mine, but I was interested in learning to run or at least learning how to do more than just huff and puff around the block for five or 10 minutes. So, I joined the local athletics club in Leixlip. And at first I was content to run three or four kilometers, but then before I knew it I was able to run five kilometers and then 10 kilometers. And I eventually signed up for my first marathon back in 2014.
And running actually helped me with repetitive strain injury and sciatica because I found that these pains that I was getting while I was writing actually disappeared. And I think it was either because I was building up some strength to running or simply because I had cultivated a more healthier daily routine, whereby I was mixing some focused work and some writing with exercise. These days, I run about three or four times a week, and I also balance running with some strength train