How I Build My Endurance Muscle

A PhD is probably the longest single project one individual is continuously responsible for. Thus, building your endurance muscle is important for PhD success. Three things that have helped me build my endurance muscle are:

  • Running long distances – I learnt to make and implement a plan to get better.
  • Meditation – I learnt to be comfortable with myself and my thoughts and feelings.
  • Fasting – I learnt how to be comfortable postponing gratification. I also realised how strong the connection between my feelings and eating.


Good day there, bakers, riders, and rockstars! Richard Huysmans here. Today, we’re talking about how to build your endurance muscle not your insurance muscle. I reckon that PhDs are one of the longest most continuous single projects that an individual undertake in their life. It’s longer than anything else you’ll do. For some people, it’s even longer than primary school, and high school. It’s all down to your success or failure. You’ve got to teach yourself. You’ve got to find out what you need to know. You’ve got to then implement it and make it successful all the way through from conduct through to reporting. Very few projects in the world are like that. Even as an academic as you progress through your career. You’re responsible for less and less of individual parts of the whole process. So, how can you build your resilience muscle or sorry not your resilience muscle, your endurance muscle? How can you build your endurance muscle without going through the process of having a PhD? How can you get more endurance with long-term projects without actually doing a long-term project? For me, there are 3 things that I have done that I think help do that.

The first is running. So, running long distances is an endurance sport. So, it’s up to you how long you want to make and what you think of as endurance. Endurance on Wikipedia is 3 or more kilometers. So, from my perspective that’s not that long. That takes no more than 15 minutes for me most days, most times but I’m talking about potentially going longer. I’m talking about training for an hour or so.

The next thing that I think is really useful to do that can help build your endurance muscle is to start a meditation practice. So, you might start out by meditating for 1 to 5 minutes, and then aim to get longer. Aim to go for something like an hour or so. You might start out with a guided meditation and then you might shift to doing meditations that are unguided. You can do meditation lots of different places and spaces. I like to meditate when I run. So, I kind of combine running and meditation. I don’t listen to blogs or music when I run. I don’t listen to vlogs or anything like that. I’m just running with the sounds of the environment around me. Taking in what I’m seeing. Feeling what I’m feeling. Noticing my feelings whether those be physical feelings. You know, often in my legs through emotional feelings going through my head about whether that be the toughness of the run that I’m currently on or other things that might be going on in my life. So, the 2nd thing do or start a meditation practice. The one thing that I haven’t done yet for meditation that I’m keen to do is a silent retreat. Where you essentially are silent for a few days in a row. So yeah, I’m keen to do that I haven’t done that. Would love to know anyone who’s done a silent retreat and what you thought of it.

The 3rd thing that I think you can do to help build your endurance muscle is to fast. So, I’m talking about fasting for 24 hours. You’re allowed to drink water in that time but fasting and I’ve also talked to people who fast for religious reasons, I think the lessons are still the same. It still teaches you endurance. Doesn’t mean that you have to do it differently because if you already do it for religious reasons. But what I think what fasting taught me is how my feelings are connected to eating. You know, the idea that we eat when we’re sad. We eat when we’re happy. We eat to celebrate and so kind of disconnecting those two things. But also to postpone the gratification of desire. To put off when we potentially celebrate or to put off what we want right now to a later point in time. And that is a massive thing in a PhD. You want the success now, but it has to take time, and so learning that through things like fasting through running through meditation is really important.

So, there you have it. Three things that you can do to help build your endurance muscle.

Take care.