Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

One-Hour Guide to Sport Nutrition

Thursday, May 21st, 2020 | Books

New book alert. If you are an athlete, coach or just someone interested in learning more about nutrition and exercise, The One-Hour Guide to Sport Nutrition will give you a fundamental and practical overview in around an hour’s reading.

We’ll cover macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and how they work. `But we’ll also look at personalising nutrition, the psychology of healthy eating, managing hydration, losing weight safely and how to fuel before, during and after exercise.

It’s available on Amazon in paperback now.

Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Books

Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance is a book by Alex Hutchinson.

It’s an interesting book for understanding the limits of human performance from both a physical and psychological point of view. Not that all questions are resolved. But there is plenty of discussion.

Below, I have picked out a few points.

Typically, you don’t run yourself to exhaustion. Your brain stops you before you reach that point. And that starts from the minute you start exercising. For example, cyclists set off slower from the start on a hot day.

But when you get in sight of the finish, you know the danger is over and you can sprint. Hence we can be hurting so much until the final straight, at which point we find that last bit of energy to push across the line.

How does this work? Is there some kind of internal regulation in the brain that we are not consciously aware of? Or is there another explanation? For example, could we be tapping into anaerobic energy?

It seems likely that the brain does have some control. For example, everyone finishes a marathon in just under 3, 4, 5 hours. Only the brain can respond to these abstract concepts. So why do so many more people finish a marathon in 3:59 than 3:47?

Similarly, how is it that the limit that climbing a mountain without oxygen turns out to be almost exactly the high of Everest? If Everest was a little smaller, or a little larger, would it turn out that the limits of climbing without oxygen were different also? It seems likely given that it was thought to be impossible until Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler did it. Then they changed the sums to show it was just possible.

Finally, a note on hydration. We often hear the idea that if you wait until you are thirsty, it is too late. But voluntary dehydration seems to be fine in the short term. Top marathon runners sweat more than 3.5 litres per hour. They replace nowhere near this much. If our performance drastically drops when we lose 2% of our body weight, how did Gebrselassie become an Olympic champion when losing 10% of his body weight? That is not to say drinking to thirst is the perfect strategy for running a marathon: but it does seem to be fine for everyday life.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Monday, April 27th, 2020 | Books

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a book by Yuval Noah Harari. It looks at the near future (the next century) and the challenges that society will have to face.

Chiefly, this revolve around info-tech and bio-tech. What will happen when the majority of jobs are automated? The workforce had power when labour was required. But, as the rich upgrade their bodies to become superhumans and machines can replace the working man, how will this restructure society?

I highly enjoyed his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

This one was thought-provoking, but not what I expected. I went in thinking there would be 21 clearly defined points that gave me something to think about. In reality, it was more of a ramble through various ideas, each spilling into the next. Interesting, but perhaps not as clear as I hoped it would be.

The Chimp Paradox

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020 | Books

The Chimp Paradox is a book by Dr Steve Peters. In it, he describes his model of the mind as two parts: the chimp, an irrational emotion-driven strong animal, and the human, the higher part of our brain that we often like to pretend is the “real us”.

It is a generalist book in that it is a useful read for anyone, not just those struggling with their own mind, but more of a popular self-help book with applications for every day relationships and problems.

I found it an interesting read, most of the time, but I don’t think I ever made it to the end.

Yoga for Athletes

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 | Books

Yoga for Athletes is a book by Ryanne Cunningham. It provides an introduction to yoga and makes some suggestions as to how athletes can use yoga. But, to be honest, it all felt pretty vague. More like a general book of yoga with a nod given to the idea that the reader may also be an athlete and that yoga could be useful for that.

The various poses are explained, but not in a manner I found completely clear. The routines may be more useful, but only make up a few pages at the back of the book.

Content Inc.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020 | Books

Content Inc. is a book by Joe Pulizzi. In it, Pulizzi makes the case that you can build a business using a content model in which you begin by providing your audience with lots of useful content, and once the audience grows you figure out what to sell them.

It is a long-term gain. Pulizzi suggests you need to do producing regular content for 12-months before you will have a sufficient audience and understanding of the marketplace to bring in the dough. But once achieve this, it should rain down.

There is a tonne of useful information here for building a content-based business and it gels with a lot of what the internet marketing industry is talking about. Definitely worth a read if you want to make money from online publishing.

Irongran

Friday, March 20th, 2020 | Books

Irongran: How Keeping Fit Taught Me that Growing Older Needn’t Mean Slowing Down is a book by Eddie Brocklesby. She started running in her 50s, took up triathlon in her 60s, and holds the record of the oldest British woman to finish an Ironman, aged 74.

In her biography, she shares her story of how she got involved in endurance sports, went on to found the charity Silverfit, an organisation dedicated to getting older people active, and the many Ironmans she has done. I lost count but I am pretty sure she has finished at least five: Lanzarote twice, Kona, Vichy and Cozumel.

It’s not a rags-to-riches story. She starts by talking about her grandmother who was Winston Churchill’s private cook. But throughout the book, she shows a high level of self-awareness about her opportunities and ability to afford what all of us in triathlon must surely admit is an expensive sport.

Some of the story seems like a sharp contrast. For example, she says she is not well organised. And yet managed to maintain a career, running Silverfit and Ironman training: all things which sound like they need a lot of organisation. Similarly, it’s not like she never got off the couch before 50 as she did play netball competitively, although it is true that she never tried endurance sport until later in life.

Overall, it is a fun and inspiring read.

Mike Reilly Finding My Voice

Monday, March 9th, 2020 | Books

Mike Reilly is a famous race announcer. It is not a field you would usually find celebrities. However, Reilly’s consistent appearances at the Ironman World Championship since 1989, and his having coined the phrase “you are an Ironman” as athletes cross the finish line, mean that many triathletes dream of having Reilly call them across the line. In this book, he tells tales from year decades of race announcing.

It’s a fun book. Sort of. I mean that in an “it’s a good collection of stories” way, as opposed to a book you are going to learn anything about triathlon from. Which is fine, because it doesn’t promise to be anything else.

That said, it is not as fun as it could be. Naturally, Reilly tells inspirational stories about amputees who have completed Kona, horrific accidents people have come back from, and the adversity so many people overcome to complete the greeted one-day sporting challenge there is.

But, to be honest, there is only so many tales of horrible things happening to people, like accidents, cancer, and myriad unlucky turns that, at times, the book becomes depressing.

Reilly’s passion for announcing shines through, though. He is a fellow Toastmaster, and while other people wonder how he can stay passionate for 17 hours of racing, I had no problem understanding how he becomes more energised and more excited the longer the night goes on.

The audiobook version is read by Reilly himself.

Copenhagen

Monday, October 28th, 2019 | Books, Food

Copenhagen Food is a cookbook by Trine Hahnemann. This book looks beautiful and demonstrates a lot of plain but tasty Nordic cuisine. But that said, I have only made a couple of recipes from it, even though I went through and indexed all of the ones I wanted to try.

Prawns will and homemade mayo is the only recipe I regularly use, which is like twice a year. The only modification to the mayo I have made is to add a little bit of lemon.

Since then, it has languished on my sideboard waiting for a review, which I have not written because I did not really know what to say. So, this is me saying very little.

In fairness, it is titled Copenhagen Food: Stories, traditions and recipes, so the sparsity of recipes is clear from the title.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 | Books

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a non-fiction book by Yuval Noah Harari.

It is the most interesting book I have read in a long time. I was ignorant of a lot of early human history. For example, I thought that homo erectus was an earlier stage of human evolution, rather than a different species of humans that sapiens killed off (or possibly interbred with).

Much of it I kind of had an idea about but it was fascinating to see it all laid out. Humans used to be in the middle of the food chain. But, 100,00 years ago, we began to hunt large game. Around 30,000-70,000 is what Harari calls the cognitive revolution. Language developed in humans alone, despite other species (parrots, whales, elephants) being able to make a large variety of sounds, too.

15,000 years ago we domesticated dogs, which is the only real evidence you need in the dogs vs cats debate. Dogs are our friends.

Whether sapiens went, we caused destruction. Australia and North America had a large variety of large mammals, for example. We killed and ate them all. This wasn’t modern man: this was the first peoples of these continents. In comparison, horses, which are often seen as an integral part of Native American life, were only introduced to America by European settlers.

The next milestone was the agricultural revolution. This wasn’t the first time we saw permanent settlements: fishing villages existed before this. But the change to agriculture meant an end of the hunter-gatherer way of life. It wasn’t a happy one: gathering is easy and produces a rich diet. Agriculture produces a poor monotonous diet and increases our workload from 30 hours per week to 40+. But it also supports more people and so the trap quickly closed shut.

Harari argues that much of culture is arbitrary: why did one religion win out, or one group of people come to dominate another? Luck, mostly. The only thing that seems to recur independently is patriarchy. We don’t know why this, but many of the reasons you may think of are deconstructed and thrown out in the book.

The author also argues that almost everything is a religion. Religions, of course, but also Humanism, and Communism, and Capitalism.

The third milestone was the scientific revolution. Although technology occasionally improved in the ancient and classical worlds, it was mostly by luck. The Romans did not have amazing technology: they were just better organised. It was only in the 16th century that the idea of experimentation and improving things just to see what was possible sprung up in Western Europe. For the first time, we started drawing maps with blank spaces in. Until then, it was assumed we already knew everything.

Until this point, Western Europe was entirely unimportant. The Middle East had been the centre of civilization for thousands of years and the economic powerhouses of the world were China and India. But embracing science and technology gave the West a huge leg up. In just a few hundred years, Western Europe came to dominate the world, and to become much richer than Asia.

Harari then turns his attention to capitalism, describing the way that states and markets have replaced families and communities. Arguably, capitalism has caused more depths than any other ideology: National Socialism and Communism killed people on purpose. But capitalism, with the slave trade, Bengal famine, etc, has killed far, far more people due to cold indifference.

All in all, this is a fascinating read. Drop what you are doing and go read it now.