Page Turners Part 1

This Christmas break I told myself I’d work through, smash out 500-1000words per day, read 2-3 papers on top of this and still make time for my visiting family, my wife, training and walking the beagle. I’m pleased to say, I embraced the kiwi-down time (genuinely a work policy) and have spent much more time doing the latter and not the former…but I have managed to relieve a few books from my own personal reading purgatory. Whilst I’m looking forward to the new academic year, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sitting on our deck, flicking pages with a cup of Yorkshire’s finest next to me.

Peak Performance

Steve Magness & Brad Stulberg – see here

I flew through this book, it’s written in a relatively conversational style and conveys the key messages of performance ‘smoothly’. I found that in reading this, I was largely confirming my own beliefs. Sleep more, recover well and work intensively. This was the first book I read on my break and it really cemented the decision to keep the MacBook lid closed and spend time with family and beagle. I think it’s a great read for those who are becoming more serious about their coaching, training or just starting to work with athletes on any level. Nothing new or groundbreaking, just good evidence based messages, well conveyed.

Back to Back – A Season with the NAU Mens’ XC Team

Matthew Baxter – free to read here

This short read is a must for any distance athlete, coach or sports scientist I feel (particularly useful context for when students ask what constitutes ‘elite’ training/racing). Coming in at just shy of 50-pages, Baxter documents Northern Arizona University’s NCAA Cross Country title defence in an honest and personable manner. Grinding away close to 120mile weeks, documenting the trials of training up and down from altitude and juggling school work, the Kiwi lets us all in on that secret few athletes care to admit, and most joggers can’t imagine…sometimes running isn’t fun, but the reward outweighs the work. This autobiographical novella is as much an insight into the psychology and teamwork required to win a major championship as it is the training.

You can find Flotracks review here, and an interesting interview with Baxter for Runners Tribe here.

Pig Wrestling

Pete Lindsay & Mark Bawden – see here

This a quick read coming in at 126 pages, with its messages conveyed through an easily digested fable. Pig Wrestling can be likened to a global problem solving strategy or ethos, and the book articulates a series of strategies that help us tackle the most problematic of pigs…or problems. Useful in team and individual settings, I look forward to seeing this book come to fruition over the course of the next year. The ultimate message: Pigs aren’t Pets! Don’t take your problems home with you, actively avoid them!

Orthorexia

Renee McGregor – see here

Orthorexia currently sits in the category of Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified by the DSM-V, but is gaining momentum on the ground and in academic circles. Derived from the Greek ‘Orthos’ and ‘Orexia’ meaning right or correct, and of the appetite, literally right appetite or an appetite for correct foods. Orthorexics focus on an (increasingly) tightly regulated diet, with self imposed rules.

McGregor does a great job of covering the ins and outs of Orthorexia, and provides scientific support for the development and prevalence of the condition, as well as countering many of the current diet myths seen in the press with good evidence. The book concludes with recommending whom to speak to for treatment of Orthorexia and emphasises an interdisciplinary approach. This was the biggest and most pleasing take home for me as it emphasises the complex nature of the condition, and the fact that practitioners have limitations. A great reminder that if in doubt, defer to medically trained personnel and or refer to appropriate psychological support too.

Arthurs Boys

Joseph Romanos – this is a pretty rare book, but this 2012 NZ Herald article is worth a read too. The book goes through the careers and lives beyond of many of New Zealand’s great athletes. A real pleasure to read, I must thank Ben Barwick for the gift. You can check out a previous interview with Ben, by clicking here.

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How to Go Vegan

Veganuary – see here

This book is split into two parts, the why and the how of veganism. My initial impressions were that the why comes across as a bit preachy, and interestingly words that McGregor highlights in Orthorexia as possibly problematic are used to describe how adopters can expect to feel: clean, fresh etc. coupled with first hand accounts from converts to a vegan diet. But the tone changed throughout, becoming progressively thoughtful and practical.

The sections that deal with the how of becoming a vegan are particularly interesting, and apply to those who just want to put more plants on their plate as much as those willing to go the whole hog (pardon the pun!). I look forward to incorporating some of the recipes and ideas from the Meal Plans into my regular repertoire as we experiment with meat-free days 3-4days per week.

The Man who Listens to Horses

Monty Roberts – see here

I’m just about finished this book, and hadn’t realised how much I’d learnt from it until my annual review with my boss the other day. A colleague’s wife worked with Monty Roberts and now runs a training and research business based off similar education techniques. I read this book to better understand my wife’s work, but feel there are some parallels between athletes and horses, as Roberts writes it. When working with athletes (and coaches) we need to get to know them, study them, adopt their language in their habitat whilst also getting them to ‘work’ for us in our own environment (labs, information sessions etc.). With a push towards developing professional empathy in future practitioners a big part of my working life at the moment, this book provides a subtle grounding in the basics: spend time with your athletes, study them, interact with them and always ask what can we do better?

That wraps up my reading for the moment, hopefully I can keep a slightly less frenetic pace of reading going over the course of 2018. I plan to post quarterly or so on my progress, until then…Happy reading!

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