Ashamedly, I was a late bloomer when it comes to reading. Not in the sense that I couldn’t – I’m a plenty capable, albeit rather slow, reader – but somewhere along the way I picked up some absurd notion that reading was boring, a waste of time.
And I really have no explanation for it. I’ve always loved the whole process of learning. If I let myself, I could easily become fascinated and infatuated with almost any subject. As a wee lad I enjoyed story time immensely. The earliest reaches of my memory include my sister and I having Enid Blyton books read to us before bed.
I distinctly recall in grade 3 & 4 having a small obsession with the “Fudge” series by Judy Blume. Plus there were always plenty of non-fiction books I’d flick through, whether on animals, science, or any of the dozens of sporting books I accumulated.
Through high school, books were something I felt were forced upon me for book reports in English class. Yet with hindsight I’m happy to say I remember working my way through a few classics such as Elie Wiesel’s “Night”, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” (which in all honesty I felt was overrated, though I still remember acing my report on it) and Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet” (loved it!).
Regrettably, finishing high school marked the beginning of a lengthy hiatus from leisurely reading.
To think back to all the free time I had at my disposal in my early post-school days. I used to think that I was pressed for time and tired during my TAFE days. Seriously, TAFE! If only I had even an inkling of the life of a self-employed fitness professional I would soon be leading. All that spare time gone to waste.
So my advice to kids these days: read more!
Anyhoo, over the past several years I’ve made a concerted effort to read more books. Not just read more, as I do indeed read plenty of online material, eBooks, research papers and reviews, and various other miscellaneous material mostly related to fitness and nutrition. But to read actual physical books.
In fact, throughout my adult life I’ve taken on a minimalist approach to owning possessions, having moved house more times than I care to count, twice of which involved selling all my stuff and packing only what fit in my car before taking off on a road trip. Since those ordeals, I stand by the sage advice touted by Tyler Durden in Fight Club.
"The things you own, end up owning you." - Tyler Durden
The only possessions I continue to actively collect, however, are books. Yeah, yeah, I’ve got a Kindle too. And yes, it’s handy for travel and for reading eBooks that aren’t available in hardcopy. But it’s not the same. I must be old fashioned because I still like to hold an actual book. And, I like to keep them all on an increasingly impressive bookshelf. I like to pretend they’re all leather-bound, and that my apartment smells of rich mahogany, too. When in Rome…
So these days, I’m always on the lookout for interesting books. Whenever I read or hear a good book recommendation from someone whose opinion I respect, I add it straight to my Amazon Wishlist which, at the time of this writing, sits on 185 products. That could take me a while. Many of these that can be related back to fitness in any way can be found on my resources page.
With that, I’ll start to keep you guys updated with what I’m currently reading (and save you the life story intro from here on out).
So now, back to what I’m reading
Usually I’ll have a few books on the go at any given time. My main book for bedtime reading will almost exclusively be non-fiction – I just can’t get into fiction, especially when Hollywood, and HBO in particular, do such a good job of making my imaginative skills redundant – but something I consider to be a little lighter. So, not Supertraining.
I might swap between two books for this category, and it’s usually something along the lines of personal development/business, some type of autobiography, or perhaps a nutrition book, though again, not a text.
Here, I have to include the last book I finished which I absolutely loved.
The Disaster Diaries: How I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse – by Sam Sheridan.
This was one of those page-turners that kept me up at night for way too long.
Though, I do recognise this was very much my type of content, and mightn’t be everybody’s cup of tea.
I’d already read Sheridan’s previous two books – A Fighter’s Heart and The Fighter’s Mind – on mixed martial arts and combat sports in general, another passion of mine.
What’s unique about Sheridan is that his research into these books involved total immersion into the subject matter. Whether training two-a-days at the Fairtex Muay Thai camp in Thailand, rolling BJJ with the Nogueira brothers in Brazil, or meditating with the Shaolin monks in China, he ensured he had the best possible perspective from which to recount.
So when he shifted his subject matter to surviving an unforeseen post-apocalyptic world, you can be sure his research went deep.
A brief fictional narrative of Sheridan along with his wife and son working their way through the disaster ordeal serves as the backbone tying together the individual stories of real-life Sheridan learning and training for the hypothetical event. Physical strength, emergency medical treatment, marksmanship, knife fighting, stealing cars, and wilderness survival are deemed as necessary skills that are not only considered, but explored thoroughly.
For every guy or gal that trains, lifts, fights or generally consider themselves to be better-equipped than average to deal with a catastrophic event, this book is for you.
Since The Disaster Diaries, I’ve moved onto InsideOut Coaching – by Joe Ehrmann.
This is a book I first heard about when Mike Boyle was discussing it as required reading for his staff. Well, a genuinely nice gesture from my Internet buddy Danny James of Agoge Performance Training led to this book landing in my hot little hands.
I’m currently about half way through it, and it’s been a surprisingly intense read. Beginning with a little background of the author’s early life that included an emotionally and sexually abusive childhood, he became an NFL star, the glory and celebrity status both a façade and fuel for his far darker private life that was spiraling out of control. A tragic death was the catalyst for a search within that would lead Ehrmann to re-evaluate every aspect of his coaching.
In particular, his message is aimed at the overbearing, potentially abusive attitude of coaches and parents that is so prevalent in youth sports today.
As I said I’m only around half-way through, but this is clearly a book that every coach, trainer, or teacher can take something away from.
Then I’ll have a text book that I make a conscious effort to read 5-10 pages per day of, and I hold up this agreement with myself reasonably well. Obviously a text book is there to be used as a quick reference too. But I still feel better knowing that I’ve worked through them cover to cover as well.
I’m currently working through Ultimate MMA Conditioning – by Joel Jamieson.
Not technically a textbook, but it is about physiology and it uses a lot of big words so that’s how I’m going to categorise it.
Don’t let the MMA portion of the title fool you, this book is a game-changer for energy system development (ESD) and is really a must-read, and actually an easy read, for any fitness professional.
Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors Volume 1 – by Randy Roach.
I actually started reading this well over a year ago, and am not even half way through yet. I’ve chipped away in fits and spurts at various times, but its length causes me to regularly push it back on the reading pile. At nearly 600 pages and with a small print, it’s a good thing it’s highly intriguing content.
A chronological stroll through the history of physical culture from the late 19th century, its importance for fitness professionals lies in how it illustrates the cyclic nature of our field: very little is new. We merely recycle, adjust, upgrade or dilute ideas that were conjured up long before we were ever around to claim to do so.
Being that Volume 2 is already out, and Volume 3 is on the way, it is a significant time investment. But hey, if you can make it through Game of Thrones, you can get through Randy Roach’s thorough work too.
And, I’m also backed up with audiobooks from Audible.com. I’m a slave to my iPod, so whenever I’m done with my list of podcasts, I move onto one of the audiobooks I’ve purchased.
Deciding that fiction is something I probably should read more of, I thought I’d try my hand at bringing some to audio.
Snow Crash – by Neal Stephenson was my choice, as it was highly recommended by Roman.
My thoughts: Meh. I don’t think fiction is for me.
I think next in line for the iPod will involve me getting my enlightenment on with one of the Dalai Lama’s books that I bought a while ago. ‘Cause, you know, it’s the Dalai Lama.
So that’s what’s filling my head for the time being. Got any other book recommendations for me, or any books I might’ve read that you want to know about? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll have at ‘em.