New Me. Who dis?
3 books for becoming your best self.
By Tessa Thomas
About 18 months ago I started a project. I set a goal for myself, as a personal trainer and athlete: I wanted to read more books, gain more insights and knowledge from the best, put it into practice, get better, be better. I began reading books that I had been meaning to get to for years, and not just passively reading them, but actively reading them, taking notes and creating mini book reports that included the key takeaways from each book. Since that time the project has morphed into Fit Knowts (fit · nōts) – an online library of health and fitness book summaries. We distill health and fitness directives into five, succinct, well-curated pages so that you can learn from the best, in less time. At the end of 2016 we announced our top three picks of the year: It Starts With Food; The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive; and Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury and Optimizing Athletic Performance.
I have been an athlete my entire life, and in that time I have experimented with many different methods of training and exercise: traditional strength and conditioning programs, yoga, running, kickboxing, traditional boxing, CrossFit, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), P90X – that’s right, all 90 days – Pilates, working with kettlebells, and most recently Gymnastic Strength Training. I was also a five-sport athlete in high school (basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field and cross country). Nutrition programs? I’ve been there too: low carb, slow carb, paleo, vegetarian, high fat, high protein, three meals a day, five meals a day; you name it, I’ve tried it.
But, with all of that said, the books listed above are the three I would recommend to anyone on a fitness journey: experienced athletes, weekend warriors, teens, Baby Boomers and everyone in between. And maybe if I’d read these books ten years ago, I’d have been able to skip half of those fitness and health experiments and gotten to where I am sooner.
These books are so good that if you knew nothing else, only the titles, your day could change. Seriously! Want to have a feel good Saturday morning? It Starts With Food. Working on a side project that’s losing momentum? Use The Champion’s Mind. Heading to the gym later? Think of Becoming a Supple Leopard – poised and ready for action. This is how these books have impacted my everyday habits and routines and here is a key takeaway from each of them.
It Starts With Food
(Set Good Food Standards for yourself.)
For authors Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the food that we eat should do the following:
- Promote a healthy psychological response
- Promote a healthy hormonal response
- Support a healthy gut
- Minimize inflammation and support immune function
Foods that support these Good Food Standards are: meat, seafood, eggs, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and healthy, natural fats (like avocados and avocado oil, coconut oil, hazelnuts, olive oil, olives and macadamia nuts). Less healthy foods include: sugar, alcohol – including wine, sorry folks – industrial seed oils and vegetable oils ( peanut, soybean, sunflower), and grains (bread, rice, cereals, pasta, corn, gluten-free grains, and quinoa). I know, the grains, I know, but trust me, it’s doable. We could go into all of the nutrition science here, but Dallas and Melissa do a phenomenal job of explaining everything in their book. The bottom line is that sugar, alcohol, industrial seed oils, vegetable oils and grains do not promote a healthy psychological response, a healthy hormonal response, a healthy gut, minimize inflammation, or support immune function. The choice is yours.
Since adopting Dallas and Melissa’s Good Food Standards I have put those standards into practice every day. Every day I think about what I am eating, which isn’t to say that I don’t indulge or venture over to the Dark Side every now and again, it also doesn’t mean that it’s easy. What it does mean is that I’m eating consciously, and there are few things that will impact your overall health and well-being more than conscious eating.
The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive
(Being a champion is a mindset.)
You don’t have to be an athlete to be a champion. You can bring a champion’s mindset to anything – athletic competition, training, work, side projects, and relationships – but first you have to be your own champion, and to be your own champion takes practice. In the words of the author Dr. Jim Afremow, “To win in all aspects of life you need to win one day at a time.” I don’t know what could be more inspiring and motivating than that. Set daily goals for yourself and strive to achieve them.
Every day I tell myself to “be a champion today” and this simple mantra is powerful. Don’t feel like going to the gym? Be a champion today. Are you behind on homework for an online course? Be a champion today. Don’t feel like washing the dishes? Be a champion today. Over time these small acts accumulate and become your successes. Champions are made, not born, what are you doing to get better today?
Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury and Optimizing Athletic Performance
(All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.)
You need to have a movement practice – yoga, Pilates, a mobility practice, gymnastics – whatever it is, you need to spend at least a few minutes a day thinking about how you are moving. Do a quick survey of your body, head to toe, is your neck stiff? Maybe you have tightness in your lower back? Or maybe you haven’t been able to lift your right arm straight overhead without pain in years. The point is that pain is a lagging indicator, meaning that often by the time we feel pain our movement dysfunction has been present for some time.
What author Dr. Kelly Starrett has created with Becoming a Supple Leopard is a diagnostic tool – a multi-functional movement and mobility system – that can help you highlight your dysfunction before something goes wrong. It can be overwhelming to find a place to start, don’t worry I was there too, but it can be done. Start today by avoiding these common adaptation errors: dehydration, poor nutrition, prolonged sitting, stress, no warm up or cool down before or after exercise and sleep deprivation.
Having full range of motion in your joints is severely underrated, limited range of motion is like driving a car with your emergency brake on. Becoming a Supple Leopard will help you take that brake off your athletic performance and everyday movement patterns.
Eighteen months ago I started reading more and finding sources of high quality health and fitness information. These books have changed my life; in the grander sense they have changed my outlook, but more importantly they have affected small, applicable change in the everyday sense, and they can for you too.