Fitness is my main thing sure, but I like to break a mental sweat too. My version of fitness involves fitness of mind as well, and I believe that one of the best ways to keep the mind sharp is to read. I read a lot and I get thirsty for it.
As a coach, it is important for me to constantly be taking in new information that I can implement into my mental framework and apply my coaching. Also, just as a person, I believe reading is invaluable. I try to go back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, but lately non-fiction has been taking over. No matter what I read, I always feel fantastic cracking open a book, getting lost in its pages, and the feeling of satisfaction upon completion. It’s like travelling to another world while sitting in a chair. It is fantastic. Unfortunately, with all the other things vying for our attention, reading is becoming a lost art or hobby.
The internet is a wealth of information like the human race has never seen before. But there is a difference between reading 12 buzz-feed articles a day and reading a real book. I mean actually reading a book is completely different than clicking through pages online with all the hyperlinks and ads to distract us. As such its far more valuable for you to read one of these books than this post... A wise teacher once said, "Don't try to collect 100 things to change, collect 1 thing that will change you 100 times over".
Deep-reading is already being looked at as archaic by some (damn millennials) because it is so easy to google the summary of any book out there. I understand that in our current world, where we need to get more done and in less time, that this may seem like the obvious choice, but there is great value in deep reading. It forces you to slow down your body and your mind, and focus (if you can) on one thing. We rarely bring our focus onto just one thing these days.
If you have trouble focusing on reading, lose the phone. The number one killer of our ability to deep-read is the smart-phone. If you seriously want to read, you gotta turn the phone off, or leave it in another room. It is so easy to reach into the pocket during a slow paragraph and break the cycle of focus with the easy stimulation available on instagram, facebook, twitter, etc.
Anyway, today I am going to share with you three books that I feel as a group or individually are extremely beneficial reads. All three of these are non-fiction and some are heavier reads than others, but all of them impacted my life in significant ways and also confirmed some of the beliefs I have been developing on my own. These three books can have an impact on your path in life, your soul, your health and longevity and finally your sanity. If you are going to read one of these, I'd read Mastery. It is what the health and fitness world needs now.
For Your Soul
Mastery by George Leonard
Meet the dabbler, the hacker, the obsessive, and finally the master. You may find yourself reflecting these different archetypes in different aspect of your life. I sure did. But I believe in my heart that the main thing fitness is missing today a love for the pursuit of mastery. Forget all this quick-fix, achievement is all that matters, immature, mind-set. There is a deeper path one can take. The path of the master which realizes the beauty in the process and the journey.
“Goals and contingencies, as I’ve said, are important. But they exist in the future and the past, beyond the pale of the sensory realm. Practise, the path of mastery, exists only in the present. You can see it, hear it, smell, it, feel it. To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in life.”- George Leonard in Mastery
For Your Sanity
The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin
We can blame the 24 hour connection to our phones, the computer, the twitter feed, instagram, Facebook e-mail, text messaging, snapchat, Netflix, constant contact with work on our phones while at home, and we could probably name 10 other things pulling away at your mental reserves each day. It is true that we are living in a privileged age in terms of the information that is available to us. It is immense, and allows us to be smarter in many ways than ever before. However, not very long ago us humans lived much much simpler lives in terms of the information and stimulation we received in our daily lives. So, it can be argued that what we are facing today is much different than anything we have evolved to handle, This is why we feel overwhelmed and scatter-brained. Can you relate to feeling like you half-know a thousand things, but fully understand very little. This book is ironically a heavy information dump, but it gives some really useful strategies on how to navigate the stresses of today’s information over-loaded world and also outlines how detrimental our current over-connectedness can be to our mental functioning. For example he cites a study which shows that the common experience of knowing about unread e-mail in your inbox can lower your IQ. Yep, that serious. I have utilized some of the suggested techniques from this book and it helped me feel less scatter-brained and improve my ability to pay attention to the "task at hand".
“Make no mistake: E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter checking constitute a neural addiction.”
“the constant nagging in your mind of undone things pulls you out of the present—tethers you to a mind-set of the future so that you’re never fully in the moment and enjoying what’s now.” - Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind
For Your Health and Longeivity
Brain Maker by Dr. David Perlmutter
This book is fascinating to read because it is on the fore-front of medical science and somewhat controversial. It even persuaded my mom to start making some changes, so that says something.
It provides a lot of useful and applicable information that can help improve your health. It focuses on the gut, and illuminates the amazing impact the gut has on your overall health and functioning. The book outlines many of the medical complications that have long been treated by costly and ineffective medications which are in fact influenced by the gut micro-biome. Conditions such as autism and depression are in fact largely treatable by improving one’s gut health, and conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis are even in the conversation. Brain Maker also goes into depth as to why the gut’s of North Americans are so unhealthy. Things such as c-section births, over-sanitation, and early anti-biotic use can greatly influence (or stunt) a persons gut-health until they take concerted effort to improve it. If you have heard of the fermented craze, this is why. It is all about the gut, but the promising thing is that you can fix it at home through diet.
The reason some of the methods in this book are controversial is because it is hard to make money off of the methods used to improve gut-health and therefore the companies that dump money into research will not be interested. Instead they will continue looking for pills which can be manufactured and sold at a gross markup with questionable effectiveness. A new treatment known as “fecal-transplant”, which is taking the focal matter from a healthy person and inserting it into the digestive tract of someone with compromised gut-health, has been shown to be amazingly effective, and is one such treatment that is hard to profit off of.
-On the lack of preventative measures in western medicine-
“Rather than expending huge resources to find the cow after the barn door has been left open, maybe we should see about keeping the barn door closed in the first place.”
“You may be surprised to find out that 80-90% of the amount of serotonin (the master happiness molecule) in your body is manufactured by the nerve cells in your gut”
-Dr. David Perlmutter in Brain Maker
Dig in and take a bit of some knowledge that is out there waiting to be absorbed. Shoot me a message if you read/read one of these books to let me know what you think or start a conversation on it.
Grit Human Performance