Bookshelf

Bookshelf

On this page you will find an ever increasing list of books and publications on what I have found to be a great places to further educate yourself when it comes to becoming a better person and consequently a substantially changed in a positive way (endurance) athlete. I am repeating myself, however, taking charge of your training and your body is one of the first and fundamentally important steps towards a lifetime journey of self advancement and development. Since education even for myself is an ongoing process, keep returning to the list for new additions.  I have tried to split the books in general categories, though don’t put any restrictions on yourself, everything is interrelated, be it physiology, motivation, etc., it really is. Any book you pick is a good place to start. In a lot of cases, the writings are the culmination of many years and even decades of the author’s experience/research therefore understanding it all from the first read sometimes might be a big task; it’s a continuous process and I myself constantly come back and reread books to find new concepts and ideas, that my mind was simply not yet ready to fully grasp the first time I read the books. As a final tip, this is NOT school and there are no deadlines or exams, so I suggest that you read for fun and as long as you come with a new idea, yes even one or two from any of the books here, you will be taking a a step in the right direction and you can always come back or read in parts. Enjoy.=) A more visual Bookshelf is available here.

Notable and Recent

Some of the most notable works as well as my recent inspirational finds that had equally impressed me, reside in this section. As good place to start as any.

The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing – Dr. Philip Maffetone

The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing
What is endurance? It is the most fundamental human feature. Dr. Maffetone answers the question to the barebones by leaving no stone unturned. From physiology, nutrition, anatomy and going to mental aspects, it’s all inside consistently asking why? What I really like about the style is that it is very straightforward approach and from the introduction the goal is to make you – the reader take charge of becoming a better, healthier athlete. Brilliant is not strong enough word to describe this book. The most famous athlete coached by Dr. Maffetome is six, yes SIX time Ironman Hawaii winner Mark Allen. This is the method I have been using for my own cycling training starting September 2015. My extremely positive experiences can be found under the Me and MAF tagged articles.

Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Conversely to popular wisdom and product marketing, we are born to run with bare feet. Every bit of our anatomy and physiology points towards that fact. A fascinating story intertwining the science behind the extremely efficient running human body, the historical details like the sub 4 minute mile, Abebe Bikila’s barefoot Olympic gold marathon, the rise and charm of ultra marathon running as well the account of the search for the only outsider that has managed to earn the trust of the mythical runners of the Tarahamura tribe, one of the few who run because they like it – no gadgets, no gimmicks, just run…for the sake of it.  With final words to live by: “Running isn’t about making people buy stuff. Running should be free, man.”

The Consuming Instinct – Gad Saad

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature
“All human behavior owes its existence to psychological mechanisms in conjunction with environmental inputs to those mechanisms. Psychological mechanisms, at some fundamental level, owe their existence to evolution by natural and sexual selection… Whether we crave a juicy hamburger, dream of owning a red Ferrari, enjoy a pornographic movie, or rejoice at the pleasure of offering gifts to our family members and friends, our consuming instinct is always guided by our ever-present biological heritage.”

Marketing, religion, literature and pretty much everything else is an extension of our consuming instinct. Why is that important and why should you be concerned? Everything we do is governed by mechanisms evolved, long before modern civilisation.  While, some differences exist among cultures, fundamentally we all follow the same patterns of consuming goods and services, relationships, etc. As something so fundamental as literally every act or decision we make, it is essential to be consciously aware of why things are happening and that includes avoid, being be duped by quackery and advertising.

Natural Born Heroes – Christopher McDougall

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance
“When it comes to raw weaponry, we’re the biggest wimps in the wild. Humans don’t have fangs or claws or horns or venom. We’re not strong, we’re not fast, we can’t see at night or crush with our jaws. Luckily, we’re really wobbly—and that’s what makes us deadly.”

Even given the above facts we, the human race have survived and almost without a doubt came up as top species, because in our bodies we possess unique abilities. Though it takes more than just that to make a hero. A fascinating narrative exploring the amazing abilities laying dormant into each of us, intertwined with the story of the motley bunch who during World War II, managed to kidnap a German general under the noses of highly trained elite troops and most importantly they were the ragged group of people that lived to tell the story.

The Kettlebell – Simple and Sinister and Power to the People  – Pavel Tsatsouline

Kettlebell Simple & Sinister
Power to the People! : Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American
The invention of the gym and bodybuilding was probably one of the WORST things that happened to strength training – announcing the age of all show and no go muscles. There I said it. Strength training is a simple endeavour. Couple of simple exercises, lift heavy, five reps and not to fatigue/failure. That is it! If you don’t believe me take it from the person who was in charge of the strength training of the (former Soviet) Special forces (Spetznaz) – Pavel Tsatsouline. He is also the single individual largely responsible for introducing the kettlebell to the West. Absolutely no BS approach to building strength with two, yes TWO simple and extremely effective excercises that EVERYBODY can do.  No gym or fancy equipment required. If there is an approach to taking chanrge of your training, the works fo Pavel Tsatsouline are the prime examples out there.

Surely You’re Joking Mr.Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character – Richard P. Feynman

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)
Bongo player, safe cracker, Manhattan project scientist and a Nobel Prize winning physicist, among many others – all are the same person – Richard Feynman.  A collection of stories of the life of a curious character that are much more than an autobiography. There are many aspects of Richard Feynman’s personality that we can all aspire to such as his immense pleasure in findings things out, absolute disprespect towards authority, whether that meant challenging accepted dogmans, pompous personal titles or irrational decisions by his superiors as well as many funny situations that many of us have been or for sure will find ourselves in some point during our lives.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future – Daniel H. Pink

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
This book opened my mind (quite literally) to probably more than 50% of ideas and concepts I was completely not aware of and made me dig deeper into the subject with zeal and passion that I wish I had during my university student days. What am I talking about? The right (hemispehere of our) brain. What is so special about it? Our brain is composed of two identical hemispheres, the left hemisphere is particularly good at recognizing serial events – A-B-C, etc, and events such as reading and writing as well as language – it can express itself – it is the thousand words. The right hemisphere is adept at analyzing events simultaneously and as such it sees the ‘bigger picture.’ Unfortunately due to language residing in its neighbour, it is the silent part that is what is behind many of the things we feel and perform daily, yet we cannot describe in words.  In very barebone simple terms, the left brain sees the trees, while the right brain sees the forest. Why is that important? We currently live and progress towards a 100% left brain dominating society; from the extremely broken and archaic educational system that stomps all creativity and going towards the idea of compartmentalising every part of our lives, we affirm the left brain dominance.  “If I go to a good school and study hard this subject and get good grades I will get a good job.” While imperfect, I am sure most of you know that this example is simply not true, because it is much more complex, dare i say hollistic, than that. Without putting ideas in your head, to be successful in ANYTHING you need to  be able to understand every aspect of your chosen subject and logical sequences are rarely present, call it creative ability (ie Xerox had a concept of the computer mouse, though it was Apple that stole the techology and saw the potential for everybody). If nothing else left brain tasks are easily automated and as such computer /robotics would largely take over just like machines led us into the Industrial Revolution.  All jobs requiring mostly left brain sequence of events would eventually disappear, the right brain people would rule the future. The left/right brain is an immense topic that continues to fascinate me (expect much more articles from me about it), it spans areas such as Siegmund Freud and the unconsciousness, Roger Sperry’s 1981 Nobel Prize on his discoveries on the functional specializsations of the brain and data of split brain patients as well as visualisation, handedness (right handed, etc). Therefore it is no easy feat to point you towards a single source, though this book is the best entry into this world. Afterwards it is all about being more right brain oriented.=)

You Must Relax – Edmund Jacobson

You Must Relax: A Practical Method of Reducing the Strains of Modern Living

“An attempt to relax is a failure to relax.”

At this day and age we know the price of everything, yet we are compeltely unaware of the vast WASTING of the most valuable resource available to us – our own energy. We run to meet deadlines and live on edge and tension has become a normal occurence. From every corner we are advised to relax, yet nobody know what it means and most, if not all sources ignore the fact than an effort to relax is a failure to relax. This is among the main reasons why you (and largely myself before reading this book) have trouble falling asleep and toss and turn in bed. While the answer is simple – relaxation is the absolute absence of tension. A very easily read and understood medical/physiological background as well as a set of exercises aimed at progressive relaxation – learning to recognize tension and how to release it. I do have to say that Dr. Jacobson advises daily practice which might be unfeasible for a good number of us, though gaining awareness of tension and starting with the initial simple exercises had amazing effect on me.

Training and Racing

As the name suggests in this category you will find books concerning training and racing (for endurance sports). Although some might not be cycling specific, bicycle riding/racing is still and endurance sport and therefore has a good amount of overlap with other disciplines such as running, triathlon etc.

Advances in Functional Training – Michael Boyle

Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes
Athletes or not we are human first and mother nature created our bodies with each muscle and joint to perform a specific function. If you look at a toddler, they have perfect freedom of motion. Through one reason or another, we lose our functionality and get muscle imbalances and ultimately painful injuries. The human body is amazing at compensating, however, in the end something has to give. If nothing else the simple exercises in this book are on track of fixing my low back pain by eliminating trigger points in my gluteals and loosening my hip flexors. All in all an absolutely brilliant book, however, the entire first quarter talks about the Functional Method Screen (see next book). Once you wrap your brain around it, it is quite a valuable read. Highly recommended in parallel with….

Athletic Body in Balance- Gray Cook

Athletic Body in Balance
Gray Cook’s book considers the human body as human first and goes into the fundamentals of what makes training personalised for the athlete. And by bare basics I mean – how the human body functions and moves since you can’t be a good athlete for long if you are not a fully functional human first Something that I whole-heartedly agree is that 95%+ of exercise training programs are a mixture of fact, fiction, biased opinions, advertising, media hype, and personal anecdotes. As a result the first step towards swimming out of the sea of misinformation is to understand the essence of how to be a functional human. Highly informative read, which you would keep coming back.

Periodization Training for Sports – Tudor Bompa

Periodization Training for Sports-3rd Edition
I included this book after the ones concerning functional training because endurance sports and weight/power training are a very very misunderstood realm highly influenced by body building and marketing fads. You need some functional training background to make sense of the ideas of Tudor Bompa. He is the person who coined the whole idea of periodisation for sports – varying the load throughout the training year, rather than training hard all the time.  His work and ideas are a result of the Soviet and Eastern Bloc training methodologies of the past that created some of the greatest (albeit extremely pharmacologically enhanced) performances in sports such as rowing, track and field, and most notably weight lifting. The book covers the fundamentals of muscle function and load+recovery, how to build strength and convert it to explosiveness/power. In addition Tudor Bompa provides a good explanation on why certain strength exercises have no place in certain sports, although ‘cookbook’ approaches seem to be the norm currently. Overall, great template on understanding strength and power training. However, thread carefully since endurance sports are not the main focus.

The Human Body

Understanding the workings of the human body are essential for becoming more functional in your daily activities and minimising the chance of injuries. Just like you maintain you car, bike, house, etc. you should be doing the same with your body to make sure it is ready to function at its best. When it comes to cycling, the bicycle is a symmetrical device and we are notoriously asymmetric, therefore, in the works of Steve Hogg: it creates a very unique challenges to our functionality.

Becoming a Supple Leopard – Dr. Kelly Starrett

Becoming a Supple Leopard 2nd Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
This is among the books going into the fundamentals of movement in a very practical and understandable way. It covers how movement impairment, injuries ultimately happen when we lose that muscle control and suppleness. Furthermore it covers why we lose it and how to go about it as well as how to test for (lack of) range of motion in very simple evaluations. No body area is omitted and there are multiple exercises that you can perform, depending on available ‘equipment’ either at home or at the gym. High quality color pictures demonstrating each exercise in detail as well as couple of sample programs are part of the book. From personal experience it has helped with further understanding how to address any niggles that appear as well as showing that I did have a lot of areas in my body that lacked ‘range of motion,’ and were for sure hindering my day to day activities as well as cycling, even though I am a very flexible individual.

Stability, Sport and Performance Movement – Joanne Elphinston

Stability, Sport and Performance Movement: Practical Biomechanics and Systematic Training for Movement Efficacy and Injury Prevention
“Champions are not people who make difficult things look difficult. They are people who make difficult things look easy.” We are all humans first. Though it might seem like stating the obvious, it all starts with the human machine/body. It can perform complex movements in multiple planes of motion, making various sporting activities possible. Unfortunately this amount of freedom can provide the possibility for unwanted/unnecessary motions that require additional tension and energy as well as creating problems of controlling the technique when fatigue sets in and/or speed, agility demands and even daily stress increase. Joanne Elphinston goes on to explore what makes us move efficiently and functionally – what is the anatomy behind it and how it plays out in daily activities and during athletic performance. The book includes both ways to evaluate how functionally you can perform basic movements as well as programs to improve any dysfunctionalities. Highly recommended read for anybody, not just athletes.

Health and Nutrition

The food we eat is an integral and pivotal part of being healthy and in tune with our bodies which in turn is the key to high performance. At the same time, the wide reaching concept of nutrition has been the most controversial aspect of human life and has given rise to many quacks and witch doctors. While this section has the highest risk to become a bland ‘cookbook’ of what to eat, rather than why, my goal is to direct you to some of the cardinal work that shows how to distinguish the good and the bad information that is constantly raining from advertising and even from the health authorities.

Big Fat Lies – David Gillespie

Big Fat Lies: How The Diet Industry Is Making You Sick, Fat & Poor
The full title is actually Big Fat Lies: How the Diet Industry is Making You Fat Sick and Poor. I could just leave the description here since the English language cannot provide a better description. Extremely easy to read and understand style that makes matters like metabolism and HDL and LDL cholesterol very easy to digest (pun intended). David Gillespie is not a nutritionist, but a lawyer wanting to find out the truth. At the time of this review, the global food industry has become a multi billion monster with eyes on profit rather than human health. An eye opener of a read.

Good Calories, Bad Calories – Gary Taubes

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health
An absolutely fascinating read going back to the beginning how the ‘health’ claims that saturated fats and cholesterol in our diets are detrimental and how the recommendations to eat a diet rich in bread, cereals, grains and pasta is making us fat. Great storytelling intertwined with all the historical and scientific details and events that lead to the hypothesis of what is making the world population fat. An absolute must read.

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living – Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek.

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable
To this date the most comprehensive book leaving no stone unturned when it comes to describing how fats played a major role in the survival of us as a species throughout the years and as such how the human metabolism is uniquely adapted to thrive on ‘clean burning fuel’ – ketone bodies created from fatty acids. No wonder if such a metabolic state is beneficial for survival is also extremely BENEFICIAL for high athletic performance. In addition for the athlete crowd out there there is an abridged version title The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.

Pure White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It – John Yudkin

Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It
The year is 1972, yes 1972, and John Yudkin had published his paramount expose on sugar. Sugar is everywhere, even in the most unexpected sources and is making us sick. Ignored by the media and the food industry, John Yudkin is a clairvoyant whose work is even more relevant as obesity, diabetes rates are skyrocketing worldwide. Brought back from the oblivion by another man on a mission – Dr. Robert Lustig (see below).

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease – Dr. Robert Lustig

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

If we let things go the same way by the year 2030 more than half of the world population would be either obese and/or ridden with metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, hypertension and many more. Healthcare systems would be broke and you are led to believe it is all YOUR fault. A child endocrinlogist Dr. Robert Lustig sees first hand all the effects that John Yudkin (see above) warned us decades ago. The book tells a captivating story that has it all – politics, intrigue, lies, murder as he guides us why is sugar is making the world fat and sick and what you can do about it to change it.

Wheat Belly – Dr. William Davis

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
Gluten is only part of the story. (Whole) Grains are the other, much much bigger part, and among the main culprits that are making the world population obese, fat and sick. This book is an absolutely fascinating read, covering the history, politics, good intentions, genetic modifications that had made the innocent grain a modern  present in every supermarket aisle bar for the soap and personal care sections. This is NOT ‘yet another “gluten free” book.’ A great eye opener on how ‘our daily bread’ is wrecking havoc to our bodies day in and day out.

Random

Sometimes the explanation for a long contemplated problem or a source of inspiration can be found in the most peculiar of places. In this section you will find books that gave me a fresh perspective, a wow moment, a good laugh and some serious food for thought.

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks – Ben Goldacre

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
Miracle cures, wonder drugs, and amazing results, from your garden variety TV ad to the big pharma, in a cheerfully humorous manner, Ben Goldacre explains how bad or sometimes fudged information data is crowding the information space and keeping you misinformed and even misled. Most importantly he goes on to describe what makes good science and how to critically look for it. The book is a must read, I had a couple if good laughs as well as some serious thoughts about how we are being lied to by self-proclaimed nutritionists and even something highly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry (where I worked for a good number of years albeit at the final product side…).

Fiction and Non-fiction

Fiction and literature can certainly serve as a pleasant distraction and a great way to enrich your culture and stimulate your brain. However, you should always keep an eye out and being able to distinguish fact from fiction, because if you repeat a lie long enough it becomes widely accepted, with cycling particularly being filled with a lot such claims.

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day – Phil Gaimon

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro
What it takes to be a PRO cyclist? the biggest problem when you think pro cycling is that the most televised/advertised one is the highest echelon of the sport – the ProTour and the Tour de France. Those are so to say the tip of the iceberg with most of PRO cycling barely getting a mention and yet it’s there is where a lot of the aces we know started. That’s where it gets interesting since money/equipment is short and the list of unique (and unpleasant/dishonest) characters you would meet is long. Phil Gaimon goes on to describe how it works from an aspiring athlete to the coveted euro PRO. I for one know quite similar type characters described so it was an entertaining read. One thing though is that since Phil had an small online business featured on a high-traffic website so the $10 per day title is a bit of an exaggeration, besides that an entertaining read overall.

Myths and Legends

One thing you have noticed that while this is a predominantly cycling oriented site, I am very not geneorus when it comes to cycling books. Not from a lack of interest or perusal on my part, If you pick any of my recommendations from each sections you will see why. Unfortunately most of the books available at the time of this post miss the mark quite a bit and hence I can only qualify them as myths and legends. That being said they are not entirely without value so here are some of the more popular cycling literature out there.

The Cyclist’s Training Bible – Joe Friel

The Cyclist's Training Bible
Before reaching for this book, I point you towards a Tudor Bompa’s Periodization Training for Sports I recommended in the sections above. As I mentioned, be extremely cautious when you try to make parallels between sprint/power/explosive type of sports (ie basketball, javelin throwing, shotput, weight lifting) and endurance ones (ie cycling). This is the most common problem since a lot of trainers have little idea on the needs of endurance athletes and just try to bang a square peg into the round holes they know. Joe Friel’s book is basically Bompa’s book modified for cycling and that is evident by looking at the reference list and dedication (by Tudor Bompa himself). Same periodisation methods, etc. In addition the book leans towards that you are a cyclist first and human second so it only skims functional and body balance aspects. In addition it promotes the high carbohydrate diet as the preferred nutrition. The book does emphasise the needs for recovery and paying attention to worrying signals from your body as well as improving your cycling weaknesses,however, there are much better sources about that (The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racingis one). If nothing else it does have a quite robust list of specific workouts. I am aware that Friel’s methods ‘have worked for a lot,’ however, when you are just getting into cycling pretty much anything within reason will work…for some time before plateau/injury/overtraining/give up the sport. My personal experience with his methods is not very positive, as much as I liked to think that riding myself into the ground with 3 hard sessions in the Build 2 phase, was cool, looking back it was most probably counter productive.

Training and Racing with a Powermeter – Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan

Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Ed.
If anything the single most important take home point of this book is that successful bicycle racers pedal only 85% of the time in races. The second one is that you have to match your available terrain (where you live) to the types of training you will be doing and can’t just take a workout a just follow it. The rest is basically some physiology and two things: you have a powermeter and what kind of (sadistic/tough) workout intervals workout can you come up with. I don’t discard the book since powermeters are the single most significant improvement in training for cycling in the last 10-20 years, however, what they tell you should be always tied back to the human using them and that includes everything (diet, stress, recovery, functionality, injuries etc.) , watts are just the ‘final output of the whole system.’ I was in the hardcore training by power camp for 4 seasons until I wasn’t getting anywhere and I delved deeper and decided it was time to go back to the basics. I still use my powermeter though much differently than it is popularly advertised. Bookmark this link and follow me on Facebook/Twitter to stay up to date on the latest updates. I welcome comments, however, before asking a questions please visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

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