Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top Reads & Fitness Products in 2012

These are my top fitness books and DVDs of 2012. I have limited myself to products  that were released in 2012, so even though I read books and videos in 2012 that were released in previous years I haven't included them here. These are the books and products I enjoyed most, of course, I read and viewed more than this list but I'm not going to mention the mediocre or the things I didn't think were much cop. Yes, I watched and read them all so you don't have to.

Book of the Year is .....

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

If you want to be inspired read this book. You may have no intention of running an ultramarathon and possibly even less chance of wanting to be a vegan, it doesn't matter. This is simply a good story, from cross country skiing as a teenager in the American Midwest to 100 mile ultras with the toll that level of determination can have on your personal relationships. Jurek is also quite open about how he trains and what he eats, with some useful advice. If nothing else, you will probably eat a few more vegetables when you finish reading this extraordinary journey.

Honourable mention

The Art Of Running Faster by Julian Goater & Don Melvin

Remember when Britain was the greatest middle distance running nation on Earth with Dave Bedford, Steve Ovett et al? Well, Julian Goater was there and he trained with them. If this book had just been a biography it would have been an interesting read, however, Goater and Melvin have weaved in stories of running and racing back in the day with a solid plan of how to run faster. Simply,  to run faster you must run faster. This book covers speed work, cadence, hill work, technique, injury prevention, tapering and more.

What I like most about it is all the advice is proven to work and it isn't overly complicated. There is no use of heart rate zone and complicated training formulas. This appeals to me as someone who hasn't used a heart rate monitor for years, I currently use this simple rate of perceived exertion scale:

Easy - I must not be running
Hard - I'm running
F**kin Hard - I am running uphill or on sand

You can start incorporating Goater and Melvins training tips straight away. They have also included some template training schedules.

Note: I have the kindle version of this book, and it is not easy to read all the tables and small quote boxes, I am considering getting a hard copy, as it is easier to flick back and forward between sections.

Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

One man and his attempt to train with the Kenyans and like the Kenyans. He moves his family to the almost mythical running town of Iten. In the end he finds out there are no secrets, train hard, live at altitude, eat kale, have a training group and if you can go back in time - be born in Kenya and spend the first part of your life running and walking 20 miles to school while wearing no shoes and be born into a culture obsessed with running.

You may have noticed all the books so far have been about running, 2012 wasn't a vintage year for strength training books. I read quite a few strength training books in 2012, but most were published before 2012 or aren't worth mentioning. Maybe there is no new information, and everything is a re-hash, also I probably read more strength and resistance training blogs and websites. Now I think about it I don't read any blogs about running.

Having said that, my strength training book of the year is ...

Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz & Ben Peterson

I have already reviewed this book here, so I wont rehash the review. This is the only strength book that made my list, so that should tell you something. In short, I have already used many of the concepts, ideas and exercises in the training programs I write. I haven't adopted it whole sale, as I think its too complicated and the spreadsheets of the workouts are needlessly fussy and colour coded craziness. Like many strength books it also has very limited information on strength training for endurance sports like marathon and ironman triathlon, but if you know what your are doing you can apply the principles to training programs for these sports as I have.

Psychology books

I enjoyed Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman - packed full of practical advice you can apply straight away. The writing style makes it easy to read, I flew through this book and couldn't put it down. Its based on the premise put forward by the philosopher William James of

"If you want a quality, act as if you already have it"

Wiseman cites several studies that show how this works and practical tips on how you can do this in real life. I will read this book again soon.

The other psychology book is The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. I found this harder to read, and I will have to read it again to get the full benefit. However, if this is the model used by British Cycling I'm sure it works. See the video below of Steve Peters explaining his idea of the chimp and how you can learn to tame it.


Challenging Beliefs by Tim Noakes

I have already reviewed this book at amazon.co.uk. In short, Noakes covers hydration (drink when you're thirsty), the central governor model (you get tired because your brain tells you), his current quest - the low carb, high fat diet and more. I also enjoyed his discussion of sports science, his early career and how he became involved in the field and his thoughts on coaching. The sections on Rugby and Cricket didn't interest me as much, and I skimmed through the Cricket parts. But even then the science of batting and injury in Rugby were things I didn't know and if you're are involved in these sports I imagine they are useful to know. I have the kindle edition, which is well layed out but suffers the usual problem of hard to read graphs and tables.

Special mention

Bone Games by Rob Schultheis

Okay, I'm cheating because this book was first published in 1984, but I was unaware of it until this year. This is the type of book I will read again and again. Schultheis falls off a mountain in the Rockies and has a moment of Zen like clarity, which he then attempts to recapture via various endeavours including running, climbing and mountaineering. This book contains some superb prose.

DVDs/ Videos 

Outstanding product of the year is...

Building the Complete Athlete by Vern Gambetta produced by Brendan Chaplin

This is a downloadble video of a 2 day seminar that Vern Gambetta did at Leeds Met University in the UK. I was always under the impression from various internet folk that Gambetta was an old Curmudgeon, however on this video he is dynamic and good humoured. 

I was impressed with his presentation style and the sheer amount  of coaches and teams he has spoken to and observed. He seems more open to new ideas than I expected and has a rationale for everything he does. I already had his book Athletic Development, but the videos clarified many of the exercises and drills that are in the book.

This product comes as a 16 part video download and includes all the powerpoint pdfs as well. At first I thought 16 parts would be annoying, the average length is about 25 minutes, some are shorter less than 10 minutes, one video is over 1 hour. Now I think having it broken into several parts will actually make viewing it again much easier, better than a DVD and trying to skip to various scenes. It is in more manageable chunks for repeat viewing and to find the relevant sections, and I will be watching this again to get the full benefit. It is well produced with good sound quality and video quality.

Unlike Mike Boyles Functional Strength Coach 4.0

Don't get me wrong, there is some good information in Boyles DVD but some of the audio to begin with is not great and some of the videoing is not great either. Most of the info about exercise selection and what Mike Boyle does is already out there. The most interesting parts to me were when Boyle talks about his own personal story of how he set up a business, and the practical tips about running your own facility.

Honourable mention

Animal Flow by Mike Fitch

I found out about this from Stop Chasing Pain. Another downloadable video (surely the way forward to save money and shipping costs).

The animal flow workout is fun and way harder than you think its going to be. Unfortunately I don't live in California or Florida so I wont be doing this in the park with my shirt off, but as soon as it stops raining and the temperature edges above freezing I will be outside doing it!

Bargain Product

Ross Enamait Jump Rope Conditioning for Athletes.

Over 1 hour and 50 minutes of information for less than £14 including shipping from the USA. Bargain!

Website/ Social media presence of the year goes to... 


Perry Nickelston is a social media demon, he manages to post on facebook and twitter about 1000 times a day (only a slight exaggeration). His facebook posts contain some great info (for free!) as does his website and all the various articles, blogs and videos he links to. I don't know how he does it while having a job treating clients, but thanks for taking the time.

Best idea - Movement Lectures 

Audio interviews and lectures from the likes of Craig Liebenson, Stuart McGill and more. For a few pounds download one of these and learn something while you commute or eat lunch.

And one more thing and it's free 

The book Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare written by medical doctors and lecturers. How medical research works, how some of it has failed and how it can be better. A free pdf download book. Always be questioning, but in the right way.

That's it. I'm sure I probably missed something out, but that's enough to get you started in 2013!   

 "50% of what we know is wrong, the problem is we do not know which 50% it is" - Tim Noakes
Still, keep reading and learning, half of it will be right!


No comments:

Post a Comment