League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru is such a great book that you don’t have to be an avid football fan to appreciate it. I was blown away by the information provided on topics ranging from the first case of brain damage to be associated with playing football and the NFL’s denial of the facts. I was impressed and worried by the gritty stories of the men who played the game both knowingly and unknowingly, in spite of broken bones, bulging discs, and even multiple concussions that could occur during the same game. One minute you’re shaking your head in disbelief and the next you are almost in tears as you learn how severely these men suffer later in life. Some end their own lives but don’t shoot themselves in the head so their brains can be studied. As of 2012, there have been over 50 cases of death related to brain damage caused by playing football. I was saddened by this fact, but not overly surprised. I was surprised by how much effort the NFL put into covering it up.
If “God is in the details” is a way of expressing that details are important to any task one accomplishes, then Pavel Tsatsouline is God and his book, KB Simple and Sinister is the Bible. Inside this “Bible,” Pavel teaches you how to perform two of the kettlebells most popular and most empowering moves, “Get Up” and “Swing.” He also spends time discussing the correct number of sets and reps to do and the amount of weight to use for each exercise, as well as the reasons why these factors matter. The “why’s” are the real eye-openers for me because they reveal tips about strength that you will rarely hear in Western gyms, but will undoubtedly make any man or woman stronger faster. “Kettlebells are like weightlifting times ten,” said Dennis Koslowski, former Olympic Silver Medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling. “If I could’ve met Pavel in the early 80’s, I might have won two gold medals.”
Have you ever noticed that you talk to yourself when you practice or play most sports? Mostly on the inside, but sometimes externally as well. As I look back on the tens of thousands of hours I spent playing my favorite sport of basketball, I can clearly recall having a conversation with myself constantly in games and in practice. Unbeknownst to me, however, was that if this conversation had been one free of judgement, swearing, and other negative self-talk it would have strengthened my game. However, the conversations I was having with myself were anything but. “You can’t miss this shot.” “Why haven’t you scored more points? “You suck.” “Don’t embarrass yourself.” I was totally oblivious to the fact that this type of dialogue was undermining my progress until I read The Inner Game of Tennis by coach and author, W. Timothy Gallwey. One of the five best books I read in 2015, I was totally blown away by Gallwey’s ability to use tennis as a medium and put this behavior into context. He calls this phenomenon Self 1 and Self 2. The teller and the doer and it is the crux of this 134-page book that I love so much.
Mixing his personal experience as a sports psychologist with lessons from Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War, and Tao Wisdom, Jerry Lynch has written a thoughtful book on the mental side of sports, The Way of the Champion. Not just any old sports psychologist, Dr. Lynch has worked with over 33 Division I men’s and women’s national champions in tennis, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and volleyball. He has also worked with a wide range of pro athletes in the NBA, NFL, and PGA. This is not surprising at all when you consider Lynch’s approach to the game. Similar to the Art of War, winning is broken down into four categories, self-awareness, strategic positioning, competitive advantage and leadership with team unity. Each of those categories is then divided into three bite-sized chunks of timeless information, guaranteed to help athletes and coaches alike.
Written in 1925, The Game of Life and How to Play by Florence Scovel Shinn, is an old school book that urges us to speak to ourselves positively and to expect our heart’s desires to be fulfilled. Using several Biblical references such as “death and life are in the power of the tongue,” Florence Shovel Shinn makes sure we understand that what we say to ourselves and to others has a way of manifesting in our lives. If you are going to speak, speak only positive words and you can literally will the things you want into your life. Hocus pocus to many, but I am a firm believer in willing things into existence so the message is one of hope for me. One of power. Others may feel a little more skeptical and I totally understand.
As a personal trainer/coach, much of my work deals with helping people look better, feel better and move better. Lunges, squats, deadlifts, pushups, and pull-ups all involve various muscles of the body working together to resist force. However, our muscular system is not the only system responsible for resisting force, our skeletal and nervous system also resist force. Together, the three make up the kinetic chain. Understanding this, I decided it was time for me to learn more about the nervous system so that I could help myself and others move better. My curiosity led me to enroll in Z-Health, located in Tempe Arizona and run by Dr. Eric Cobb, who specializes in brain-based training. Cobb recommended reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle as a prerequisite to his courses, and so here I am today writing about this book.
I love Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive because it provided me with some solid reasoning as to why my career change from corporate sales to Personal Trainer has changed my life. At the forefront is what psychologist Harry F. Harlow of the University of Wisconsin described as “intrinsic motivators.” Intrinsic motivators are the things we do because of the satisfaction we feel on the inside and have nothing to do with rewards. In 1949, in one of the first laboratories to ever study primates, Harlow created a puzzle that he put in front of 8 monkeys and without any assistance, they each solved the puzzle within 14 days. No rewards whatsoever for solving them.