First off – I love this book.
I first got it on Audible and have to admit within a few minutes I judged this guy. I wasn’t in a space ready to hear about his decade long trip around the world. I assumed he was some stuck-up posh privately educated schoolboy and just though – “oh fuck off!” and returned it.
About a year later I saw him in the Stand Up 2 Cancer programme where he took some non-swimming celebs and trained them to cross the English Channel.
He really impressed me – he looked like your typical BRO down the gym, “like do you even lift?” protein shake chugging meathead – BUT his encouragement and positivity was SO infectious I couldn’t help liking him. Now some of those celebs were a handful. And as a coach I would’ve told them to fuck off loads! But not Ross, he was patient, encouraging but firm and he really helped them.
So I had to give his book another chance!
I am so glad I did.
It’s really well-written in a kind of story about his various travels to learn more (and train for) his many crazy fitness adventures, PLUS all the science and plans added in seamlessly. And it’s funny. I particularly laughed out loud when he talked about the hilarity his “bright white scrotum” brought to the Ju-Wasi tribe in Namibia.
And it’s really useful.
He doesn’t overstate when he claims this is NOT a fitness book and it indeed DOES break the mould of your standard – do this, eat that, follow these rules and you will gain (or lose) X,Y and Z.
It is not that kind of book.
What it is - is an intriguing insight into how he managed to train for some MAD events – like the Tree-athlon (a triathlon carrying a tree weighing 45kg), or continuous rope climbs until he’d reached the height of Everest – or doing a marathon pulling a car! He goes into great detail about how he achieved these extraordinary feats, which experts and methods he recruited to help him and EVEN BETTER how WE could use these techniques to get us closer to our goals.
The best bit about this book is it is completely empowering. He talks about our individual physiology (biological individuality), how we are all different, and that blindly following one plan may not work for you – but could do wonders for your best mate. It reminds me of something I read in Matthew Syeds book Rebel Ideas; he talks about how in fighter plane cockpits, they measured a lot of pilots, took the average and then built the cockpits to fit that ‘average pilot’. Sounds logical right? However there really is no such thing as an ‘average pilot’ so basically the cockpits fit NO ONE! We can apply this to any fitness/training/diet book. You are unique, you are not average (there’s no such person really) and often the one-size-fits-all diet/fitness books really fits no one.
He looks at various different angles of fitness such as building strength, increasing speed and improving endurance. He also looks at the best ways to lose fat. But it’s not preachy, he equips you with the knowledge to build your own diet plan, to create your own fitness training regimen – to suit you. He does provide some training plans but again specifies that they are a starting point.
My favourite part is his pyramids – with each chapter is a pyramid – so let’s say you wanted to build muscle – you can look at the pyramid and see where to start (the base) and work your way up as you progress. It’s simple and easy to understand. And the information is gold – no wishy washy bull here, all science, all evidence based.
As runners which are the bits we should focus on?
Well firstly the whole of Part II is brilliant – he takes us through his 5 laws of fitness from body basics to specifying and beyond. For long distance runners Chapter 2: The Law of Progressive Overload is brilliant and clearly lays out how putting stress on your body will cause it to adapt. And how you can influence it to adapt in the ways you want it t – for example, to help you run further, or for longer. But Chapter 1: The Law of Body Basics cannot be overlooked because if you’re not getting your basics right then you have got a shaky foundation that you’re trying to build on. And even a small improvement in your foundations can produce excellent results!
Chapter 8: How to Increase Speed and Power might be of interest if you’re looking for PBs and wanting to get over that finish line quicker.
But definitely Chapter 9: How to Improve Endurance would be one I highly recommend! Definitely interesting reading about his adventures in the Lake District with the Fell Runners.
So, over the next few weeks I am going to be putting some of his suggestions to the test and I invite you to join me!
First task – Increasing Work Capacity – lets see if we can increase our work capacity, and whether this will translate into better running!
Check out his website - there's a ton of stuff on there too!