In this post, I’d like to share with you a few of the books that have really impacted me as an athlete and coach over the years. Add one or all of these to your collection – you’ll be happy you did. Enjoy!
Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl
The year was 1989. My childhood friend (now a professor of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor) and I were 14 years old and decided we wanted to get bigger. We headed to the library (because that’s what you did before the Internet) and discovered Getting Stronger, a masterpiece of a book by 4-time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl and a mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was the perfect book at the perfect time for us. We needed a clear, step-by-step guide on what to do and Getting Stronger certainly delivered. In it there are over 100 sport-specific programs and 350+ illustrated weight-training exercises. Although this book has been in print for over 30 years it is just as relevant now as it was then.
The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin
Charles Poliquin is a legend in the world of athletics and strength training. He’s coached numerous Olympic gold medalists and too many professional athletes to list. The Poliquin Principles was the first book he wrote almost 20 years ago and completely changed the way I looked at training. Before Charles I had no idea about the importance of tracking rest intervals, rep tempo and time-under-tension. Charles also opened my eyes on how to properly design training programs for long-term success. Any athlete looking to understand the core training philosophy of one of the world’s most influential strength coaches should read this book.
The Way of the Fight by Georges St. Pierre
Part autobiography, part how-to guide on what it takes to be a champion, this book is about one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever live – Georges St. Pierre. Filled with personal stories from his inner circle of family and coaches, The Way of the Fight traces back to Georges’ humble beginnings and outlines his path to UFC stardom. My favourite quote in the book comes from John Danaher, Georges’ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teacher:
“Many people have a good idea of what they want to do in their lives, but they lack the discipline and the patience to work their way there. What anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re interested in martial arts, can take away from the story of GSP is power of the marriage of vision with discipline. The combination of those two can yield tremendous results. The secret is routine.”
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett
This one is a game changer. Before Kelly Starrett (aka K-Star) wrote this New York Times bestseller, there were plenty of books on flexibility, some on mobility and fewer still on body maintenance. With Becoming a Supple Leopard, K-Star has revolutionized the way athletes think about movement and has taught thousands (from CrossFitters to Olympians to world record holders) how to take care of minor aches and injuries themselves. After reading through this manual and applying the key principles, you will learn how to move better and manage pain, ultimately improving your performance and raising your game.
The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler
One of the problems of mainstream sports media is that it focuses way too much on the so called major sports – football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey. Unbeknownst to most of us, there are legions of extreme athletes who are pushing the limits of human performance and stretching the boundaries of what we think is possible. In The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler deconstructs the superhuman feats these athletes (some as young as 15 years old) are doing on a daily basis and analyzes the mindset (known as the flow state) used to achieve peak performance. We’re talking about athletes like surfing icon Laird Hamilton who has conquered some of the tallest waves known to mankind (and lived to tell about it). Or Jimmy Chin, who has climbed and skied Mount Everest from the summit! And Danny Way, who was the first and only person to launch a skateboard over the Great Wall of China! These extreme action sports stars are among the most creative, resilient and adaptable people you will ever meet, qualities that I think are essential for success at life. Add this to your list of must-read books for the year – you won’t be disappointed.
The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford
This will be a book I gift to several of my athletes for many reasons. The story of George Mumford is so compelling it’s a wonder that it hasn’t been made into a Hollywood movie. George lived a childhood filled with abuse and poverty in Dorchester Massachusetts. He discovered basketball at an early age and would go on to star in high school and later at the University of Massachusetts with NBA legend Julius Erving (aka Dr. J). Unfortunately, numerous injuries and the pressure of inner city life led George down a dark path where he discovered heroin and developed an uncontrollable addiction.
After losing everything and hitting rock bottom, George became clean and soon discovered the power of meditation. He would go on to teach meditation and mindfulness to over five thousand inmates at some of the toughest jails and correctional facilities in the United States. Mumford’s success as a mindfulness teacher eventually connected him with Phil Jackson (arguably the world’s greatest basketball coach), who was going through a crisis with the Chicago Bulls at the time. Mumford would go on to become the mindfulness teacher to the Chicago Bulls (who would go on to win another 3 NBA titles in a row) and the Los Angeles Lakers. Basketball god Michael Jordan credits Mumford with transforming his leadership on and off the court.
In The Mindful Athlete, Mumford outlines his techniques for becoming present, entering the flow state, focusing on what really matters, managing emotions, dealing with adversity, and thriving within the chaos of life. Read this book multiple times. It could change your life!
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