A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone

These days I’m going to bed earlier and earlier. And as there’s nothing I like better than a good book, I’ve combined bed and books to create a ‘Horizontal Inspiration Zone’ (HIZ) 😉 . Between 9 and 10 most nights you’ll find me tucked up with a book that’s pertinent to my adventures, the kind of book that might help psychologically or practically with what lies ahead. (By the way, sometimes I don’t even realise the book is pertinent until I start reading 🙂 ).

Usually I read a lot of fiction, but at the moment I’m all over the non-fiction, creative non-fiction and memoirs. Here are a couple of stand-out books from recent visits to the HIZ:

Twelve Minutes of Love: a Tango Story This is a memoir written by a woman who discovered the ‘truth’ of herself through dance. You don’t have to be a tanguera (person who dances tango) or even have a remote interest in dance to enjoy this book. Whilst I learned a huge amount about tango ( its origins and history; the different styles; the music and songs associated with the dance; its spread across the world;  what milongas (a sort of ‘tango meet’)  are like; and the kind of people you might encounter on the dance floor), the memoir resonated with me deeply because of the parallels with my own life. This memoir, at its heart, is a quest for belonging written by an adventurous woman with itchy feet. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it has made me very excited about my autumn tango adventure!

The Oxygen Advantage often gets mentioned in the same breath as What Doesn’t Kill Us (mentioned in a previous post). The book is an enthusiastic manifesto for the benefits of nose-breathing (as opposed to breathing through your mouth). Similar to the Wim Hof method, claims are made about improving V02 max through following the Oxygen Advantage Method.

I have actually tried the nasal breathing technique in some of my recent CrossFit classes – not with a view to increasing V02 max, but with a view to switching off the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – and have to say that I was amazed at how relaxed and unstressed I felt (and was able to load up my weighted plank with no bother!).

The one thing in this book that really piqued my interest was the protocol for simulating altitude training at sea level. This is something I will try after my sprinting adventure – along with some of the related exercises. The reason I’m not diving straight into the Oxygen Advantage Method is that it takes the body a while to adapt – and in the early stages, it’s common to see a dip in performance. With my sprinting adventures just weeks a way, I’m not that enthusiastic about a dip!

There was something about this book that niggled away at me – and made me not ‘trust’ the information completely. I’m not sure if it is because the guy who wrote it isn’t an athlete or because he had to protect the identities of his famous sporting clients. Either way, I’m still yet to be 100% convinced (but that won’t stop me having a go at the altitude training!) 🙂 . There was also a fair bit of wandering off into other territories (like meditation). I think I would have preferred him to stick to the point (but that’s probably just me – I was reading with a specific purpose in mind and deep peace wasn’t it 😉 ).

If you have read something you think I might enjoy, do let me know 🙂 . I’m always on the lookout for a good read 🙂 .

Right then. I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Changing my Mind About a Few Things

With my first track events happening on 9 June, things feel like they’ve just upped a level. Entries are now open for the West Midlands Masters Championships in England, and this week I submitted my entries for both the 400m and 800m.

Got my spikes!

The race entry form asked for previous race times. Of course, I didn’t have any and felt a bit worried that they might reject my entry! In fact, I was so worried that I wrote to the race director to explain that these races would be my very first at this distance.

I needn’t have worried because I got a very friendly reply – and I’m definitely ‘in’. However, it seems to me that there’s a part of me that thinks I may be some kind of imposter…

Not sure about my racing pants, though 😉

I’ve been training diligently for the track events – physically, that is. Given my fears around actually being eligible to race, the dial for psychological preparations has just been turned up a notch or two!

I’ve been watching films and reading books and soaking up as much inspiration as I can. The following recent watches and reads have been both helpful and inspiring:

Eddie the Eagle (film) is the true story of Great Britain’s most famous ski jumper. In spite of the odds, he made it to the Olympics and set British records for both the 70m and 90m jumps. Although he came last, this didn’t matter. It was a huge achievement and he realised his dream. At first no one believed in Eddie except for Eddie, but he kept going in spite of the taunts of others ,the doors that slammed in his face and the lack of support from the British Olympic Committee. This film is a heart-warming lesson about the power of resilience, determination and self-belief. I’m definitely going to be more Eddie from now on!

Free Solo (film) is a documentary about Alex Honnold‘s free solo climb of El Capitan. It’s breath-taking, horrifying and awe-inspiring – and it offers fascinating insights  into the working of this extreme sportsman’s mind. People genuinely thought he was going to die climbing El Cap in this way. He believed he wouldn’t. His psychological preparations were thorough. He’s still alive – and he did it! (My takeaway? Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.)


Roger Bannister – Everest on the Track  is a BBC documentary (available to watch until 16 May) about how Bannister achieved the first sub-4-minute mile. Again, he believed it was possible when others didn’t – and planning was everything! As a result of his achievement, the Bannister Effect became a recognised phenomenon: that is, once the psychological barrier is broken (people see something is actually possible), many more people go on to achieve what was hitherto deemed to be impossible.

I think a Bannister Effect of sorts has had a part to play in my recent sporting adventures.  Not only did I surprise myself in the local 5k race, but I also achieved a personal record for the deadlift (part of my powerlifting adventure) last Friday. These achievements seemed to have opened up all sorts of possibilities for me and lifted psychological barriers that I probably had little conscious awareness of. My self-talk has definitely changed – and that’s helped to achieve another 3 personal records this week: one for the back squat, one for the bench press and one for the military press! The automatic voice in my head said ‘Come on! You can do this!’ (which actually took me by surprise the first time I heard it – and it made me smile 🙂 ).

Yesterday’s training included snatches and overhead squats. In the past, I’d be afraid of the bar, but yesterday I actually found myself talking to the bar as if it were my training partner. The voice in my head said ‘Come on! We can do this!’ (and we did 😉 ).

As for books, What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney has been a bit of a game-changer. Scott’s an investigative journalist with a scientific bent, who set out to debunk Wim Hof’s ‘Inner Fire’ method. Instead of discovering that the method was  flimflam, Scott experiences incredible change in his own physiology and goes on to achieve incredible things. The method is based on the three pillars of breathing, exposure to cold and mind-set (which is all about commitment) – and, of course, I’ve been giving it a go myself (it’s Day 10 here in the Big Wim Hof House 😉 )! If you want to have a go yourself, you can sign up to a free mini-course here.  I’ll write more about the Wim Hof method in the next blog post, but for now I’ll just say that taking cold showers has all sorts of unexpected positive side effects!

Having just finished Run Less, Run Faster I’m feeling more confident about my 3-runs-a-week plus-CrossFit-and-swimming regime. As a marathoner/ultra-runner, I was used to 6 days of running a week, so switching to 3 took a while to get my head around. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that the Run Less, Run Faster approach also requires additional days of cross-training – and it’s predicated on intensity, so if intensity is not your thing, look away now!) Now that I can see the approach is working, I’m looking forward to seeing where else this style of training can take me. I’m thinking about trying the 5K programme to see what happens when I actually train for the distance. Who knows, I might even run a cross-country winter season (which would be a whole new adventure) 😉 .

Right, then. I’ve just trained, so I’m off for a cold shower. After that, I’m going outside and I may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 😉

Upping my Game!

In today’s video-blog I share some of things I’m doing to improve my performance and optimise my adventure experiences! In the video I

  • Talk about my recent musical theatre exam and the notion of ‘faking it’.
  • Review 3 books: The Rise of Superman (Kotler), Over the Edge (Bane) and How Bad Do You Want It? (Fitzgerald).
  • Talk about my current experiment with the sports supplement, creatine monohydrate.

Below the video you’ll find details of the books I mention (click on the cover image and it’ll take you straight to Amazon) and The Rise of Superman YouTube video. You can find out more about creatine monohydrate here and here. 






I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 (Oh, and if you missed the beginning of my #OldDogNewTricks adventure series, you can read more about what I’m up to here. )