I look outside, and I see snow slowly falling from the November sky. I am 100% sure that if there is anything worth fighting for it is the fight against starting the Christmas season before Thanksgiving is over. As I stare out at the snow globe that the city is becoming, I figured I would give in and start a short series of book recommendations for athletes on your “nice” list. The list is also for those of us who are anticipating the arrival of a few Amazon gift cards heading our way.
This is part one in a series. These books have all had a positive influence on my own training, health, or mental well-being, and I highly recommend them. The books are in no order. For the sake of full disclosure, know that if you click on the linked image to purchase the book, it will give me a small kick back. I am going to do two books every Monday between now and Christmas, so stay tuned.
Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within
by Chade-Meng Tan
Chade-Meng Tan was a long-time engineer at Google who realized that his mindfulness training was as big an asset to the company as his engineering prowess. He spent years showing the employees there how to improve their lives through meditation, and eventually he started sharing his practice through his best-selling books. Tan’s secular approach to meditation is very engaging, and his sense of humor makes Joy on Demand a great read.
I first read this on my Kindle and listened to the audiobook in the car. I do this a lot to get through a text. I listen and then I read at home, and then I fast forward the audiobook to get to where I left off. I eventually bought the hard copy because I loved it so much, and it was easier to flip back and forth and read the exercises and such. Tan’s approach really starts with just a single breath. It is easy and it is rewarding.
I brought this book with me as my son and I trekked all over Southern and Northern Ontario in his pursuit of a Junior A hockey team this spring. I did a lot of meditation in the hotel rooms, between skates, and while I waited for him to shower and come out to the lobby of whatever rink we were in that week. I was calm. I was ready to support him if he got passed over. It was a tough spring, especially for a largely unknown American kid trying to break into another country and their deeply rooted hockey culture.
We persisted. It worked out, and I can’t help but think that this book has helped me immensely in every aspect of my life and sports. Mindfulness and focusing on inner calm are skills easily applied to family, work, and the bike, and this book made the art of meditation easily accessible to me. Joy on Demand helped me to learn to embrace the moment and to take life in, one breath at a time.
Get Fast!: A Complete Guide to Gaining Speed Wherever You Ride by Selene Yeager
If you have picked up any major health magazine in the past decade, you are likely to have come across Selene Yeager’s name. She has written for Men’s Health and Bicycling, the latter which is the publisher of this great book.
Let’s face it, no matter what kind of bike you ride, everyone wants to go faster. It’s the most exhilarating feeling there is to ride faster and farther than before. This book is probably the most accessible book about how to improve your performance on the bike, no matter what type of bike you ride or what skill level you are at. It discusses gear, diet, aerodynamics, and strength building off the bike. It discusses training with and without power and how to maintain your bike to improve performance.
Get Fast is extremely accessible, and that is really its biggest asset. Yeager even gives you the hard science but does it in very practical terms. This book is as much for the expert who loves the science as it is for the beginner who wants a little more of the depth. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in the best tire pressure or you are looking at adding a supplement or two, the answer is likely in this book.
One of the most useful and my favorite tip from Get Fast is when Yeager describes using your navel as your third eye to look through a turn. The simply stated knowledge she serves out in this book makes it a real keeper. I can honestly say that without giving too much of the book away, it is one of the best written books on our sport ever written. This is probably the best $11 you can possibly spend on your cycling obsession.