It seems customary to invent Janathon exercises and as I’m not well enough to even rattle off two bed sit-ups, I’ve also created my own – the sport of reading sporty books. Preferably from under a duvet.
I was recently sent The Science of Fitness, Power, Performance and Endurance and it seemed like the perfect title for my new Janathon-ercise. Perhaps it would inspire me to create my new New Years fitness program.
It all started very well, it promised to be the most complete scientific exploration of fitness to-date, and stressed the importance of mitochondria (which I like), illustrated it with the impressive story of Greg LeMond and offered me the inspired sounding BEAST program to power my mitochondria and enhance performance.
It turns out however that BEAST stands for Bicycling, Eating, Avoiding toxins, Stopping self-destructive behaviour and Training with resistance, which as acronyms go, is just a bit too strained for my liking.
I had heard of Greg LeMond, although he was a bit before my obsessive Tour de France time, so I didn’t know his full story. He was a TdF winner in 1986, then almost had his life and certainly his career destroyed by an horrific accidental gunshot incident. He remarkably rebuilt his fitness levels and went on to another two Tour de France victories only to suffer an embarrassing decline as the lead from the gunshot pellets, still lodged in his body, started to leach out and destroy his mitochondria
So we are back on to mitochondria, the unsung heroes of athletic performance. I’m particularly interested in mitochondria and their role in performance and health after following the work Dr Terry Wahls who has had incredible success treating progressive MS by adapting her diet to one that is high in micronutrients that target mitochondrial health (see The Wahl’s Protocol). Here’s her famous TED talk on Minding your Mitochondria.
The Science of Fitness is a hard book to recommend as I can’t decide who it is aimed at. It reads like a school biology book and throws in a bit of Newtonian physics for variety. I can only imagine that the sort of person inclined to spend the afternoon reading school textbooks would probably already know this stuff and everyone else would be bored to tears.
I persevered and ticked off the chapters, admiring the citations which were longer than the chapters. I wasn’t too impressed by the nutrition section which opted for very safe advice, came down on the side of the “Mediterranean Diet”, whatever that is, and cited three papers from the Diet Heart health study.
Now if you want an interesting read that discusses the history of nutritional studies and the shocking way that scientists can gang up to prevent true exploration (the diet heart studies being a great example) I would strongly recommend The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. You’ll also find an interesting angle on the “Mediterranean Diet” in there too.
Anyway I did read all the way to the end although I have to admit to skimming at an ever increasing rate. I expected the final chapter to detail some training programs for the BEAST program but it just fizzled out and left me with a rather tame, yet wordy, bullet list which I will summarise as follows:
- High Intensity Interval Training multiplies mitochondria
- Regular (at least alternate days) to stop mitochondrial decline
- Build a base level of endurance
- Strength training to build muscle
- Avoid overuse training
- Balanced diet
- Enjoy it
- Aim for iterative improvement
All in all, a tame and uninspired way to achieve BEAST status. I will be looking to the Unbreakable Runner to source my new program from, it follows a similar strategy but feels so much more gutsy and deserving of a BEAST acronym.