Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book review: "Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life" by Ben Greenfield

In the course of my day job (you can find that here) I spend a good amount of time reading through research reports, listening to webcasts, and talking to both clients and industry professionals. By taking the time out to be as informed as possible I can help my clients have a comfort level with their investments relate to their financial plan.

Away from the world of work, I consider myself to be someone who takes care of his personal being - both physically and mentally. I am physically active, for sure, but taking care of one's self is more than just getting in some exercise and hoping for the best. Instead, I take the time out to stay as informed as possible on health and wellness. Thus, I spend a fair amount of my free time away from work and swim/bike/run reading up on what is going on in the sport of triathlon as well as all things healthy. It is this pursuit of well being that led me to Ben Greenfield's latest book, Beyond Training.

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life 

by Ben Greenfield

We live in the goodness of the information age. It allows anyone with computer access to have more data and research available than any one person could possibly consume. On top of that, just because information is available, it does not mean said information is good information. Like you, I don't want to waste my time, effort, and possibly money on ideas that are not going to help me improve. Fortunately, there is a hack for that.

In both my business life and personal life I have come to lean on others to do the heavy lifting of reading through much of the primary research. The key is finding people who specialize in different areas of research you can trust. In my case, I look to find people who have a passion for what they do, have no problem challenging conventional thought, but challenge from a position of science and facts.

I stumbled upon Ben Greenfield via his podcast as well as the Endurance Planet podcast a few years ago. I found the variety of topics he addressed to be interesting along with the bevy of guests he would speak with on some unique topics. Greenfield (can I call you Ben?) is/was a triathlete who is educated in sports science and exercise physiology (complete background here). Which, in my mind, is a good start, but not what made me come to trust him as a source of information. No, what convinced me was the volume and scope of research he consumes every week and his ability to apply that research to health and sport.

Beyond Training is broken down into five parts - Fitness, Recovery, Nutrition, Lifestyle, The Brain - all of which are useful. Quite amazingly, each of the 24 chapters are densely packed with useful, highly researched information, yet it is not a hard read. Don't get me wrong, it's not an "easy" read. But, really, Greenfield has done a great job of taking some complicated material and making it understandable without dumbing it down.

As a triathlete I found the section on fitness to be the most controversial. In case you aren't familiar with Greenfield, he has been very successful training for Ironman distance triathlons utilizing unconventional means. As a result, you are going to get a definite point of view on the type of training one should do when training for endurance. That view (spoiler alert) does not have you training in a typical Triathlete Magazine  training plan. Nor is it based on the methods of Phil Maffetone or the other proponents of volume training. I'm not saying he is right or wrong, I'm just saying he is coming from a different point of view, based on research and his own experience. His methods are worth a read and maybe even a try. Just understand, it's different than what you are probably used to doing.

One of the areas where this book shines is Chapter 8 "Twenty-six ways to recover from workouts and injuries with lightning speed." Over twenty three pages he outlines recovery techniques, recovery gear, recovery nutrition, as well as a dive into the issues of using NSAIDs for injury and recovery and adrenal fatigue. As a 40-something year old triathlete who has dug himself into a hole, I can appreciate the need to recover. As a type-A triathlete, I can appreciate the desire to use all means necessary to speed the recovery process.

Another unique aspect to Beyond Training is that, unlike any other book I have purchased, the information presented here goes beyond what is printed on the 480 pages. Just as research continues to evolve, so does Greenfield and this book via the internet. When you purchase the book you receive free access to his ongoing research for every topic covered at a special website. So in 5 or 10 years when you pick the book up to look for information on a subject and it sounds a bit out of date, have no fear. Just head on over to the website and see what the latest research says. Ends up, Beyond Training is the book that will stay relevant as long as Greenfield continues to update his website.

Beyond Training is the culmination of the work Greenfield has done over the years and I am grateful he took the time to bring all the information together in one place. A lot of what he discusses is pretty cutting edge stuff, for sure. Which I find very compelling, but also a bit overwhelming. Some of it a bit over the edge for me. But that's OK. I would much rather read about what is considered to be "cutting edge" or "far out there" than the same old blah, blah blah you get just about anywhere else. Health and fitness is a personal journey. In that journey we all need to make choices that fit our needs, our lifestyle. Greenfield's research gives you choices. It has a place on my bookshelf, and it should have a place on yours as well.

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life can be purchased here.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book on my own.

Train hard. Stay focused.


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