Book Review: What Doesn’t Kill Us

This book has been on my list for some time. I finally got round to reading “What Doesn’t Kill Us” by Scott Carney. Carney is a writer and journalist and by his own standards, was neither a fit nor unfit man, just “normal”. Carney accepted the trapping of his mid-thirties; stomach, not as flat as it had been, back pain, just one of those things. Then he saw a photo of a man called Wim Hof, 20 years his senior, sitting in the artic in nothing but his swimming togs.

Seeing this photo of Wim Hof sends Carney on a journey to learn the Wim Hofs methods of controlled breathing and cold exposure that seem to give practitioners of Hofs methods super human abilities. Hofs teachings and Scotts own journey of exploration leads him to comes up with the three pillars of physical fitness. Diet and exercise are pillars one and two, and this is something I’ve always focused on, and the third pillar is environmental stress, like exposure to cold and hot temperatures, something I’ve never considered. The book argues that this third pillar is needed if we’re to reach our full potential.

Humans are more capable and adaptable than you might think, and this book is full of examples. The body can adapt to environmental stress very quickly. In high altitude for example, you’ll produce more red blood cells, in hot temperatures, you’ll sweat less salt and produce less urine. Carney gives accounts of people using Hofs methods to manage the symptoms of Parkinsons and autoimmune problems, and even to speed up recovery after surgery. Carney does allow for some influence from the placebo effect, which is also powerful, but this only reinforces a key theme of this book, the power for the human body and mind.

Carney shows how the invention of technology often correlates with a general weakening of our species. GPS for example has reduced our ability to navigate the way our ancestors could. Carney gives the example of Tupaia, a Polynesian navigator in the 18th century who helped guide European explorers by his ability to read the waves of the sea to pinpoint himself. Is Tupaia a superhuman, or is this something that is innate in everyone and we’ve just lost touch.

To me the most amazing thing about Carneys journey and Hofs methods is how simple it appears to be. All that it takes is routinely practiced controlled breathing and exposure to the elements. Carney does warn that every person has their own limits, and if you cross that line it gives nature an opportunity to take a fatal toll. But in general, exercising the stress response through cold exposure allows a person to assert a measure of control when the environment gets challenging and helps reconfigure the cardiovascular system and combat autoimmune malfunctions.

The book is a narrative of Carneys journey, its not a guide book in how to achieve these results, but thats a good thing. I wanted an entertaining read, not a guide book, and this book delivered. Where the reader goes from here it up to them.

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Anniversary Blog Post

WordPress notified me that today is my blog anniversary. My very first blog post was about hitting 1,000 running miles on the Nike+ app. I kept the running theme for my next two anniversary blogs post, which you can read by clicking here: Anniversary One and Anniversary Two.

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On this blog anniversary I have to break with the running theme. I stopped using the Nike+ App to track my runs when the App got an automatic update that made it unusable. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an easy way to extract the data into another app so I lost my historical running data. I downloaded a new running app, Runkeeper, but I only use it when I need to measure distance runs in new locations. The majority of my runs are in familiar territory where I know the distances and times, so I only use the Runkeeper app infrequently.

With no prepared blog post ready for my Blogs anniversary, I took my phone to the gym today and recorded a bit of my workout. I was short on time today so I just did some movement flows. Movement like this (see video below) is part of the “smarter, not harder” philosophy I mentioned in my last blog post. Putting together movement flows is not high impact or high strain, but it is a full body, integrated workout like no other, and using your whole body like this is exhausting, and fun, so perfect for a time constrained workout.  Keep blogging, keep training, keep moving.

Another Blog Anniversary

October sees me passing from my 2nd to my 3rd year of blogging, which WordPress reminded me of with an anniversary badge, thanks.

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WordPress Anniversary

I’ve posted 38 blogs across two years, not enough to consider myself a hard-core blogger, but just enough to keep the creative juices flowing, keep me entertained, and hopefully entertain/inform some readers. My first blog post was about running. My first anniversary blog post  was a follow up to that post, and in keeping with the trend, this second anniversary post will follow up on both.

I was disappointed that between October 2014 and October 2015 I added 329miles to my Nike+ total, less than a mile a day. To remedy this perceived shortage of distance, I said I’d have to plan ahead and sign up for more races, as nothing motivates like a goal, a race day deadline for which I’d have to put in the miles beforehand in order to be fit and ready. Planning ahead was key! Ultimately, I didn’t plan ahead or sign up for many races. In the 12 months that have passed, I’ve run only two half-marathons, the Glen t0 Glen Half-Marathon and the Disneyland Paris Half-Marathon.  So I didn’t follow my own advice on that one. What I did do was stay consistent in my training. I still try to run 3 times a week, two timed runs of 30 minutes each and one distance run. In the last 12 months I’ve covered 497 miles, bringing my total to 1,826 miles. Thats over a mile a day, and 168 miles more than I had completed the previous year. So while long term planning failed me and I didn’t sign up for or run many races, short term week-to-week planning and consistency was my friend and I ran more year on year without signing up for races. I’m looking forward to another year of blogging, and another 497+ miles of running.

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