on 30 April 2006
This is a truly excellent book! Not only does Mike Stroud provide accounts of some of his astonishing feats of endurance but he also intersperses them with fascinating scientific details of human performance.
He describes his own endeavours with great openness and explains that evolution has equipped everyone with greater physical performance than most people realise.
This book will inspire you to be more active! And it will probably remove excuses for avoiding exercise. It's also a terrific read and hard to put down. It impressed me so much that I bought two more copies to send to relatives - and I also tracked down a copy of 'Shadows on the Wasteland'. Well done Mike Stroud - and thanks!
on 1 March 2006
This book is absolutely fantastic. Mike Stroud is my hero, and this book is my bible. It is utterly inspiring, and makes everything seem acheivable. It is a fascinating mix of science, anthropology and biography which is completely gripping. Each chapter can be read in it's own right, which makes it very handy just to pick up and flick through. I've had this book for a couple of years now, and it's rarely on my shelf. It has spent longer being loaned out to friends, friends friends, friends of friends friends and so on, then any other book I own. Buy it, read it, be inspired and go out grab some fresh air and fun!
Stroud is an absolute legend, he stands as a man who puts his money where his mouth is and is a straight talker. This book intersperses little vignettes from expeditions and adventure races he has participated in throughout his life, he also includes insightful notes on the strange evolutionary features man has developed over millions of years and why, with our drive everywhere, high salt consumption lifstyles, we are dying younger and becoming more obese than ever before. Stroud is, quite rightly, aghast at the modern lifestyle and he offers sensible, achievable alternatives to the processed world we live in.
I found the mix of narrative and hard science compelling, his research into extreme conditions is very inspiring stuff.
Other reviewers don't seem to get where this book is coming from, to me it is quite straightforward, Stroud is a man in awe of the potential of the human body yet is unhappy at seeing people squander their birthright by choosing the couch to actually getting out there and sweating.
I totally get where he is coming from, I am slim-built dude and run a lot, yet, rather than have people backslap me for prolonging my life, reducing my risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer, I find myself constantly having to justify my position. As Stroud rightly observes, the detractors of such people are usually those who are couch-bound and overweight.
This book is an essential read, it will get the active amongst you thinking about how your body works and how much it can be pushed and maybe, just maybe, it will get someone off the couch, away from the telly and throwing processed food in the bin. Here's hoping!
An awesome book
For years I have known about this book, and having read extensively of Dr Mike Stroud's antarctic adventures from works by Ranulph Fiennes and also having read a lot about human physiology in harsh environments, I was wondering to myself whether there'd be much to be gained by getting myself a copy. Well I needn't have worried - it's an excellently written and truly inspiring book that would appeal to all lovers of adventure, physical & psychological challenges, human physiology and what is now quite a well known concept of evolutionary fitness (as popularised by Art de Vany but without the paleo diet elements). As a weekend hiker/runner/climber/cyclist I am in awe of what Stroud has accomplished in his exploits - even if he does try hard to make these achievements seem like they should be within the grasp of most of us - because I feel he underplays his own profound mental strength that puts him amongst the elite of those who have pushed beyond the accepted boundaries of human endurance. In that sense the book is inspirational as it makes you question your limitations and perhaps go on to test them - or at the very least appreciate the latent potential.
I can thoroughly recommend it and though the science continues to move on (much in favour and some against what Stroud advocates) it's a truly accessible work that would give a great starting point for anyone looking for an evidence-based guide to health and fitness and for anyone contemplating a serious endurance challenge. Superb.
Dr Mike Stroud is a man who understands the two most important aspects of physical fitness better than most. Firstly, he is a medical doctor (Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians since 1995) and, therefore, possesses an appreciation of the therapeutic and material effects of keeping fit and participating in other physically demanding pursuits on the human body. Secondly, his personal achievements include accompanying Ranulph Fiennes in 1992 on the first unsupported crossing of Antarctica in which the two men pulled loaded sledges across the entire length of that continent.
No human being has a right to stay in shape just because of their previous achievements and the high standards of fitness that went with any former situation. Whilst “time and tide wait for no man,” the same is also true of the human body. The dreaded middle age spread, however, can be avoided by accepting two main principles; Firstly, there is a requirement for self-discipline in one’s approach to personal fitness, condition and diet. Secondly, having finally decided to so something about your own fitness and health, you need to understand precisely what is required - and that is where this book comes into its own.
The content, however, is not what you might expect to find. Whereas one might be expecting a blow-by-blow explanation of the best exercises and the most advantageous diets, instead, we have a mini personal biography of Stroud’s physical adventures and achievements and of the lessons learned during his participation in each. Every one of these lessons provides the reader with a valuable insight into another element of the overall subject for which we should be grateful - if only because we did not have to trudge across Antarctica (or elsewhere!) to gather that knowledge.
Having said that, you should not misunderstand. This is not a book confined to those who yearn of climbing Everest or pursue some other form of top-flight adventurous lifestyle. Instead it caters for anyone and everyone who cares enough about their own physical and medical well-being to want to learn more about keeping themselves in good shape - both inside and outside.
At the very end is a list of further works where the reader will undoubtedly find something to suit their own precise requirements. Immediately before that, however, the author echoes those well known sentiments we all recognise. I was born in 1950 and I can still be seen running with a pack on my back and have often encountered young men who look at me and say; “I wish I could do that.” My reply is always the same; “so what’s stopping you?”
In the final chapter, Mike Stroud recounts Ranulph Fiennes’ achievement of running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents a short time after he had suffered a heart attack! He concludes with the words; “Following our success, many experts in both the USA and Britain expressed disbelief at what we had achieved, they did not realise that they could have done it too. The difference is only one of perception.”
This book allows us all to learn more about what we are all trying to achieve and the rest is down to ourselves.
on 7 November 2015
It's hard to put this book into one single category - adventure story, biochemistry-lite textbook, training guide, whatever - but it is easy to say that it
is fantastic. Stroud puts himself through some of the most extreme endurance events on the planet, then uses his knowledge and experience as an anthroplogy-and-genetics-graduate-turned-doctor to explain what is happening to his body in the process. It's informed, informative and inspirational, but it's written in a clear, readable, unsensational style that's not in the least egotistical. His accounts of taking part in events, whether running the Marathon des Sables in punishing heat or trekking across the North Pole in minus-double-digit cold, aren't about machismo, but about Stroud using them to illustrate how the conditions affect his cells, joints, muscles, brain etc.
I bought the 1999 edition of this book from a charity shop for just 20 pence; it has to be the best value I've ever got from 20 pence.
on 15 January 2007
This book is well written and full of interesting information. The authors background (medical doctor and anthropology) means that this is a book that is grounded on solid medical reasoning and is miles away from some of the mumbo-jumbo, be-at-one-with-the-earth rubbish thats currently circulating.
A great read and an inspiring book.
on 8 August 2013
Marvelous book with the most lucid explanation of the body 'machine' I've ever read. I'd really like an index though, since the book flits between the author's experiences and descriptions of the relevant body process. This makes for a great read, but not so good for looking things up afterwards. The book is slightly old now though, and I'd perhaps take issue with some of his statements/advice in the light of more recent evidence. (But then, I haven't run the Marathon des Sables or crossed Antarctica! Its hard to argue with credentials like that..)
I'd say its required reading for anyone interested in health and fitness or venturing into the great outdoors. It will stay on my bookshelf for a long time. Highly recommended.
on 19 April 2007
This book has changed my view on life, well, its opened my eyes to where I could be going wrong anyway. Linked by a lovingly crafted narrative of Mike's own exploits in the outdoors; crossing Antarctica, numerous adventure races, the famous Marathon de Sables and of course the London Marathon - Mike tells us how the body works, why, and how to optimise its capabilities. I would say this books target audience was the general public and sports enthusiasts as oppose to a physiologist's PhD research, its purpose is to teach us how to keep our hearts ticking for longer, faster and more efficient and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
on 20 September 2008
Just read the updated version of this book. I loved the original book. This includes a section on how Dr Mike Stroud and Sir Ranulph Fiennes (listed by the Guniess Book of Records as the greatest living explorer)complete seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. This was several months after Sir Ralph had heart surgery.
These two were also the first two men to walk to both poles unaided. Mike Stroud is a highly acclaimed nutritionist and works with the UK's Famous (or infamous ???) SAS. Together with Helen Klein they also completed the ECO challeng when Helen was 72. A year later Mike had trained his 70 year old Dad who was healthy though only through hill walking to do the ECO challenge also. Its a book about the extremes the human body can be pushed to but at times humourous and highly motivating. An excellent read for anyone even remotely interested in fitness and health.