Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Learn more Shop now Learn more
Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars One man's journey to physical and spiritual fitness., 25 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously (Hardcover)
At the age of 37 Bill McKibben, a prominent US writer and environmental campaigner, was feeling that his life had become too sedentary and bookish. Although he was a fairly keen recreational cross-country skier, he felt he had never pushed his physical limits, never really tested his body. Out of his unease with that situation came the decision "to spend a year in real training, putting in nearly as many hours as an Olympic endurance athlete spends prepping his body." After that year he would spend a winter ski racing.

The book is the story of that time. It starts with his meeting on 1 January 1998 with Rob Sleamaker, author of the influential book "Serious Training for Endurance Athletes", who agreed to coach him. It concludes with his participation in the Norwegian Birkebeiner race fifteen months later.

In telling the story McKibben covers a lot of ground, mentally as well as physically, and the book serves as a good introduction to cross-country ski racing and to cross-country skiing in general.

He writes about setting goals. Asked by Sleamaker to write down his own goals, he finally came up with this: "I want to gain an intuitive sense of my body and how it works. And at least once I want to give a supreme and complete effort in a race."

He writes about endurance training. Sleamaker prescribed a tough programme of about 600 hours training over the 12 months. To begin with, most was low-intensity, long-duration work, designed to lay down a good aerobic base. McKibben would grow accustomed to long slow distance runs, up to three hours duration by the summer. But from the outset he also worked on strength and speed. In describing his workouts he writes about training schedules and periodisation, about exercise physiology and nutrition, and about fitness testing (VO2 max and lactate threshold).

By the September he was training 18 hours a week. But no matter how hard he trains, his outlook remains much more that of an intellectual than an athlete. He has an abiding interest in how much (or how little) the physical training is changing his character, his spirit. He sees similarities between endurance training and meditation. He is curious about the reasons, personal and social, why endurance athletes devote huge hours to training. And, being just as curious as to why ORDINARY people work out on exercise machinery in gyms, he digresses to consider the growth of the fitness industry.

He writes about the recent history of cross-country skiing in the USA. There was huge growth in the 1970s, a decade that saw Bill Koch win a silver medal at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck. And the 1980s too were good for US racing: Koch won the World Cup one year and USA had four or five finishing in the top twenty at all the races. But then it all fell away. Race performances worsened and the overall number of American XC skiers declined.

And, of course, he writes about his own races. Almost from the outset, Sleamaker encouraged McKibben to compete, and in the first months of training he took part in a race in New England, an event in the Canadian Keskinada festival, and in the World Masters Championships at Lake Placid. Six months into the year he flew to Australia and raced in the Paddy Pallin Classic, a 25km event near Mount Kosciusko.

And he did, finally, have his winter of racing. But it was truncated by the terminal illness of his father. And the suffering and passing of his father comes rather to dominate the end of the story. Some readers will think this enriches the book. Others will feel that it derails it, and that a more focussed volume would in the end have served as a better monument to his father's memory. Nevertheless, the book is a good one, and it deserves a place on the shelf of anyone who has an interest in cross-country skiing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,220,449