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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Survival Of The Fittest: Understanding Health and Peak Physical Performance
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on 7 March 2017
I finally finished this book after a year of trying to find the time. I really got into it and so much of my own marathon adventures started to make sense. A really interesting book for those interested in the science but not necessarily the long words.
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on 9 July 2017
Really enjoying this book.
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on 13 June 2011
I had read Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Knowand the reason I got this was to discover more about the human body and the things that it can do in extreme situations. From that point of view the book wasn't a let down.

One of the first things I didn't like was the font. It was like a book from the 60's. Also there was not one diagram or map. This would have really helped explain things more clearly for example the book spends several pages going into wikipedia style detail on how a muscle works but without one single diagram.

As a keen mid-pack marathon runner I found it incredibly hard to believe he stumbled upoon a 60 yr old women who was disappointed with her sub 3hr time. That must be very close to a world record holder. To put into context the 1984 Women's Olympic Marathon winner who is now in her mid 50's runs around 2hr 50 min. I was curious to see what his time was, he did say that he undertrained, but didn't reveal it, whereas his Sir Ran states all his race times, Mike (I think) doesn't reveal any.

It was interesting reading about his take on the polar expedition as it quite a different account of Sir Ran's.

I thought there would be at least something about the training and nutrition involved in these incredible feats that he has done, but there wasn't. I'm sure very few people reading could go and explore the Polar regions or have the funds/time etc to run exciting races around the world, but it would have been interesting to discover how much training goes into feats like that.

In short, it's a great book, though I much prefer the informal style of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
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on 25 May 2011
An inspirational read with lots of interesting science. However, in the Kindle edition there are numerous errors that I assume are not present in the printed versions. Many examples of "are" being written "arc" which likely indicate some problem in scanning the paper version and running it though Optical Character Recognition - those are pretty easy to correct whilst reading but a few other due can leave you confused until you figure out what the original word might have been. What is much worse however is the placement of the images. It appears that in the paper edition there must be a central set of pages (glossy maybe?) that have all the plates; these suddenly appear mid-chapter around halfway though the book with the captions not really lining up with the images they refer to.
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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!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 December 2014
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.
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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!
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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.

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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.
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on 27 December 2009
The book makes a good intellectual read for those who have little idea of human biology. It leaves you feeling motivated to walk a little further and climb a few more stairs a day. the chapter- survival of the fattest particularly interesting.

Mike Stroud outlines a few of his adventures in the book but they do not go into much detail of the emotional reactions to difficult situations. Also a more detailed explanation of the environments would have had the reader understand the how difficult the situations were overall.
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