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Bestselling author and award-winning adventurer Ross Edgley has been studying the art of resilience for years, applying all he has learned to become the first person in history to swim around Great Britain, breaking multiple world records. Now Ross focuses on mental strength, stoicism and the training needed to create an unbreakable body.
In The Art of Resilience, Ross uses his swim experience and other amazing endurance feats, where he managed to overcome seemingly insurmountable pain, hardship and adversity, to study the performance of extreme athletes, military and fitness specialists and psychologists to uncover the secrets of mental fitness and explore the concept of resilience, persistence, valour and a disciplined mindset in overcoming adversity.
This ground-breaking book represents a paradigm shift in what we thought the human body and mind were capable of and will give you a blueprint to become a tougher, more resilient and ultimately better human – whatever the challenge you face.
Lesson #1 Stoic sports science is philosophy forged in battle
We don’t get to control what happens to us, we can only control what happens inside us and our responses to external circumstances. The best way to practice this is by putting your thoughts on paper every day.
Stoic sports science is an evolution of stoicism and teaches us that under conditions of extreme fatigue, your risk of injury is increased and your physical and mental capacity to apply proven principles of sports science is reduced. It ensures your body doesn’t break and your mind doesn’t quit. Stoic sports science is based on three things (1) a strong body (2) a stoic mind and (3) a strategic plan.
Lesson #2 Learn the power of spiritual sports science
For centuries, we humans have been using extreme acts of self-discipline to learn more about ourselves as a form of self-discovery. Studies have shown intrinsic motivation is a bigger predictor of success than extrinsic motivation. Combining intrinsic motivation with self-discipline is a modern-day prerequisite for some of the greatest athletes.
Lesson #3 The body bruises and bleeds but cannot be beaten
Strength training is one of the most effective conditioning protocols for injury prevention. An effectively designed strength training routine can create a more robots and physically capable athlete. But remember, the best athletes aren’t always strongest, fastest or even fittest. They’re the best at suffering and enduring pain. Hence, the ability to train for ‘pain tolerance’ is one of the most underlooked aspects of athlete’s conditioning.
Lesson #4 To walk your own path, write your own plan
There’s no blueprint when attempting the impossible. You just have to be the first one to create your own. In 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English channel which many believed was simply impossible. One key to Webb’s success was his resilience. To improve your resilience, you can train for FOUR things:
- Your body’s tolerability: manage your body’s ability to tolerate stress and stimuli
- Your body’s specificity: direct your body’s ability to tolerate stress and stimuli
- Your body’s durability: increase your body’s ability to tolerate stress and stimuli
- Your body’s individuality: assess your body’s ability to tolerate stress and stimuli
Working on these four aspects of your body increases your overall work capacity – your body’s ability to perform and positively tolerate training of a given intensity or duration.
Lesson #5 Make the body an instrument, not an ornament
Combining work capacity with the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, meaning your body’s ability to adapt to the demands you place on it) has produced some of the greatest athletes ever walked on earth. Any stressor you expose yourself provokes a stress response, but the more times you’re exposed to it, the less stressful it becomes. That is why you need to habituate the stress and soon your personal best will become the norm.
As you learn to habituate stress, resist the temptation to compare yourself with others. Respect your body’s individuality. You’re unique – whatever your circadian rhythm and you must understand to become your own best expert.
Lesson #6 Build resilience by ‘Getting Wintered’
“We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”, said Epictetus. So often wars were not fought in the winter in ancient Greece, and therefore the time should be spent preparing for the battles that might come in spring.
Based on your body’s tolerability, durability, specify and individuality, develop your own form of whale-like work capacity. Dolphins might be fast, poetic and thrilling to watch but whales are a perfect display of strength, endurance and ability to last the course.
Lesson #7 Fast can be fragile and slow can be strong
Speed is an advantage in most competitions, but physical resilience is a necessity in almost every competition. You must not only focus on strength and speed, also learn to guard against injury. Fortunately, studies have shown that strength training reduced sports-related injuries to less than one-third.
The concept of ‘periodization’ and training for months (even years) before an event – in a cycle of preparation, competition, relax, recover and repeat – enables athletes to perform at their best when it really matters.
Lesson #8 Strength improves stamina and stamina improves strength
Strength training has also been shown to improve your stamina. You can even benefit from endurance improvement if you learn to train your fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles at the same time.
It also works the other way around. Endurance training can improve your strength by improving the efficiency of the cardiorespiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the working muscles. Hence, the most effective strength training routine includes:
- Speed of movement exercises
- Strength of movement exercises
- Range of movement exercises
- Capacity of movement exercises
Lesson #9 Learn how to cruise or kill
There’s no universal agreement on the best endurance training method. However, one that’s been shown to work successfully over the years is ‘80/20 polarized training’ approach. The idea is you spend 80 percent of your time training aerobically at a low intensity and slow pace. This puts an emphasis on your heart, lungs and body’s ability to produce energy with oxygen. The other 20 percent of your time, you train anaerobically at a high intensity and fast pace. This puts an emphasis on pain tolerance and your muscles’ ability to produce energy without oxygen. However it’s important to find a technique that works for your individual physiology (especially when training low intensity). Simply trying to replicate movements of elite athletes may not work for you.
Lesson #10 Learn to limit limitations
Fatigue is a central brain perception that triggers our brain to slow us down and prevents us from reaching complete exhaustion and hurting ourselves. The perceptions of fatigue may vary depending on the specific exercise or movement. This is why you also need to be strategically strong to identify how your brain perceives fatigue and learn to manage it before it shuts you down.
Lesson #11 The two ways to process pain
Studies suggest people with low pain-tolerance are particularly good at long-distance events. Adaptive coping strategies (meaning adjusting yourself to the environment or situation) can help to restore a sense of self-control over pain. Humor is also one way to cope with pain. Another powerful and primitive form of pain suppression is stress-induced analgesia. Much as an injured lion will fight to the death when surrounded by a pack of hyenas, we humans have this in-built self-preservation mechanism where the adrenal glands pump hormones into the bloodstream to sharpen the senses, focus the mind and numb the body to any sense of pain.
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