Lao Tzu encourages the Master to ‘simply remind people of who they have always been’ . For me, that sums up Christopher McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes: The Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. My paperback copy arrived through the post last month, and ever since I have been entranced while reading it (I’m a bit of a slow reader!). From the man who brought us Born to Run, we knew it was going to be about running and it was going to be good. But it’s brilliant! He interweaves the science and the theory of distance running with rip-roaring stories of people who have lived the virtues. And it’s not that the various people set out on a quest to be able to run long and strong or do amazing things; for some they found themselves in adverse situations – like the headmistress facing a gunman – and they found that they were able to tap into a strength of character and body, that they would not have thought themselves capable of.
At times I thought I had picked up a Nevil Shute war-time story combined with the adventures of an Alistair MacLean book (ok – some of the WW2 adventure books that my dad had on the bookshelf!), as he tells the story of the Crete Resistance Movement in WW2, and some of the British ‘drop-outs’ who helped kidnap a Nazi general and undermine the Nazi occupation. His interest in telling their story to was reveal the ‘secrets’ of the Greek shepherds who could walk and run over mountainous terrain, living off the land, for days on end. A foraged diet of plant leaves and stems, no sugar, and even- paced running was what facilitated their amazing feats. A key thing also was bouncing and flowing over the landscape.
There are so many gems of wisdom in the book – ‘Be more bounce’ is one of them! We have incredible bodies – watch how a child leaps over rocks and logs, using hands as well as feet, with a nimbleness that doesn’t need to be out-grown. I loved reading of various parkour groups – adults that leap and spin through a mostly urban landscape utilising and developing their natural bounce. I’ve decided that when I go running in the park, I am going to positively look out for the uneven ground and logs and hop on and off them in the run, and not just keep to the even ground. It’s actually a lot more fun that way!
As you read the book you will also encounter many characters from Greek tales who used cunning and creativity to get themselves out of some pretty tight spots! And he encourages us to get creative in the way we explore the world – don’t just conform to expectations about age-appropriate activities: there are rocks to climb, trails to run and lakes to swim, whatever your age.
He explores some really interesting ideas concerning food which curbs hunger, boosts power and converts body fat into fuel. One of the things we need to do is reduce the sugar content in our diet. And I have gone for five days without a biscuit! It’s a start!
Another thing I love about the book, is the emphasis on building confidence in yourself and your innate abilities. Each of us is amazing! It’s just that we’ve forgotten it. Strength of mind is as important as strength of body, so reading this book is a confidence-boost too. It’s a great book!