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Book Review - Superbodies

The Book In Three Sentences

Greg Wells is a scientist and a university professor, who outlines some of the main principles of training as they apply to elite athletes, and attempts to help the reader apply the same principles to their own training. The book reads a little bit like a combination of college textbook and a bathroom reader - I found it too disjointed, and a little too life-hacky. The author provides some basic beginner friendly basics on energy systems, and training periodization and programming.


This is a list of key ideas that I recorded while reading the book. These notes include direct quotes from the book, and occasionally, my thoughts and observations. If the sympathetic system is dominant, for example, during a stressful workday, then the digestive system is inhibited. This means that nutrients and fuels from the foods we eat during the day are not fully digested. So eating at your desk may make you feel like you're being productive, but the lack of necessary fuel and nutrients will have a negative effect on your performance in the afternoon. Most people experience a period of afternoon fatigue. Simply relaxing for few moments before eating, and not working while eating, can make a big difference in your fuel and nutrient absorption. How do I know how hard am I exercising? If you are able to carry on a conversation while exercising, you are below your first threshold and are using your aerobic system. If you increase your intensity to the point where you can hear yourself breathing, you are between your first and second thresholds and are using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. Finally, if you are exercising so intensely that you can no longer carry on a conversation, you are above your second threshold and are relying increasingly on anaerobic metabolism to fuel your exercise. Exposure to altitude has been shown to affect nearly every physiological system in the human body. The latest trend in altitude training is “live high/train low”. In this scenario, athletes sleep at altitude or in altitude tents, and then return to lower elevations to train. The rate of accumulated damage to the DNA was much lower in the older athletes than the older healthy non-athletes. The DNA of the older athletes was “younger”. People with low-resting heart rates have healthy cardiovascular systems, experience lower nervous system stress and are more likely to live longer. Marathon “hitting the wall” has nothing to do with lactic acid build up - since the duration of the event is too long for the intensity to be high enough. Lactic acid comes into play in short bursts of activity like sprinting. Other possible reasons for hitting the wall - dehydration, and using up all glycogen in your muscles, as a result of which blood glucose may decrease. Cold - causes the body to try to preserve its heat, by shifting blood flow from the skin and muscles into the internal organs in the chest and belly. So skiers may feel sluggish, as there is decreased blood flow to the arms and legs. During exercise in the cold, the body shifts towards carbohydrate metabolism for energy, so eating foods high in complex carbohydrates will allow the body to proceed energy more easily. The cold also have a diuretic effect (increased urination), so hydration is important. Warning re: barefoot running: “.. it requires a lot more calf muscle strength and Achilles tendon stretching and people can be prone to Achilles tendonitis if they do not transition gradually and carefully. It is not for everyone”. Sicker kids do not exercise because they are not feeling well, and thus, deteriorate faster. Sprint cycling for 30 seconds - high energy phosphate system and type IIb muscle fibres 90 seconds of exhausting cycling - anaerobic glycolytic system and IIa muscle fibres 10 30-seconds exercise bouts at a moderate level with a few seconds of rest in between to test the aerobic system and their type I muscle fibres Each stage of the pyramid can take about 10 to 12 weeks within the context of a single season. But we can also look at training in terms of overall athletic development, where each stage can take up to a few years to perfect. The performance appears effortless, but only because years of training have refined the motor patterns that are stored in the brain and coordinated in the cerebellum so that movements are fluid and efficient. If you have an important thinking-related task during the day (e.g. a presentation), try to take 15-20 minutes to do some light exercise in the hour before the event. This exercise will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and improve your mental performance.

Buy The Book: Superbodies

*Books are my weakness, yet I strive to own less, rather than more. I have long been looking for a way to capture main ideas from the books I read without keeping the books themselves. My gratitude goes to Derek Sivers and James Clear for coming up with clean and straightforward formats for book summaries. My approach represents a blend of both.


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