Covid has brought out some really excellent qualities in the World’s population. We’ve seen sacrifice, kindness, compassion, empathy, tolerance, obedience, perseverance, generosity and resilience. People have gone above and beyond in many areas of their work and home lives. In fact, it’s been quite incredible to see.

However, Covid has also brought out the worst in us. I don’t just mean attributes like greed, jealousy, envy, disrespect and unlawfulness. I mean the fallout in people’s mental and physical wellbeing. People have become dreadfully isolated (which the equivalent morbidity of smoking 15 cigarettes per day).

People have drank more alcohol, eaten more cake (or pizza in my case) and stopped exercising. Many of my patients talk fondly of their “pandemic pounds” but are now struggling to get them off again. The mental health services are inundated with people who’s loosely held together cracks are now smashed wide open. The threads of our tapestries have all been tugged on and those with less resilient material have been completely pulled apart.

Even those of us who thought we were pretty solid have suffered in some way. For us it was the home “schooling” which was the straw that broke our collective backs. An almost impossible feat especially with a 3 year old who also needed attention. I’ll not moan about the fact that we didn’t get kid slots at the nursery or the school despite both being key workers and essentially begging, but those months were the lowest I think we’ve ever felt as a family.

As a “cure” for this, I took matters into my own hands and started to practice what I preach at work. Regular bed times, waking the same time everyday, getting back into regular exercising etc. However, the biggest effect has come from my choice in reading material. I now try to read every night before bed and in the last 12 months have covered quite a few books which I wanted to tell you all about. Perhaps one day I will have a chance to review them all in depth but for now I figured I’d list them with a 1 – 2 sentence summary of the points I found most helpful.

So here goes:

Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald – this is the story of the 1989 Kona Ironman World Championships where the new-age, spiritual trialthlete Mark Allen took on the workhorse Dave Scott. An inspiring story with a blistering end. Made me want to do more triathlon training.

Chasing the Screen by Johann Hari – one man’s journey to discover the real causes of addiction. Sadness and loss of fulfilment and happiness. Essentially I read this as his findings can be applied to many other situations other than drug use. Fascinating read. Has changed the way I deal with patients with addiction.

Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougal – the story of the Nazi Occupation of Crete and Churchill’s “Dirty Tricksters” who trained in an unorthodox fashion to foil and undermine the Germans. Lots of information about improving endurance and using fascia as an aid to running.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – An Ivy League varsity swimmer becomes a lawyer, ditches exercise, becomes an alcoholic / drug addict, loses everything, then takes up running and becomes one of the World’s fittest men. I loved this book and there are a lot of themes which most of us can identify with. I love his podcast also.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson – the subtext is “how to heal from distant, rejecting, self-involved parents” and probably tells you everything you need to know. Essentially, I read this to avoid being that kind of parent to my kids.

Finding My Voiceby Mike Reilly – “Zain Kapasi. You Are An Ironman” is something I hope to hear one day as I cross the finishline. Covid put a spanner in the works for that in 2020 and also 2021. Perhaps next year and if it’s Mike Reilly then all the better. “The Voice of Ironman” tells tales of the many unbelievable and inspiring stories he’s collected over the years as the main compare for the Ironman finish line.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek – How Scott became one of the World’s best ultra runners. He’s done this on a vegan diet. Again and inspiring story and I’ve essentially stopped eating meat as a result. His vegetarian chilli recipe is amazing.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – a seminal work on why humans have evolved to be the best endurance runners in the animal kingdom. Completely fascinating. Everyone should read this and everyone should run! Couldn’t put it down. I wonder if Scott Jurek knows he’s used a photo from Scott’s book for the back cover???

A bit of plagiarism there perhaps?

Incidentally, note the forefoot strike by Arnulfo Quimare wearing sandals on the right and Scott’s heel strike on the left. This is not mentioned in either book relating to this picture but does get discussed. I like that there is such a visual representation that nobody seems to have noticed. A real book “Easter egg”.

Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn – a journalist cum hobbiest runner moves to Kenya to learn how to run like a Kenyan. This is his first book I think and I read it for completeness sake. It’s more of a travel book with some running thrown in I felt. At the end of it all his findings are that Kenyans are better runners “because they want it more”. However did have some quite good running tips which I’ve tired to make use of.

The Way of the Runner by Adharanand Finn – basically the Kenyan book but in Japan. However, I found this much more inclusive. I don’t think I could ever run like a Kenyan but like a Japanese person? Why not. There’s lots of good insights into a fairly homogenous and quite secretive culture. Intriguing and certainly feels like a better read than the Kenyan one.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn – the logical progression from the first two books where he tries to become an ultra runner. A truly fantastic read that will make you want to go out and be like one of these intriguing people. The stories he uncovers from the personalities he meets on his journey are wonderful and have really inspired me to think more like a runner. I hope his next book (should one appear) continues with exponential quality.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins – an abused, impoverished, American kid becomes one of the World’s fittest men. The only person to have completed the training for the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Airforce Tactical AirController. He truly is a story of mind over matter (see his 40% rule). I particularly his “Accountability Mirror” and his chapter on “Taking Souls”. The “Cookie Jar” is also a useful aid memoir. I would sum up this book as “you can do anything you want and if you don’t manage it then you didn’t want it enough!” I like to think he’d agree with that sentiment.

The Attributes by Rich Diviney – an ex-Navy SEAL trainer explains the difference between attributes and skills and why some unexpected people succeed which sure-fire ones fail. Took me back to old role playing games and made me want to draw up my own “character” and see what my attributes would be. Lots about leadership etc. Really interesting and useful read for anyone.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk – eye-opening, disarming but sometimes necessarily harrowing read about trans generational trauma. Explains why people behave in certain ways due to their upbringing and how trauma and abuse leave their mark and how they manifest. Everyone should read this. You’d be surprised by the things you find out about yourself.

Ok. That’s as far as I’ve got in the last year but I’ll see how the next 12 months progress and hopefully can let you know about a few more decent reads I’ve come across.