Review: “Evolution”

joe-evolution-coverI read Joe Manganiello’s book “Evolution” at the start of the new year. For many, he is most well known for his role as Alcide, the werewolf on HBO’s True Blood. For my sister and her girlfriends, he is the big guy from Magic Mike. No matter how you know him, everyone can agree the guy is a total beast. At 6′ 5″, he towers over the leading actions heroes of Hollywood and based on reading his book, he could outrun and out lift them all.

If his book were just a memoir, I probably would have skipped it; but it was generating good buzz for actually being an informed diet and fitness guide. With about 100 pages of exercise descriptions and photos that certainly is the case. Coupled with that is a 6-week transformation program he used to build strength and muscle while losing fat.

Common sense tells us that most professional actors look good on screen because they have a lot of time and money and CGI. Joe’s narrative doesn’t keep any secrets. He tells exactly how he transformed from a tall, lanky kid in high school to one of the most fit men in Hollywood. In addition, he discusses how he came back from a failed career and years wasted chain-smoking and drinking heavily. It is a story of humility, hard work and mental toughness.

Joe explains that no one walks into the gym ripped one day. You have to start somewhere. He writes, “You’ve got to enter the gym devoid of shame and comparison…Once you walk through those doors, no one is going to make fun of you for not lifting enough or doing something wrong. The gym is a community of people working together to become better, instead of accepting their fate as predetermined: ‘I’m built this way or that way, and nothing I do is going to change that.’

With that spirit of community, Joe’s book aims for a higher purpose rather than pure self-promotion. He genuinely is interested in the reader achieving a life of better health and wellness. He shares everything he knows in a concise text that does not get distracted by tales of movie sets and awards shows. The biggest name dropping is Joe Weider and his personal trainers. And whether or not you decide to follow his exact programming, you can at least take inspiration from his story.

Lastly, there is a great introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is fun to read just so you can practice your best impersonation of The Governator. But more importantly, Arnold sets the right tone by saying, “This book does not promise any magic spells or gimmicks. That’s why I love it. But if you start reading today, you will be better tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.”

Review: “Paddle Your Own Canoe”

Ron Swanson has become a hero across this great land to the bacon-loving masses who appreciate his no nonsense frontier-wisdom, beautiful coif and thick mustache. He is a level-headed guy that will tell you, “I’m a simple man. I like pretty dark-haired women and breakfast foods.”

paddle-your-own-canoeBehind those fine facial follicles on Parks & Recreation is a very funny, talented actor named Nick Offerman. In his memoir, Paddle Your Own Canoe, Offerman tells his journey from the farm in a small-town in Illinois to a critically acclaimed sitcom in Hollywood. While Swanson has some specific views about money (invest in gold) and government (“My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke.”), he and his real-life counterpart Offerman both posses a strong work-ethic, a love for woodworking and a lot of sage advice.

Offerman has spent years training as an actor and becoming a gift carpenter and has some valuable lessons to share: Continue reading “Review: “Paddle Your Own Canoe””

Review: “First – What it Takes to Win”

rich froningI am a firm believer that learning can happen both inside and outside of the classroom. As part of my training, I am always looking outside of the gym for help and advice and all around inspiration as I get ready to compete.

This past summer, I read First: What It Takes to Win by Rich Froning. He famously holds the title of “Fittest Man on Earth” after taking first place in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CrossFit Games. The man is a beast.

His book is a quick read and provides some welcome insight into the life of such a world-class athlete. Froning has suffered a great deal of personal loss and has used that pain as a source of his personal drive and motivation.

While his writing style is lacking, the book has its merits as it reveals the method to his madness. I thought it would be worth revisiting during my training. Here are the lessons I learned from Rich Froning that helped him become a true champion:

1.) Drink a lot of milk – Froning has an interesting diet. He doesn’t subscribe to the Paleo lifestyle and seems to subsist mainly on protein shakes and milk. In fact, he drinks 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon of whole milk per day. Plus, he likes to have a glass of chocolate milk mixed with a BSN nutritional supplement after a workout. If they start making those “Got Milk?” ads again, Froning should definitely be asked to don the milk mustache.

2.) Work out multiple times a day – Froning usually puts in a couple of workouts per day, every day. This typically means a 1-2 hour workout in the morning, another mid-day and perhaps one for good measure in the late afternoon. As the Games approach, when he says it’s “Really Go Time”, he will shift into “full-on preparation”, which translates to 5 workouts per day, seven days per week.

3.) Attack weaknesses – Rich Froning left the 2010 Games as a runner-up because he didn’t know how to climb a rope. Immediately after returning home, he researched the proper technique and concepts and, at the first chance he could, he got back on the rope. Needless to say, he conquered that weakness until it became a strength as demonstrated in the 2011 Games in an event that consisted of 5 rounds of 15-foot rope climbs followed by reps of cleans-and-jerks. He came in first. Rather than focus on the skills he was good at, Froning constantly dedicates time in the gym to the skills he needs to improve.

4.) Employ a reward philosophy – Before you assume this means that if you workout out really hard you can reward yourself with chocolate chip cookies, think again. Froning pushes himself to train on movements he doesn’t like (i.e. running) by rewarding himself with movements he does like (i.e. Olympic lifting).  He says, “Knowing that I’ll soon be lifting helps me make it through the running.”

5.) Use your gifts – Froning is a devout Christian who puts faith first. He writes in his book, “I believe God has chosen CrossFit to be the avenue through which I can best glorify Him. I’m doing what God has called me to do, obediently using the physical and mental abilities he has blessed me with.” Putting aside any religious beliefs or debates about the efficacy of doing burpees to glorify God, I believe there is great truth in the importance of recognizing and utilizing our gifts in life. Froning has amazing physical talents and is a true competitor. It would be a shame if he let those talents go to waste.