Book Suggestion: Achieving The Impossible – Lewis Pugh
While not strictly a sport science book, I highly recommend this book for the way it provides insights into the mind of an elite athlete and high-functioning individual. The book is an easy read, and I found that the writing style made it a bit more personal. Rather than just reading about what happened, you can get a sense of how Lewis Pugh felt. He is clearly an exuberant and passionate man, who works hard to achieve his goals.
I really enjoyed the chapters describing his SAS training and how mentally tough one has to be to make it through. It was interesting how thorough Lewis Pugh was about preparing for his SAS training. He mentions how he would take a weekend away and scout the area that was designated for his next SAS training mission. He would eventually carry that meticulousness into his swimming exploits, and as we know he was very successful as a result.
One idea stood out for me though, and that was how important it is to clearly assign and define everyone’s roles and responsibilities. This played out in the book as an incident in which a wrist watch was meant to be worn for research purposes, but because no one had been specifically assigned to attach it, the device was forgotten during a not-to-be-repeated swim in the Antarctic. This is a lesson to be learned for sport scientists and coaches. Who is in charge of ensuring that the match-day meal and hydration plans are in place? Who is in charge of strapping and when does it need to happen? Who is supposed to maintain the first-aid box? Who is bringing the match jerseys? And I could go on… This aligns with being meticulous, because assigning roles and responsibilities means that you and your team will be as prepared as possible, and you are giving yourself the best chance at achieving your goals. It might come across as pedantic to some, but being thoroughly prepared means that you’ve done your best and if you still don’t get the result, then at least you won’t die wondering.
The last take-away point from this book is to have a good team around you. There is no doubt that some of Lewis Pugh’s adventures were dangerous to say the least. They pushed the boundaries of the human body and science. Therefore, it was vital that he had the best people around him, people who he trusted with his life (literally). As sport scientists, we're not always in a position to be able to choose a team, it is more likely that we are the one to find ourselves becoming part of a team. So, flipping it around, we should try to be sublime team members, by being reliable, trustworthy, and excellent at what we do.
The predominant message in this book is about climate change, but sport scientists and coaches can take a lot from it. So to summarise, my stand-out points were; 1) Be prepared, 2) Clearly assign and define roles and responsibilities, and 3) Choose a good team, or be an excellent team member.