Book Review: Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

It was the second part of the title that caught my attention: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance?  Sign me up!  

The book starts in Crete during World War II when resistance fighters capture a Nazi general, planning to hide him on the island and send him to Egypt.  After that thrilling bit, the story jumps around from topic to topic like the mountain goats on Crete hopping from dizzying peak to peak.  Is it about WWII? Natural Running? Meditteranean diet? Greek myths? Modern Greece? Fitness?  Health?  MMA? Parkour?  All those things and more, combined with stories of rich playboys turned resistance fighters and the brave people of Crete who risked everything to support them.

From the 1890's Edwin Checkley's  "natural training" fitness program  to the modern Parkour movement, McDougall introduces us to visionaries whose common dream is that we all have it in us and we don't need expensive equipment or programs to train our bodies to be fit.  

I've often wondered about the idea that you can never drink enough water, that runners need to drink more water than they think they need because they won't know that they need to drink. He addresses this issue with some interesting research.  Sure enough, the studies backing up this theory are all sponsored by bottled water companies.  Of course, we know when we're thirsty.  How could our species have survived without knowing when to drink?  In fact, McDougall points out that there have been NO deaths due to dehydration in US marathons but several due to water intoxication. The main point for me is to trust yourself, trust your body, which is an important aspect of both martial arts and barefoot running. 

There are many more fascinating and well-researched discussions in the book on various diets, sports regimes, war and whether the Greek myths are actually based on history.  I recommend it.