In the digital age we have an endless amount of media with endless ways to consume it. As a producer of some of that content, I thank you all for reading and sharing my work that is a speck in a vast ocean of choices. To better my product, I attempt to keep my mind sharp, open to new concepts and challenged with new ideas. Ever since I could read, I have loved books. This year I made my way through 45 of them, and these five were the best I found for shaping perspectives of coaches and athletes.

1. Faster Higher Stronger by Mark McCulsky

Technology is changing everything, including the way we train. We can now measure almost every aspect of sports performance and then analyze the data to make smarter decisions when it comes to training and competition. We can avoid overtraining, enhance recovery and lessen our mistakes on the field, taking the athlete from an also ran to the top of the podium. This book reinforced the necessity of tracking poundages, taping and reviewing sessions, understanding sleep, picking the right contests, making supportive dietary choices and doing anything you can to manage your career as a Strongperson.

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2. Behave by Robert Sapolsky

Taking a Stanford biology course online from Professor Sapolsky made me anxious for the arrival of this book. The complex subject of why humans behave as we do is made surprisingly understandable in a very enjoyable, humorous read. As a coach this book is a must. It is our job to communicate in a way an athlete will respond to in a positive manner. When you understand the mix of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors that truly dictate what we perceive to be “free will,” you can become less frustrated yourself and develop an enriched perspective of why human do such odd things.

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3. DNA Is Not Destiny by Steven Heine

“Man, that guy is way better than me. He must have awesome genetics.” We are genetic fatalists, says Heine, arguing that people have resigned their fate to what is encoded in their DNA. The problem with this commonly held viewpoint is that the more you understand genetics the less likely you are to agree with it. By seeing yourself as genetically inferior in a sport can radically effect your ability to perform. Our DNA can actually change and respond to our actions. We can not fully predict height, weight, heart disease or cancer risk simply from DNA alone. As competitors, you should forgo the thought of a fixed destiny and instead fight for your own personal future.

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4. What the Luck by Gary Smith

With an infinite number of variables that can happen to us in any situation, one must conclude that much of life has to do with luck. Running into the right contact that landed you a new job? Narrowly miss getting hit by a bus today? Perfect score on a standardized test? Smith illustrates how everyone and everything can over (or under) perform but will eventually return to the average of their potential. My big take away from this was what every successful person constantly trumpets; no matter what, you must keep trying no matter how often you fail. While it is no guarantee of success, you will better your odds.

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5. Extreme Ownership By Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

These combat hardened SEAL veterans are now executive consultants, and their message is simple: It’s all on you. Sales team fail? You didn’t communicate how to achieve success or you picked the wrong people. Production fall behind schedule? You failed to manage the problem successfully. It is easy to pass of the responsibility but you must understand, it is the tool of the weak and breeds more weakness. Own every rep of every set. Own your nutrition program. Own your sleep schedule. Own the consequences of your actions. The message is clear; once you do, you will experience freedom and a feeling of control that is quite powerful. Your life is yours and you must drive it, it is not a ride along.

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You don’t have to grab any of these suggestions though. Just pick up something and read it. It will engage the brain and in some way make you a better athlete and person. Weight training is the best thing you can do to muscular fitness, but do not neglect your intellectual training as well!

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

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