Book Review- FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness by Akshay Nanavati

I first heard about the book FEARVANA:  The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Akshay Nanavati on the Marathon Training Academy podcast “How to Use Suffering to Your Advantage as a Runner.” I was intrigued by the thought of using fear and suffering to my advantage and actually coming out stronger as a result. Runners often face fear (that first 20-mile run or your first race) and suffering (mile repeats or running in adverse weather) so learning to channel fear and suffering sounded like something I wanted to learn more about.

Nanavati is a Marine Corps Veteran who overcame drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, and psychological problems that led him to contemplate suicide. He was able to not only overcome all of this but find a fulfilling life and start a nonprofit organization, The Fearvana Foundation. He is a runner and athlete and has a goal to run across every country in the world. In addition, he has accomplished some incredible feats such as climbing the Himalayas and trekking across an icecap in -40 degree temperatures.

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Check out who wrote the Foreword on this book- pretty impressive!

I found this book to be a quick and easy read full of inspirational stories and quotes. Normally I hate a book that has inspirational stories but I found they worked well in this book and I actually liked them. Some of them I had heard before but I realize maybe not everyone has heard the story about how Michael Jordan (a hugely famous former basketball player) was cut from his high school basketball team.

Beyond the anecdotal stories, the book begins with scientific evidence on how your brain reacts to fear and how your body is effected. The book is divided into three sections and in the first section, we are introduced to the idea of having two brains, the animal brain and the human brain. The animal brain responds to survival needs while our human brain can help us process perceived fears. Having the two brains work together is the tricky part.

The second part of the book describes more deeply the idea of Fearvana and has training exercises to help the reader change their mindset. The third part of the book goes into the remembering self and the experiencing self and how our memories can shape our lives. Nanavati describes how to embrace suffering through something that you hope will result in a positive outcome- like training for a marathon and ultimately running and finishing that marathon.

Most importantly, Fearvana is about embracing your fears rather than trying to hide from them or ignore them. The term fearvana was coined by Nanavati by combining the words fear and nirvana. He believes that by using fear to our advantage, we can not only conquer our fears but reach a feeling of nirvana.

Another important subject Nanavati delves into is the realization that we are not defined by events that happened in our past and we can in fact change our memories. He gives some examples of some  people who had tragic things happen to them in their childhood but yet they are living happy, peaceful lives as adults. These people realized that what happened to them does not define them as people, but rather their outlook on life and how they choose to live their life determines their happiness and well-being.

Bottom-line is I recommend reading this book regardless if you’re a runner or other athlete or not. I feel like this book is truly for everyone from all walks of life and all ages. Who wouldn’t want to be able to view fear as an asset and use it to your advantage?

You can buy FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness on Amazon or do like I did and borrow it from a library. If your local library doesn’t have it, see if they can borrow it from another library (many public libraries do this now and yet most people aren’t aware of this wonderful offering).

Have you read this book or are you interested in reading it? Share your comments below.

Happy running!

Donna

 

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Book Review- Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance Book by Alex Hutchinson

I’ll cut to the chase here. I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s hands-down one of my favorite running-related books I’ve read in a while. This isn’t just a book for runners, though. It’s a book for any kind of person who is interested in gaining some insight into how the brain influences our bodies when pushed to extreme conditions. Be forewarned, though. If you’re looking for a training manual to help you increase your endurance, this is not the book for that.

There are a lot of scientific references in this book but don’t let that scare you away if you normally don’t like a lot of “science talk.” I’m a scientist and perhaps part of the draw for me was all of the science, but I don’t think it’s too over-the-top for most people. There are plenty of anecdotes and stories told throughout the book to keep things interesting. For example, the backdrop of the entire book is the 2-hour marathon attempt (Breaking2 documentary can be watched here) which the author comes back to every few chapters and helps keep the story going.

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The book itself is divided into three parts. In the first part “Mind and Muscle,” Hutchinson goes through the history of endurance research and the various theories used to explain it:  the “human machine” approach, Tim Noakes’ central governor theory, the psychobiological model by Samuele Marcora, and others. In the second part, “Limits,” he gives specific stories of people who have either intentionally or accidentally pushed or exceeded their limits in various ways such as pain, muscle, oxygen, heat, thirst, and fuel. Hutchinson vividly describes the experiences of polar explorers, Death Zone climbers, lost desert wanderers, and deep-sea freedivers among others as he looks for indications of which theories of endurance best fit the facts. In the third section, “Limit Breakers,” he explores various new approaches to expanding the apparent boundaries of endurance, ranging from mindfulness and brain training to electric brain stimulation, including accounts of his own experiences with some of them.

The last chapter of the book is about belief. The author states, “One of the key lessons I’ve taken away from writing Endure is that races aren’t just plumbing contests, measuring whose heart can deliver the most oxygen to their muscles. The reality is far more complex, and I think the first major post-Breaking2 marathon will be a great chance to see the “curious elasticity” of human limits in action.” Back to this chapter in a moment.

This book is 320 pages so it’s not a quick read. I found myself not wanting to put it down and I ended up staying up a bit later than usual sometimes when I read it before bed. Some of the stories are so engaging and thrilling, I found myself so engrossed that I just wanted to hear how the story ended before putting the book away for the night.

My take-away from the book is that we are capable of so much more than we realize. Sometimes our brain is just trying to protect us (if we’re running outside and it’s 90 degrees) but sometimes we have to take control and tell our brain that we CAN do this, whatever the current challenge is, even if it’s hard, or maybe especially if it’s hard. Positive self-talk is no secret and we’ve all heard how important it is for reaching our best effort, but we need to go beyond that if we want to push ourselves further.

I especially like one of the last pages of the chapter “Belief,” where the author states the following:  “This book isn’t a training manual. Still, it’s impossible to explore the nature of human limits without wondering about the best ways to transcend them. In the end, the most effective limit-changers are still the simplest-so simple that we’ve barely mentioned them. If you want to run faster, it’s hard to improve on the training haiku penned by Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, the man whose 1991 journal paper foretold the two-hour-marathon chase:

Run a lot of miles

Some faster than your race pace

Rest once in a while”

Have any of you read this book? Are you interested in our brain’s involvement in pushing ourselves in any sport or activity? Do any of you have book recommendations for me?

Happy running!

Donna