Exercise your eyes

Exercise your eyes

Thinking about curling up with hot cocoa and a good book? (After your workout, of course.) Or do you need a gift for an athlete in your life? I asked some area athletes about their favorite books in their sports. Here are their recommendations:

— Letitia Moffitt is a marathon runner and Eastern Illinois University professor, teaching literature and creative writing.

“I have two favorite running books, and neither is a terribly original choice — both massively popular best-sellers. The first is ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall. People know this as ‘the book about barefoot running,’ but it’s so much more than that. McDougall is such an engaging, interesting writer, and there’s so much fascinating material here, even nonrunners would love it, and anyone who has been on the fence about distance running will almost certainly finish the book and pick up their shoes and start training for 26.2 — it’s that good.

“The second is a novel, ‘Once a Runner,’ by John L. Parker. Running is difficult to write about in general, and probably even tougher to write about as fiction because its drama is almost entirely mental, unlike with a team sport. Parker makes it look easy with this exciting story about a guy who gave everything up for running. I was actually cheering, like, aloud, at the last chapter.”

— Jim Thompson teaches golf at the UI Golf Course in Savoy and was a three-time Twin City golf champion.

“My favorite golf book of all time is ‘The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever’ by Mark Frost. It’s the story of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson playing a golf match against the two best amateurs at the time, Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. I’m kind of a sports historian. It’s a thrilling match with some great golfers.

“My second favorite book is ‘Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,’ a sports psychology book by Dr. Bob Rotella. It helps you think about the game as you have control over what your mind is telling you. Instead of thinking about missing that 3-foot putt, you can talk yourself into making it, or giving yourself the best opportunity to make it by not focusing on the negative.”

Thompson also recommended some instructional books, including “See and Feel the Inside Move the Outside” by Mike Hebron and “Golf For Dummies” by Gary McCord.

— John Sturmanis is a cyclist who races with the WildCard Cycling team and also does mountain biking and cyclocross. He’s an attorney with Thomas, Mamer & Haughey.

“I recently read and liked ‘A Dog in a Hat’ by Joe Parkin, about the gritty side of Belgium pro bike racing from an American’s perspective.”

Sturmanis also offered several recommendations and comments from members of WildCard Cycling:

David Herlihy’s “Bicycle: The History.” Pretty quick read with lots of great images.

Johan Bruyneel’s “We Might as Well Win” is a fun, quick read about Brunyeel’s background and his eight Tour de France wins as director.

“Slaying the Badger,” about the 1986 Tour de France. It’s hard to imagine all of the drama on a team with Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond both trying to win the tour, but this book does a really good job of it.

Joel Friel’s “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” got me started training with a purpose and really helped improve my cycling performance.

The “Bike Snob” book basically explains cycling culture to regular people, by way of ridiculing it.

— Howie Schein is a Masters swimmer and swimming official who coaches the University Laboratory High School girls’ swim team and the McKinley YMCA HEAT swim club. He’s also an adjunct professor in the University of Illinois Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.

“For inspiration: ‘Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer’ by Lynne Cox.

“Lynne Cox is one of the most extraordinary marathon swimmers, ever. As a teenager, she set the record for swimming the English Channel, and after that swim, she followed up with ever-challenging swims. Her ultimate goal was to swim a mile in Antarctican waters, and along the way, she swam many challenging distances in all kinds of aquatic environments, including the Bering Straits between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as a way to show that the Cold War could be melted. The cool thing about Cox’s writing is that is doesn’t have a hint of braggadocio. She sets her goals, and she goes for it.

“One of my favorite books that addresses models of motivation: ‘Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success’ by Carol Dweck.

“My favorite workout book: ‘Total Swimming’ by Janet Evans. This book combines very readable sections on swimming technique and workouts that I have used for myself and for the teams that I coach.

“How big-time competitive swimming works: ‘Golden Girl: How Natalie Coughlin Fought Back, Challenged Conventional Wisdom, and Became America’s Olympic Champion,’ by Michael Silver and Natalie Coughlin. This book is more about competitive swimming and swimmers’ relationships to their coaches than it is a biography of Natalie Coughlin.

“‘Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory’ by P.H. Mullen. If you want to experience the complete agony of training for some of the Olympics’ most grueling events, this book does it.”

— My recommendation: “Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenously” by Bill McKibben. McKibben spends a year in serious, elite athlete-level training for cross-country ski racing, at the same time he’s coping with his father’s terminal illness. I have described this book as the best book I’ve ever read about running. Even though it’s about skiing, McKibben perfectly articulates how I feel about long-distance running.

Photo by Robert K. O'Daniell


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urbana1234 wrote on December 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

I am working on the mental side of my running. The library in Champaign has the book below on order that I recommended. Looking forward to it.


Jodi Heckel wrote on December 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm
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Looks interesting -- thanks for the suggestion! I'm going to take a look at it.