Natural Born Heroes is really two books interwoven into one. One part consisted of the truly astounding recounting of the Cretan (and British) resistance kidnapping of a Nazi General during WWII. The second part told the story of the natural movement of the human body and how that impacts strength and endurance. The author, Christopher McDougall connected these resistance fighter’s behavior under pressure to the use of natural movement and natural nutrition. The connection between this historical story and natural movement were a bit dubious at times, but it made for entertaining reading.
You may recognize the author – Christopher McDougall. He wrote the wildly successful 2011 book Born to Run this is credited with putting ultra-running into ultra-overdrive. That book had a tremendous impact on my life and was one of those “right place at the right time” type of books. I read it in 2012, around the time I began switching from shorter-distance runs (2-3 miles) to longer-distance runs (6-8 miles). The book inspired me to run for the pure pleasure of running, and I haven’t slowed down since.
Natural Born Heroes had a similar impact on both ends of the book. First, historically, I was shocked by this WWII story. I am ashamed to say I had never even heard of the Cretan resistance during WWII and their brazen kidnapping of a Nazi general. This wasn’t just a cute story, it had major ramifications for the entire war. Germans blame the island of Crete for delaying a more forceful advance into Russia, which delivered a crushing blow to the German advance at the time.
Second, the book had an impact on the natural movement front for me. During the reading of this book, I signed up for my first marathon. I’ll be running the March 19th marathon in Los Angeles. There is a whole section of the book dedicated to nutrition and endurance. I have focused much of my running life on endurance but very little on nutrition. I started a completely new diet as a result of suggestions in this book. I’m in the beginning stages, but I’m doing it as a test to see if it assists in my running.
One thing I really appreciate about Chris McDougall is that he travels to the places he writes about and he interviews people relevant to the story. He did this for Born to Run and for Natural Born Heroes. He learned about the history and about natural movement from the pros. It gives the author a unique angle on the story as well as neat anecdotes that could never be gleaned in a library.
I learned about some really interesting ideas in this book. Here are some of them in no particular order:
- The one-inch punch – utilizing the body in such a way that by starting with the big toe, someone standing in place with their fist one inch from another person can punch from that distance and send the person flying. Seriously. Look it up on YouTube.
- The Man Who was Thursday – this book by G.K. Chesterton is referenced throughout Natural Born Heroes. The crux of The Man Who was Thursday is that to avoid suspicion, act exactly like those suspicious of you would expect you to act. The resistance fighters in Crete kidnapped a Nazi general in one of the most fortified parts of Crete and smuggled him out of Crete through hundreds of Nazi soldiers.
- Body rebooting – training your body to use fat as an energy source instead of sugar. This requires a new diet.