Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – Book review

I got a few comments on my last blog about diet and exercise – thanks folks. It’s interesting that diet, and the question of whether to change what we eat, is a topic very close to our hearts. I did make an assumption our diet isn’t perfect in my last blog on this subject. I should perhaps have clarified that it all goes by comparison. (And, of course, I’m not a nutritional expert but the ideal diet is different for different people.)

Personally I notice that most people don’t tend to place much importance on the benefits of diet to enhance their performance in their exercise, and to help live a whole and fulfilled life. The reason I would suggest a high standard for our diet as runners is after reading a few books recently which tell the story of how diet has transformed peoples running. The first was Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll. The book is very challenging and throws up a lot of questions about what makes an effective diet for an athlete.

The subtitle of the book is ‘Rejecting middle age, becoming one of the world’s fittest men, and discovering myself.’ Rich talks through the total transformation in his lifestyle after a ‘eureka’ moment when he realised he was shortening his life and he needed to make some huge changes. What follows is amazing, at times hard to believe and incredibly inspiring. He participates in some of the most gruelling endurance events imaginable. Within this journey he stops eating meat, but changes his diet far far more than that. The result is what he calls the Plant Power diet. The advice and tips he gives along the way show how it is possible to drop those energy gels and sports drinks and go natural. I for one would really love to start fuelling myself with something a lot more like the Rich Roll way. The book, including the appendices, are packed with advice on how to change your diet.

If you don’t like people telling you what to do, don’t read this book. If I have any criticism it would be that the author is quite pushy with his beliefs in diet. He is evangelical about what he believes is the right way forward for everyone – but then you would be if your life has been transformed in the way his has.

What I find fascinating is the incredible transformation in Rich’s athletic performance which was brought about by changes in his diet. You could say this was because he was on such a bad diet in the first place, but I don’t think it is just that.

The stories of endurance in the book are absolutely inspiring and worth reading for anyone who is considering endurance running of any kind. I love the way they make the ‘normal’ efforts runners go to look so small. I don’t look at running for 4 hours in the same way at all any more.

So what has all this got to do with Chi Running? Well (these are my personal opinions of course.) Chi Running advocates a mindful and holistic approach to our whole life. The Chi Running Book has a section on diet. Chi Running is, I would say, mindful running – it’s a holistic practice. And you can’t separate that from the other aspects – diet, mental, emotional, spiritual etc. So Rich’s whole approach to life is a journey in to discovery about this holistic, mindful approach. I’d say if you were in to Chi-Living, then you’d really get on well with the Rich Roll way of living.

Something else that really attracted me to the book is the spiritual journey which Rich follows. More about that in a later blog.

Read this book if you are interested in nutrition, and if you enjoy stories of human endurance and transformation.
Don’t read it if you prefer not to be preached at.

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