***In these book reviews I will review books either by Stoic authors or books that I have read containing powerful lessons on resilience, and the Stoic virtues. I try to write these spoiler-free. If you like these reviews please consider supporting the authors and buy their books!
Ross Edgley made history on 4 November 2018 by becoming the first person to swim around all of Great Britain.
This was a heroic feat that consisted of swimming 12 hours a day, in 6-hour intervals, for 157 days. Sometimes swimming throughout the night.
This epic journey covered 1,780 miles of cold English waters.
He swam through treacherous conditions including ocean storms, giant whirlpools, and enormous jellyfish (weighing up to 25kg). Through a variety of ocean landscapes from clear island waters, to polluted shipping lanes, to the notorious Cape Wrath.
“it’s the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where NATO forces combine land, air and sea capabilities in assault mode for training manoeuvers, deploying bombs of up to 1,000lb (450kg), and where winds as high as 140mph (230km/h) have been recorded at Cape Wrath lighthouse….not only does Cape Wrath represent the most northwesterly point of our journey it represents where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea powerfully collide to create some of the world’s most dangerous sailing (and swimming) conditions.”
And the infamous Irish sea –
“Ranked among the roughest seas in the world, this stretch of water separating Wales and Ireland is often described as treacherous, turbulent and violent, having claimed the lives of many sailors whose boats now lay on the ocean floor.”
All this while experts believed the feat to be physically impossible, and while not even having the build or body of an elite swimmer. Edgley even managed the entire swim without a single day off due to sickness or injury.
Edgley has accomplished many other mind-blowing feats of physical prowess, such as;
- The world’s longest rope climb totaling the height of Mount Everest
- Completing a triathlon with a tree trunk weighing 45kg attached to him
- Running a marathon pulling a car behind him
and many other feats of strength and endurance.
While most people struggle to excel in one domain between strength or endurance, Ross has managed to do feats no one else has managed in both – sometimes combined in one unique event.
He has challenged what experts in multiple domains – medical, sport scientists and elite athletes – thought were impossible and proved them wrong, many times over.
He is a true modern-day adventurer, explorer, and strength athlete.
Stoicism and The Art of Resilience
Resilience is a core part of Stoicism and an inseparable part of it. To be a Stoic is to be resilient, though one could be resilient without being Stoic.
Throughout The Art of Resilience, Edgley emphasises separating what is in your control and what is not – a central tenet of Stoicism. It helps you learn how to become more resilient and succeed, by incorporating lessons from Stoicism.
Edgley didn’t just sprinkle a few Stoic thoughts throughout the book. I believe it is a core part of who he is. During interviews he often cites Stoicism and how it has helped him, even citing particular chapters from the primary Stoic texts.
On journaling (something I have incorporated into my daily routine), Edgley says:
“This is the one shared habit that all the stoics had in common, because although Epictetus was a teacher, Marcus Aurelius an emperor and Seneca a playwright, they all took time to document their daily thoughts, feelings and theories.”
Ross Edgley, The Art of Resilience, pg 43
Sharing the Journey
The book does an incredible job of turning this one big feat and turning it into a journey that invites the reader along to the emotions and thrills, the struggles and victories of the swim. It gives such a complete picture, you almost feel that you were actually there at certain points.
It is easy to read, peppered throughout with his humor. It doesn’t just cover the time of his swim around Great Britain, the book also weaves together different timelines of his training and life experiences from before the swim.
He talks about his training with the military and divers, with the Yamabushi warrior monks (who run a marathon a day for 41 days), the nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa, and the Tendai buddhist monks who “are famous for the Kaihogyo, a practice where monks run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days in a quest for enlightenment…” Ross casts the net wide when learning from the experiences of resilience and pain tolerance from various cultures.
The reader is left with a very thorough account of his journey as well as the research and preparation that was required, and the emotional ups and downs, in his quest to make history and push himself to his limits.
It will challenge what you think is physically possible and will help you be more resilient in your training and in life.
In-depth Research and a Strong Support System
Edgley lays out his approach to training called Stoic Sports Science, which he breaks down as follows;
- A strong body
- Stoic mind
- Strategic plan
He explains in detail the scientific principles of his training. It is written in such a way that the scientific principles are easy to understand, and you can easily apply them to our own training, whatever your goal.
He cites pioneering research in medical and sports science as well as more recent research in the fields. He also looks at research that challenges popular understandings across various domains. From the likes of Hans Selye to Tim Noakes, this book is chock-full of research that he used to apply to swim and his interpretation of those studies and how they would apply to his unique situation.
The book covers many aspects of physical training – not just swimming. I found the topic brachiating for shoulder girdle stability particularly interesting.
The book also contains a thorough section of endnotes with plenty of research material if you want to dive in further.
In addition to Edgley’s incredible resilience, hard work, and approach to training, he also had a strong support system. Undoubtedly this played a big role in his achievements. I think that an athlete with the same physical attributes as him would not have made it without the same support.
Humility alongside Greatness
Ross Edgley seems like a genuinely good guy that you could invite to a family lunch and he would fit right in.
I think that he is one of the most likeable in the strength/fitness industry. He doesn’t seem to have a huge ego, he always has a warm genuine smile and expresses interest in others – even when being interviewed.
It is very rare to find someone this accomplished in the fitness/strength industry that is this humble and genuine. He is an example of humility alongside greatness.
As an open water swimmer, and as someone who takes my training seriously in general, I loved reading this book.
This is a book that I would gift to any athlete regardless of their discipline.
While it has lessons applicable to anyone, and I do think it is worth a read for people who don’t train, it will be especially powerful to those who train and push themselves physically and mentally.
I bought this mainly to learn more about his swim around Great Britain. While the title gives it away that there is more than just learning about the swim, I was very surprised by how in-depth the book went, and how many lessons there were to be learned.
There is so much that you can apply in your own life – in practical – ways to become more resilient in various areas of your life.
You can read my previous book review The Eagle and the Dragon by elite powerlifter Chris Dufffin here.
Ross Edgley’s personal site.
You can follow him on Instagram here.