The Shaman and the Ironman — it sounds a bit like a pair of superheroes. But when shaman-healer Brant Secunda and six-time world champion triathlete Mark Allen teamed up to write their newest title, Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella, ISBN 978-1935251-75-0), they really did create something extraordinary.
As a reader of 40-50 health books a year, it’s a pleasure to come across one that’s so different, fresh, and original. Not surprisingly, it’s been endorsed by heavyweights of the health and business world, including Steven R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), who wrote the book’s foreword, and bestselling women’s health author Christiane Northrup MD.
The authors themselves have a compelling back-story. Secunda lived among the Huichol people of Mexico for 12 years and studied under their 110-year-old shaman. There he learned how the Huichols live to unbelievably old ages, are rarely sick, walk up steep mountains carrying heavy loads well into their 80s, laugh all the time, and are calm and serene.
When he came back to America, Secunda began reinterpreting the health secrets of the Huichols into strategies that Westerners of the 21st century could understand and put into practice. During this time he met Mark Allen, dubbed “The World’s Fittest Man” by Outside magazine and “The Greatest Triathlete of All Time” by Triathlete magazine. (Okay, maybe they are superheroes.) To make a long story short, Secunda helped Allen soar to greatness on the Ironman world championship circuit, and Allen helped Secunda understand the psychology, physiology, nutrition, and fitness requirements of an ultra athlete.
Now they travel the country teaching workshops using the successful approach they developed and on which Fit Soul, Fit Body is based. Reflecting their backgrounds, the book is a terrific blend of ancient shamanic wisdom and the latest scientific findings on nutrition, fitness, mood, and stress. One of their big messages is that to be healthy, you can’t just change your diet and exercise. You have to address your spiritual health as well. The idea is to forge a powerful connection between your physical body and the inner, intangible part of you — call it your “soul” — that allows you to achieve just about anything. When you do, you accomplish more at work. Lose unwanted weight. Sleep like a baby at night. You feel light-hearted and optimistic. Suddenly, your relationships are more satisfying. And you’re in the best shape of your life.
To help you accomplish all of this, Secunda and Allen present nine keys that address different aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual health. These include everything from stress reduction and coping with difficult emotions, to goal setting and changing your eating habits. Some of the most interesting parts of the book deal with the health benefits of nature. They show readers, even city dwellers, how to reconnect with the natural world to boost your moods, get smarter, and improve your performance.
Each chapter of the book tackles one of the nine “keys” and includes activities, tips, specific recommendations, scientific studies, interesting anecdotes, and tools to help you achieve mastery before moving to the next one. I’ve often thought that if one could find the perfect health, diet, and fitness book and actually follow every one of its recommendations to the letter, it could be life changing. Fit Soul, Fit Body might very well be that book.