According to Ross Edgley, resilience “is not some superhuman gift that is possessed by the brave and the bold – it is innate within all of us.”
After reading his new book The Art of Resilience: Strategies for an Unbreakable Mind and Body, I am convinced he is right.
Edgley became the first person to swim around Great Britain in November 2018, having spent 157 days at sea.
During the 1780-mile swim, he never took a day off due to illness or injury, which is a pretty remarkable feat.
This was not Edgley’s first extreme sports challenge: in 2016 he completed a full marathon while pulling a car, and a year later he ran 30 marathons in 30 days.
The Art of Resilience isn’t just a sports book: it’s a study in total mental and physical strength.
In addition to giving an in-depth account of the highs and lows of his Great British Swim, Edgley writes about philosophy, stoic sports science, and how best to train to reach your peak athletic abilities.
Each chapter focuses on a different lesson in resilience and opens with Edgley’s location, distance from home, and days at sea.
These 22 lessons range from the importance of sleep to the best ways to process pain and are both entertaining and informative at different points: as a gym-goer who sometimes feels like I have no clue what I’m doing, I found Edgley’s tips in Lesson Five about effective weight training to be very useful.
One of the most poignant moments in the book comes in ‘Lesson 15: Control the Controllables’. Having found out that his father is suffering from cancer 83 days into the swim, Edgley receives more bad news 20 days later when it turns out that the cancer is Stage Four and terminal.
Though devastated, he decides to complete the swim instead of returning home and uses the need to get home to his dad as motivation to complete sections of the swim in record time.
Edgley’s mental strength in the face of this news was incredibly inspirational – I cannot say that I would have made the same choice had I been in his position.
The book also contains lighter stories of his time spent abroad in countries from Namibia to Japan.
In a particularly amusing section in Lesson 11, Edgley writes about an experience he had while travelling in the Brazilian rainforest in 2008.
Edgley’s account of getting high off a psychedelic drug known as Ayahuasca (given to him by the Jaminawa tribe as part of a ritual), hallucinating and subsequently vomiting, all while being attacked by ants is as bizarre as it is funny but adds a much-needed lightness to an otherwise serious read.
In the book’s epilogue, Edgley concludes that he was not courageous, but instead used his lessons in resilience to his advantage to push his mind and body further than he thought possible.
The Art of Resilience is a compelling book which demonstrates the power of the mind and proves that Edgley is not super-human – merely a master of mental fortitude.