The Way To Live by George Hackenschmidt (1936)
I just finished this book about a week ago and found it to be an interesting look into the mind of one of the premier old time strongmen, George “the Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt. As the title suggests, Hackenschmidt lays out the lifestyle that made him one of the strongest men on the planet as well as some personal anecdotes from a bygone era from a very accomplished, worldly and intelligent man.
Hackenschmidt promotes a life based around physical culture, which seems to encompass virtually every aspect of one’s health. Within the book he outlines (with diagrams) resistance exercises with weights and body weight exercises as well as advice on hygiene, rest, mental well-being and diet. Some of it sounds good, some of it sounds silly (he seems to have an aversion to using towels to dry oneself off?) but all of it had been put into practice to make one of the best all-time athletes the world has ever seen.
Although concerns about food quality seem to be a recent development, Hackenschmidt brings this up in the book where he suggests that people only eat meat (or not, he’s cool with vegetarianism) from animals that have lived a healthy and natural life as opposed to living under the conditions of most commercial operations. So maybe we’re not on to something new here?
On the downside, his account of his wrestling career was kind of boring after a while and I don’t think that it had to be – he probably should’ve written another book and went into greater detail and then I’m sure it would’ve been a good read. As it is now, he seems like he’s trying to cramp as much matter-of-fact details about his trials and tribulations (mostly tribulations – the guy was a beast) into as small of a space as possible. It sounds like there might have been some interesting twists and turns in his career.
After reading the book I didn’t find myself doing anything different (I’m keeping my towel, thank you), but I found a little bit of inspiration reading the words of a man who rejected the lofty status quo in his time in favor of a life of discipline, hard work, preservation and integrity. In our lethargic and overly-medicated era where we’re constantly bombarded with mindless entertainment, fast food and other indulgences we can certainly learn a thing or two from men like Hackenschmidt and turn away from some of the negative and take accountability for our health as individuals.