Fitness,  History

The First Sport-Specific Fitness Book?

I've been in the fitness industry for over 15 years as a trainer, teacher, and writer. I've written two books and more magazine articles and web pieces than I can remember. And since I spend a lot of my time helping golfers find more distance off the tee, tennis players add power and accuracy to their shots, and basketball players develop more explosiveness and mobility on the court, my professional interests tend towards the sport-specific side of fitness.

And that's why my second book was so much fun to do. Fix Your Body, Fix Your Swing is a book about golf biomechanics that I wrote with my friend and all-things-fitness genius, Joey Diovisalvi, who's currently out on the PGA Tour with former -- and future -- World Number Ones Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.

With that as my background, it was crazy cool to discover Felix on the Bat: Being a Scientific Inquiry into the Use of the Cricket Bat written in 1845.

felix spread

Felix on the Bat was written by Nicholas Wanostrocht -- who also went by the name Nicholas Felix. Felix was an above average player in the mid-19th century. The book is an interesting study in batting techniques and theories. He goes into great detail about offensive versus defensive play and draws a lot of analogies to fencing. Much of what he talks about is the math and geometry of batting and how the angle of the bat at contact has to be in response to the bounce angle of the bowled ball. And he does it in some wonderfully constructed prose: the ball "will then alter its course, and assume the bias given to it by the obliquity of its rotation as originally imparted to it by the bowler."

To help readers understand and learn from his theories, he suggests various footwork and stance drills to help them improve their form.

Felix 1

Maybe the coolest part of the book, though, is the bonus chapter about his invention -- The Catapulta.

catapulta 4

It was the first bowling machine and possibly the father of every contraption out there now that's slinging a cricket ball, baseball, tennis ball, or any other conceivable sphere at us.

The chapter doesn't really follow the previous chapters logically and doesn't really seem to belong in the book, but it's cool anyway. Kind of like when at the very, very end of the credits in a Marvel Comics Universe movie there'll be a scene where Nick Fury invites Spider-Man to join the Avengers.

Well. Sort of.

In the few years that I've now been obsessed with cricket, one of the things that stands out is the game's connection with its past. And it's not just about the game's history; it's about the game's sense and awareness of the importance of its own history.

Felix on the Bat is an incredible look into the game as it was almost 200 years ago. And what makes it even more interesting is that -- flowery writing aside -- the topics debated in the book aren't all that different from what's being talked about today.

Who knows? Maybe 170 years from now, some futuristic goofball will be blogging about an ancient golf tome called Fix Your Body, Fix Your Swing.

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