At the end of August I decided to test my flexibility by reading the largest book in my “to-read” pile whilst attempting the splits. This book was Total Recall: My Amazingly True Life Story, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It took exactly 2 months to read. 158cm was my stretch record at the start of the book. I varied in ability, depending on the time off I'd had from practice and the length of time I'd sat in the position. I managed to push the record up to 163cm- I work that out as being 3cm off the widest possible distance I could attain.
The hardest part of the project was a condition I refer to as “numb-bum”: getting a numb arse from being sat on the carpet too long. A condition I've not had since assembly in school, numb-bum in splits can send pins and needles down the legs, making it hard to walk when you get up after reading for long periods of time. I made a point of standing up at every page break / chapter and walking it off, but it sure slowed down the reading.
The book itself was fantastic. Highlights include Arnie leaving the handbrake off a tank and almost running over his whole platoon in training, finding out American women shave their legs, almost killing himself on a horse shooting True Lies and wrapping up Batman and Robin by having vital open-heart surgery days later. Arnie has overcome so much adversity- he dominated the bodybuilding championships throughout the 70s, he had a Hollywood career despite having a “ridiculous Austrian accent” (his words) and became a US governor despite not being born in the country.
He had absolute rock-solid belief in his abilities as a bodybuilder, as an actor and as a businessman, and later as a politician. Anyone looking to build confidence- don't bother with Dale Carnegie. Read this book instead. Anyone who believes he's just this 'roided-up actor who got lucky- think again. His last chapter, “Arnold's Rules”, can help anyone wanting to build confidence or gain direction.
It's possibly the best autobiography I've ever read.