Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is "Build Your Running Body" the best running book ever? Quite possibly yes.

Build Your Running Body boldly proclaims itself as "the ultimate running guide".  At the top of the front cover is a quote from Runner's World founder Bob Anderson declaring "This is the best running book ever".  Pretty heavy stuff. Does it live up to the hype?

I've been running for over thirty years reading over twenty books on training over that time and have to say "yep, it's that good".   Certainly there are books that excel by going greater detail into certain areas, like The Cool Impossible, which I found to dramatically improve my running form, or Daniels Running Formula, still the Bible on improving running economy.  But neither of these books had much to say about running outside of their narrow focus.  The strength of Build Your Running Body is that it has no weaknesses. It covers everything, stretching, strengthening, pacing, racing, nutrition, recovery, you name in excellent detail with lots of good supporting illustrations and charts   Somehow, the authors found a way to comprehensively organize all that without being overwhelming, no easy task.  Plenty of running books that dictate a "do this, do that, but not that" dogmatic philosophy or provide so much generalized information that really can't be applied into the typical runner's training program. The nutrition advice avoids "food Nazi" territory, containing sensible diets an actual person could plausibly eat in real life.   Authors Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz and Melissa Breyer always find the right note in explaining their training advice, making it both accessible and easily personalized.

It's one of those books you don't have to read from cover to cover, and the authors even encourage the reader to skim through it.  New runners especially may find all the material overwhelming at first, and may want to take in a few chapters at a time.

As for me, I expect to be using some of it to train for the Big Sur Half-Marathon this November.  I already have a pretty good half-marathon system in place that's worked well for the last couple years.   After running for over 30 years, I've pretty much figured out what works for me and what doesn't.   Still, I found a few things in Build Your Running Body that I've started using, mostly core and leg strengthening work outs. There's a number of good pacing charts in Chapter 7 on Building Your Running Cardiovascular System for track intervals and tempo runs that I've already started using as a guide to adjust my pacing a bit for a couple tempo runs.

Chapter 15, Build Your Training Schedule brings all the different workouts into a coherent whole, so make sure you read that chapter.  Find the training program that's best suited to you, whether it be the "12-Week Training Schedule for Beginning and Returning Runners-Non Competitive" or perhaps the "6-Week Training Schedule for 5k Race-Intermediate & Advanced" and read it carefully.  You may want to riff a little on the training plan, but these training schedules bring the various topics scattered throughout the books into focus.

I find good running books are like Alcoholics Anonymous:  Take what you need and leave the rest behind. There's a lot of good stuff in Build Your Running Body to take with you.

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