Running and Reading

Running and reading are two of my passions, and reading about running makes me one happy Salty! 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald and Build Your Running Body by Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz, and Melissa Breyer are my two latest reads. Both books are well worth your time (and money if you buy them). Here’s a sneak peak and short review of each one, just to whet your reading appetite.

80-20 cover80/20 Running promotes the message that doing 80 percent of your runs at a lower intensity, and 20 percent at a higher intensity is the best way to train and make performance improvements. Throughout the book, Matt Fitzgerald explains the research and scientific principles that support this method of training.

According to Fitzgerald, most runners spend the majority of their training time in the moderate intensity zone, where paces are too slow to reap the benefits of speed work, but too fast to be considered easy running. Left to our own devices, most of us will self-select a pace in this moderate zone because that’s where our bodies feel most comfortable. I frequently found myself nodding in agreement, thinking “Yep, that’s me.” He dedicates an entire chapter to monitoring and controlling intensity, which I found quite helpful.

I was excited to get to the training plan chapters (no I didn’t skip ahead to them), but was disappointed to find that they were rather complicated and time-consuming to figure out. For example, in the low intensity category, there are 9 different recovery runs, 9 foundation runs, and 15 long runs. There are 13 different categories, with up to 15 different types of runs in each category. Once you figure out what category and type of run you should be doing for a given day, you’ll most likely be searching for a Sharpie to write the workout on your arm. “5 minutes Zone 1; 5 minutes Zone 2; 4×5 minutes Zone 4; 3 minutes Zone 1; 5 minutes Zone 1.” Really?!?

I enjoyed the research/science part of the book, and I do believe that 80/20 is a valid training method, but I’m not going to be following one of the plans anytime soon.

build run bodyBuild Your Running Body is the most comprehensive and enjoyable guide to running that I’ve ever read – emphasis on enjoyable. I’m fairly good at understanding scientific jargon, but this book didn’t require any searches through my old anatomy and kinesiology textbooks. The authors explain (in normal language) why we do specific types of workouts and how to do them correctly.

Part One includes chapters on gear, vocabulary, and motivation. Part Two delves into the types of workouts necessary to build our running body. There are workouts that benefit connective tissue, the nervous system, hormones, the brain, running pH, the cardiovascular system… These aren’t new workouts – they’re the same ones we’ve all been doing, but now we know why we do them and which of our bodily systems they help build. Strength Training is covered in depth, with several sample workouts that are running-specific. Part Three covers training schedules and how to choose the appropriate one, recovery, and injury prevention. Part Four is all about nutrition, and includes some pretty tasty-sounding recipes. Part Five targets approaches to racing.

It’s impossible to concisely describe everything this book offers. I find myself going back to it over and over again, and I have to say, the Runner 360 body weight workout kicked my butt. We’re talking a laying-on-the-floor-moaning kind of butt kicking. It’s fine to follow blindly follow a training plan by a trusted coach or author, but after reading this book, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to choose the right training plan for you. You’ll know why you do a particular workout, and which of your body systems it targets. The training plans in this book are much more user-friendly; “Fast Tempo 2×10 minutes with 3-min. jog rest.” Beside each suggested workout is the page number in the book where you can find a description of the workout. I’m even following one of the 5k plans right now, and I’m not typically a lover of training plans.

Winter’s coming, so grab one or both of these books and spend some me-time making yourself a better runner while lounging in front of a crackling fire, with your drink of choice nearby.

What’s your favorite running book? How often do you read about running?

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