Spring Book Reviews

By Tom Demerly.

Matt Fitzgerald is one of the most prolific and talented running authors. His new book, "Run" is a gem.

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Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel
By Matt Fitzgerald

Toss your copy of Born to Run and read Matt Fitzgerald’s latest book, Run.

Fitzgerald is the finest technical writer in the sport now, with a deep bibliography of worthy titles and columns. His pragmatic approach is sharpened in Run with ideas that the recreational running world urgently needs. His ideas are based in practicality and distilled for the common fitness runner- you and me. It isn’t faddish or transient.

No running book is any good unless you really get into it, and I got into Fitzgerald’s Run like a fresh pair of training shoes- cushy, fresh and snug.

Fitzgerald emphasizes a need to develop sensitivity to our own running style and training needs. He describes how to listen to our body during training, how to remove ego and replace it with confidence earned in training. The first chapter on “physical confidence” is downright empowering. It isn’t about special shoes- or no shoes- it’s about what lives deep inside you that can be nurtured into the best possible athlete.

There are no obscure, indigenous super runners, no ideas how to emulate them, or much about the training regimens of the sub-2:15 marathoners from the Rift Valley. This book is about you. It’s about getting real with your running.

The most refreshing ideas in Run are the ones that link running to fun again. Imagine that. There is a section on logging your enjoyment of running workouts. And, at the center of this book, there is not one idea of how to train or run, but a set of techniques and ideas for discovering what works best for you. Fitzgerald surveys different training philosophies and includes non-judgmental comparison and contrast. Then, he equips you with tools to help decide which philosophies may suite you best. Along the way he reminds us why we do this. His approach is both anecdotal and analytical.

Of everything I’ve read about running in the last four years this single book is the most concise and concentrated collection of logic, common sense and inspiration. It will help you enjoy running, run better and keep running. Isn’t that the point, after all?

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “★★★★★”5 Stars: A rare gem. Something all citizen athletes should read. Helps you enjoy the sport more.

With so little written about recovery this book is immediately relevant. Author Sage Rountree makes it credible and worthwhile. It's a strong resource for an underserved topic.

The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery
By Sage Rountree

There are volumes written about training and racing, but almost nothing on strategies for recovery; until Rountree’s Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.

Sage Rountree is uniquely qualified to take a holistic approach to the neglected topic of recovery because of her yoga training and multiple coaching certifications in cycling, running and triathlon.

One of the most valuable things I’ve read about training in the early 1980’s was a leaflet on recovery- a skill few recreational athletes understand. It was a column by a Euro- pro cyclist. He wrote about the need to rejuvenate to absorb training and facilitate improvement. As my training became more difficult, those insights became more relevant. In the typically European way, he espoused a regimen where you “stretched out on a chaise” and “dealt with problems as they arose”. It was more philosophical than physiological- but the concept of doing something proactive to recover rang true. If there is one thing missing from the U.S. endurance athlete ethos of “13 Weeks to an Ironman” it is the holistic approach to wellness and recovery in endurance sports.

One of the first things I noticed while reading Rountree’s Guide to Recovery is there are 26 pages devoted to measuring recovery both qualitatively and quantitatively and only 5 pages on avoiding overtraining. That adds value to the book since very few U.S. recreational athletes are over trained- they’re just poorly recovered. Few athletes know how to measure the need for recovery and how to actively recover. Recovery is much more than simply doing nothing. The meat of the book is the pages on recovery techniques and how to evaluate them within the context of your current fitness. It gets you thinking about where your fitness gains really come from, and it reinforces the famous Eddy Merckx quote, “The Tour de France is won in bed”.

Rountree touches on a couple themes that echoed the ideas of another of my favorite authors, Dr. Phil Maffetone- especially when she discusses topics like foods that can create- and limit- inflammation. Interestingly, her bibliography for the nutrition and hydration chapter includes neither Dr. Phil Maffetone nor Dr. Barry Sears. To me that only reinforces the consensus on this topic.

I found Athlete’s Guide to Recovery a particularly valuable resource- especially during this time of year, when we ramp up mileage and race schedules hurtling toward the fall ultra-distance season with our minds on increasingly longer workouts and events. Set against that backdrop, this well-compiled synopsis of recovery ideas is particularly relevant.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★★★” Four Stars. Relevant and concise, slightly short on details: A solid summary of a neglected topic is U.S. athletic literature.

Like any synopsis guide this book contains some valuable insights but some significant omissions. It's a decent start point to a more complete survey of the training literature, and a good promotional piece for Coach Chris Carmichael's on line coaching services.

The Time Crunched Triathlete
By Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg

I don’t like fast food and I don’t like fast food training plans. That said; some plan is better than no plan. The sub-title of Time Crunched Triathlete, “Race-Winning Fitness in 8 Hours a Week” irks me. It speaks to the “one season and out” slash and burn ethos that resonates in recreational endurance sports. How little can we do and still get by?

Luckily, Chris Carmichael doesn’t really think like that, and this book is packed with much more than just how to get by on the minimum training. It’s a valuable reference on training and endurance physiology. Carmichael was one of my coaches when I was at the USCF Resident Athlete Program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Before Lance, before coaching was an industry, Carmichael was an athlete, a cyclist. He came up through the very early U.S. “system” almost before there was a system. Realistically, Carmichael is more responsible for how we think of athlete coaching in the U.S. today than influential coaches like Eddy Borysewicz. As such, he is more responsive to what the U.S. endurance training market needs than any other person in the field. He’s also a good marketing mind, and I’ll chalk the title of Time Crunched Triathlete down to marketing. Good marketing. The title will help it walk off the shelves. The content will keep you pulling it off your bookshelf as a valuable reference.

There are five pages devoted to what this book won’t do, and those are a reasonable set of disclaimers. They are followed by a powerful classroom session on the physiology of endurance sports, including the different fuel burning systems. Many books cover this basic exercise physiology, but Carmichael and Rutberg get through it in a concise set of easy to remember ideas. Valuable.

Central chapters discuss diagnostics for assessing your training including a brief discussion of Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE. I like that part since using RPE is free- no GPS, heart monitor or power meter required. The following segments discuss some protocols unique to the author’s own coaching service, and these start to feel a little sales-pitchy.

The book hits a speed bump in this reviewer’s opinion in a section discussing triathlon bikes that fails to mention any of the studies done quantifying the relationship between cycling and running off different geometry bikes. These studies, such as the Ian Garside study and others, offer sometimes conflicting findings, but proffer the important idea that running off a tri bike and running off a road bike are different. That is a big omission.

I was pleased to see the book included a good synopsis of strength training exercises and a complete bibliography worth referencing.

There are some gems and good summary in Time Crunched Athlete but they are offset by some fairly conspicuous omissions. The book is a bit of a pitch for Carmichael’s other training services. I don’t necessarily bemoan him for this. It’s good business. Thomas Edison said, “Never give away anything you can sell” and Carmichael and Rutberg do sell you a pitch for Carmichael Training Systems in the price of the book. That’s good business. My issue with the book is the nature of summary in general: Some things are always left out, and the reader doesn’t get a vote on what is missing.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★” Two Stars. Best analysis: A summary. A pitch for Carmichael Training Systems. Skip a step and hire a CTS coach.

Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running
By Lewis G. Maharam, M.D

I’ll admit to being won over by Dr. Maharam’s book when he tells the reader to put down the book and go to the doctor. Not a week goes by when I’m not dispensing the same advice on a couple internet forums. No book is a substitute for a doctor, and I worry athletes buy a book like this instead of getting an MRI or visiting the doctor for a formal diagnosis. Dr. Maharam worries about that too, and tells you so.

The book is a necessary reference on physiological terms that will help you communicate meaningfully with a health care professional, and understand when you need to consult one. It is packed with great explanations and descriptions of common endurance afflictions from runner’s diarrhea to light headedness after training and a host of foot and joint problems. Dr. Maharam hits the most common maladies from head to toe in endurance sports. That makes this book a necessary resource.

Medical books on endurance physiology are perishable as the medical literature evolves with research. Dr. Maharam demonstrates currency and relevance throughout Running Doc’s Guide with very recent topics that include the scary incidence of deaths in marathons late in the event, such as the three deaths in the Free Press/Flagstar Detroit Marathon in 2009. That underscores the book’s currency and relevance.

I can’t find a criticism with the Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running. If you’re an endurance athlete, this is your owner’s manual. Truly necessary reading for every endurance athlete- it’s more important than running shoes.

Tom Demerly’s Rating: “ ★★★★” Four Stars. Mandatory for every running athlete. Only reason it didn’t get five stars is no layman’s book can. Only your doctor’s diagnosis can.

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