I first heard of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on the Marathon Training Academy podcast, which I believe he’s been a guest on at least a couple of times. When I learned Dr. Cucuzzella had a book out, I knew I had to read it. In true form (at least based on what I heard of him on the podcast), Dr. Cucuzzella’s book is extremely thorough.
Run for Your Life is divided into three parts: Before the Starting Line, The Body in Motion, and Running is for Everyone. Within each part are five to nine chapters. Including the Appendices, Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index, this book is 349 pages so it’s not a quick read. As you might guess, the first part of the book gives some background information behind running in general and the history of humans and running with a multitude of information about walking and the foot. The second part of the book, the real meat of the book, covers everything from nutrition, which Dr. Cucuzzella is a huge proponent of nutrition as medicine, to the importance of recovery in running, and the prevention of injuries. The third part of the book covers what an important place movement and exercise has for people of all ages and walks of life.
Going back to part one, Dr. Cucuzzella spends a huge amount of time covering sitting, walking, shoes, and the foot, which makes sense because modern humans spend so much time sitting and wearing shoes. I don’t think it’s news to most people that sitting for hours on end is bad for our health in general but many people may not realize there are other options out there. Dr. Cucuzzella gives several options to sitting for long periods such as working at a standing desk to the simplest but often over-looked idea of taking standing or walking breaks every thirty minutes. He also describes how he suffers from hallux valgus, a deformation of the big toe caused by repeatedly wearing shoes with a pointed toe box, and he describes in detail how he was able to correct this condition. No surprise that he’s a big proponent of minimalist shoes. There are also drills in the book specifically for strengthening your feet.
Part two of the book begins with proper running form and includes drills for developing efficient running form. As I mentioned earlier, there is a large section devoted to nutrition including some recommended lab tests including basic ones and second-level tests for higher risk groups. In the section on recovery, Dr. Cucuzzella talks about how exercise can effect our hearts in a negative way if we don’t allow enough time for rest and mentions a couple of apps to measure heart rate variability (HRV), which is something not really talked about much.
There are some basic tips and general information in part two about running a marathon and racing in adverse conditions. One tip that many people may not realize is when you’re running in the heat, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen sparingly because it beads the sweat, which rolls off without evaporation but it’s the act of sweat being evaporated from your body that cools you. Dr. Cucuzzella also recommends some specific gear for running in the rain and/or cold weather. Another important section of part two is about the therapeutic mental benefits of running, something often over-looked by people especially those that aren’t runners. Part two ends with a discussion on some common running injuries and how to prevent them.
Part three begins with information specific for women and includes the full spectrum from running while pregnant to the benefits of running for menopausal women. Specific information related to children and running follows, then information about older people running. Dr. Cucuzzella dispels the myth (do people really still believe this?) that running is bad for your knees and joints with his notation of Paul Williams’ study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found no increase in osteoarthritis or hip replacement even for runners who participate in multiple marathons a year. In fact, there are a multitude of references to the medical literature on the subject of running and exercise throughout this book if you’re the kind of person that “needs” to have scientific references for you to be properly informed.
In addition to a slew of scientific references, this book is filled with drills and exercises, either for warm-ups, for strengthening, or recovery. There is a website runforyourlifebook.com that includes a wealth of information. Under the resources tab, you can find videos on mobility and stability exercises as well as other things like kid-specific information and links to the Freedom’s Run Race in West Virginia that Dr. Cucuzzella is a co-director for. Finally, there are training plans for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon that seem pretty straight-forward for beginners or newish runners.
So, after all of that, what did I personally think of this book? Well, I think it’s an excellent tool for any newbie runner because of the wealth of knowledge included. A more seasoned runner can also benefit from reading this book, but they likely wouldn’t find much of the information new but perhaps good reminders of things they’ve heard before but had forgotten. I personally enjoyed this book and the way the information is presented.
Have you read Dr. Cucuzzella’s book? If so, what did you think? Do you think you would be interested in reading it if you haven’t read it?