Book Review- To Be A Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking on a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place) by Martin Dugard

Even though this book isn’t a new release, I recently heard about it on the podcast, Marathon Training Academy, which you can find here. The hosts of the podcast, Angie and Trevor, interviewed Martin Dugard and it seemed interesting enough for me to check out the book. Aside from this book on running, Dugard is a New York Times bestselling author of many books and co-author of books from the Killing Series with Bill O’Reilly, in addition to many magazine articles and the movie “A Warrior’s Heart.”

From the beginning of To Be A Runner, which is a series of essays that Dugard uses to weave together the story of his running journey, it’s apparent that running has always been a driving force in Dugard’s life. As a young boy, he caught the running bug after running a mile at a running club his parents belonged to. He says in the book, “Running has taught me that I can do anything, just so long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other.” That’s a powerful lesson in life.

In addition to being a runner for the majority of his life, except for stints where he would slack off, gain weight, and be drawn back into running once again, Dugard has been a running coach for many years. In the book, he describes how he kind of fell into the position of Head Cross Country Coach at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California in 2005, where he still coaches. Throughout the book, he tells coaching-related stories about the girls and boys on his team, most of which are entertaining and interesting.

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Dugard seems to be an avid traveler and tells stories of running in places like a small island off the coast of Borneo, where he was warned about 30-foot pythons who live in the jungle there and drop out of trees onto unsuspecting prey. He tells of running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain and running in the early morning hours in London. In the story about running in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, he explains how he came up with his mantra “Keep pushing … always,” which is now on the shirts of his cross-country runners.

Besides the stories of pythons in Borneo, there are other examples of encounters with animals throughout the book, such as a brown bear and her cubs in Mammoth, California. There was the elk in Jackson, Wyoming and the moose in the Rocky Mountains. He tells of being on the lookout for mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and rattlesnakes in the canyons of Southern California, where he lives and regularly runs.

In the short story entitled Saipan, he explains how this where his “quixotic” Olympic quest had come to an end. You see, Martin Dugard decided sometime during his middle-age that he was going to get himself back in shape and try out for the men’s Olympic team. This dream ultimately ended at the XTERRA off-road triathlon in Japan where Dugard finished last, but in the end he was able to turn that experience around into a positive learning moment.

There are many other stories in this book that’s 238 pages including the acknowledgements, but I don’t want to give too many away. If you enjoy reading stories about other runner’s journeys, I believe you would enjoy this book. There are small interjections about Dugard’s running beliefs and philosophies (ice baths, running shoes, etc.) but for the most part, this is not a book about how to be a “proper” runner. This is simply one man’s story of how running has influenced his life and in turn how his life has influenced his running. Check it out for yourself!

Have you read this book or any of Martin Dugard’s many other books? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Run For Your Life: How to Run, Walk, and Move Without Pain or Injury and Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy by Mark Cucuzzella, M.D. with Broughton Coburn

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.

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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?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review-Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher is a two-time Olympian with an impressive running resume. She was the 10,000 meters silver medalist at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. She made her marathon debut in 2008 and finished third the following year at the Boston Marathon.

Goucher signed with Oiselle Running in 2014 and they have a very apropos description of her on their webpage:  “But Kara is so much bigger than her accolades. She’s is easily one of the funniest and most genuine people you’ll meet. She’s a loving mother and wife. She and her family live in Boulder, Colorado where she trains under Mark Wetmore.”

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From what I’ve seen and heard about Kara Goucher, she seems like a genuinely nice person, a modest Minnesotan at heart, and a cheerleader for other runners. When I heard she was releasing a confidence journal, I was intrigued. I’ve never been one to keep running journals, whether it’s of my daily miles, races, or anything training-related. The confidence journal seemed like more than just jotting down how many miles you ran, what the weather was like, and how you felt, though.

Still, given my history of not sticking with a running journal, I was hesitant to buy Goucher’s book, so I checked out a copy from my local library (actually they borrowed it from another library in another state, but it’s all the same to me and a fabulous perk my library offers). When I leafed through the journal, I immediately felt drawn in. It’s got an easy to follow format with informal photos of Goucher and quotes by her. There are several pages where you can write things down after some prompts such as:  “List three recurring worries that hold you back,” with space to write three things down. She also has an example of a constant worry of hers:  “I don’t think I’m good enough to compete at this race.”

Basically, the journal is divided into three sections. The first section covers confidence techniques such as using power words, mantras, and setting goals. The second section has confidence essays from six powerful women in the running community including Molly Huddle and Mary Wittenberg. Finally, there is a third section filled with writing prompts that tie into subjects from the first section (like using a mantra) and confidence journal tips. There is space to write for 21 days, so obviously the idea is for Goucher’s book to get you started on your own confidence journal, after which you would continue in a notebook or electronic device (like your phone).

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I believe this confidence journal would be great for just about any runner who is ready to dive into the psychological side of running. Many of us focus on our miles and hitting our goals for training but don’t really spend time working on the mental aspect of running. This journal would help you identify and sort through anything that may be holding you back from running, including things you didn’t even realize were holding you back.

Goucher also says how people that aren’t athletes can benefit from a confidence journal as well. She gives examples how we all struggle with doubting ourselves in our daily lives. By focusing on our accomplishments and the positive in life, we can all benefit. I completely agree.

Do you keep a confidence journal or any other type of journal? If not, do you think a confidence journal might help you with your running or just life in general?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Book Review- FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness by Akshay Nanavati

I first heard about the book FEARVANA:  The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Akshay Nanavati on the Marathon Training Academy podcast “How to Use Suffering to Your Advantage as a Runner.” I was intrigued by the thought of using fear and suffering to my advantage and actually coming out stronger as a result. Runners often face fear (that first 20-mile run or your first race) and suffering (mile repeats or running in adverse weather) so learning to channel fear and suffering sounded like something I wanted to learn more about.

Nanavati is a Marine Corps Veteran who overcame drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, and psychological problems that led him to contemplate suicide. He was able to not only overcome all of this but find a fulfilling life and start a nonprofit organization, The Fearvana Foundation. He is a runner and athlete and has a goal to run across every country in the world. In addition, he has accomplished some incredible feats such as climbing the Himalayas and trekking across an icecap in -40 degree temperatures.

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Check out who wrote the Foreword on this book- pretty impressive!

I found this book to be a quick and easy read full of inspirational stories and quotes. Normally I hate a book that has inspirational stories but I found they worked well in this book and I actually liked them. Some of them I had heard before but I realize maybe not everyone has heard the story about how Michael Jordan (a hugely famous former basketball player) was cut from his high school basketball team.

Beyond the anecdotal stories, the book begins with scientific evidence on how your brain reacts to fear and how your body is effected. The book is divided into three sections and in the first section, we are introduced to the idea of having two brains, the animal brain and the human brain. The animal brain responds to survival needs while our human brain can help us process perceived fears. Having the two brains work together is the tricky part.

The second part of the book describes more deeply the idea of Fearvana and has training exercises to help the reader change their mindset. The third part of the book goes into the remembering self and the experiencing self and how our memories can shape our lives. Nanavati describes how to embrace suffering through something that you hope will result in a positive outcome- like training for a marathon and ultimately running and finishing that marathon.

Most importantly, Fearvana is about embracing your fears rather than trying to hide from them or ignore them. The term fearvana was coined by Nanavati by combining the words fear and nirvana. He believes that by using fear to our advantage, we can not only conquer our fears but reach a feeling of nirvana.

Another important subject Nanavati delves into is the realization that we are not defined by events that happened in our past and we can in fact change our memories. He gives some examples of some  people who had tragic things happen to them in their childhood but yet they are living happy, peaceful lives as adults. These people realized that what happened to them does not define them as people, but rather their outlook on life and how they choose to live their life determines their happiness and well-being.

Bottom-line is I recommend reading this book regardless if you’re a runner or other athlete or not. I feel like this book is truly for everyone from all walks of life and all ages. Who wouldn’t want to be able to view fear as an asset and use it to your advantage?

You can buy FEARVANA: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness on Amazon or do like I did and borrow it from a library. If your local library doesn’t have it, see if they can borrow it from another library (many public libraries do this now and yet most people aren’t aware of this wonderful offering).

Have you read this book or are you interested in reading it? Share your comments below.

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton

Even though most runners have probably heard of Deena Kastor, I’ll give a bit of background here to begin with. Deena Kastor is one of the best-known American long-distance runners in the world. She has won numerous marathons and other distance road races, she was the national cross-country champion eight times, and won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She has been running races since she was eleven years old and had immense potential at a young age, mostly winning the events she entered.

In Let Your Mind Run, Kastor describes how she was offered and accepted a scholarship at University of Arkansas where she went on to become 4 time SEC Champion and 8 time All American. However, it wasn’t until she was running professionally that the mental aspect of running began to click with her. After college she moved to Colorado to train with the infamous Coach Vigil (or simply “Coach”), where she trained with the men Coach was currently training.

Even though Coach constantly emphasized having a good attitude and finding the positive in everything, things didn’t begin to come together with Kastor until she began diving deep into the subject of philosophy, not just in relation to running but to life in general. She borrowed and read Coach’s book Road to the Top, and was told it would give her a better understanding of his training methodology. From there, she began paying more attention to attitude and how it related to training and recovery.

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Deena and Andrew Kastor at the Mammoth Track & Field facility. Photo Credit: Joel St Marie

All of the books Kastor read on the study of the mind eventually enabled her to shift her thoughts consciously from negative ones to more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking how tired her body felt before that jolt of caffeine first thing in the morning, she began to replace thoughts of fatigue with ones of getting outside with her dog. She noticed her energy shifted and she was indeed more alert. When her legs began to feel tired during practice, she shifted her negative thoughts to those of realizing her legs were getting stronger and this was a good thing.

Kastor began to notice that her workouts improved thanks to her positive attitude and in fact her whole day was more productive and enjoyable. All throughout the book, she shows clearly how her life evolved and how her running was effected as a result of having a positive attitude. She does this in a natural way and I didn’t feel like she was forcing anything or being too “preachy.”

She tells the story how she met her now-husband Andrew Kastor and how their relationship came to be. From the start, he was one of Deena Kastor’s biggest supporters and eventually he went on to be a massage therapist and running coach. Finally, toward the end of the book, she writes about her pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Piper. Shortly after the birth of Piper her coach Terrence Mahon decided to move to the UK; it was then that Deena and Andrew Kastor took over the Mammoth Track Club and jumped into coaching full-time.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and how it was written. Even if you’re not a runner, you might enjoy reading about Ms. Kastor’s story and all of the trials and triumphs she went through. I believe everyone could benefit from having a positive attitude in life, so for that alone, the book is worth reading.

Check out this book from your local library or here’s a link on Amazon.

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Also, I have a discount code for Nuun hydration. Use code hydratefriends25 for 25% off your online order. Shop at nuunlife.com/shop or nuuncanada.com/shop. Valid through March 6, 2019.

Happy running!

Donna

Book Review- Run the World by Becky Wade

If you could have done anything after college for one year all expenses paid, what would it have been? Becky Wade is a runner who applied for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which is awarded to 40 graduating college seniors to fund a dream year. She was a runner at a college in Texas and chose to spend her time in foreign running communities, searching for unique and common ways people approach running and build their lives around it. In the 12 months (beginning July 24, 2012) she spent in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, and Finland, she talked to recreational runners and coaches, followed the same lives as professional runners, interviewed running historians and retired legends, watched and competed in local races, and explored running routes with locals.

Wade originally came up with a list of five countries that evolved into 22 countries, some of which were spent briefly in transit. In many of the countries, she had cooking lessons by a local runner and includes a recipe at the end of each chapter of her book. Speaking of food, she found that oats, muesli, and pancakes are the breakfast of champions and there is never enough tea for runners. Other similarities Wade discovered are that Sundays are universal long-run days, kilometer repeats are a common foundation workout, and distance runners with the luxury to do so treat afternoon naps very seriously.

In the chapter on her time in England, she explains how she met up with Kenyan runners who taught her her the importance of warming up naturally, running by feel, and always wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts regardless of temperature. Runners in Switzerland taught Wade the importance of mountain trails and altitude training. She went up again in elevation when she moved on to the running training camp and hotel complex Yaya Village at 9000 feet in Ethiopia. In Australia, she joined the Melbourne University Athletics Club annual team trip and later ran in Melbourne.

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Becky Wade finished 3rd at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017. Photo: Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle

Arthur Lydiard, running coach from Auckland, New Zealand, is attributed with starting the first global jogging boom, which was brought to the United States after US coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman visited Lydiard in Auckland. Wade ran the famous 22 mile Arthur Lydiard’s Waiatarua Circuit, considered a marathon predictor. In Japan, Wade joined an international running club, saw an acupuncturist with her first exposure to western medicine, and went to an onsen. Ending in Sweden and Finland, she experienced Finnish saunas, which are similar to onsens in that both are filled with rituals and are experienced in groups, without clothing. She also discovered competitive Finnish orienteering and was able to watch Jukola, one of the largest and most historic relay orienteering competitions in the world.

Five months after returning home to Texas, Wade ran the 2013 California International Marathon (CIM) for her marathon debut. The plan all along was to gain valuable insight from runners around the world, and pick and choose what to apply to her own training. It appears her year-long travels were a success, if her results at the CIM are any indication of this. Wade was the first female at CIM, with a time of 2:30:48, good enough for a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials and third fastest marathon time for a woman under 25.

So, what did I think of the book? I truly enjoyed it, perhaps not surprisingly, since it combines my two favorite things, running and traveling. I found the book well-written and liked reading about the friendships she gained over the year and how each country approaches long-distance running. There were several take-aways for me from the book, with probably the most important to take rest and recovery as seriously as logging the miles.

If you’re looking for an entertaining book about running and different running cultures around the world, I hope you get a chance to read this book and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

Link to book on Amazon

Beckyrunsaway.com

Have any of you had the opportunity to run with running groups during your travels? Have you gained any tips from running groups in other countries?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance Book by Alex Hutchinson

I’ll cut to the chase here. I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s hands-down one of my favorite running-related books I’ve read in a while. This isn’t just a book for runners, though. It’s a book for any kind of person who is interested in gaining some insight into how the brain influences our bodies when pushed to extreme conditions. Be forewarned, though. If you’re looking for a training manual to help you increase your endurance, this is not the book for that.

There are a lot of scientific references in this book but don’t let that scare you away if you normally don’t like a lot of “science talk.” I’m a scientist and perhaps part of the draw for me was all of the science, but I don’t think it’s too over-the-top for most people. There are plenty of anecdotes and stories told throughout the book to keep things interesting. For example, the backdrop of the entire book is the 2-hour marathon attempt (Breaking2 documentary can be watched here) which the author comes back to every few chapters and helps keep the story going.

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The book itself is divided into three parts. In the first part “Mind and Muscle,” Hutchinson goes through the history of endurance research and the various theories used to explain it:  the “human machine” approach, Tim Noakes’ central governor theory, the psychobiological model by Samuele Marcora, and others. In the second part, “Limits,” he gives specific stories of people who have either intentionally or accidentally pushed or exceeded their limits in various ways such as pain, muscle, oxygen, heat, thirst, and fuel. Hutchinson vividly describes the experiences of polar explorers, Death Zone climbers, lost desert wanderers, and deep-sea freedivers among others as he looks for indications of which theories of endurance best fit the facts. In the third section, “Limit Breakers,” he explores various new approaches to expanding the apparent boundaries of endurance, ranging from mindfulness and brain training to electric brain stimulation, including accounts of his own experiences with some of them.

The last chapter of the book is about belief. The author states, “One of the key lessons I’ve taken away from writing Endure is that races aren’t just plumbing contests, measuring whose heart can deliver the most oxygen to their muscles. The reality is far more complex, and I think the first major post-Breaking2 marathon will be a great chance to see the “curious elasticity” of human limits in action.” Back to this chapter in a moment.

This book is 320 pages so it’s not a quick read. I found myself not wanting to put it down and I ended up staying up a bit later than usual sometimes when I read it before bed. Some of the stories are so engaging and thrilling, I found myself so engrossed that I just wanted to hear how the story ended before putting the book away for the night.

My take-away from the book is that we are capable of so much more than we realize. Sometimes our brain is just trying to protect us (if we’re running outside and it’s 90 degrees) but sometimes we have to take control and tell our brain that we CAN do this, whatever the current challenge is, even if it’s hard, or maybe especially if it’s hard. Positive self-talk is no secret and we’ve all heard how important it is for reaching our best effort, but we need to go beyond that if we want to push ourselves further.

I especially like one of the last pages of the chapter “Belief,” where the author states the following:  “This book isn’t a training manual. Still, it’s impossible to explore the nature of human limits without wondering about the best ways to transcend them. In the end, the most effective limit-changers are still the simplest-so simple that we’ve barely mentioned them. If you want to run faster, it’s hard to improve on the training haiku penned by Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, the man whose 1991 journal paper foretold the two-hour-marathon chase:

Run a lot of miles

Some faster than your race pace

Rest once in a while”

Have any of you read this book? Are you interested in our brain’s involvement in pushing ourselves in any sport or activity? Do any of you have book recommendations for me?

Happy running!

Donna