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

 

 

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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

Book Review “Running Science: optimizing training and performance” by John Brewer

Sports scientist and Running Fitness columnist, John Brewer is the consultant editor for this book which is written by Brewer along with ten other contributors, mostly professors, scientists, and lecturers. Brewer has reviewed hundreds of scientific studies so there are many references to scientific journal articles throughout the book. Brewer and his co-contributors attempt to demonstrate how science and running are intertwined. As a scientist and runner, I was intrigued by this book.

Although this book is touted for beginner runners as well as the seasoned runner, I feel that it is definitely for the beginner runner. I also felt like there was only a minimal amount of knowledge I gained from this book but perhaps part of that is because I’m not only a seasoned runner but an experienced scientist as well. Perhaps if a seasoned runner that wasn’t a scientist read this book, they would gain more from it than I did.

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The book is laid out in a simplistic way that reminded me of a picture book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. There are 192 pages divided into eight chapters. For example, the first chapter, “The runner’s body,” explains VOmax, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, lactic acid, the aging runner, and the physical benefits of running. Other chapters in the book cover running form, carb loading and nutrition, running psychology, training and racing, equipment covering everything from shoes to sunglasses, stretching and core strength, and general questions like physical limits for the marathon and women’s record running times versus men’s.

There was very little in this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else before. However, I do think it’s important to get different perspectives  on running-related information since so much of the information on running is subjective, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read this book.

A couple of things from the book stood out to me:  1) the author points out that ice baths are best saved for periods of intense competition and not during training. I know ice baths are a bit controversial, but some people swear by them. I’m not going to get into the science explained about ice baths here, but suffice to say this isn’t the first time I’ve read that ice baths aren’t necessarily a good thing for runners and 2) the authors show evidence that ultramarathon runners have much higher pain tolerance than non-ultramarathon runners. This makes sense given how much more intense training ultramarathon runners have but I had never read any scientific articles about this before.

In summary, if you’re just getting started with running, this would be a great book to read. If you’ve been running for many years and haven’t read much about the science related to running, it would be a good book to read. However, if you’ve been running for a while and have read scientific articles about running, this may not be the book for you. Then again, borrow it from your library and see what you think. You might learn a thing or two.

Amazon link here

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

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Runner’s World Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It by Bart Yasso

I’m a huge fan of Bart Yasso so when I saw this book was out, I put in a request through my library for an interlibrary loan immediately. To cut to the chase, I was not disappointed after reading it, either. The foreword by David Willey, editor in chief of Runner’s World is heartfelt and full of anecdotes and gives some good background information on Mr. Yasso.

For those of you who don’t already know, Bart Yasso started working at Runner’s World in 1987 until he retired at the end of 2017. Over the years, Yasso ran pretty much every distance race you can think of and traveled over the world. It’s this huge amass of experiences that allowed him to write this book.

This book was a quick read for me; it’s 203 pages with the index and is divided into 10 chapters. Yasso begins with the reasons to race, goes to his training principles, and has chapters on 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, unconventional events, and finishes with relays and multiple race events. Finally, the last chapter is on building longevity for long runs.

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For each chapter on the various race distances, he talks about his favorite race for that distance. The Philadelphia Distance Run (now the Rock ‘N” Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon) is his favorite half marathon, for example. I was fortunate enough to run this race when it was still the Philadelphia Distance Run, and it was a fun one, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite. Speaking from experience, Yasso gives valuable tips and advice for the races he’s personally run and some fun history. There are also beginner and seasoned runner training plans for each distance along with key workouts including why and when you should do them.

Yasso 800s are also mentioned in the book. Back in 1981, Yasso was training for a 2:50 marathon to qualify for Boston. He noticed that the average time it took to run 10 x 800 meters corresponded to his marathon finish times. For example, if it took him 2 minutes, 40 seconds to run each 800-meter interval of a 10 x 800 workout, with a 400-meter recovery jog in between, his marathon time would be about 2 hours and 40 minutes. In 1993 he shared this knowledge with Amby Burfoot, the editor at the time of Runner’s World, who then put the workout in the October 1994 issue of the magazine and called them Yasso 800s.

One thing that happened to Yasso that profoundly effected his health and running is he contracted Lyme disease in 1990. He was misdiagnosed early on and went years before he was appropriately treated. He says his health was stable until a second bout of Lyme disease in 1997 and a third bout in 2002. For anyone not familiar with Lyme disease, the tick borne illness can cause debilitating arthritis in the joints, swelling, fatigue, headaches, nerve problems, heart problems, just to name a few. Yasso has continued to run through Lyme disease but he’s said his races have been a lot less and slower than previously.

In the final chapter, Yasso says he’s run more than 1,200 races over the last 40 years and he has some advice on how others might continue running and racing as they age. In typical Bart Yasso fashion, he does so in a way that’s not pushy or preachy. He simply says what works for him:  30 minutes of strength training twice a week, dynamic warmup before running, cross-training twice a week, and a whole-foods-based diet (he’s vegetarian).

I think the final few pages sum up Bart Yasso’s life as a whole. The section “Embracing the Community” is about being part of the running community where you live. It’s about volunteering at races, encouraging people to start running, and to “inspire others to find health, joy, and meaning in running.” If only we could all be such wonderful running ambassadors as Bart Yasso has been and continues to do so!

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Bart Yasso with A Fast Paced Life blogger

Link to buy book on Amazon here.

Have any of you read this book? I know some of you follow his philosophy of running all the races you can and inspiring others to run- tell me about your experiences!

Happy running!

Donna