Last Friday I missed out on posting a book review due to Easter festivities with family in Nebraska. This Friday, however, I'll make it up by giving a rundown of my favorite training books I've read recently, and some of my not so favorite.
If you've kept up with some of my posts, you've probably read about the book I'm using now, "Run Faster From the 5k to the Marathon: Be your own best coach", by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald. This book is a quick read and it gives some great theories of training in the model of the great Italian coach Renato Canova. It also brings in elements of the Lydiard system, although it's far less periodized--which basically means Hudson mixes things up more.
"Run Faster" emphasizes three basic systems to train--musculoskeletal, aerobic system, and race specific endurance--and gives workouts for training each system. He goes into how to notice when one system's behind the others and how to tweak your training plan to "catch up" the lagging system.
I like the customizable nature of Hudson's training system and much of what he says make sense. The writing isn't stellar but it's an easy enough read to get through quickly. The back contains the popular "cookie cutter" schedules, though I suspect he mostly included them for marketing reasons as he emphasizes individualized workouts and training plans. One nice thing about this book is that it offers training plans for a variety of distances (obviously from the 5k to the marathon).
Two other trainig books I enjoyed were Hal Higdon's "Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide", and Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas's "Advanced Marathoning." These books offer more traditional training programs. Higdon's book is focused on novices and Pfitzinger's is focused more on those looking to PR or run a fast marathon.
Higdon gives a lot of good, practical advice and his conversational writing tone is easy to read. His book is definitely not technical so for those just looking to complete a marathon and not really caring about VO2 max, lactate thresholds, and complex workouts, Higdon would be a good place to start.
Pfitzinger is much more technical and his training plans are extremely detailed. Reading the text is a must for someone looking to run a great marathon as knowing the why behind the how is key to understanding the purpose of Pfitzinger's training plans.
This past year I've also become more interested in running form, and in that vein I read "Chi Running," by Danny Dreyer, and "Master the Art of Running," by Andrew Shields. These books both give information on tweaking (or outright changing) your running form to become more efficient, faster, and injury free.
I can't say that I loved either one of these books. "Chi Running" gave some good information and I definitely incorporate some of the techniques in my running. At the same time, however, some of it felt gimmicky and there to make money. I thought about signing up for a seminar but they're over $100. No thanks. You can probably watch Chi Running videos on YouTube and get the gist enough to incorporate some of the techniques into your running if you're concerned about form.
One problem I had with the Chi Running form is its emphasis or landing on the midfoot--basically landing flat-footed. I don't think this really matters at all as long as you're landing with your foot behind your center of gravity. By trying to land flat-footed if you're a natural heel striker you're looking for an ankle or Achilles tendon injury. Dreyer claims if you learn the form you won't get injured. However, if you do get injured, it's because you didn't learn the form and you should sign up for one of these $100+ classes so you learn the form. Why write a book about form when you can't learn the form from the book?
"Master the Art of Running" was OK but honestly I don't remember a lot from this book. It mentions Chi Running and POSE (which I haven't read), but a lot of it has to do with the Alexander technique, and I didn't much care for that. If you're really cerebral about running form or interested in the Alexander technique, you might enjoy this book.
Well, that's it for the Training Books Schedule Special. I'm definitely going to be reading more training books, so this won't be the last.
Tomorrow I'm running the Fetzer 20k in Rochester, Minnesota. I decided I'm just going to get as close as I can to running 50 miles this week and hope that the easy extra miles don't kill my legs for tomorrow. I put in 9 last night and there's no school today so I'm going to put in some miles this morning, race tomorrow morning, and maybe do a recovery run tomorrow evening.