That that don't kill me, can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now, cause I can't wait much longer. Kanye West, Stronger

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Running Book Reviews: Thumbs Down, Thumbs Up

I found The Runner's Diet very disappointing, especially as it is put out by Runner's World, which is usually a great source of information.

My main issue with the book is that in the corner it says for both new and experienced runners. This is not true, this is for people who have never run before and want to take up running in order to lose weight. Not for athletes interested in learning more about the best way to fuel their bodies for the sport. I guess I should have headed the amazon reader reviews! I think Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners: How to Fuel Your Body for Stronger Workouts, Faster Recovery, and Your Best Race Times Ever may have been what I was after.

Madelyn Fernstrom, the author, makes good points on needing to start with a diet and exercise plan you can stick to. Her target audience seems to be primarily people who have trouble sticking to a program long term. The overall tone of the book was not inspiring or optimistic IMO.

Her coverage of actual nutrition is brief. However, she does make a few good points, especially that runners do have to watch calories and that gels and sports drinks are often unnecessary, even for those running long distances.

One thing I found interesting was that she suggested a 50% carb, 25% protein, 25% fat ratio. This is so you have the carbs you need for energy, but the protein and fat for satiety. I think this is the best advice in the book because carb loading is so unnecessary, and if running makes you hungry, you want to be filled up! I will try to up my protein.

Her suggested diet plan was a 7-day 1200 calorie diet with fairly boring foods, and certainly not very much food! She does give a mathematical formula to figure out your calorie needs, so you can increase from that starting point.

On the nutrition end, this book was written for someone who knows very little about nutrition, however, my main problem with book was that there was hardly any running suggested. There was a walking plan and a very modest running plan for just twice a week to start. And even the "running" plan included walking. I am pretty sure experienced runners can handle 30 minutes without needed to build up to it with walking intervals. That was confusing, I can't imagine someone who had never run before feeling the need for a book about running nutrition. The book would have been more aptly titled "Here is how to build from walking to running a few times a week and lose weight with the help of a calorie controlled diet."

Okay on to the THUMBS UP review.

I admit it, I love autobiographies. I just do! This book was translated, so I am sure the Japanese version was even more poetic, but I truly enjoyed this book. And as I have never read any of Haruki Murakami's other books, I am excited to check out his literary works. This book was relaxing an calming to read. It is not incredibly exciting, heroic or inspiring, like Ultramarathon Man or Swimming to Antarctica, but that almost makes it more relatable to the average reader. Nevertheless, Murakami has ran 25 marathons, so he is quite accomplished, but he is so humble that his loosely woven story of reflections seems almost attainable. Even the casual runner can surely relate to his thoughts about running.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"If you live in Boston, Sam Adams (Summer Ale) and Dunkin Donuts are essentials of life. But I discovered to my delight that even these indulgences can be offset by persistent exercise."

"I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone."

"I'm on a leisurely jog along the Charles River, girls who look to be new Harvard Freshman keep passing me. Most of these girls are small, slim, have on maroon Harvard-logo outfits, blond hair in a ponytail, and brand-new ipods, and they run like the wind....They all look so bright, so healthy, attractive, serious, brimming with self-confidence....Have I ever had such luminous days in my own life? Perhaps a few. But even if I had a long ponytail back then, I doubt if it would have swung so proudly, as these girls' ponytails do."

"I'm not a human. I am a piece of machinery. I don't need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead. I repeat this like a mantra."
"You can not finish a marathon if you are half-hearted about it."

"Cycling training alone is, truthfully, pretty tough. Long runs done for marathons are lonely, but hanging on to the handlebars of a bike by yourself and pedaling on and on is a much more solitary undertaking...sometimes it strikes me as an intricate form of torture."

"One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them the best I can. focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner."
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