Reading has really motivated me to keep going with running. I learned early on in my work that if you identify a problem then someone out there has probably had the same problem and written a book about how to deal with it. Lo and behold the same is true for running.
Just after I got started with my walk run programme I had the misfortune to get delayed at the airport and I found, on mooching around the bookshop, ‘the runners world guide to running’. It was more like a thick magazine than a book but I sat down to read it in the coffee shop. Instead of a depressing and demoralising wait for a plane I spent a really useful couple of hours soaking up information about running – all the basic stuff you really need to know. Some of it wasn’t relevant at the time but its interesting to go back and dip into it now, now that I want to know a bit about fartleks or fuelling for long runs.
Generally the books I read fall into two broad categories which overlap, information and inspiration.
Inspirational books tend to be autobiographical and I like the ones where ‘non runner gets the bug and goes on to complete a marathon’. Personally I am very much at the beginning of one of these stories myself, so reading about the ups and downs is reassuring and gives me hope for the future. I really enjoyed ‘running like a girl’ by Alexandra Heminsley and ‘keep on running’ by Phil Hewitt. Phil Hewitt describes his experiences of a number of international marathons so I might also use that as a guide to selecting a marathon if I ever get to that stage!
I have much less in common with Chrissie Wellington, someone who has enjoyed sport and fitness all her life and then decided to enter an ironman competition and won it! Then she carried on winning some more! Her book ‘a life without limits’ is something I couldn’t emulate but I loved her story it’s well worth the read.
When it comes to information books there are some books out there which have also inspired me and kept me going. I read Julian Goater’s ‘how to run faster’ just before I went on holiday which was really good timing. He supports having more but shorter training sessions. When I was in Dubai it was hot (even though I got up at 6am to run – on holiday!!) so I couldn’t manage 5k. So instead of running 3x per week I ran 2 or 3k every day and tried to run it a bit faster. It did seem to improve my running as I got a PB at Parkrun when I got home. He also gives advice on stretching. He explains that muscles are like springs and if they are tightly wound that there is no compression in them and they don’t ‘bounce’. I was convinced and have tried much harder with my stretching since then. He gives some good techniques also to help you get the stretches right.
I’m also becoming a bit of a groupie for Matt Fitzgerald. First I read his book ‘racing weight’, which is very evidence based but well written, about optimising your body weight and fat to muscle ratio for endurance sport. There’s advice in there on nutrition, timing of nutrition and strength training. The second book of his I’m reading is ‘the mind body method’. Again this is a well written evidence based book looking at training plans and at what works. He explains how ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and that we should listen more to our bodies and do what we know is good for us. Maybe I’m just reading what I want to ‘hear’ but having fallen out with my half marathon plan already I’m tempted to ditch it and follow my natural instincts. I can’t do rest days. If I have a rest day when I want to run, then say I miss a run day because I’m too busy by the time the next run day comes I have lost motivation! I have found that running every day is much better for me, lots of short easy runs with a weekly long run is much better and fulfils the 80/20 rule. (80 percent high volume low intensity, 20 percent high intensity). Also if you miss a day through other commitments, which will happen, then your rest days happen naturally when you need them. Reading Matt’s book is making me think that it would be ok to ditch the pre packaged training plan and make up my own!
Both Julian Goater and Matt Fitzgerald look at the psychology of endurance sport, looking at pushing ourselves and whether we should be ‘suffering’ (answer: yes, sometimes but in small quantities). Again I would agree and my experience has borne this out. If when I started out I had tried to run at an effort level ‘where I could hold a conversation’ I think that I would still be walking!
I have read a couple of books relating to meditation/mindfulness and running as I am into this anyway. I do find running an excellent pastime for mindfulness and the mindfulness helps to deal with the discomfort of heavy breathing and an appreciation of my surroundings. Maybe my past experience has coloured my view but I would think that if you wanted to pursue this, that starting with a book on mindfulness in general and applying it then to running would be a good way to go.
Well I think that that’s my longest blog ever, so if you stuck it out to the end well done and thank you! I hope that you find a good motivating read too!
Love from Mawil x