Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Running Through the First 100 Years

91KUjaxILWL__SL1500_Running Through the First 100 Years

By Liz Murtaugh Gillespie

(This book is a history of Brooks running shoe company.)

Runners know Brooks as the company that makes high quality running shoes. Most of us didn’t know that the company started out making ballet slippers and bathing shoes in Philadelphia in 1914. From then through the last 100 years, Brooks has had some good times, and a lot of bad times. Certainly, as Running Through the First 100 Years shows, they’ve been through a lot of change.

Brooks made the first ice skates that came with blades already attached. They also had the first roller skates with rubber toe stops. In 1924, the company produced 17,500 pairs of baseball shoes. They made basketball shoes, football shoes, bowling shoes and tennis shoes. They even made military shoes: “At one point, the company converted 60 percent of its Hanover production line to combat boots and dress oxfords for the military.”

Brooks has had their share of controversy, with Nike usually being involved. One time, a professional football player who had a contract with Nike admitted in court to wearing “swoosh-doctored Brooks shoes because Nikes made his feet hurt…” Another time, Nike accused Brooks and Runner’s World Magazine of conspiring to manipulate the magazine’s shoe rankings. (According to the book, by the way, they hadn’t.)

If you like history, and are interested in business, particularly running related business, then you’ll enjoy this history of an innovative company that not only makes a great running shoe, but seems to care more about running and runners than profit.

Book Review: Slow Running by Chris Bore

51AduY37mWL__AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-31,22_AA300_SH20_OU08_Slow Running: Running for fun: without going too far, too fast, too soon

By Chris Bore

It’s not often that we get something good for free. But I like free. That’s one of the reasons running is my favorite sport; I can go where and when I want, without paying a fee.

That’s also one of the reasons I chose to read Chris Bore’s book. I periodically scan the new releases on Amazon, especially looking for anything to do with running. Since the Kindle edition of this book was offered for $0.00, I thought it was worth a try.

I’ve downloaded several free books that turned out to not be worth the time to download, but this was not one of them. Mr. Bore’s book is well written, enjoyable to read, and full of good advice.

Mr. Bore says that running should be fun. I agree, although I admit that I am guilty of making it not fun. I have gone “too far, too fast, too soon,” and I have paid for it. My Boston Marathon qualifying wife has also gone “too far, too fast, too soon.” She is currently in a cast, recovering from ankle surgery, and missing the fall and winter running season.

Mr. Bore coaches new runners. His goal isn’t to make them faster, but to help them enjoy years of injury free running, just as he plans to do himself:

“I am 58 years old. I have been running as an adult, on and off, for coming up to 40 years. I would like to run a 10 k when I am 80, and enjoy it.”

Just as Mr. Bore doesn’t believe in wasting steps, he doesn’t waste words. Every page of this very short book is good. My favorite paragraph of his sums up the whole idea:

“If you are a runner, being there – being out there, actually running – is what it is about. If you make the running unpleasant, or you injure yourself, then you won’t be there, and you won’t be a runner. So make it nice; and take it slow.”

Two Helpful Books for Beginning Triathletes

After the Cowtown Marathon next weekend, I’ll be concentrating on triathlon training. Here are a couple of helpful guides I’ve read in preparation.

81zgW+WJf7L__SL1500_The 50 Best Tips EVER for Running Fitter, Faster and Forever

By Scott Welle

Scott Welle has put together a good collection of tips for runners, whether they are beginners or advanced. Though I’ve read lots about running, I still found some new and useful information. And it always helps to get someone else’s perspective.

Welle takes a balanced look at fitness, nutrition, strength, form, mentality, and other factors that affect performance, recognizing that none of these areas can be ignored if one wants to be a competitive runner.

The strength of this book is that it is short and (mostly) straight forward. There are times when Welle gets scientific, and this runner disagrees with some of what he says, but over all this is a great little book and definitely worth the price.

 

71oRh75OBnL__SL1500_Adults Guide to Better Swimming

By Katie Smith

If you’ve tried to learn how to swim properly as an adult (as I have), you realize that it’s not easy. Trying to break 30 year’s worth of bad habits, while learning concepts like bilateral breathing and correct pull technique, gets complicated. Katie Smith realizes that and does a great job of simplifying the task by breaking it down into easy steps.

This guide is short and sweet. I’ve read longer, more detailed books, but this one along with a good video and a training session or two is all that you need to get off to a good start.

 

 

 

Two Books to Not Buy

51GP7cImQpL__SL110_5 Commandments to Maximal Muscle for Skinny Guys

By Tim Ernst

Let me say up front that I hate giving negative reviews. Generally, if I don’t like a book, I just decline to review it. And even when I’m offered a free copy, I won’t accept unless I think there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy and benefit from the book and be able to give a good review.

I bought this book hoping to pick up some useful information. But I knew that I was in trouble when I glanced at the table of contents and noticed that the first chapter was spelled, “Intorduction.”

Tim Ernst sounds like a sincerely nice guy, and he’s apparently had some success in fitness and muscle-building. Nothing he says about nutrition or training sounds extreme. It is all standard advice–the type you would find on any website or in any magazine. The author, however, would disagree. This is what he has to say about muscle-building magazines:

“They are just plain lying to you and robbing you of about 90% of your muscle gains. It’s not your fault and I have been there myself. They want to keep you that way so that the supplement companies can continue to make money.”

Really?

Mr. Ernst makes the point that lifting heavy is not as important as lifting properly. This is solid information. But I think he goes too far when he writes:

“You can build just as much muscle with a 30 pound weight or an 80 pound weight.”

That depends on a lot of factors, and can be wrong in a lot of situations. Is a 200 pound athlete going to gain muscle by bench pressing 30 pound dumbbells? Probably not.

As a whole, the information is not bad, though you can find it for free on any decent website. The biggest problem with this little e-book is that it is  poorly written. I’m not being harsh. It is as unedited and as poorly written as the comments on a muscle-building message board:

“However when you do go to the gym to workout I’m pretty sure you are going to get some type of results, but is the results that you want? Are you going to plateau? Are your results not coign fast enough?” (I copied this section exactly, spelling and all. You can find examples like this on every page.)

Ernst concludes with this:

“Could you do me a favor? I hope you enjoyed reading this book. Would you do me a favor? I believe in living a fit and healthy life and I want to help as many people as possible. The only way that I can do this is to get help from you by leaving a positive review.”

I wish that I could. If just one person would do a quick proof-read and editing job on this book, it would be considerably better, but still not one that I could recommend.

4173VkfYu4L__SL110_Stop Running! For Faster Fat Loss

By Tim Ernst

I’ve now read two books written by Mr. Ernst. I’ve also scanned his website and his other available titles. And despite the title of one of his books, “Discover the Secrets to Gaining Weight and Building Muscle from a Pro,” I find no reason to take his advice seriously other than that he has been lifting weights for ten years. Those are his only credentials.

In Stop Running, Mr. Ernst does make some important points regarding running and fitness. They can be summed up easily: exercise in moderation, cross-train, eat right, and focus on intensity.

But from the beginning, Mr. Ernst writes as though running is dangerous and should be avoided:

“In recent times a lot of focus has been placed on excessive running, as a few marathoners have actually collapsed and died.”

This has happened. People have also died while sleeping. What do they have in common? Often, an undetected heart condition. But, according to Ernst, it’s the running itself that’s to be avoided. Running, he says, “has been having disastrous effects on [runner’s] bodies.”

“Research and the recent deaths mentioned before, indicate that the spectators of a marathon, may actually be healthier in the long run, than the participants.” (The pun is apparently not intended.)

The “extensive” and “interesting” research mentioned by Mr. Ernst is not cited, and some of it sounds suspicious: “In another interesting and extensive study, researchers kept track of nearly 52000 individuals over a thirty year period.”

I’m no expert on research, but it would take a lot of unusually dedicated graduate assistants to track 52,000 people for 30 years.

Women runners, says Ernst, should beware, especially if they have a “weakened pelvic floor,” which can be caused by “chronic constipation.” Women who run are in danger of prolapse and other terrifying things which I would be embarrassed to quote. But take it from the author, women should not run long distances.

Regarding weight loss, Ernst says that it’s a myth that one should eat breakfast in order to be healthy. “In fact, if you drink water or coffee instead of taking on a full on [sic] meal you will not only feel better but you will also lose weight.” If the author is drinking coffee for breakfast, no wonder he has had to write extensively on how difficult it is for a skinny guy to gain weight (see “5 Commandments for Maximal Muscle for Skinny Guys”). But there’s no argument that substituting coffee for meals will cause you to drop the pounds.

The reader wonders if Mr. Ernst has ever actually participated in running as opposed to jogging, especially when we read, “Another issue with running is that it is low intensity cardio.” Some types of running are low intensity compared to other types, but this statement is ridiculous to anyone who has ever competed in a race.

“In depth studies of both sprinters and long distance runners legs via the use of ultrasound have shown that sprinters have thicker calves as well as quads.” (This, by the way, is accompanied by a picture of a Carl Lewis type sprinter next to one of the sickest looking marathoners I’ve seen.) Does it really take ultrasound to make such a determination?

I don’t recommend this book, which is not only full of bad information, but is also poorly written.

Book Review: The Essential Sheehan

9781609619329_p0_v2_s260x420The Essential Sheehan: A Lifetime of Running Wisdom from the Legendary Dr. George Sheehan

By George Sheehan

Edited by Andrew Sheehan

Rodale: 2013

Dr. George Sheehan was a cardiologist, runner, writer, and philosopher. Yet no label is sufficient for him. And of all that’s been written about him, I wasn’t truly impressed until I read this book and heard from Dr. Sheehan himself.

There is something in his writing that makes this book hard to put down. It’s honest and insightful, direct and inspiring. Sheehan’s voice is like Thoreau’s (whom he often quotes): calm and wise, inviting us to walk along with him. In the process, he stirs our deepest desire to be great. This is the kind of writing I always look for, but seldom find.

Sheehan loved running. He loved running in every season, and in any condition. He loved the soul cleansing affect it had on him, he loved the agony of pushing himself to the limit in every race, and he loved both the solitude and the camaraderie he found in running. And he wanted others to share that love.

Sheehan believed that life should be simple, that people needed to free themselves from the things that squash creativity and play. Play, he believed, was serious business, and people should make time for it:

“Certainly, a case can be made that the true object of life is play.”

For Sheehan, running was play.

Throughout these writings, we hear the importance of becoming the best we can physically, mentally, and spiritually. Sheehan urges readers to be heroic, something he believed could happen through running:

“This stage on which we can be bigger than life is a place where we can exhibit all that is good in us. Courage and determination, discipline and willpower, the purging of all negative impulses–we see that we are indeed whole and holy.”

The Essential Sheehan is a treasure for runners, especially those of us who are getting older. Here’s a man who ran competitively into his 70’s, who could break a five minute mile when most men his age wouldn’t walk a mile, who ran a 3:01:10 marathon when he was 61. We want to hear everything he has to say. But his wisdom can be applied to any sport, or art, or even life.

The writings are taken mostly from the 70’s and 80’s, so some of the descriptions of shoes and clothes are dated. I don’t see many runners in turtle necks or leather tennis shoes today. But the writing is timeless. As David Willey writes in the introduction:

“There are things from the past–even forgotten, old-school things–that still matter today….In our over-digitized and under-exercised culture, George’s writing may be more urgently needed now than when it was originally published.”

Book Review: Run Your First 5K!

 

51Uo8GVlnAL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Run Your First 5k!

A practical guidebook for anyone who dreams of becoming a runner

By Joan Kerrigan and Gary Hendri

 

Run Your First 5k is a great overview for anyone who wants to start running. The authors cover the most important topics—the benefits of running, common problems, safety, injuries, nutrition, strength training, and hydration. The book also has solid race day tips, a 5k training plan, and a glossary of running terms.

The authors’ advice is sound and up to date, but some areas could use a little more explaining. For example, readers are told that they should warm up using dynamic stretches and save the static stretches for after the run, yet they aren’t told the difference between a dynamic or static stretch. Assuming that this book is for beginners, a few examples could have been given.

The lack of detail may be positive; that will depend upon the reader. Some will prefer the short, straight forward style, and everyone will benefit from the advice. Even if you’re preparing for your 20th 5k, there’s always more to learn.

Book Review: Run Simple

Run-Simple-CoverIn Run Simple, A Minimalist Approach to Fitness and Well Being, Duncan Larkin says that American runners needlessly complicate running, which should be the simplest of sports. Instead of being content with the essentials–a road, shorts, shirt, and (for some) shoes, we think we need to buy hundreds of dollars worth of gadgets, specialty clothes, and food cooked in a lab.

Larkin says that this extra stuff doesn’t help, but distracts, even hurts, and can take the joy out of running. And it sure doesn’t make us faster:

“If you want to run faster, you have to realize that you only need a few things: your legs, lungs, heart, and a positive attitude.”

Besides telling readers why and how to simplify running and save money, Larkin gives lots of other helpful information: training plans, racing strategies, mental tips, and even a Kenyan recipe for a dish to fuel runners. Larkin is someone to listen to; he has lots of marathons behind him, including a 2:32. But he also quotes and interviews several elite runners to strengthen his arguments.

Run Simple is helpful, enjoyable, and, best of all, makes me want to strip off the gadgets and hit the trails.