Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key to Running Inspired (Book Review)

Much longer ago than I would care to admit, I was offered an opportunity to read and review The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide:  The Key to Running Inspired by Ryan Robert.  Not one to turn down a free book, about running nonetheless, I readily agreed.  I was given a digital copy, which meant instant gratification (although no anticipation for a special package in the mail or a surprise visit from the UPS man... I guess I can't have it all).  I easily downloaded the book to my iPhone and began to read.  In anticipation of this review (and also as a way of procrastination) I've since read it several times.  It is a quick and easy read.

The book is essentially geared towards novice runners or even more so to those who have yet to venture out on a single run, however, it seems to have some decent tips that even seasoned runners could use to become more inspired in their running.  One thing that stands out in my mind, is a section that talks about post run recovery, specifically after one of those harder runs or races where all you want to do is collapse onto the ground or hunch over with your head down and hands on your thighs... well, Robert admonishes us, as runners, not to do that because in short (he explains in more detail), it's really mean to our bodies and actually hinders recovery.

Probably one of my favorite things about this book is its great organization.  Robert begins with an encouraging introduction, "Why Run?" and then breaks the book into 9 chapters:
1.  Getting Ready to Run:  essentially a chapter about running form and mechanics as well as breathing techniques.
2.  Footwear and Common Foot Problems:  7 footwear tips centered around fit, design, care, and where/how to purchase including the following great insight to specialty running stores:
"Yet another aspect of a good running shoe store is their willingness to take back shoes that don't fit comfortably; there should be no hesitation on the part of the store to take back shoes that genuinely don't work for you." (I am in complete agreement with this observation.)
Robert then discusses common foot problems and possible solutions/preventions.
3.  Warming Up, Cooling Down, and Target Heart Rates:  great tips and ideas for both warming up and cooling down as well as an excellent section on how and why to use one's heart rate in training.  There is also a section in this chapter that addresses problems involved in doing too much or too little when it comes to training and understanding one's limits.  The end of the chapter also contains a great visualization exercise.
4.  Confidence and Raising the Bar: a (great) section about gaining confidence to go out and actually run (while not worrying about what others who see you might think!!!) and learning to understand how the body works and can be challenged for improved results.
5.  Staying Motivated:  7 tips for keeping the motivation alive once the first few steps have been taken.  It includes one of my favorite sentences in the whole book:
"No matter how far-fetched or silly the idea may be, if it keeps you running then do it."  
This includes, rewarding yourself for a run with money in a jar, having someone take your clothes to work, while you run there... the possibilities are endless! He also includes another great visualization exercise.
6.  Nutrition and Hydration:  a comprehensive chapter that discusses carbs, fats, proteins and hydration as well as providing ideas for pre run meals based on the amount of time that will be spent running.
7.  Running in Adverse Conditions, and Common Injuries:  tips and suggestions for running in hot, cold or wet weather as well as descriptions and suggested treatments/preventions for common running related injuries.  Robert again, includes a visualization exercise at the end of this chapter.
8.  Running Inspired:  This culminating chapter brings the reader back to the underlying theme of the book as a whole, inspiration, and what Robert insists the key to running inspired is, "Have Faith", specifically faith in one's self. (Hope that isn't too much of a spoiler.)
"We are in charge of how complicated or simple we make it, how we treat our bodies in the time between runs, and ultimately our entire attitude toward running."
9. Training Schedules:  Robert's final chapter provides beginning training schedules for four different categories; "active beginner runners", "non-exercisers", weight loss" and "people 50 and older".    The schedules are pretty basic and straight forward and include a pace key that explains what each run/walk should be.  Each plan promises the reader the ability, upon completion, to be able to "run for 60 minutes at a comfortable pace".

Again, the organization of the book seems to be well thought out.  I like how each chapter is broken up into sections and is then summarized again at the end.  A lot of information is covered, but it is written in a way that doesn't seem too overwhelming.  I believe that a new or wannabe runner would be able to relate well and learn from the information Robert presents.  He does a great job of providing inspiration and parallels to a non-running world as well as a little bit of humor.

My only real complaint with the book is mostly a personal (nitpicking English major here) hangup that had to do with Robert's "voice".  Most times I felt that he was including himself in the text with the repeated use of "we", writing in a first person point of view, but there were also areas that I felt he stepped out of the text and became more "preachy" with a second person approach.  This didn't take away from the overall book, just made it a bit harder for me to read.

In summary... The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide:  The Key to Running Inspired, by Ryan Robert is a great and easy read with a wealth of good tips and inspiration for a beginning runner and even some basic advice for those a little bit more experienced.  At the bargain price of $1.99 for the Kindle Edition, I'm sure almost anyone could benefit from reading it.  I will say, however, that I prefer books in the paper form (more fun to write in and have on one's bookshelf)... luckily you can get it that way too, $9.56 at Amazon.  Robert, as an author seems to be very well researched and informed and genuinely concerned for the welfare of beginning runners.  As a person, he seems to be very patient and understanding, especially in regards to delinquent bloggers and super slow coming book reviews.  Ha!

Ryan Robert provided me with a free e-copy of his book in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Janet said...

Very good review. I think you did a nice job on presenting the overall picture of the book.

Heather said...

Sounds like MUCH better advice than I heard down on the river path today while running. A girl was telling her running group that if you are hungry at night you should just eat protein because during the night your body will turn it all into muscle!!!