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Book Review: Build Your Running Body

build your running body book cover

It’s not often that a book completely overwhelms me with information. But such was the case with Build Your Running Body, a book by Melissa Breyer, Thomas Schwartz, and Pete Magill.

That’s three authors, and 408 pages. And it’s not just a book about training your body. Oh sure, it includes running workouts, gym training, foam rolling and stretching, and training plan design. As well as training your brain, working your fascia, influencing your hormones – basically, every body part and process you can conceivably train. But it also includes racing strategy, recipes, history lessons, and tips on what to wear.

It’s craziness!

But if you’re just getting started running, or you’re stuck in an old-fashioned routine and need to make a change, it’s a whole wealth of information in one place.

You may already be familiar with the authors.

There’s Pete Magill, writer for Running Times magazine, and Thomas Schwartz, who runs the popular website The Run Zone. These are true running experts, not random personalities on HGTV disguising entertainment as advice.

It’s not a training manual, it’s a running manual.

There is TONS of good info in here that I really wish I had a decade ago! I’m sure I’d be faster today and would have had fewer injuries along the way.

It was really funny to read the introduction and the first couple chapters, getting some history lessons, at least one that I lived through! That one being barefoot running and the popularity of Born to Runit seems like just yesterday!

Anyway, a better name for this would be “your running lifestyle.” It’s so much more than your body.

That said, there is a heavy focus “on exercises for each element that builds the ultimate running body: muscles, connective tissue, cardiovascular fitness, energy production, the nervous system, hormones, and the brain.”

And that’s what I truly like about it. Back when I started training for marathons I put no thought into my connective tissue and had no regard for my fascia. I mean, what does that have to do with running? Turns out, everything!

You could call it an encyclopedia.

This book is huge! It’s like an encyclopedia. Even with lots of photos and asides, it would take some time to get through.

Trying to read it made my head spin! Fortunately, you don’t have to read straight through. You can pick and choose sections.

The downside is, it’s more useful than it is fun to read. There are a few pieces of humor, and some parts that sound like stories, but overall, it’s definitely not one of those “I can’t put this down” type of books.

Do encyclopedias include workout routines?

If you caught the excerpt I published earlier, you’re familiar with “The Runner 360” workout. When you see it in the book, with photos for each exercise, it’s even better!

This is where a lot of seasoned veterans who might be stuck in the old school of thought that all that matters is more mileage, and no cross training, could benefit. (Whereas the younger generation is so familiar with CrossFit and whatnot that these workouts could be part of their daily routine already.)

My Favorite Sections In Build Your Running Body

Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting. I couldn’t flip through more than a handful of pages before something would catch my eye. And for most of the lessons, there would be a corresponding research study for me to look up for further reading. (Speaking of which, there’s a full section at the end with the full details on all cited research studies.)

On page 12, I discovered some interesting history like the ice bath fad many years ago. It goes to show that if one famous person does something, everyone will hop on the trend. (Not to be confused with the currently trending ice bucket challenge.)

There is excellent information on the muscle fiber types, which should serve as a wake up call for anyone opening this book with the mindset that run training is simple!

Similarly, the sections on connective tissue are EXCELLENT! This is super important for beginners to learn even before they begin running. One of the most important lessons I ever learned starting out was that base training was important to strengthen the connective tissue to make sure it’s ready to hold up to the more intense workouts to come later in the season.

Pages 83-84 present an excellent story on doing heel dips to strengthen Achilles tendon.

The wobble board and resistance band exercises and workouts are a nice complement to all the resistance training workouts and running drills. This is where the book shines as an encyclopedia.

Plus, the hormone training info beginning on page 225 is very cool. Yes, it mentions HGH. There’s brain training, body temperature regulation, all sorts of stuff that plays a role in your success or failure!

What I Was NOT Thrilled With

When you put together a 400+ page book, you have a lot of chances to please everyone, but at the same time, plenty of opportunity to annoy some readers. Like myself.

The most lacking sections were those concerning nutrition. That’s not to say the nutrition information was bad. On the contrary, there was a lot of sound advice.

But when it got to be more detailed and gave examples, they lost me. For example, I was rather annoyed that it gives an overview of 5 “popular” diets, yet it doesn’t include the diets that might actually be good choices. I mean, the Atkins diet, really? That’s still popular? Weight Watchers? Do any runners even consider that? Why not throw in Nutrisystem?

Is the Paleo diet not popular enough to be included?

My point is, this is not a nutrition manual. I may be biased, but you can’t replicate the Precision Nutrition manual in a small section of a training manual.

Same with the recipes. Obviously you need to eat. And as an endurance athlete, you’ll probably eat A LOT.

But as someone who appreciates good food, I respect a good cookbook. This is not a cookbook.

(Maybe I’m biased again because I have my own oatmeal recipes here?)

Another letdown was the race strategy section. It’s nothing more than very basic pointers. If you’re an experienced runner and actually competing in races, rather than entering with the goal to simply reach the finish line, this is not where you’re going to discover a race strategy.

But the biggest downside I found is that it sometimes tells you what is right and what is wrong, without including why. For example, it says that resistance training makes you faster because with greater strength, you develop a longer, more efficient stride. OK… how does that work? Why does it happen? Is a longer stride really more efficient?

Why is resistance training great but ChiRunning, with its emphasis on core strength and posture (which helped yours truly improve his form,) painted as a fad?

When certain sections remind me of sensationalist news headlines, and the PowerLung gets its own feature in the exercise section, I can no longer think of this as an encyclopedia!

(I don’t mean to say the book is bad, or shady, it’s just that a few of these little things bothered me!)

My final verdict is…

It’s like the Cliff’s Notes to a real encyclopedia. By covering oh so many topics, each is limited to a general overview, and so the book never really dives deep into important stuff. I think the book spreads itself too thin. For most intermediate to advanced runners, I feel like the book is a waste of time. (Unless you are naturally an advanced runner and haven’t yet found the need to perform the drills and follow the guidelines found in this book.)

For an absolute beginner, though, this could serve as a very good introduction to the sport. And as you grow and progress, you can move to other books and resources to get a more thorough look into any one of the topics presented.

Official website: www.TheExperimentPublishing.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: The Experiment Publishing
Product: Build Your Running Body
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2014-09-13
Obtained Product: Free review copy from publisher.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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