REVIEWS: Generic Books 1

So with this in mind, let’s jump to the first series of reviews of generic books.

1. The Lore of Running 5th Ed. By Tim Noakes (Generic – Advanced)
Rating: 9.5/10 (difficult source material at times but unmatched value of content)
You’d expect a comprehensive tome from an author who is equally runner and equally scientist, and Noakes has not disappointed his readers ever since the first edition was released back in the 80s.

While this is most definitely not a beginner’s book, it’s a must-have for everyone else, and while the language strides into quite scientific jargon, Noakes is kind enough to tell reader’s what chapters to leave alone.

More than anything, Noakes pioneers a self-critical (read: scientific as in verifiable and goal-oriented) approach to training, provides the reader with the latest findings inside an astonishing field of topics such as hydration, biomechanics, injuries, stretching, pacing, equipment, ergogonics, and detailed training accounts from multiple authors and for distances ranging from the mile to the long ultra-marathons. That he also lavishly indulges in studies of what the future may bring for running performance and coolly evaluates every potential myth inside the collective running lore is just the icing on the cake.

The book is large, though, and will take most a long time to read through. While I chose this approach, the book’s real value lies in being a valuable reference for later. For more than 20 years this has been the definitive resource for running lore, and it still is. Always open for the latest research, the 4th Edition has all the latest research on its field and includes Noakes’ new ingenious theory “The Central Governor” which I will leave it to the reader himself to inquire about further.

Human Kinetics books are as much scholarly as practical resources, but every coach and serious runner could draw immediate use from this tome.

2. Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald (Generic – Advanced)
Rating: 9/10 (could be remembered as the book that changed training forever but could have been more detailed)

Undoubtedly the most intelligent running book of the year, and perhaps the most daring too. Long-time Runner’s World writer Matt Fitzgerald could not ignore the Central Governor Theory proposed by Noakes, and used his extensive practical experience to modify our existing training conventions without revolutionising them unnecessarily (in fact, Tim Noakes writes the foreword to this book), much of what is tried and tested is still in this book, but now better explained and more wielded more precisely than ever before.

Matt Fitzgerald provides just enough background science talk to convince us that he’s new training system is really based on sound theory without boggling down the reader with a physiological discourse. More often than not, you find yourself going “of course!” and realise that by practicing this programme, you’ll find that you’re doing something that feels wrong or weird, but you’ve been told to, so you’re doing it anyway.

There are a few unique innovations in the book as well: the anti-sitting exercises and the Proprioceptive Cues you perform to optimise your running style (this is a more down-to-earth and easily applicable version of much that you could reach in books like ChiRunning and “Alexander Technique for Runners”.

The book finishes with 3 levels of training programmes for 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon distance which showcase how to use the new programme. It’s not as easy to build your own as it is using books like “SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes” (to be reviewed in the future here), but with a bit of analysis the underlying system can be easily deducted.

Anyone serious about training should read this book, you’ll see that most of your tried and trusted methods still hold true, but you’ll learn the real reason why they do in the process, and also get the benefit of finally tweaking the few things you did wrong and add some completely new techniques to your repertoire.

For beginners, you will not find better programmes to start on in any other book, but the book itself may be too advanced for a novice runner. This is the forefront of running science; hopefully it will not stand alone for long.

NEXT Instalment:

Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss

Let’s Run by Lindie Naughton

SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes by Rob Sleamaker/Ray Browning