Friday, August 13, 2010

Running By Feel

I love to read. Anything—fiction, nonfiction—doesn't matter. And you can probably guess that running books (yes, fiction and nonfiction) are frequent reads of mine. Just check out the Book Reviews page on the blog and you'll see some of my favorites. Not every running book do I completely agree with, but in every book, I take away something (be it a nugget or a huge clump) that I can use to better my own running or the running of my clients.

Recently, a friend of mine at VeloPress, asked me to read one of their newest titles—Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, by Matt Fitzgerald. I've read several of Matt's books, including Brain Training For Runners. If you've read Brain Training for Runners, you may be wondering how Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel may differ. The titles do seem similar.
As with most everything, evolving science and research continues to shed new light on theories about running. In the Preface of Run, Matt explains how he feels Brain Training was somewhat of a rough draft for Run. He goes on to say, "I have a good feeling that the philosophy that is manifest here is one I will hold on to as I continue my pursuit as a student of the sport of running."
He's not worried in the least that some of what he writes in Run may contradict information shared in previous books because that means the sport is evolving and growing as we learn more and more about the sport.

Matt shares that the core of Brain Training (the idea that the brain is the seat of all our possibilities and limitations as runners) remains unchanged. Run goes further utilizing newer research that shows we don't have to be "brain scientists to harness this power and become better runners." Through the book, Matt shows us how one can improve his/her running by feel. He explains how our perceptions, intuitions, and feelings coming to our conscious minds from our unconscious brains tells us all that we need to know abut how to run faster and farther. The key is knowing how to read the messages.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book (for me) is shared at the very beginning of the book. Matt talks about the great Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, lovingly known by running fans around the world as Geb. I won't ruin the experience by sharing all the details, but just learning a little about how Geb trains and actually how most African runners train verses, how western runners train, is extremely interesting.

The main gist of the book is learning how to trust your instincts when running. This book may be hard for some runners to tackle, especially if they're looking for a plan. Run, won't provide exactly what to do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. It won't tell you whether to do fartleks, intervals, hillwork, easy runs, or long runs. But what the book does do is help you learn how to listen to your body and how to enjoy running more, even if it hurts.
This enjoyment or love for the run even when it's tough is key in fighting off fatigue. One of Geb's favorite workouts is his toughest—hill training. He says it's his favorite because 'it's the one that gives you a lot of problems. Pain. Breathing too much. Struggling too much." He goes on to say that he doesn't enjoy it during the workout, but after he finishes it, he enjoys the confidence the workout has given him. Notice he doesn't talk about VO2Max, or using energy systems more efficiently. He just loves knowing that he can do it. He's then able to apply that confidence in other areas of his running.

Run is divided into three parts—Learning to Listen, Mastering the Practice of Mind-Body Running, and The Finer Points of the Mind-Body Method. A multitude of research and information is shared throughout the book, but Matt does a great job of meshing the research with anecdotal evidence making the book very readable.

Hey, maybe that voice in your head isn't you going bonkers from too much training. Maybe it's your brain trying to tell you something. Whether you're a newbie or a master runner, if you want to improve your running, learn more about yourself and your body, and possibly maximize your running potential, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and read Run.
Note: Although I was provided with a copy of Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, I was in no way encourage to write a positive review, nor did I receive any compensation for writing this review. This review is based on my own experience reading the book.


misszippy said...

I need to read this one. I am a big believer in learning to run by feel. It's one thing that I think is getting lost out there in the middle of all the Garmins/ipods/training plans, especially for newbies. The body can deliver lots of good info, if you let it!

RunnerDude said...

Hi misszippy! Couldn't agree more. Some of my best runs are when I forget my watch/Garmin!

The Boring Runner said...

This is SO true. So much of running is mental. If I am certain I am going to have a bad day while running, I almost always do.

David H. said...

I've been running by feel this summer - a non-plan plan as I have called it ( and since I have written about it several times, people have recommended this book to me ... and now you've written this! I think it's time I go get me a copy.

AshleyR said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this book! I prefer to run by feel and hate following plans to the letter. I'm big on listening to my body. I'll admit I do wear a Garmin but I only use it to track mileage and I only check my pace during 5k road races.

Caratunk Girl said...

I want to read this book! I have been running "naked" lately (sans watch/hr monitor) and have been having the best (happiest) runs of my life. I am not very techie anyway, but have found that my running life is better if I just run how I feel instead of how the watch or whatever tells me (yes, those things have their place, maybe just not on me right now).

Junk Miler said...

Since Matt Fitgerald has been a vocal critic of barefoot running, I do my best to disagree with everything he says; but I gotta say this book looks very interesting and useful. Especially for barefooters, since there's so much to feel (ow! stupid rock).

Good seeing you today, dude. Glad business is going well.

Kenley said...

Sometimes for me, it is especially nice just to get out there with out a watch or anything and just run for the enjoyment and to "Feel" what your body is doing and listening to it. I do this about once every 3-4 months. Thanks for the information on the book.

TammyRunsWV said...

I ditched the HR monitor this year and just run how I feel now. I am running faster and feeling better this year over last year. I no longer try to push through tough workouts if I'm not feeling it, and I push myself harder than I plan on some runs when I am feeling it. I got this advice from a great local runner, and it has been the best advice ever!