Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: Run - The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel

“There is a magic formula…. It’s just that the magic is different for everyone.” 
~Keith Dowling

 My rating of this book: B+

When I first decided I wanted start running like most (all) new runners I looked for an established, tried and true training plan to help me complete my chosen race (a marathon which I did in August of last year).  I found my plan and followed it as closely as possible because that is what you are supposed to do, right?  The ‘experts’ know what my beginner body is capable of, don’t they? 

The training went well for the most part but like most (all) runners who work with a fixed plan I ran into a few bumps in the road.  A couple months in I had issues with shin splints and needed to bring my intensity down for a few weeks to let my body heal.  Some days I struggled with the prescribed distance more than others, I just wasn’t in the right place for that workout that day. I ended up late at work one night and couldn’t get to the gym before they closed to get in a key workout I thought I needed.   In other words, shit happened!

During my training, I couldn’t help but wonder, would it really be a problem if I shortened certain workouts when I didn’t feel up to it?  If I put in a harder effort when I did feel up to it on a prescribed ‘easy’ day? If I moved a long run back a few days to when I would feel more confident I can complete it feeling strong?  Would I perform better on race day if I just winged it? 

Well according to RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel
by Matt Fitzgerald the answer is yes!  Yes you would perform better if you learned to listen to your body’s cues!  What a revelation!  What a concept! This is something I knew intuitively but didn’t know how to go about doing it.  In this book Matt Fitzgerald gives you the keys to learn to run by feel.  From the title it might sound as if this book is a little touchy, feely, pie in the sky type of book.  But this is really a very grounded and thoughtfully put together set of arguments backed up by scientific studies as well as the authors own experience as to why you can be your own best coach!

The book is set up like most traditional training manuals with a complete and separate concept presented in each chapter.  All the concepts presented in this book relate to each other but do not necessarily build on one another so the reader could read chapters out of order and skip to the parts of most interest if desired.  The book covers subjects such as using emotion to read your body’s cues, how to ‘wing it’ and train without a plan and how training in a way that builds confidence can aid in performance.

At times the books seems to go off topic and discus things like shoe selection and running form which are both highly debated topics in the running community right now.  It is tied in in a way but I couldn't help but feel that it was a little forced.

One chapter in particular on running injury seemed to be in direct opposition to the rest of the book. Fitzgerald suggests that injury is just simply a part of running and not to read to much into it.  Just let your body heal and move on.  I have a hard time swallowing that one.  I can see the value in the advice to not drive yourself crazy looking for the 'magic' cure to your running injury's as they are probably multifaceted.  However, I can't help but feel that the better you get at listening to your body's cues the less injured you would be, but Fitzgerald seems to simply accept injury a par for the course.

The information was very interesting but a little dry for my taste, perhaps even text book-ish and not the most entertaining book I have ever read about running.  Although personal stories are incorporated, this reads more like an instructional manual than an inspirational or motivational type of book, which is appropriate.  I think the grounded approach to this subject will give runners that would not normally be drawn to this sort of information something to grab on to.  This isn’t fluff, there is good data here to back these concepts up.  All ideas presented here are explored in detail and argued persuasively.

Overall I was very impressed with this book.  It gave me not only the reasons why a run by feel training approach works but also how to go about creating my own training philosophy that is best for me and my body.  I would highly recommend this book to all runners of all experience levels! 


  1. Great book review, Jennefer! ... I think I would like to read this book. I know that a "do what I feel" aproach to training would work best for me, but I need to learn how to listen to my own body's cues and be confident in my training decisions. Maybe this book would be a goog guide for that?

    Your blog is lookin' great! I love it.

  2. This book would give you a good place to start for sure! I feel like there is more to be said on the topic of listening to your body for training, but this has some great information to get you thinking!