Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Eat & Run

I had first read about Scott in Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (another highly recommended book), where he is profiled as one of the top runners of his generation, and heads down to Copper Canyon with Caballo Blanco for a race with the Tarahumara.  

Turns out not only is he vegan... he also likes to experiment a lot.  Using himself as the test subject, the book if full of his little insights.  I'd take them with a grain of salt, but adding any spice to your training routine keeps it fresh. Since I've been quite busy rearing Kai... I figured I'd summarize the interesting points of this book so I can remember them... most of these are in his words, excerpted from the book. 
  • Stretching - focus on the "runner's five": hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, calves, and the IT band.  He also recommends the Active Isolated Stretching (AIS)
  • Easier, not Harder - Scott suggests running at around 90 strides per min (a stride is 2 steps... so 90 right foot steps per min...)  That's pretty fast.  Short, light, quick steps are the focus here... using sites like you can find songs that are either 90 or 180 bpm to reach this goal.
  • Making progress - after you've been running 3x a week, you're ready to start running occasionally at 85 to 90% of your capacity, or the point where lactate is building up in your muscles but your body is still able to clear and process it.  Start at doing 5 min of 85-90% with a 1 min rest, then repeat.  Gradually ramp up to 10 min on, 2 min rest... then up to 15 min on, 3 min rest... until you can hold your capacity for 45-50 min.  
  • Counting calories - if you are new to plant-based eating (he's talking about going veggie, or vegan), that's my biggest piece of advice for you: Think about what high-quality foods you can bring into your diet to replace the calories from animal products you're excluding.  And make sure you get enough. 
  • Breathing - I (quoting Jurek) picked up a book called Body, Mind, and Sport by John Douillard and learned that breathing through the nose rather than the mouth lowers one's heart rate and helps brain activity (is this true?).  A yogi announced in class that "the nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating."... I trained myself to breathe from my diaphragm, to "belly breathe," rather than to breathe from my chest. For more difficult runs, like hills and tempo workouts, breathe in through the nose, then exhale forcefully through the mouth (yogis call this the "breath of fire".)  
  • Barefoot running - it wasn't barefoot running that made the Tarahumara great runners, though.  Form is what matters.  Barefoot running can help you develop great form, but it's merely a means to an end. If you like running without shoes, great.  If you prefer something on your feet, that's great too.  
  • Posture - Keep your shoulders back and your arms bent 45 degrees at the elbow.  Allow your arms to swing freely, but don't let them cross the imaginary vertical line bisecting your body.  lean forward, but not at the hips.  Imagine a rod running through your body from the head to the toes.  Keep the rod at a slight forward angle to the ground, with a neutral pelvis.  When the entire body participates, you're using gravity to your advantage.  Remember running is controlled falling.  
  • When you're in a funk - lose the technology, run free... run a trail you've never run before, pick a new goal, or a large loop that keeps you motivated to get out on these bad-weather days.  Run fun.  
  • Yiannis Kouros - this guy is insane....
Other books he talks about (but I haven't read...):
  • Running Wild: An extraordinary Adventure of the Human Spirit - John Annerino
  • Running and Being: The total experience - by George Sheehan
  • The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei - John Stevens - these monks sound amazing.  During their practice of Tendai Buddhism kaihogyo the most devoted complete a 25 mile run every day for a thousand consecutive days... after five years they complete a nine day fast.  On their seventh year the monks undertake the "great marathon" of 52.5 miles a day of a year.  

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