Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Build Your Running Body: Book Review

Recently I read the much acclaimed book Build Your Running Body, authored collectively by masters running legend Pete Magill, coach Tom "Tinman" Schwartz of The Run Zone, and nutritionist Melissa Breyer.  In full disclosure, I have known Tinman for over a decade as one of his athletes, a friend, and coaching colleague.  That said, I would not take the time to compose this review if I did not believe in the value of this work. 

With the abundance of information available, and the growing accessibility of many top minds in the sport, it is a challenge these days to publish a meaningful book that advances the existing body of knowledge.  The value-added in many products these days is not in creating a new idea (since “new” is “old” by the time most books make it to print).  Instead, the value-added results from eliminating the excess and honing into the ideas that matter most.  This book more than delivers that standard.    

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Up front, the authors credit the coaches and scientists who have helped build the body of knowledge in the sport.  They bring a welcome dose of history, respecting the pioneers who helped establish what we know today.  As a result, this book offers a blend of practical experience and science, a welcome change from many works in which practical experience and science are at odds. 

“Been there, done that” is a common theme with references to key points in running history.   As students of running history they have seen the evolution from very primitive training routines, to the mega mileage of the running boom, to the ensuing low mileage era.  As they discuss, many training “discoveries” are little more than fancy repackaging of past methods but under different names.     

One word to describe this book is “Accessible.”  Some books introduce runners to the sport but forever leave readers with a beginner’s mindset without advancing runners beyond “finish my first race” stage.  Other advanced texts are inaccessible to relative beginners due to running jargon, shutting out many runners from advancing to higher forms of training.  This book offers the best of both worlds, with a practical introduction to running culture, but soon advancing into the primary discussions on training. 

Above all, this book reminds you to see the body as a whole, not as a compilation of workout times and distances.  Running fitness is not a formula, but is instead an expression of the body’s mental and physical state.  Running workouts are only one part of the puzzle, and oftentimes not even the most important part.  This theme is constant throughout the book, with great emphasis on often neglected areas such as psychology, nutrition, race readiness.  While other books do admirable work in these specialty areas, this book brings all these domains together to help create your running body!  I might not agree with all the supplementary exercise choices in the strength section, but the fundamental principles of programming strength work into a training plan are very well supported with the latest evidence and time-honored experience.    

We’ve all heard the saying “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a liftetime.”  This book offers runners and coaches the latter, naming providing the tools to better understand your own body, not merely plug numbers into a plan or recycle watered down elite programs but at a slower pace.  Though programs are included, these are merely suggestions on how to build a plan, not gospel on how to schedule your training.

In sum, I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in gaining a greater understanding of running training.  Whether you are a self-coached adult, or a coach to a team, the information in this book will undoubtedly enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the sport.