The Runner's Handbook

Probably the only running reference you’ll need

If you have any sort of interest in running, I can’t recommend any book more enthusiastically than this one. Although it may seem strange to get a book about running–I mean, what is there to it, right? But it turns out there are a couple of good reasons to pick up a book on running: one, it’s motivating; two, there is a ton of useful information crammed into this book. It will be the only running reference you’ll ever really need.

With over 700 pages, this isn’t a lightweight book. It truly is about as comprehensive as you can imagine, and will serve most runners more than sufficiently. It is an oddly engaging read, sucking you into the world of running (or jogging) while giving you all sorts of information you never even thought you could need. Everything the beginner could need is covered, from the minutae of day-to-day running (track etiquette, cold weather clothing, eating, and on and on) to larger topics like training plans and moving into competitive racing. The book will take you all the way through intermediate running–which Glover defines as regular sustained running, maybe with an occasional race thrown in. If you are already an experienced or regular runner, you will probably find this less useful than the true beginner. However, no one but the most experienced coach would be unable to learn something from this book. Just be aware that it is geared towards the recreational runner; if you are looking for a reference specific to competitive running, you should look elsewhere.

There are 42 chapters in the book, divided into 12 major sections: Fitness, Getting Fit, Training, Racing, Equipment, Food and Drink for Health and Energy, The Running Environment, Running Lifestyle, Special Runners, Illness and Injury, Running Form and Supplemental Training, and Wellness. The three chapters in the Fitness section give you basic information about what exercise and fitness are and why all of us ought to get out there and move a bit more. The third chapter outlines various ways to measure your own current level of fitness, providing a useful set of technique that you can come back to as your level of fitness improves (with your running, of course). The chapters in the next continue along this same vein, first dealing with getting started on a fitness regime (rather relaxed or intense) and then keeping yourself motivated enough to stick with it. The principles of exercise are outlined, with an entire chapter devoted to the important three-part model: warm-up, run, and cool-down. The last chapter in the Getting Fit section is called “The Fit Prescription: How Often? How Fast? How Far?” This is an important chapter, since beginners do often struggle with finding the right balance, either overdoing it and burning out, or not working hard enough to get the desired results. The last section in the book, Wellness, goes into more depth on all of these ideas. The chapters cover a holistic approach to health and fitness, the cardiovascular aspects of running, stress and weight management. The final chapter, “Running Inside Your Head”, deals more emotional aspects of running: how it can help with depressions, anxiety, self-esteem, and creative thinking, and finally moving onto the infamous “runner’s high”. It’s an interesting read.

Parts III and IV take the ideas of the last chapter of Section II and run with them. In part III, Training, you will learn how to keep a good runner’s diary and find three running training programs: beginner’s, advanced beginner’s (for more running-experienced readers), and intermediate. Glover helps readers identify which program (and where in the program) they ought to begin. He also convincingly argues for patience in building up ability before trying to progress. Then in Section Iv, he talks to both those who may be interested in moving into competitive running, and those who may just like more structured goals. Racing isn’t always about competition, for instance. So he addresses both frequent 5k races and marathons, giving the reader many ideas of why they may want to participate in either. Finally, there is a chapter on the importance of speed training, which will be useful to any runner who wants to learn to run faster, for whatever reason. Part XI, Running Form and Supplemental Training, gives four chapters with further training information, and serves as a great supplement to those who have mastered.

Three sections of the book deal with wider running lifestyle issues, including Part VI (Food and Drink for Health and Energy), Part VIII (Running Lifestyle), and Part X (Illness and Injury). The section on food and drink includes chapters on basic nutrition as relates to running, food and drink that serves as running-specific “fuel”, and the importance on good hydration in running. The Running Lifestyle part covers safety, running while traveling, managing time (as in life in general, and working running in), and the importance of balancing running with life and work. Part X addresses two issues that we’d rather be able to ignore, but shouldn’t . Illness is just a human thing, and sometimes it’s best to not run–Glover will convince you when that’s the case. Injury is a similar issue, as we will inevitably get hurt at some point, and while we can sometimes work through things, more often than not we will be better served to allow ourselves to heal.

The remaining sections deal with more specific, and generally pragmatic, issues. Part V, Equipment, discusses running shoes and apparel and how to choose what is best for you. These obviously aren’t going to give you extremely personalized information, but the important things for you to consider are all identified. You will feel much more confident the next time you go into a running shoe store. The Running Environment, Part VII, covers environmental issues, which are very import for runners. After all, most of the time, we’re running outside. People tend to overdress for cold weather, and Glover gives numerous tips for avoiding this (and he will make you much more comfortable giving cold weather running a shot if you’re still a bit intimidated). The chapter on hot weather running is also very important, and provides readers with better ideas of how to manage hydration and exhaustion in uncomfortable climates. There is also a chapter on handling the unpredictability of weather in general. Finally, the ninth section offers four chapters on specific categories of runners: women runners (including an interesting history of women and running, health issues specific to women that may impact running, like osteoporosis, pregnancy, and menopause); older runners (covering the impact that agiing in general can have on running as well as the benefits); runners with specific health or physical limitations (including topics such as chronic health conditions like asthma, arthritis, or diabetes, as well as other physical issues such as hearing and visual impairments); and younger (child) runners (covering both running with kids in strollers and health and safety issues specific to child runners, reminding us that “children are not miniature adults”).

As some of the other reviewers have alluded to, this is a strangely addictive and exciting book. You wouldn’t think so (I certainly did not). But the writing is excellent, and a very nice balance between a packed informative tone and an amusing anecdotal style is maintained throughout. Glover knows how to motivate, and if you are like me, you will find yourself reading this entire book in a series of sizable chunks, and then going back later and rereading parts as your running experience expands. You’ve got to take some breaks to actually run, right? I can sum up my opinion of this book with one simple statement: if you are the least bit interested in running, buy this book and you will soon be a knowledgeable and active runner.

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