Running Books and Functional Movement

I’ve been on a bit of a running kick lately. Not so much because I love running, but because I see it as a key component of my cardiovascular fitness and one that is easy to measure, requires little equipment, and I readily see the benefits in other aspects of my overall fitness. Prior to the last couple of years, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve run seriously and my body has changed substantially during that time. The memories of how I used to run and how I actually run today collide, and it’s been a learning experience acquiring good training habits and re-developing my running form. I’ve been trying to absorb everything I can, and my hope is to share some of the books that I’ve found to be most helpful.

I guess the biggest difference between now and in high school is that I’m substantially heavier–198 lbs vs 165 lbs, though muscular–and I’ve suffered several injuries, particularly in the lower back and tore my inner adductor last year. On top of that, I’ve had some habits that I believe are catching up to me: posture needs work and I don’t have neutral feet being the most prominent.

Thanks to a few folks from Basic Training–a group fitness class that I’ve been taking–I’ve picked up a long run on the weekends that has done wonders for me, but has highlighted a problem: tight hips. Now I’ve known that this has been an issue for years, but it didn’t really affect me until I picked up my running speed. Now I feel like my stride is being hindered and it’s causing me to compensate and potentially injure other parts of my body. So, I’ve enlisted the help of a physical therapist.

I have to say, my experience with physical therapists has been a bit mixed, so I was surprised at how well the session went. It turns out that my problem is not a lack of flexibility (which I suspected), but it’s my body guarding itself. With only a few breathing techniques and some small stretching, she added about 8 inches of reach.

After the session, she pointed me at a book: Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. It’s an amazing book and really intrigues the engineer and scientist in me. Kelly does a fantastic job at having a good way to discover that you have an issue, but also goes through the mechanics of proper motion and how to correct the issue. This isn’t some chintzy, short book on the topic. It’s a full-fledged reference guide and a very high-quality book–both in content and construction. I’ve only begun reading it and it’s clear this is going to be a book that I go back to again and again. And it’s not just for runners, but targets movement in general.

Kelly also wrote a book that is targeted at runners: Ready to Run. This book focuses specifically on “standards” to meet to improve your running potential and avoid injury. It’s well-written, to the point, and efficient. I can’t wait to incorporate it into my routine.

Perhaps the best part is how much it aligns with other books that I’ve read, such as Born to Run and Building your Running Body. These are both excellent books, particularly the latter, which has to be one of the best running books I have ever read. Pete Magill’s training philosophy is comprehensive, scientific, and aimed at keeping you healthy and injury free.

I feel like I still have a long way to go before I reach my goals, but I’m hopeful I’ll get there without tearing up my body in the process!