Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gear Review: The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key to Running Inspired

For people new to the sport, running can be somewhat intimidating. As nice as the idea of telling them to "just go run," might be, the truth is people want more information, as evidenced by the growing number of books and websites devoted to beginner runners. The question, of course, becomes which of these books and websites are worth reading, and which are not? When author Ryan Robert contacted me about his book The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key to Running Inspired, I admit that I was skeptical. I had no idea who Ryan Robert was, and I was a little worried his book would be yet another beginner book that rehashed all the same tired information that was in every single other beginner book. However, upon reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide is broken down into five chapters: Getting Ready to Run; Raising the Bar and Staying Motivated to Run; Nutrition, Hydration, Running in Adverse Conditions, and Common Injuries; Running Inspired; and Training Schedules. The bulk of the book is in the first chapter, "Getting Ready to Run," and I feel that this is the strong point of the book. There's a lot of good information, including some of the very basic science, but not so much as to be overwhelming the way that books like Lore of Running and Better Training for Distance Runners can be. I think there is a little bit of a tendency to mention some things that may have beginners overthinking their running, but let's face it, beginners will do that anyway, so let's at least arm them with accurate information. This chapter is absolutely the high point of the book. Similarly, the second chapter, "Raising the Bar and Staying Motivated to Run" is also a well-written chapter that touches on various speed workouts, and includes information on how to perform said workouts, that can be included in a training program. I am a little more hesitant to recommend the nutrition portion of the third chapter, just because it seems more focused on weight loss than on running performance. The injury portion of the third chapter is good, but very similar to the plethora of other injury guides I've seen in similar books and online. The chapter on "Running Inspired" is short and probably not necessary, but it doesn't hurt to have it in there either. The training schedules look much more reasonable and effective than those presented in Kara Goucher's Running for Women, the other beginner runner book I've reviewed on this blog. Another neat feature of this book are the visualization exercises. Visualization is an often overlooked, yet important part of any sport, and it's nice to see it mentioned in this book.

While I did state that the science included early in this book isn't completely overwhelming, I still think that it may be a little much for the very beginning runner whose focus is to get in shape, lose 5 pounds, or finish his first 5K. On the other hand, I think this is a great book for the high school runner who is just starting to actually get into the sport (you know, the one who just managed to find her way onto LetsRun, and you look at and can't help but remember your own formative days when you spent hours perusing DyeStat...or maybe that's just me). Eventually you want to hand them one of those textbooks that I mentioned earlier in this post, but you don't think that they're quite ready for 1000 pages worth of mitochondria and muscle fibers and the Krebs cycle and vVO2 max yet. In the meantime, The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide is a great companion to whet their appetite, and at $3, it's a great value and hard to go wrong.

The copy of The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide that I received is in the Kindle format. I don't own a Kindle, but I was able to download an app for my PC that allowed me to read it on my computer. Similarly, you can also view it on your iPhone or iPad (though I would definitely not want to attempt reading this on my iPhone, but that's just me). If you do have a Kindle, I'd highly suggest using that. While I don't own a Kindle myself, the ones I've played with are nice little machines, and I can only imagine it would be easier to read than it was on my computer. On my PC, the formatting was weird and I sometimes wished a better job had been done with spacing. It was also laggy, but that might have been my laptop.

The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide also includes a code to get three free PDFs on abs and diets. I did not look at them (I think the website wanted my email address or something, and I decided that a PDF on dieting wasn't worth the possibility of getting random newsletters about how I eat too much), so they will not be included in this review.

Ryan Robert might not have the credentials that some of the other running book authors like Jack Daniels or Tim Noakes may have, but he's put together a nice book for a fantastic price. While it may not be appropriate for the very beginner, and there's nothing in here that the advanced runner hasn't already seen, it's a good book for the beginner who is starting to ask questions about the sport.

The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide: The Key to Running Inspired is available on Amazon for $2.99 as a Kindle Edition.

Full disclosure: The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide was provided to me by author Ryan Robert free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Robert or anyone else.

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