Running

Book Review: The Runner’s Brain

I’m still pretty new to blogging, but I’ve read several times that it’s important to focus on a main topic or two.  In my case, I’ve picked my three favourite things: skiing, travelling and running, and how they interact with each other.  (I suppose that is three or four things, but they do overlap quite a bit.)  The thing I am finding that I really like about this is how it makes me focus on these topics more in my daily life, and become more interested in them and want to learn more about them.  I’ve always had an interest in all three and felt they were important to my life, but I’ve never been one to “study” a hobby.  

What’s interesting, is that studying a hobby – in this case, running – is one of the tactics suggested by the authors in “The Runner’s Brain” to make you believe you are a runner, and because you believe it, overtime a better runner.  This is one of the first tactics I’ve employed and in only a few weeks have already found myself more centred, more confident in my ability and getting faster. 

With this in mind, I thought I would start adding book reviews to my blog as I read about my three favourite things.  I’m an avid reader anyway, so this just means I can add in another passion to this project (and I call that a win). 


Book Details

  • Title: The Runner’s Brain, How to Think Smarter to Run Better
  • Authors: Dr. Jeff Brown with Liz Neporent
  • Genre: Non-fiction – running
  • Website: drjeffbrown.com

Synopsis

The book discusses the mental benefits of running, but it focuses on how to use your brain to get the most out of your body and your training.  This includes visualisation and goal setting methods before a run, association and disassociation during a run to help you get through, and how to deal with post race blues.  It also touches on superstitions and dealing with challenges during a run.  Throughout the book, there are insights from runners of all abilities and examples from scientific studies.  The overall idea of the book is that it is just as important to train your brain as it is to train your body in order to be the best runner you can be.  

Review

I liked this book.  It was written in an almost conversational tone that eases you into some of the more scientific parts.  Also, the tone makes you feel like the authors really get and admire runners and some of the crazy stuff we can put ourselves through.  Instead of making you feel nuts for wanting to push harder, they show you how to get the most out of your ability, as well as how to know when it is safer to pull back so that you can push harder the next time.  There is also a real sense that it is excellent to be a runner, no matter the distance you want to run or how fast you go.  

I was fortunate to have a Cross-Country coach in high school that understood the benefits of mental training and taught us some good goal-setting methods and visualisation strategies.  As such, many of the big picture ideas in the book were not new to me.  However, it has been a while since I have really focused on those methods and it was useful to be reminded why they are so important.  In addition, every idea in the book has several suggestions on how to work on a skill.  This is really good because everyone thinks differently, so having multiple methods to learn about means it is more likely you’ll find something that works for you.  There were some new ideas that I picked up, such as to describe my surroundings in great detail to help keep your mind off the run.  (That is considered a disassociation method – something else I learned.) 

My biggest pick-ups from the book were: it’s normal to struggle from time to time, even the greats do it; how to deal with it when you are struggling; how to give yourself more confidence, which in turn helps make you a better runner; and that there really are major mental benefits from running.  That last one for me is really important because on many mornings it is my main motivation for getting out of bed, putting my shoes on, and getting out the door.  

While I did find this book a bit slow at times, it is a non-fiction book so I think that is to be expected.  It is broken up into really manageable pieces and there are great wrap-up boxes at the end of each chapter.  These made it easy to read during the commute to and from work.  Overall, I found the book informative and useful.  This is a great book for everyone, regardless of your ability and at any point in your running journey.  

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