Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Get Off Your Ass and Run

As you know, I'm working on a weight goal. I'm also working on a running goal for the upcoming Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon. I picked up Bob Harper's The Skinny Rules and then decided to hit up Amazon for Jillian Michael's Slim for Life.

Then I started seeing a book called Get Off Your Ass And Run advertised on Facebook and it showed up in Amazon after picking out Jillian Michael's book. I had a gift card for Amazon, so I figured why not? Add it to the cart and let's get this party started!

This week I received both books in the mail on Monday (along with my Stride Box and Today's Mile t-shirt. It was a good mail day!). I was very excited to get going and started reading this one right away, as I had already finished Bob's book and that half marathon is getting closer and closer.

Now, I knew it wasn't a book for people who have been running for a while. I knew it was more of a beginner book, but I was ok with that. I'm having motivational issues and thought this might be perfect. I'll be honest, I kinda liked the irreverent title. I'm not afraid of language, so I thought this might be a bit of fun book to read.

And then I realized it's awful. The author is a trial lawyer who wrote the book while pregnant with twins, with no more authority to write a book about the best way to run than I. Now I'm not saying that people who run cannot be authorities on running, but after reading through her book I don't see anything other than her and her husband's running experience to speak for her.

I know I'm a weird person in terms of what keeps me moving when I want to stop. I have a tendency to negative talk myself to keep going. On a run, I'm ok with this. I curse myself out to finish off a tough run, to stop myself from giving up just because I'm hot, tired, sore, what have you. I try not to do the same thing in other areas of my life though. But, one of the methods the author wants you to use to motivate yourself is to look in the mirror and say "You Fat Bitch." Yes, in a world of anarexia, low self-esteem (which is a huge contributing factor to weight issues), and negative world views the author wants you to look in the mirror and call yourself a fat bitch in order to fix your weight issues. I'm sorry, but if I'm trying to find motivation to pick up a diet plan or get my feet out running, I don't think calling myself a fat bitch is going to do that. I think it's going to do the exact opposite.

The biggest issue I have with her book is twofold, but they go together. In Chapter 1, she writes:

Forget all that Pilates, yoga, Zumba, even gym sessions. Forget all of it. You will never have the body you want, nor the mental strength and stamina required to maintain it, until you understand and practice that running is the answer. It is the only answer. No exceptions.
Ummmm...what?  I understand the idea of being dedicated to your running plan, especially when you are a new runner. My issue is that other forms of exercise (including those Pilates, yoga, Zumba, and gym sessions) work different muscles, strengthen those used in running, and can in the case of yoga help with stress and flexibility. To tell someone that running is the only answer and to not do anything else until you have completed her training plan is absurd. Should a new runner do all of the above at the same time? No. Will you burn out? Maybe cause an injury? Yup. Should a new runner take it easy, see what works into their schedule, attempt to bolster their new routine? Again, yup. Insane to think and advocate otherwise.

The second issue I have with her assumptions can be summed up on page 18: "Exercise is the real key to weight loss, not food" (bold is how the line is in the book). Ummm...again, what? How can anyone make the bold statement that food is not a key component of weight loss? Google the phrase "you can't outrun your diet" and you will get 41, 900 pages in less than .25 of a second. Diet is key to weight loss. To ignore it or to trivialize it makes me wonder how much you really know about your topic.

She goes on to say "your current eating habits are not important - they are entirely secondary and much less critical than getting you outside and running." Her theory is you cannot concentrate on starting a running routine while changing and improving your eating. Start with her running program and ignore what you eat for now. How can you ignore what you are putting in your body when you are endeavering to start a running program that has it's own needs in terms of nutrition? And how can you ignore your diet when you are asking your body to burn many more calories than you have been without education, you will not know the best way to fuel pre- and post-run. There is no mention of this as she describes the first chapters on running.

The last big issue I have with her is her recommendation of not picking up running shoes immediately upon starting her program. She states on page 50: "wearing comfortable clothing and a pair of sneakers (don't buy new ones for the occasion - anything that's reasonably supportive will do at this stage), leave your front door and head out on foot for your nearest green space." For the first time runner, I can see how asking for an investment of $80-$120 may make someone balk, but in the long run having shoes that will cushion your ankles, knees, and body from the pounding running does to the body will stave off injuries. The author's training program is eight weeks and it isn't until you reach this stage where you either enter a 5k race or continue on does she recommend going to a running store (here I agree with her) and being fitted with shoes. It comes across as almost a reward. A reward for what? Making it that far without injuries?

I'll be upfront with you now, I have never had children. I have never had to bring my body back from having a child in either diet or exercise. So, when the author goes into Chapter 12 with "How to Recover Your Running Mojo Post-Baby/Injury/Illness - And Why Running Is Better than Therapy" it was no surprise that this chapter focused heavily on how to return to running and gaining back your motivation after having a child. The injury/illness portion of this chapter honestly felt like a add-on so to appeal to more people. In this chapter, she has several sub-headings: "Post-Childbirth Running," "First Timers" ("For the first-time runner who is also a first-time mom..."), "Old-timers" (If you ran before your pregnancy..."), and "Postpartum Depression." She then gives a list of how to get back into running after a long-term absence, but by focusing so much on post-baby running, I felt like this was more a book devoted to mom runners than to the general running population. While there is nothing wrong with talking directly to that group of people, your book is not marketed that way.

As I got further and further into the book, I didn't want to finish reading it. I was so frustrated with her push on the negative self talk, the running will fix everything, her small sample size in terms of her plan being effective (her, her husband, and her sister), and basically going against all the running and healthy eating advice I had ever heard. It shocked me that a publisher actually wanted to put this out there.

Would I recommend this book? No. Would I return it if I could? Yes. There are very few books I feel that way about (I'm looking at you Democracy In America), but this one is among the short list. I felt as if I could write a better book in terms of a beginning runner program for people who are overweight. Which is not a good thing when you are reading a book for helpful advice in motivating you in your running and weight loss efforts.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Is there a good running book you would recommend?

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