Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners, from Milers to Ultramarathoners-Run Farther, Faster, and Injury-Free

Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners, from Milers to Ultramarathoners-Run Farther, Faster, and Injury-Free


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“The best running book ever.” —Bob Anderson, founder of Runner’s World

Whether you're a miler or an ultramarathoner, if you want a fit, fast, and injury-resistant running body, there's a better way to train than relentlessly pursuing mileage. This easy-to-use workout manual draws on the latest research in running physiology to target all the components that go into every stride—including muscles, connective tissue, cardiovascular fitness, energy production, the nervous system, hormones, and the brain. With the breakthrough whole-body training program in Build Your Running Body, runners will improve their times, run longer and more comfortably, and reduce injury.

With more than 150 workouts—from weightlifting and cross-training to resistance exercises and plyometrics—fine-tuned to individual skill levels and performance goals, PLUS:

393 photos that make it easy to follow every step of every workout
10 training programs to help runners of all levels integrate the total-body plan into their daily routines
Interviews with leading runners, exercise scientists, and coaches—learn how elite runners train today
Race strategy for the crucial weeks leading up to the competition and through to the finish line
Exercises to prevent injury and rehabilitate common running ailments
Seasoned insight on barefoot running, the pros and cons of stretching, and other hot-button topics
Nutrition guidance on carbs, proteins, fats, and weight loss
More than 30 recipes to speed recovery and cement fitness gains
Beginners' guidelines every step of the way
Valuable tips on proper apparel, tracking your progress, and more!

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781615191024
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication date: 07/29/2014
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 440,863
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Pete Magill has coached his running clubs to 19 masters national championships. He’s a five-time USA Masters Cross Country Runner of the Year and the fastest-ever American distance runner over age 50 in the 5K and 10K. He is also the lead author of Build Your Running Body. He lives in South Pasadena, California.

Thomas Schwartz runs the popular website The Run Zone, and is an exercise physiologist and coach.

Melissa Breyer is the coauthor of True Food and is a Green Living columnist for Discovery Channel’s

Read an Excerpt

Build Your Running Body

A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners

By Melissa Breyer, Thomas Schwartz

The Experiment Publishing

Copyright © 2014 Melissa Breyer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61519-102-4


Why do you run? What drives you to lace up your running shoes and head for the trails? We all need a reason. The simple motivations—such as better fitness and weight loss—are great for getting you out the door once. Or twice. Or for a few weeks. But to stick with a training regimen, to persevere when it's raining or cold, or you're tired, or (cross your fingers) you've already reached your original goal, you need more than simple reasons. You need great reasons. And this chapter has those to spare. First, you'll see that you aren't just improving your cardio or dropping a couple pounds; you're rebuilding every cell in your body to be better than it was before. Next, you'll be amazed at the lifelong benefits, both physical and psychological, that accrue with every workout. Finally, you'll discover what millions of runners have already found: just how much fun a good running program can be.

You are motivated. You proved that by opening this book. You crossed the threshold from thinking about a new fitness plan to putting that plan into action. That was the hardest step, and now that you've taken it, you're already on your way to building a better running body.


Running motivation is the daily impetus that keeps you moving forward in a training program. There is no single, universal motivation for all runners. Motivation is fluid; it is constantly changing. Most runners use whatever works for that day. And then whatever works for the next.

Today, you were motivated to open this book.

Tomorrow, what you read in these pages might spur you to lace up your running shoes and go for a short walk or jog, or to perform ten minutes of body exercises, or to prepare a healthier meal.

For more advanced runners, you may discover within these pages some aspect of training that you've overlooked—rewiring your nervous system or improving elastic recoil or increasing cardiac output—that may motivate you to try a few new workouts in the coming weeks.

Lao-tzu wrote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Your journey began with the motivation to open this book. It continues with the next step you take.


The first rule of running motivation is to take it one workout at a time. Successful runners understand two things:

1. There is never a perfect time to start a running program, so don't wait until you've mustered the motivation for long-term training before you begin any type of training.

2. The only workout you must perform is the next one, so that's where your motivation should be focused.

Today, you don't have to generate the motivation to accomplish all of your fitness goals. You don't have to complete an entire twelve-week training program. You don't need to lose ten pounds. Or race a 5K. Or conquer the marathon. You only need to complete today's workout. Tomorrow's workout can wait until tomorrow.

At the same time, understanding the enormous benefits of a long-term program will provide you with a bountiful source of motivation to drink from each day. Would-be runners are often shocked at just how extraordinary the benefits of a smart, well-rounded training program can be. It's not hyperbole to say that you won't just be building a better running body; you'll be building a better you.

Physical health

Every runner has heard the veiled admonition: "Aren't you afraid you're going to ruin your knees?" No, we're not. That's because running is good for your knees—and just about everything else. "Running improves your blood pressure," says Dr. James Fries, coauthor of a 2008 study from Stanford University that tracked 528 runners and 423 non-runners beginning in 1984. "You're less likely to get blood clots and varicose veins. Bones become stronger and denser. It's a treatment for osteoporosis. It prevents fractures of the hips and spine. The ligaments get bigger and stronger—they protect the joints from wobbling, which is one thing that causes joints to wear out. Lungs get stronger. Our physical reserve is greater." Other conclusions from the Stanford study include:

* Runners suffer fewer disabilities.

* Running delays age-related disabilities by almost two decades.

* Runners are seven times less likely to require knee replacements.

* Runners are less likely to suffer from cancer.

* Runners have fewer neurological problems.

* Running doesn't increase hip, back, or knee problems.

* Runners are half as likely as non-runners to die early.

Running isn't just good for your health; it will trigger a positive transformation of your body beyond anything you dreamed possible.

Weight loss

Don't believe reports that claim exercise won't help peel away the pounds. Running burns approximately 100 calories a mile—doesn't matter whether you jog, run, or race that mile. Generally speaking, if you burn 3,500 more calories than you eat, you'll lose a pound (see Chapter 23 for the ins and outs of weight loss). But here's what's amazing: Running leads to weight loss beyond what's predicted by calorie counting. A 2012 study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory compared the weight loss of 32,216 runners and 15,237 walkers. Over six years, the runners averaged 90 percent more weight loss than walkers for the same amount of calories burned. And a lighter, leaner you isn't the only benefit of weight loss. Shedding pounds makes you a faster runner, and that's without having to improve any other aspect of your fitness. See Table 1.1 for some examples of just how much time you can drop in the 5K and marathon when you lose extra weight.

Stress Relief

They say stress kills. But before it kills, it does lots of damage along the way. Stress lowers immunity, increases inflammation, slows healing, decreases bone density, decreases muscle mass, increases blood pressure, increases fat, and intensifies blood sugar imbalances. So when we talk about "stress relief," we aren't merely referencing reduced anxiety. We're talking about a full-body protection plan. Think of stress as your body's version of termites. Think of running as the exterminator. In addition, running increases endorphins (the source of the "runner's high"), improves sleep, and can serve as a time for tranquil reflection and meditation.


Running stimulates the brain. A 2003 review of studies, conducted at the University of Georgia, concluded that submaximal aerobic exercise (e.g., easy distance runs) improves people's ability to process information. A 2004 study from UCLA showed that consistent exercise helps regenerate nerve function in the brain, and a 2011 paper from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona found that aerobic exercise can protect against neurodegeneration. A 2005 study from Sweden linked running to increased cell growth in the hippocampus, which plays a big role in both memory and depression. And for older runners, a 2010 study from the Medical University in Vienna found that endurance running helps maintain cognitive function into the golden years. Apparently, not only is it smart to run, but running makes you smart.

Use it or lose it

By age twenty-five, men and women begin to lose skeletal muscle mass (skeletal muscles are the muscles that move your body, such as biceps, abs, and hamstrings) at a rate of up to 1 percent per year. That adds up. And once a muscle cell is gone, it's gone forever. The same process occurs with your stride length (the distance each running stride carries you), which, barring intervention, will shorten up to 40 percent by the time you reach your seventies. Proper training can drastically curtail both these losses.

New friends

There are thousands of running clubs and hundreds of thousands of running-club members in the United States alone. And that doesn't include tens of thousands of local training groups—small gatherings of men and women who meet once or twice a week to exercise and socialize. Running is your invitation to one of the healthiest, friendliest, most all-inclusive peer groups in existence.


There are more than six million runners in the United States who regularly take to the trails. Trails not only reduce impact forces on your lower body, they give you the chance to commune with nature, and to indulge your nomadic instinct while temporarily escaping to a simpler world.


In 2012, there were more than 15 million finishers in American road races. A race provides a focal point for most runners. Whether your goal is to complete a race distance or to compete against other runners, race goals are a part of most long-term runners' training agenda.


Some runners find lacing up their shoes for charity to be a rewarding return on their training investment. Running for charity raises nearly two billion dollars per year, with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life collecting more than four hundred million dollars by itself.


It's not true that endurance athletes can eat whatever they want. Most endurance athletes are lean because they watch what they eat. But with consistent training, you can indulge in occasional guilt-free, high-calorie splurges without dreading the impact on your waist, hips, or thighs.


While discussing all the good reasons for runners to start a training program, let's not forget the two most important factors in determining whether runners keep training:

* Fun

* Results

Too many runners forget—or never realize—that training should be fun. If it's not fun, you'll quit. "It's gotta be fun," says Dr. Fries, discussing how the long-term runners in the almost fourdecade-old Stanford study maintain their enthusiasm. "It has to really contribute to the evening of that day or to the next day. You've got to really be enjoying it. If you want to do cross-training or something else, do it if it's fun. Running's not a masochistic exercise program."

So how do you keep it fun? Let's count ten ways:

1. Run with friends.

2. Join a running club.

3. Vary the elements of your training.

4. Cross-train.

5. Change sports (e.g., to cycling) if you need a break from running.

6. Pick a goal race and train for it.

7. Volunteer to work at a local race.

8. Volunteer to coach kids, middle schoolers, or high school runners.

9. Keep a running log.

10. Most important, keep your training volume and intensity manageable.

Along with being fun, a running program must ultimately lead to improvement. Results count. At some point—hopefully sooner rather than later—you must get demonstrably fitter, faster, stronger, springier, thinner, healthier, and happier.

In the long run, it's the combination of fun and results that keeps your motivation from waning. When you're accomplishing your goals and having a blast, too, chances are good that you'll keep going.


Running is the oldest sport known to humanity (setting aside our competitive embrace of sex and fisticuffs). And endurance running is one of the few physical activities in which we humans are demonstrably superior to most earthbound species. In fact, among our bipedal peers, only the ostrich can run a faster marathon—forty-five minutes versus our top marks of just over two hours. And four-legged competition is limited to sled dogs, camels, and pronghorn antelope. Some researchers even suggest that endurance running drove human evolution, with Australopithecus padding shoeless out of Africa's forests and into its savannas four million years ago, hungry for big game to supplement a diet of shrubs, ants, and termites.

But let's be honest: Although our mastery of distance running is admirable, it doesn't come naturally. Footraces can be traced to ancient Egypt, yet the majority of human performance improvement occurred during the past hundred years. There's a reason for this. For centuries, runners relied on walking and jogging as the centerpiece of their training. Then twentieth-century scientists turned their sights to running physiology, and their findings changed the sport forever. Knowing running's history is key to understanding the workouts you'll find in this book, because what sets us apart from other species isn't human evolution; it's our skill at innovation. While we may have been born to run, we weren't born to run well. We learned how to do that.


Running history is a mix of three elements:

* Evolution

* Innovation

* Inspiration

There's no question that human evolution produced adaptations that favor endurance running (we'll look at some important ones in a minute). But that doesn't mean that these adaptations created a uniform species of distance runners. The majority of humankind is (take your pick) too tall, too muscular, too squat, too big-boned, too fat, or simply too uncoordinated to achieve much in the way of marathoning without good coaching and lots of training.

And that's where innovation comes into play. Competitive running can be traced to 3800 BC, yet most performance improvement has taken place in recent history, with world records in the mile and marathon dropping a stunning 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively, during the twentieth century. Evolution didn't create that improvement. Training innovation did—and most of that innovation continues to echo in the workouts you'll find in this book.

Finally, without inspirational performances, running wouldn't have garnered enough interest to compile a history. Would anyone run a marathon if Pheidippides hadn't run himself to death carrying news of Persia's defeat by the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon? If Roger Bannister hadn't broken the four-minute mile in 1954, would more than 1,300 runners have followed suit? Without inspiration, there would be no Olympics, Boston Marathon, or local 5Ks. Instead, there are now fifty million runners in the United States alone, a half-million of whom accomplished in 2012 what Pheidippides couldn't: They survived a marathon.


Roughly four million years ago, our immediate ancestor in the evolutionary tree (Australopithecus) climbed down from trees and began walking on two legs. The reason for this remains unclear. A couple of million years later, Homo habilis and Homo erectus evolved traits that allowed them to pick up the pace from walking to jogging. A 2004 study by Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and Dennis M. Bramble, a biologist at the University of Utah, identified some of these traits and the advantages they provided, including:

* Better tendons: Reduced energy requirements by acting like springs

* The arch of the foot: Absorbed and returned energy like a spring

* Longer stride length: Increased speed

* Bigger butts: Stabilized trunks during exercise

* Better shoulder, arm, and hip rotation: Allowed for counter-balancing movements while running

* More sweat: Increased dissipation of heat through the evaporation of sweat

Less body hair: Increased convection rate (dissipation of heat from the body)

Lieberman and Bramble conclude: "It is reasonable to hypothesize that Homo evolved to travel long distances by both walking and running."

That may be true, but a 2008 study by Karen L. Steudel-Numbers, a zoologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Cara M. Wall-Scheffler, a biologist at Seattle Pacific University, attempted to pin down the speed of locomotion for our distance-running forebears and concluded that, most likely, Homo was restricted to long periods of walking combined with surges of slow running. Which begs the question: How did a species of walker-joggers become the fifth-fastest species on the planet at marathoning?


Excerpted from Build Your Running Body by Melissa Breyer, Thomas Schwartz. Copyright © 2014 Melissa Breyer. Excerpted by permission of The Experiment Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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