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Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention Paperback – August 1, 2012
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“This is the best resource on running biomechanics and injury prevention. The corrective exercises have become part of my training routine, improved my performance, and reduced my injuries.” (Alan Webb, American record holder in the mile)
“Running is a simple sport, right? But why does almost everyone get hurt? As Jay discovers in this valuable guide, the reason is an amazingly complex mix of anatomy, strength, forces, vectors, and footwear effects. Alas, after reading this book and feeling what running really is, you will rediscover and understand its simplicity . . . then you can throw the rest of the library away.” (Dr. Mark Cucuzzella)
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This is one of two places where the book could be improved. At the end of the self assessment tests there is a chart that lists exercises (by name) to perform to correct the deficiencies, and the next chapter contains those exercises listed first by number, then by name. Why the author did not include the exercise "numbers" in the chart at the end of the self assessment tests is beyond me. I felt like I was having to solve a puzzle in flipping through the exercise chapter looking for each of the exercises recommended for me. I ended up creating a cheat sheet for me that listed the exercises recommended for me by name, then matching them up with the numbers (and page numbers) of the exercises in the following chapter. Had the author included the exercise numbers in the table it would have made the book much easier to use.
The other criticism I have of the book is that the book does not contain an index in the back. How can you write a book like this and not include an index?
Update: I've dropped my rating from 4 to 3 stars. The reason? Frustration! Every time I turn to this book to use the exercises "prescribed" for me in the self-assessment section, I get frustrated for the reasons I've already discussed above (no index and no matrix connecting the exercises by name to their location in the book). But, I've also found that several of the exercise names used in the table at the end of the self-assessment section do not match the names used in the exercise section, leaving finding the proper exercise up to the reader's interpretation. For example, I think, where the self-assessment section identifies exercises "T-Ball Rock and Roll", "Lateral Hip Bridge", and "Rotational Lunge", the actual exercise names in the exercise section are "T-Ball Triad", "Side Lying Hip Bridge", and "Twisting Lunge." Add to that the fact that the self-assessment section names the following exercises that do not appear at all in the exercise section: Squat Training and Swiss Ball Triad (which I do not think is the same thing as "T-Ball Triad"). And, there are several exercises in the exercise section that are not mentioned at all in the self-assessment table. Something definitely went amiss during editing.
Good book to read, but very frustrating book to actually use which is the whole reason for purchasing it. Ugh!
For instance, what's the ideal cadence for you? Anatomy for Runners tells you why some people say it's 180 (and briefly why) then goes further to explain why your own ideal cadence depends on both your running goals and your body. The most efficient cadence, the best cadence for a top athlete to win a highly competitive race, and the best cadence for a recreational runner who places top priority on enjoying runs for decades to come may all be quite different. Due to the particulars of your body, your own best cadence may be 10 or 20 higher or lower than other people with the same goal and fitness/speed. He manages to convey this complexity and still do it clearly and concisely. That's a great writer who really knows his stuff.
By contrast I also bought the book "The Running Injury Recovery Program" at the same time as this one and was very disappointed in the "program." It felt like reading the same vague generalizations repeated over and over in a circular fashion and ultimately left you feeling like what you really need is to get an appointment with the author at his clinic. It left me thinking he might be the best clinician in the world, and an engaging writer, but not so good at explaining the complexity of what he knows in specific terms (other than specific exercises/stretches), and it wasn't a particularly helpful book for me.
I just want to get better. Do I honestly need to read a chapter on the structural and biological and functional differences between bone, tendons, ligaments and muscle. Maybe not. But do you know why eccentric exercises are highly effective to help your body heal after mobilization and soft tissue work? Do you know why exercises with resistance help tendons heal while lots of light reps do not? Do you know there are two totally different reasons to stretch that must be done in quite different ways to be effective, one done before running and the other type is best done when muscles are warmed up? Do you know when each type may benefit runners, and when stretching could be worse than not stretching? Do you know the reason many runners THINK they are stretching in fact only works when stretches are done for at least 3min for at least 4-5 days a week for at least 6-8 weeks? (and why you may not need it anyway) Do you know whether drills and running will help you build more muscle mass for that big race five weeks from now? Do you know whether drills and running will train your mind and nervous system to mobilize more of the muscle fibers you already have for that big race five weeks from now? Wow. Maybe understanding a little about these things can make you do the exact same exercise differently with far faster and better results. Maybe understanding "why" will motivate you to do those exercises more regularly and give you more confidence you're doing them right so they'll really help.
Reality check: do you have a cookbook body made with standardized mass-produced parts? No? Then don't expect a simple cookbook injury recovery book. That's why Anatomy for Runners stands head-and-shoulders above most other books on this topic. (remember: "to every complex problem there's a simple solution ... and it's wrong") You want a simple cookbook answer that might or might not fit your circumstances, go elsewhere. If your body or injury happens to match the author's particular cookbook and the "simple" book works for you that's absolutely fantastic. But ... if it doesn't, you really haven't learned much about why.
Second important lesson: people's bodies are not made of identical unchanging parts like cars or toaster ovens that can wear out but never get better. We are made up of complex ever-changing living parts that respond and change day-to-day and week-to-week according to each stimulus we apply to them. People get this where it comes to developing more strength in muscles, but understanding usually stops there. When people overdo it or get injured for other reasons they tend to go to extremes of pushing too hard or else too much rest. More is not always better. Mobility is also good up to a point, but a gymnast needs more than a runner. Too much mobility in a joint can also be bad, and a "sloppy" joint may not be as controlled.
You want a book that helps you figure out the complexities of your own body, then roll up your sleeves and be prepared to do a little work on your own instead of placing all the responsibility on someone else's shoulders (either an author or a medical professional who has between 10min to 60min, tops, to pay attention to your symptoms and come up with solutions).
The author on simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions: "It's fine to have opinions on many things. And since no two humans are exactly the same, it's even fine to adjust how you interpret advice if it works for you. However, it's not OK to spread the same old mantra that more miles are always better. It's not OK to think that rest will fix all your problems. It's not OK to think that more running will fix all your problems. It's not OK to think that every person on earth should run the same.
Specific interventions improve your parts. New skills help those parts work as a system. More skills help the body deal with different paces, terrain, shoes, and competitive environments. The impetus here is on you."
There are plenty of things I knew about myself and my running for years, but I didn't necessarily know why. This book was full of "aha" moments for me. Some things about your body are inherited and can't be changed. Others may be the result of patterns and bad habits which can be overcome. Still others may be the result of tightness which can be overcome with soft tissue work and mobilization. This book helps you figure out which things you can change with some work and which you can't, and what you can try.
I bought this on Kindle when it first came out because there was a possible long delay in shipping out the paperback. It's such a good book I'm going to buy it in paperback now too. I liked reading it on the Kindle paperwhite because it's so quick and easy to look up a handful of terms I didn't know, and I highlighted key parts all over (which I don't like to do in my books). Now that I'm focused on doing more of the tests and exercises I'd like to also have the paperback (and I can loan it to friends).
Some of the best things in life don't come easy. If you want to be spoon fed some quick and easy solutions to every complex problem, you'll probably be disappointed with this book. You probably have to read it more than once. You'll have to do the work. If you're willing to work on learning the technical aspects of how your body works as a runner and then really follow through learning specific exercises, skills and running adaptations focused specifically on your personal goals, I'm convinced you will not find a better book on the subject.
I can't stop gushing about this book. I've recommended it to everyone, including non-runners.
I ran my first half marathon this past weekend. While I still have plantar fasciitis in both feet, and a bunion in one big toe, they rarely hurt anymore. I've eliminated a lot of foot pain by strengthening my feet and lower legs. I've also managed to keep my IT band woes in check.
Ready to Run is also helpful, but I strongly recommend reading this book first. It may be all you need.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
good work. Enjoyed and learned a lot.