Run Simple: A Minimalist Approach to Fitness and Well Being
By Dan Moriarity
January 2, 2013
Are you a satisfied runner?
This is the initial question posed by Duncan Larkin in his new book, Run Simple: A Minimalist Approach to Fitness and Well Being.
Larkin begins by questioning the need for the ever-expanding array of gadgets and gizmos such as GPS devices, heart rate monitors, iPods, technical gear and other devices that the running industry has conditioned us to believe will help us run faster and more easily. He believes that such contraptions can be confusing, and distract runners from the hard, consistent effort that will truly make them better at their craft.
Next, Larkin offers up his recommendations for a training program based on three concepts: Rest, Just Run and Race. The goal of the "Rest" days in the schedule is recovery, it may be a complete rest day or a very easy run. The "Just Run" days are your typical "putting in the miles" types of runs, while the "Race" days are reserved for intense workouts, whether they are actual races, demanding interval sessions, hills or tempo runs.
Within each category, there are several variations on each theme. For example, rest days include easy runs without a watch, mind runs where you spend the time visualizing and relaxing, or simply a complete day off. Larkin offers up sample training plans for a variety of distances and skill levels to be used as a basis for creating your own plan.
Run Simple offers plenty of advice to save you money. Larkin offers a selection of exercises that require minimal equipment so that you can do them at home, freeing you from the cost of going to the gym. He devotes an entire chapter to finding ways to save money on running gear without reducing its usefulness. There is also a brief nutritional chapter complete with recipes for simple but nutritious Kenyan staples such as Ugali and Sakuma Wiki.
Some of the best advice in the book is found in the Race Day and Head Games chapters. Larkin shows you how to prepare for a race, plotting the course and possible trouble spots in advance so that you go into the race knowing what to expect and how best to ration your efforts. There is sound tactical advice for competing with rivals, dealing with difficulties and continuing to run strong when the going gets tough.
In the Head Games chapter, Larkin offers extremely practical advice to runners facing many of the typical doubts, such as handling failure, struggling with boredom and feeling that you've reached the end of your improvement curve.
In the penultimate chapter, Larkin shows how you can put simplicity into practice through interviews with noted runners Toby Tanser, Lauren Fleshman, Anton Krupicka and coach and former marathoner Brad Hudson. In addition to these interviews, there are brief interviews with other elite runners sprinkled throughout the book illustrating many of Larkin's key concepts.
The book concludes with a Q&A section in which Larkin answers common running questions such as how fast to run on recovery days, returning from injury, running more than once per day, and how to modify the schedules for older runners.
The book is well written in a down to earth and easy to understand style. The money saving tips alone are worth many times the cost of the book. The actual training schedules can be a bit difficult to follow, but as Larkin points out, each runner should adapt the principles in the schedules to their own situation, experience and preferences.
The overriding message of the book is that running well is about trusting yourself and simply putting in the work rather than looking for shortcuts in external devices, generic advice and other complications. Run Simple challenges you to look at your running differently, disregard stereotypes and cookie cutter advice while focusing more on the power of the mind to help you achieve your running goals.