Smart Marathon Training by Jeff Horowitz

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from May 15 to 29, 2014.

I’ve been running now for about 3 years and I’ve read, browsed and skimmed a variety of articles, magazines and books on different running techniques and training programs. What I found with so many of them is the excessive amount of exercise that are contained within the recommend training schedules, even ones for the absolutely beginners. I always felt that a 6-day-week training program that mixes 4 or 5 days of running with a variety of different cross training and weights is way too much for a beginner. To me, that spells burn-out and injuries. The first year I started running and training for a marathon I ran 3 days a week and I was utterly exhausted managing just that! The average person has a busy life juggling work and family, which is tiring enough in and of itself, just finding a solid running base before beginning any sort of training is challenging enough. Whether a beginner or not, every runner wants to be successful, injury-free and find a balance with everything in their life and this book finally confirmed everything that I was already feeling about training: less is more.

Jeff Horowitz challenged the idea of running back to back races without injury and has successfully run over 150 marathons and has applied this knowledge in his career as a coach and in this book. The traditional marathon training plans which can have runners clocking in over 80+ kilometers in a week (50+ miles). The premise behind these traditional plans is that in order to better at running you need run and do a lot of it. Horowitz argues that this isn’t the case and that you can run a better marathon by running less and making your workouts more efficient. His system focuses making your training dynamic in that each of your training runs have a concise goal and effort scale. For example, The long run: is to expand your endurance and work slow twitch muscles. This is run with the a 60-70% effort while the tempo runs are shorter runs in which you are running near your race pace or a bit quicker and you should be exerting about 80 to 85% effort. He emphasizes how important hills and speed work are to build strength, reduce injuries and work your fast twitch muscles which, will give you the speed to beat your personal best.

I had to flip the notion that “more is better”…devised a plan that includes three runs a week, totaling no more than 35 miles, consisting of speed and hill work, a tempo run and a long endurance run; core strengthening, strength training, running drills and balance work two to three times a week; and aggressive crosstraining…at least twice per week.”

What makes his program unique is that the emphasis isn’t on the amount of kilometers you’re making each week and he suggests running no more than 3-4 times a week while following quick and easy weight and strength training exercises, cross training (biking is his highest recommendation as it compliments running the most) as well as core and flexibility. He emphasizes just how important and beneficial these exercises are to running. Having a strong core and legs will ensure you will encounter less injuries and will improve your speed while cross training works out different muscles to keep your body from reaching exhaustion but at the same time you’re still adding to your overall training. Exercising while exhausted is not only hard, but not wise. You risk injury and you’re not doing your body and favors but pushing yourself that hard. Horowitz helps runner’s recognize when they’re doing too much and to pay attention to their bodies and intuition, which so many training programs ignore.

This book is by far one of the best marathon training programs and it has affirmed that my own ideas about marathon training are good ones. I would highly recommend this read for anyone embarking on a marathon, whether they are beginner or just looking to change up their training scheme.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars.
ebook, 449 pages.
Read from April 20 to May 02, 2014.

Three down and two more to go for the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. At this point, I would have to say that this novel is my favorite out of what I’ve read thus far. While I admit I am already partial to Atwood as an author just because I’ve read more by her, I would still say that this one worked best for me as a reader.

The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy. While this book is the second in the trilogy, it is technically a prequel or rather a companion piece to Oryx and Crake, the first novel in the series. The third book is called MaddAddam which takes place after these two books. While it is not necessary to read them in order if you are going to take up the novels I would recommend doing so as you’ll experience a whole different  level of plot depth.

The novel follows two main characters, Toby and Ren that are connected through a religious group called The God’s Gardeners. The women are separated by at least a decade of age between them yet they are invariably connected. The  God’s Gardeners anticipates the coming of a waterless-flood that is going to come and wipe out the human race so that the Earth can heal and rebuild from the destruction and unbalance that humans have caused it. The book moves through different areas of Ren and Toby’s lives in different time-frames, including what happened to them before they came apart of The God’s Gardeners, their time in The God’s Gardeners and where they are after the waterless-flood has hit the Earth.

The Gardener’s believe that humankind has strayed away from how God wanted us to live on the Earth. Especially with the way the world has become. Corporations, called the CorpSeCorps, now rule everything and are less than moral.  They have used up almost all of the Earth’s resources and have erased most of the animal species on the planet. The animal genes that remain are spliced and used to create horrible hybrids that serve human purposes. Food is highly processed and people have stopped asking where it comes from. The most notorious example of this is the burger chain, Secretburger. They will use any protein that they come across to use in their burgers. Even human protein. Hence, the name of the establishment, as you don’t ever really know what you’re eating. As a result, The God’s Gardeners choose to separate themselves and live in the pleeblands, the slums. The pleeblands and are inhabited by some very desolate people: homeless, refugees and criminals which make living there very dangerous. The God’s Gardeners are strict vegans and condemn anything material made. They recycle everything, grow their own food and teach their children how to live in one with God. The children take courses and learn essentials skills in classes taught the leaders of the groups, the Adams and Eves.

The book focuses on Toby and Ren in this very detailed and expansive world that Atwood has created. Like the Earth, both Toby and Ren have to heal from items that they have suffered in their past and they find this peace when the book concludes. The writing is at times chaotic, though I wouldn’t say that it’s hard to follow, so it perfectly mirrors the chaos in the plot.

There is a scary sense of realism that comes while reading this book. I found myself looking at the teachings of The God’s Gardener’s and wondering if I should take some of their own practices into my own life because the world that Atwood has created feels like it could be a possibility for our future. An excessive one maybe, but humans are an excessive race so I wouldn’t put this story too far past the concept of reality. With that being said, another point that I believe that Atwood makes, is that there is always hope and resilience, no matter what the horror.

Overall, a must-read for dystopian and Atwood lovers.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 973 pages.
Read from March 27 to April 24, 2014.

My God, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the last 100 pages of this book. This novel is by far the best in the series so far. In this book, every man claiming to be a king collides and they collide hard. What you expect or want to happen, doesn’t, and it makes you want to throw the book against the wall in disbelief. My boyfriend gave me some funny looks when I screamed out in protest  to numerous scenes while reading this book. Oh and just when you think you have it sorted out and you’ve come to terms with the madness that’s ensued you read the epilogue and your mind is blown once again. Seriously, this was my face:

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It’s so hard to discuss this novel without giving away all of the essential twists and plot-changers! It is however impressive that Martin continues to remember so many details and have the story flow so well between one character’s chapter to another. Even more impressive, is the amount of growth that each and everyone one of the characters (that are still freaking alive, that is) go through in this book. You learn that Jamie Lannister is actually a good man, that you can sympathize with Cersei and hate her at the same time and how little Tywin really thinks of his dwarf son Tyrion. You watch Jon become a man and learn about a world outside of the Watch, that it is possible for Sansa and Catelyn to tolerate even more grief, that Dany and Robb have to make a few very difficult decisions and you get to see Arya becoming vicious and Sam become brave. Well, I suppose the exception being Joffery, he doesn’t change. He’s still a twat.

What this novel makes me ask now, is where is the series going? There were times where I felt I should have seen certain twists coming and yet, I didn’t, because Martin doesn’t do anything ordinary in terms of character investment and plot. Which leads me to ask: What is the outcome that Martin see with these characters? Who does he want sitting on the Iron Throne?  I can’t even fathom what it going to happen in the coming books with the shit-storm that Martin put in this book.

Well I have to read the fourth book now! I have actually already purchased it and will tackle it as soon as I can get over the emotional turmoil that Martin put me through.