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.

Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette Pasternak

5/5 stars.
ebook, 148 pages.
Read from January 17 to March 07, 2014.

This book is by far the most comprehensive, supportive and positive guide out there right now for Dermatillomania. I can’t say enough good things about this book!

For those that don’t know, Dermatillomania, or Excoriation disorder, can be defined as:

…an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused. Research has suggested that the urge to pick is similar to an obsessive compulsive disorder but others have argued that for some the condition is more akin to substance abuse disorder. The two main strategies for treating this condition are pharmacological and behavioral intervention.” – Wikipedia

This is a condition that I have personally struggled with deeply. I can safely say that through my own methods I was able to battle this condition for the most part and I am now an advocate for awareness and support. I wish that this book existed during my most troublesome times as I definitely would have battled the worst of the condition a lot sooner with this kind of help. This book has truly provided me with the final resources that I needed in order to say goodbye to this habit forever.

***Just some quick shameless self-promotion here: I’ve actually recently published my story in a collaborative book called Project Dermatillomania that’s available for purchase now. ***

I took a long time reading this book in order to go through all of the motions, guides, suggestions and exercises so that I could give it a good comprehensive review. I can honestly say that if you follow Annette’s methods, you WILL get results!

So many people find themselves completely controlled and at a loss with this disorder. It’s a helpless feeling. This book shows you how to get back that power, and more importantly, that you cannot define yourself as this disorder and cannot submit to its definition. It shows positive strategies to curb your urges and shows you that in order to fully tackle the habit you must determine the emotional reasons and routines for carrying out the vicious cycle of picking.

It is imperative to go beyond these labels and reveal how chronic skin picking plays a part in each individual’s life” p. 18

You may be genetically predisposed to a condition but that does not mean you are powerless over it.” p. 27

People start picking for so many reasons but it’s always to find relief. Often times it’s a matter of dealing with stress because we haven’t found other methods of doing so. One thing that Annette stresses is the readiness for a person to stop picking. It’s hard thing to admit and even harder to give up something that feels good and that you’ve relied on for so long. Her book not only provide methods with how to start this process but how to keep a long standing positive replacement to the picking.

Stopping skin picking is hard. Is that any reason to feel badly about yourself? NO.” p. 16

In summary, her programs focuses and takes the reader through these steps:

  1. How to stop victimizing and beating yourself out. Forgiveness and acceptance is crucial.
  2. You are not powerless to this condition and you can stop. In order to stop you need to accept this.
  3. Track your picking in a habit log. This is the one part that she stress the most. If you aren’t able to recognize the feelings associated with picking as well as when and where they occur you’re not going to able to stop it before it begins.
  4. Recognizing your negative thoughts and behaviours.  Retraining how you think is necessary for overcoming this as most of the time urges come from an unnecessary uncertainty or beliefs.
  5. Actual techniques to block and prevent urges. Gloves, toys, exercise, meditation etc, and just why they work.
  6. Long standing methods to deal with your stress and emotions in a healthy positive way. Annette takes a very holistic approach.
  7. Other things that could contribute and make your urges worse (sugar and alcohol etc).

Compassion oozes from this book. Annette herself used to struggle and live with this disorder herself so she completely understands what every sufferer goes through. Her writing is so gentle and soothing. She knows that we’re all going to mess up but that there is still progress and success in each mess up and mistake.

Practice makes better… Practice makes permanent” p. 137

What I believe makes this book the best resource out there is that it’s the first to really go into the emotional sides as to why people pick and tackles those issues directly as a step for overcoming this disorder. In my own struggles, that was the only thing that worked for me after countless other resources. Overcoming this disorder is truly a process of steps and Annette can take you through them. She provides so many additional resources in terms of supplements and other reading material as well. What makes it even better is that Annette is a life coach and personally deals with helping her clients combat this particular disorder. You can find more information about her services on her website.

For those that are affected by this disorder, please, PLEASE, read this book!

Choice: Uncover and Claim Your Happiness by Melaine Steele

3/5 stars.
ebook, 56 pages.
Read on March 03, 2014.

I stumbled upon this book through Goodreads as I found the cover and the book summary appealing. From Goodreads:

Every day most of us choose to be unhappy. Unintentionally, of course. We make choices all the time that hold us back. Meanwhile, the happiness available to us literally passes us by…

It’s time to choose what’s important, what truly matters, what will fulfill you. It’s time to choose what opens you up to the life you were meant to live, the way you were meant to live it. It’s time to choose happiness.

This guidebook shows you how.

CHOICE is a straightforward, engaging handbook that will help guide you through the simple and essential art of choosing happiness.”

The concept that the author is trying to portray is one that I have been trying to use on myself on over the last two-years. The problem I have with the summary and the book itself is that I found it wasn’t really much of a guide-book. The author does a great job at detailing why happiness is choice and why you should embody this concept in your every day life but I found the brevity of the book didn’t provide much guidance from that. Positivity, gratitude and meditation were three items that the author suggested in assisting in choosing happiness but she provided very little information of how to do this. For example, negative and self-destructive thoughts are a massive habit for a lot of people and in order to choose to be happy this is a habit that has to be overcome. The author was just a bit too vague on the how-to details and support for my liking. I think if the author invested a few more hours of research and added another 50 or so pages this book would have been a more efficient and structured guide.

Kudos to author for writing this still as it is a hugely important concept that has tremendous power to changes people’s lives and outlooks. It’s also a brave concept to write about because it would have required a lot of vulnerability on her part. The more that this idea is spread the more people can benefit from it, even if it just seems in one bit at a time.