Book Review: Pilates for Runners by Harri Angell

I hope that everyone is having a great week. As I don’t want to complain about my lack of fitness and injury woes again, I’ve got a far more positive post today; a book review.

When Harri contacted me to see if I’d like to review her new book – Pilates for Runners – I agreed pretty much immediately. I knew that I would find reading and reviewing the book incredibly beneficial as it is dedicated to a subject I knew very little about.

Front Cover

I’ll start this book review with a huge spoiler. Pilates for Runners is one of the most informative and useful running books I’ve read. I found the book engaging and easy to follow and read. Let’s just say I got so engrossed in the book during a train journey, I missed my stop and ended up in Lichfield. Not ideal when I live several miles away in Four Oaks. Luckily, the train conductor didn’t issue me with a fine.

Pilates for Runners is written by Harri Angell an experienced Mat Pilates instructor, marathon runner, personal trainer, England Athletics Leader in Running Fitness and member of the Register of Exercise Professionals (follow Harri on twitter @Harriangell). The book is described as containing everything you need to start using Pilates to improve your running – get stronger, more flexible, avoid injury and improve your performance. Pretty much perfect for a weak, inflexible, tall, slouchy, injury-prone runner like me!

The book is broken down into 13 chapters; (1) Why Pilates is good for runners, (2) Joseph Pilates: a brief history, (3) The principles of Pilates, (4) Postural alignment, (5) Breathing, (6) Equipment, (7) Mat Pilates exercises for runners, (8) Post-run stretches, (9) Five 10-15 minute daily routines to improve your running, (10)The healing power of Pilates, (11) Injuries, (12) Pilates for the running mind and (13) Finding a Pilates class and what to look for.

Pilates for Runners

Once again, rather than attempting to review the entire book, I decided to highlight the sections I found particularly interesting and relevant to me. Although the quality of my photographs is quite poor, I decided to include them to illustrate how well laid out the book is. If you want to read the text you’ll have to purchase the book.

Chapter 3: Principles of Pilates

As I had a very limited zero understanding of Pilates before I read the book, I found Chapter 3 particularly interesting. Joseph Pilates – the inventor of the Pilates method – devised specific principles that he believed were necessary to accompany each of his exercises

Chapter 3

Although these principles have been adapted over time, Harri believes that the principles of; Concentration, Breathing, Centring, Alignment, Relaxation, Flow and Endurance are worth acknowledging and applying when performing the exercises in Pilates for Runners. At the moment, I’m definitely struggling with my alignment and flow.

Chapter 7: Mat Pilates exercises for runners

Chapter 7 contains over 100 pages of mat Pilates exercises for runners. Please note that Harri recommends that you should resist the temptation to jump straight into the exercises without reading the preceding Chapters.

Chapter 7

Each exercise comes with easy-to-follow instructions and photographs to provide guidance. In addition, each exercise is graded as beginner, intermediate or advanced and nearly all have options to modify or progress, so that you can opt to work at whichever level suits you. The exercises I’ve attempted have confirmed that I’m not very flexible, that I quite enjoy lying down and that I’m very much a beginner. Hopefully, I’ll be able to progress from the beginner to the slightly more challenging intermediate and advanced exercises.

Chapter 8: Post-run stretches

So far, I’ve found the selection of post-run stretches I’ve incorporated into my running routine really beneficial.

Chapter 8

The stretches in this Chapter should only be performed once the body is warmed up, for example after a run, or at the end of a session of Pilates. As, from time to time, I struggle with tight calf muscles; I’ve incorporated the calf and Achilles stretch into my post-run stretching routine. These stretches are simple but effective and appear to be helping my calf muscles.

Chapter 11: Injuries

I’ve got a confession to make. As an injury-prone runner, this was the first Chapter I read. So much for starting at the beginning. Although Pilates for Runners isn’t a book about running injuries, many runners encounter Pilates for the first time because of a running injury. Harri stresses that although regular Pilates can help runners avoid injury, it can be just as beneficial to runners nursing an injury.

Chapter 11

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve been struggling with Plantar Fasciitis (PF) since the start of the year. I’m clearly not alone as PF is the first injury listed in Chapter 11. I thought I was an ‘expert’ at managing and treating my dodgy heel, however, the section on PF reminded me of potential benefits of incorporating foot mobility and strengthening exercises into my daily exercise routine.

The Verdict

I would highly recommend Pilates for Runners to runners of all ages and standards. I particularly enjoyed reading the motivating testimonials written by runners who incorporate Pilates into their training.  I loved the inclusion of a series of inspirational quotes from the master himself, Joseph Pilates. If you are an injury-prone runner, I suspect that you will find the entire book both eye-opening and informative. I definitely did!

Pilates for Runners is published by Bloomsbury has a RRP of £16.99 and is available from all major book retailers.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a copy of Pilates for Runners for free in return for an honest review. I did not receive any payment for this review and as always all opinions and photographs are my own**

Advertisements

Book Review: Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success by Renee McGregor

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. The weather was amazing. Although I don’t want my blog to become a series of product reviews, I decided that as my Running Science book review was quite well received, I would review some of the books I’ve found particularly useful.

I decided to start with a quick(ish) review of Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success written by Renee McGregor. Renee is a registered dietician and is one of the UK’s top sports nutritionists, advising athletes from amateur to Olympic levels. As a result, Renee ensures that all the advice she shares is evidence based i.e. there has been reliable research around the subject, to make claims both accurate and credible.

Front cover

Back cover

Fast Fuel: Food for Running is for runners of all levels who want to:

  • Achieve their performance goals whether that’s improving their weekly parkrun time, bettering their personal best in the marathon, or venturing into ultra-marathons.
  • Stick to a training plan while also trying to earn a living and juggle other commitments.
  • Improve their knowledge of nutrition because it debunks some of the most common myths.
  • Increase their confidence by knowing that they are eating the correct foods to fuel their body and to maximise their training, without over-reaching and potentially risking illness or injury.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first is broken down into three chapters; (1) Fuelling basics, (2) Training – the road to victory and (3) Fine-tuning your body, and provides a practical, easy-to-follow, step-by-step, scientific introduction to sports nutrition. The second contains an extensive selection of simple but mouth-watering recipes and is broken down into recipes for; healthy breakfasts, light meals, main meals, snacks and portables, and finally, desserts.

Once again, rather than attempting to review the entire book, I decided to highlight the sections I found particularly interesting in the first three chapters. I’ve included photographs with this review to illustrate how easy to follow and well laid out the book is.

Chapter 1: Fuelling Basics

“Chapter 1 is a practical guide to what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. We also look at how your body metabolizes food into fuel, and how it can adapt to provide fuel for different levels of training intensity”

I found that in order to take in all the information, I had to read through Chapter 1 a couple of times. Although I found the sections on carbohydrates, protein and fat really informative, the section of supplements was particularly enlightening.

Supplements

The book provides a selection of ‘real food’ alternatives to sports drinks, energy gels, protein shakes and sports bars. After my next run I’ll definitely attempt to create my own, much cheaper sports drink. Chapter 1 also looks at special dietary considerations, recovery nutrition, metabolism and racing weight.

Chapter 2: Training – The Road to Victory

“Chapter 2 shows the different fuelling requirements for different distances and training intensities and how making the right nutritional choices will benefit you. This section also includes sample menus plans, using the recipes from this book to demonstrate practically how to choose appropriate food”

As a runner in urgent need of a refresher in what actually comprises a sensible training plan, I found the ‘Planning your training week’ section really useful.

Planning training

Looking back, I suspect that last year I was inadvertently completing all of my training sessions at a moderate to high level of intensity. I got my pre- and post-run fuelling totally wrong and was eating far too much carbohydrate. After ‘digesting’ the contents of Chapter 2, I’m now impressed that I (a) didn’t put on more weight and (b) didn’t get injured while I was training for the Great Birmingham Run.

Chapter 3: Fine-Tuning your Body

“Chapter 3 highlights the importance of maintaining the well-oiled machine we call our body; it looks at issues relating the injury, illness and over-reaching and demonstrates how the right nutrition can combat these potential problems”

When I bought Fast Fuel, I headed straight to the sections on injury prevention and nutrition for sore, tired or injured bodies.

Injury prevention

The author points out that although being injured is very frustrating – this is an understatement – it is also a good time to reflect and to work out how you can reduce your risk of the same injury occurring again. Reading the book has made me realise just how much I need to improve my diet. I now suspect that my poor diet contributed to my foot injury. The third chapter also includes a thought-provoking section; ‘Have you lost your running mojo?’

As I believe that at some stage, nearly every runner experiences a loss of running mojo, I’ll dedicate a blog post to the subject.

Food, glorious food – Examples of light and main meals

Although my nut allergy unfortunately meant that I had to discount several recipes in Fast Fuel, I was still left with a decent number of light and main meals to choose from. While I obviously can’t share the exact recipes, I decided to list the meals I’ll be attempting to create over the next few weeks. If you’re really unlucky, I might share my thoughts in a future post.

  • Half and Half Chilli con Carne I’m a fan of ‘normal’ Chilli con Carne so thought this recipe looked intriguing. The recipe halves the amount of beef and replaces it with lentils.
  • Punjabi-Style Aloo Sabsi I picked this recipe simply because I want to try some completely new (to me!) food.
  • Roasted Vegetable and Mozzarella Bruschetta I tend to opt for bruschetta as a starter when I eat out, so I thought I’d see if I could make my own. With a preparation time of only five minutes, nothing can possibly go wrong…
  • Sausage Casserole I love sausages. I also enjoy making casseroles so, when the weather cools down, a sausage casserole sounds like a win-win.
  • Tangy Chicken Stir-Fry I’ve got a culinary confession; I’ve never made a stir-fry from scratch. Fingers crossed I manage to cook the chicken to perfection and don’t burn the vegetables.

If I disappear from twitter for a prolonged period of time, then it is highly likely one of these recipes didn’t quite go to plan.

The Verdict

I found Fast Fuel easy-to-read and I thought that the book was laid out in a logical way, with each chapter building on the previous chapter. If you are a runner who is interested in finding out more about how nutrition can aid your running performance, then this is quite possibly the perfect book for you. If you are a runner with a more advanced understanding of sports nutrition, then I suspect that Fast Fuel may be slightly too basic for you.

Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success is published by Nourish Books and has a RRP of £9.99 and is available from all major bookstores.

**Full disclosure: I bought Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success myself. I was not asked to review the book, but decided to share my honest thoughts on a book I found useful as a runner**