80/20 Running – Book Review

Before we delve into the book review, I wanted to let you know that after I told you on Thursday about how lazy I’ve been, I did finally get my act together and do some exercise. So my first week of the off season wasn’t a total bust. I took a short walk, I foam rolled twice, stretched once, did a 40 min workout on the arc trainer, and tried out some yoga. I think walking might be my favorite cross training. And right now, yoga is my least favorite. It felt awkward and way too hard — I couldn’t even sit up straight the right way.  I’m not giving up on it yet though, because you can’t really judge an exercise on the first try.


Now, moving along to the book review. Just so you know, this is a review is of the book only, not the training plans. That will come later, once I’ve had a chance to try one.

80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower By Matt Fitzgerald

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So, turns out I’m not good at writing book reviews. I’ve been staring at the blinky little cursor for entirely too long. To make it easier on myself (and improve the chances of this ever getting written), I’ve decided to put this in a Q&A format. I’m the one coming up with the Qs and the As, but if you have any additional Qs, let me know, and I’ll give you an A.

Why did you decide you wanted to read this book?

I heard about the book on a couple of running blogs. As someone who enjoys a nice leisurely long run as opposed to a lot of fast speed sessions, the claim that I could “…race faster by training slower” was incredibly appealing. I’ve read/perused a few other books that claim their training strategy will make you faster, but the “how” hasn’t intrigued me quite like this one. Plus, I’m always up for hearing new ideas.

Where did you get it?

Santa brought it! But I know you can find it on Amazon.

What is it about?

The author puts forth a case for running 80% of your runs at low intensity, and 20% at moderate or high intensity. He goes over the evolution of how elites train, and how for the most part they’re all following an 80/20 plan. He talks about the differences in how they train compared to the average recreational runner. And, he points out ways we can adapt our running to more closely follow the 80/20 rule.

Why should we listen to what the author recommends?

He gives us proof by citing multiple studies. Plus he’s a runner recommending something he’s tried. That’s always nice.

Who should read it?

Other runners or endurance athletes interested in learning more about the 80/20 plan. Or anyone interested in running studies. This book has a lot of them, and not just about 80/20 running. I find them all pretty fascinating.

What was your favorite part?

The running studies! I really liked that there was a bunch of proof to back up why this training method works. There were also several other studies/topics the author wrote about that weren’t strictly related to 80/20 running, but I liked that too. It mixed things up a little, and I found them all interesting (stride, brain/body link, 80/20 and weight loss).

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Not really, the book was really good and I’m excited to try 80/20 running. I’ve read other running books that promise you’ll get faster, and you probably would, but this is one of the first (if not the only one) that seems doable and fun. I even had a spark of interest/excitement while reading the cross training section. And that’s really saying something.

What are you going to do with what you learned?

After my 3 week running break, I’m going to do the level 1, 5k training plan. And because I’m so nice, I’ll let you follow along. 😉 And in terms of reading, I think I want to read some of Matt Fitzgerald’s other books – Brain Training for Runners and Racing Weight.

***Update! I got some reader questions in the comment section. Keep ’em comin’!***

Were there a lot of personal anecdotes in the book?  I find that I always need a ton of those to keep me engaged when reading nonfiction books filled with studies.

(sumbmitted by Chris at Pineapple Sage)

Not really. Actually, I don’t really remember any. So at the very least, they don’t make a big impression. And there definitely were a lot of studies. Personally, I felt like they were broken up into manageable chunks; however, I did notice on Goodreads that there was at least one comment saying there were too many studies, so I suppose it really depends on what you like.

What does a training plan look like following the 80/20 rule?

(Submitted by Sara at Sweaty Mess Mama)

I’m so glad this was asked…it’s kind of an important one! I hope to talk more about it when I start the training, but for now here’s some bare bones info-

  • I’ve mostly been looking at the 5k plans, but all of the race distances seem to be similar in set-up, the main difference being how long you run. For a level 1 plan, you’re “active” 6 days a week. You could run all 6 of those days or opt for cross training on up to 3 of them. A level 2 plan has you “active” for 7 days, with cross training as an option for 4 of them. And, the level 3 plans have you active 7 days a week with 3 days a week of doubles (with options for cross training 3 days a week and/or for some of the doubles.)
  • The speed work seems to come in the form of fast finish long runs or speed play in an easy run as well as some interval type workouts. The majority of the running is easy running. (You know…80/20)
  • After reading the book you have all the information you need to create your own 80/20 plan. The reason the ready made plans have so much running is because the author advocates increasing time spent running as the best way to improve.  According to him, you will notice an improvement just by going to the 80/20 ratio, regardless of how many miles you run, but after that change is made, the next step is to run more.*

*There is a whole chapter on cross training as a substitute for some/all of this additional running for hurt/injury prone/older runners or for people who just like to switch it up.

Now, some questions for you –

Do you have any other questions? Have you read this book? Do you think running studies are interesting?