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?

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11 thoughts on “80/20 Running – Book Review

  1. I haven’t read a lot of running books, but this definitely sounds intriguing. I’ve never really thought about the varying intensities of my runs, but I guess that most of my runs are lower intensity. I may have to see if my local library has this book!

    • It was pretty interesting what he had to say about the average intensity of an average person’s runs. If asked, I would have said that mine were mostly low intensity, but they are actually probably closer to moderate intensity if I’m being honest. He said that a lot of times recreational runners think/say they are running “easy” but they aren’t really. And, I guess that’s true for me. For the most part I’m at a pace that’s “not too hard” but also hard enough that it feels like I’m doing something. I guess true low intensity is supposed to feel like you could run forever. Most of my runs are not that.

  2. Great review — I loved the idea to do Q and As. Here’s another Q: Were there a lot of personal anecdotes in the book? I find that I always need a ton of those to keep my engaged when reading nonfiction books filled with studies and things. Also, definitely don’t give up on yoga yet! It’s really hard the first few times, but it gets easier as you get more accustomed to the movements. Make sure you start with some easy poses and nothing too intense. My first introduction to yoga was through P90x3, and although I enjoy it now, I remember feeling too overwhelmed at the time and thinking maybe yoga wasn’t for me.

    • I’m glad you liked the Q and A. I just could not right coherent paragraphs about the book..haha! Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of personal anecdotes in the book. There were a lot of studies, but 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.

      As for the yoga, I’m not going to give up. I haven’t done it again yet, but I do plan on it. I’m doing “yoga for the absolute beginner” and I’m pretty sure you can’t get anymore beginner than that. I actually know exactly what you’re talking about with P-90X. That was also the first time I ever tried yoga. I don’t count that though because it was so impossible I ended up just laughing at the TV. It was that impossible. 🙂

      • That’s so funny because I laugh at P90x all the time when I’m trying to do it and he does something totally ridiculous! I’m always just like, “Yeah okay” *laughs and does an easier version of the move in question*

  3. The Q&A was a good format! I have another question though – what does a training plan look like following the 80/20 rule? I’ve read a few other running books – I’ve read the Mother Runner books and John Bingham’s book The Courage to Start last year. I’ve gotten other books out of the library, but never read them cover to cover, used them mainly as reference. I think there was a recent list of new running books published and I wrote a few down to download since I’ll be traveling next week, I’ll have plenty of time sitting on a plane to read.

    • I’m so glad you asked…this is kind of an important one! I hope to talk more about it when I start the training, too. I’ve mostly been looking at the 5k plans, but all of the race distances seem to be similar in set-up, the main differences 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. The level 3 plans have you active 7 days a week with 3 days a week of doubles. You can opt 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.

      Some of these plans definitely sound pretty intense to me. I can’t imagine I will ever do a level 3 plan. I just don’t see myself doing doubles. Even the level 2 at 7 days a week seems pretty aggressive to me. He does give you all the information you need to create your own plan. He talks about how time spent running is the best way to improve at running (assuming you aren’t running yourself into the ground) and that is why the plans have so much running. But you will notice an improvement just by going to the 80/20 ratio, regardless of how many miles you run. He also talks about how cross training can also help you up your game in the same way as adding miles while putting less stress on the body.

      Soo…that was a really long answer. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Saturday stuff…a little list of randomness just for you! | Let's Go Running

  5. Amy, I am trying to put my own spreadsheet together to use Matt’s 80/20 training plan. Do you have one that you made that you would share? Just trying to get some formatting ideas.

    • I haven’t gotten it in a spreadsheet yet. I’m actually having a little trouble with that. There are so many different workouts, I’d have to type all of them out…and I’m not sure I wanna do that. I might just type it out one week at a time? I’m not sure. What are you thinking?

      • I’m going to build one for myself this week. I like to see it all laid out & it helps me understand it better when I write it all out – although it is going to be a lot of work. I’m building the Level 2 Marathon plan.

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