A Running Journal

I’m keeping one now. And it’s fun! The heart and soul of this pre-made journal I’m using is the two-page weekly spread:

 

running log

 

running log 2

 

It’s the Believe Training Journal from Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. My wife was probably not wrong when she said its teal cover and graphics could have earned it a spot at a junior high girls retreat, but I’m okay with that. The journal itself is great. It’s got:

  • the above shown two-page (undated!) spread for tracking run details each week
  • “this week’s focus” for each week: such a helpful exercise to think this through before running
  • a week-end “rundown”–an act of reflection I haven’t otherwise been doing with my running apps
  • quotes from various runners to inspire
  • a guided goal-setting section
  • race logs
  • short articles on various topics throughout: e.g., racing, recovery, community, setbacks, and more

This is easily the best running journal there is, if a pre-made/lightly guided running log is what you’re after. Check out some more of the inside:

 

race reviews

 

(Click/tap on any of the three below to enlarge)

 

 

There are “check-in” pages throughout:

 

check-in

 

Here’s an article:

 

article

 

The whole thing is undated (a year’s worth of pages) and includes an annual calendar. I was going to start in 2019 but couldn’t wait, so for me this is a November 2018-October 2019 journal.

 

annual calendar

 

The cover is “flexi-bound synthetic,” which is a little stronger than softcover, but still can easily get banged up in a backpack (if you just toss it in, as I have been):

 

cover bend

 

There certainly are simpler journals on the market, but the articles here have drawn me in, so that this is kind of a souped-up, one-stop shop for my year’s running annals. The size is just about perfect (6″ x 7 ½”), and the included ribbon marker can go in at my current week.

You can find the journal here, with other color options available, as well.

 


 

Thanks to the great folks at VeloPress for the review copy.

Strength Training for Triathletes, from VeloPress

Strength Training for TriathletesIf you’re into exercising, you should know about VeloPress. If it’s a sport in the triathlon (or associated topics like nutrition), they’ve got you covered. Here’s a short review of Strength Training for Triathletes, 2nd Edition, by Patrick Hagerman.

I have barely seen this book since it arrived, since it has been my spouse’s constant companion for her triathlon training. She doesn’t usually travel with (or need) books for exercise, but this one has gone with her to the gym or pool regularly. That’s a good sign.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Certified USA Triathlon coach and NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year Patrick Hagerman, EdD, reveals a focused, triathlon-specific strength training program that will enable triathletes to push harder during training and on the racecourse when the effort is hardest. Triathletes who master this progressive strength training program will also become more resistant to injury, meaning fewer missed workouts.

Strength Training for Triathletes features 75 of the most effective strength training exercises for triathlon swimming, cycling, and running plus core strength and general conditioning. Full-color photographs illustrate each simple exercise, and exercises are grouped so athletes can focus on their own individual performance limiters. Hagerman simplifies the science underlying strength training, offering easy-to-follow guidelines on resistance and reps that will make triathletes stronger through every phase of the season.

The exercises themselves are split into seven chapters: one for “core conditioning,” and then one each for upper and lower body for swimming, cycling, and running.

The author asks right away: why train for strength when the triathlon is an endurance sport? Why train muscles and not just cardiovascular?

The short answer is that strength training makes muscles stronger, and stronger muscles can perform longer at higher intensities before they fatigue.

Or, in other words, “When you have more muscle to rely on, it takes longer to wear it out.”

As a runner I found compelling the science behind this that Hagerman unpacks. When I think about working out, I only ever want to run (more miles!), but he makes a convincing case for the value of strength training—not just as its own end, but also as a means to the end of better race endurance (and speed).

As for the exercises themselves, the descriptions are short, easy to follow, and accompanied by pictures so you are clear on what to do.

 

Knee Raise

 

Dumbbell Incline Press

 

 

There’s a great accompanying Website for the book, with more exercises and excerpts here.

And if you sign up for VeloPress’s newsletter, you get $10 off an order through their site.

You can find Strength Training for Triathletes, 2nd Edition here (publisher’s page) or here (Amazon).

 


 

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy, offered without expectation as to the content of this review.

Book Note: Runner’s World | How to Make Yourself Poop: And 999 Other Tips All Runners Should Know

9781635651836

 

Yesterday in the mail I received for review a Runner’s World book I’ve been looking forward to reading: How to Make Yourself Poop: And 999 Other Tips All Runners Should Know.

It’s a book of lists. It reads like a series of short, digestible blog posts, which has already made it easier for me to pick up and dive into.

34 chapters are divided into 6 sections:

  • Section 1: 205 Training Tips
  • Section 2: 193 Nutrition Tips
  • Section 3: 126 Gear Tips
  • Section 4: 158 Motivation Tips
  • Section 5: 169 Tips for Staying Healthy
  • Section 6: 157 Racing Tips

(That adds up to 1,008 tips, if you’re curious.)

The book is helpful from the beginning, with “The 5 Golden Rules of Training”:

  1. The vast majority of your miles should feel easy.
  2. Your “easy effort” should be really, really easy.
  3. Increase milage gradually.
  4. Aim for three… quality workouts each week: a speed workout, a long run, and an in-between workout at a comfortably hard pace (a “tempo run”).
  5. Follow every hard or long run with at least one easy or rest day.

As you might guess from the title, the book is playfully irreverent at times (though not in the tiresome way that The Brave Athlete is). Given its nature as a book of lists, I’m not expecting to find in-depth running science or extended philosophical reflections on running. However, I think this might be the first running book I’ve seen that has a whole section on how to lace up your shoes! Something I do before every run, but have barely considered how to do (except to crank them down as tight as possible).

I look forward to digging in more. You can check out the book at Amazon here, and at its publisher’s site (where you can read an excerpt) here.

 


 

Thanks to the publisher, who sent me a review copy, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

Music Review: Indigo by Wild Nothing

Wild-Nothing-Indigo_FINAL.jpgI made the mistake of not checking the van stereo’s volume before pressing play on “Letting Go,” the first track on Wild Nothing’s new LP Indigo (released August 31 on Captured Tracks). The kids and I all nearly jumped out of our seats at the opening sixteenth note hits on the snare. The keyboard, bass, and interlocking guitars join in to make it a great opening track (the album’s first single).

“Oscillation” is next, which—without taking away from its originality—sounds something like if members of The Cure and James and Amusement Parks on Fire formed a supergroup… in 1982.

The rest of the album maintains a (glorious) 80s vibe, complete with ethereal keyboard riffs and attention-demanding lead guitar lines. I kept thinking: this is what Prince would sound like if he covered early 80s CCM classics! (That’s praise, not a complaint.) The album’s saxophones fit perfectly, even if their first entrance on the album was a surprise.

I took great pleasure in having a traveling companion/listening partner try to guess what year the album came out. “2018” was not the expected answer!

The production is excellent on the album, the melodies are catchy, and all the instrument parts are interesting. It’s got a sweet vibe. I still like 2012’s Nocturne better—it feels a little more effortless—but Indigo is still a great record.

Check out the artist site here, the label site here, and the album at Amazon here.

 


 

Thanks to Wild Nothing’s PR team for early access to the album so we could review it.

New Innocence Mission Album: Sun on the Square

Review by Brian Bayer-Larson and Abram K-J

The gap between the last two Innocence Mission albums was five years. Now, a mere three years after releasing Hello I Feel the Same (reviewed here), The Innocence Mission has put out Sun on the Square (Badman Recording Co).

 

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The Innocence Mission (image via Badman)

 

The album begins with two measures of a nylon string guitar arpeggiating a major chord, which quickly turns minor as the vocals enter, instantly evoking a yearning for connection. This first track, “Records from Your Room,” uses piano sparingly and gorgeously. The haunting high-register melody perfectly compliments the lyrics: “I meet you there out in the air // I’m listening.” It’s a compelling way to link this album to ones before it, setting the stage for something new but familiar.

The second track, “Green Bus,” offers an exquisite interplay of guitars—soft and understated, but precise and tight. “I cannot find a thing beautiful enough for you again,” Peris sings. The song’s strings are beautiful, expressing more ineffable longing.

In “Look Out From Your Window” (featuring a Peris kid on viola!) Peris still wants to listen: “All I cannot say I hope you know // All you cannot say I hope I can hear.” There is a theme of disconnect mingled with hope, acknowledging the reality that we cannot achieve ultimate communion with one another, even asbut that we hold out hope that one day we will. It is on this track that there is (at last!) some percussion.

“Shadow of the Pines” is an instant classic, and easily a top 10 Innocence Mission song. The muted piano is as if they decided to use toy instruments and coaxed all the beauty they could out them. The song is like stepping out of the Metro in Paris on a spring afternoon, encountering a fantasy made real. The instrumental closing of the track gives the listener layers of melodic, moving riffs, which—were this any other band—could have built for another five minutes. (The song is a modest 4:01.)

The spare use of electric guitar on “Buildings in Flower” is a nice touch. Don Peris’s guitar is tastefully employed and never over-shimmery (if that’s even possible!). More drums! (But only for the last quarter of the song.) If “And it’s hard to know, now, where we should go” is the call, the response (in question form) is, “Will the lifting of a window let the Spirit in, and then we begin to vividly live?”

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The sixth and title track, “Sun on the Square” is probably the most complex song on the album and maybe one of their most ambitious compositions ever. Loads of string swells as the rhythmic song goes on, which is a great sound for the band. “Let there be more kindness in the world,” Peris sings.

If the next track “Light of Winter” sounds familiar, it’s because a previous version (called “From the Trains”) appeared on a sweet EP called “the snow on pi day.” It could be a Radiohead song. The first version—which we like a little better—had a little more backbone to it—bass and drums where there is piano now. The songs are different enough that renaming it made sense. The new version is still great. The theme of light–and seeing it–continues.

Track 8, “Star of Land and Sea,” is practically brutal in its child-like expression of hope in a dark world. There are echoes of the same two-note, high-pitched guitar riff from the previous track, which ties them together nicely.

The second to last song is “An Idea of Canoeing,” the chords and mood of which are reminiscent of Lakes of Canada. Where else are you going to find a melodica? More wondering: “Will I cross the street to you / in the traffic breaks / in the light of this / in the light of this love / here and now?”

“Galvanic” is a nice way to end the album. She sings in hope, “I believe we are going to see, things will come right this time.”

Overall, this is a very good album (can the band create otherwise?) with a lot to dig into, both lyrically and aurally. The band seemed to write and record this album with a soft touch, not risking too much. But you’ll only find gratitude here for the ways this record returns to the lush notes and tones of My Room in the Trees and Befriended.

As with all their albums there is an undeniable authenticity that comes through in their music. Amazingly, the band’s songs could produce the same emotional response in the listener, whether or not they produce them with multiple instruments. Karen’s voice and heart-rending lyrics come through with every composition. Also amazing is her ability to write so skillfully (and for such a long time now) about such universally human themes as loneliness, disconnect, hope, light, and vision. The hope is uniquely Christian, or at least one that looks up. It’s this—and the unique and always moving music—that keeps us coming back to them.

Check out the album here at Badman or here at Bandcamp.

 


 

Thanks to Badman for early access to the album so we could review it.

Drawn from Nature: A Stunning Children’s Book

Helen Ahpornsiri’s Drawn from Nature might be the most beautiful children’s book we’ve ever read. (And we’ve read a lot of them over the years.)

Ahpornsiri uses plants pressed by hand to lead the reader through the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. The text itself is informative and lyrical, but the artwork is stunning.

Here are some pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine how long it takes to illustrate a book (let alone do one page!) with hand-pressed plants. This 64-page book invites staring and wonder at the beauty of creation… not just that Ahpornsiri created from pressed plants, but how she did it. The creations that emerge are gorgeous.

My kids have gotten lost in this book already, as have I. It’s really fun to read a section at bedtime, but any child—reader or not—can easily find themselves swept up in these pages.

You can go here to look inside. Find the book at Amazon here, or through its publisher here.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Candlewick/Big Picture Press for sending the book for review, though that did not influence my opinions.

Book Review: The Inner Runner

 

On the one hand, Jason Karp’s The Inner Runner is the running book I’ve been looking for: it’s not focused on technique and training but on the why of running.

This is from the publisher’s description:

Why are so many people drawn to running? Why is running the most common physical activity? What is it about running that empowers so many people? And how can runners harness that power to create a more meaningful life? The Inner Runner addresses these questions and a whole lot more. This book is not about how to get faster or run a marathon; rather, it explores how the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and helps you harness your creative powers. Learn about the psychological, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual benefits of running and introduce lifestyle changes based on the latest scientific research on running and its effects on hormones and the brain.

That description and the chapter titles drew me right in:

  • Why Do We Run?
  • Healthful Runs
  • Better Runs
  • Creative and Imaginative Runs
  • Productive Runs
  • Confident Runs
  • Becoming a Better Runner and a Better You

“Better Runs,” for example, discusses the benefits of a variety of runs: slow runs, fast runs, long runs, paced runs, track runs, social runs, and more. Karp is at his best when he gives advice that is both physically practical and psychologically helpful. Regarding starting a race too fast, he says:

Whether the race is a mile or a marathon, you can’t put running time in the bank. You will end up losing more time in the end than what you gained by behind ahead of schedule in the beginning. …Listen to your inner runner. When you run a race, ask yourself within the first mile (or the first lap or two of a track race), “Can I really hold this pace the entire way?” Be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes, then go for it. If the answer is no, then back off the pace, so you can have a better race. (61-62)

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Karp’s inspiring coaching. On running fast he writes:

Rather than worry about your pace or become a slave to the technology of running, make your runs better by feeling your runs and improving your own kinesthetic awareness. …Faster running comes when we don’t try as hard, when we are relaxed, when we are so well trained that the effort is almost effortless. (68-69)

9781634507950-frontcoverThough the book is more philosophical in nature, Karp delves just enough into the science to convince the reader-runner that he knows what he’s talking about. I can only imagine how invigorating it would be to have Dr. Karp as a coach. For example, he says, “The amount of time spent running is more important than the number of miles, since it’s the duration of effort (time spent running) that our bodies sense” (151). And I love the idea of “developing an inner GPS and becoming an expert ‘feeler’ of our runs” (70), even if it takes more time and work than The Inner Runner might imply.

On the other hand, The Inner Runner left me wanting more.

I resonate with Karp’s experience of running as a primary locus of creative ideas. But I had hoped he would get a bit more technical, or at least more deeply reflective, about what that process looks like for him. For example, in the chapter “Creative and Imaginative Runs” he writes, “I don’t have such a clear sense of how my running influences my writing or my other creative pursuits of my sense of self…” (107). There’s nothing wrong with that lack of clarity, but it made me wish Karp had either dug deeper or just left out that chapter altogether. So, too, with this promising but otherwise unexplored insight:

Ultimately, in life’s bigger picture, running is just an activity I choose to do. It shouldn’t define my self worth. Yet it does, and I am perplexed as to why. (179)

A number of sections read like journal entries that could have been edited down to make the book hold my interest more consistently and pack a more powerful punch.

Still, the book is inexpensive, and I starred at least a dozen passages that I’ve gone back to. I’ve also deeply internalized Karp’s advice about not coming out of the gate too fast and asking whether this initial pace is one I can sustain. That alone made the book worth reading.

You can check out The Inner Runner: Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You here at Skyhorse Publishing, and here at Amazon.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Skyhorse Publishing for the review copy, sent without expectations of the content of my review.