🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
- Running is about community, having fun, and using the human body’s potential.
- Running should be done with proper form in order to avoid injuries – running form can be learned and improved by doing specific exercises and increasing cadence to 180 steps per minute.
- Running together dates back to the beginning human tribalism: it makes us feel stronger and more likely to survive, that’s why it still releases more endorphins.
After the massively successful previous book, this one had a high chance to disappoint, and unfortunately, in my opinion, it did. Granted, the author acknowledges that this book has the worst possible title, because it’s not much of a successor to Born to Run, but instead more of an accompanying work to it. Here, the focus is on training itself. You won’t find any training plans for ambitious runners, though. It’s all entry-level. The focus is on learning better running form to prevent injury and maximize enjoyment – which is great.
The core and stability exercises are innovative and often require a partner, which is different from what you usually find in the running magazines or anywhere else. McDougall calls them “Movement Snacks” and they are my main take-aways. The chapter on food seems to be contradictory to much I have previously read, and I think it’s not thoroughly researched or based on older studies. Can be ignored.
The little anecdotes and follow-ups of the original Born to Run cast is interesting but feels a bit too much like nostalgia of the good old days. The chapter on Caballo Blanco’s death is quite emotional, but I think it shouldn’t have been part of this type of book. This makes it neither a good successor to the first book, nor a thorough training book. It’s a bit of both but fails to do the parts really well.
🍀 How the Book Changed Me
- Core exercises are important, not just for running. This is another credible source saying so.
- Running should be fun first and foremost. Make it fun. Change the settings, invent and add new challenges, and stop when it becomes about ego and you’re willing to risk injury for it. That’s not the purpose.
📔 Highlights & Notes
1 The Run Free Feeling
You’re supposed to run to get in shape. Except if you’re not in shape, you’re not supposed to run. And it’s not just me; it’s all of us.
2 Chasing Wobbles
Your brain is constantly whirring in search of energy-saving shortcuts. That’s how we’re wired.
It’s not clear what kind of vocabulary Batman has, but “Go easy” and “Take a rest day” definitely aren’t part of it. Throw a stick, and Batman won’t tell you why Joe Rogan is against cardio.
3 Journey Back to the Beginning – In Ten Minutes
Train running form:
- Pull up “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s.
- Stand with your back facing the wall, about one step away.
- Blast the song.
- Run in place to the beat.
You can’t heel-strike or overstride when you run in place. You can’t kick back or stray off balance when you’re keeping your back near the wall. And thanks to the B-52s, you’ll never have to guess how many footsteps per minute you should be doing.
Every natural impulse you inherited is urging you to never make a move unless survival depends on it.
[..] studies have shown that runners who bought shoes based on gait analysis are up to five times more likely to suffer an injury.
Fun, on the other hand, spikes awareness, confidence, stress-relief and competency. When you’re having fun, you’re focused. Why? Because your body approves and wants more.
We evolved to encourage and assist one another, because the pack lived or died by mutual success.
“I always thought of running as a superpower,” she says. But when power is simply stored, it’s useless. It needs to be used, conducted, applied to an engine of change.
4 Getting Started
Rarámuri kids don’t practice slow. First they go fast; when they get good at fast, then they go long. Speed is a terrific teacher. Speed encourages good running form: when you’re in top gear, no one has to explain why you should land on your forefoot or pop your foot back off the ground. You just do it.
5 Pre-Game: Movement Snacks
The more you can move, the more emotionally safe you’ll feel. The safer you feel, the happier and less anxious you’ll be.
- Deadbug Belly Breath: lie on your back, knees bent, feet in the air, shins parallel to the ground. Extend arms straight out past your head. Lift head, tuck it against the chest. Breathe in through your nose, flatten lower back against the ground. Breathe out through your nose, feel belly soften, maintain position. Repeat 5 times.
- Quick Feet With Partner: Face partner, raise hands and place palms against each others’. Maintain palm contact, lead partner tries to step on the other’s toes, other one tries to dance away. Switch.
- Deep Squats: Solo or With Partner: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, grab each other’s wrists. Support each other by pulling backward, easing down into a squat at the same time, as deep as you can, activated core. Pause, then pull each other back up. Repeat 10-12 times.
- Warm-Up Shin Box + Rocking Shin Box: Sit with both knees bent, bottom of left foot against right thigh, right knee bent a bit more than 90 degrees, gaze forward. Hands behind you to support if needed. Look to the right, press feet into the flor, shift knees into opposite leg positions. Rocking Shin Box: Sit with knees bent, feet on the floor, place both hands on outside of knee, pull to extend chest and sit upright. Round your spine, roll onto your back until shoulder blades touch the ground. Reverse and roll back up into the shin box position. Repeat 5 times per side.
- Bear Crawls: Start on all fours with hands under shoulders, knees under hips, looking ahead of you. Crawl around in a nice fluid motion, avoid swaying. 20 steps. Variant: straight legs crawl.
- Three-Point Crab: On all fours, knees under hips (bear crawl position), press into right hand and left foot while lifting your left hand and bring your right knee forward and through. Right foot on the floor, left hand to the floor behind you, now in crab position chest facing up. Left hand now to the sky, engage core, push up hips. Back to crab position. Repeat 3 times per side.
- Ninja Jumps: Squat and leap forward, land softly and quietly. Focus on precision, knees bent deeply. Repeat 5 times into different directions.
6 Food: Your Fork in not Your Coach
What you eat affects not only your strength and body weight, he realized, but your injury risk as well.
“The point is to get your body to change the way it gets energy. You want it to burn more fat and less sugar.”
7 Fitness: Become the Master Mechanic
100 Up: Barefoot, feet shoulder width apart, straight back. Raise one leg as high as hip while opposing side arm is driven forward, switch leg/arm. Marching in place, 100x. Purpose: Training active muscle pattern, especially for forefoot landing and knee drive. It’s impossible to land on your heel while performing the 100 Up.
9 Focus: Faster, Farther and Forever
“It doesn’t mean you’ve got to sprint all the time,” Eric said. “But the technique is the same. Believe it or not, running fast is the best way to learn how to run slow.”
The One-Mile Test. Why one mile: This middle distance is a good benchmark for calculating the maximum speed that can be sustained for a relatively long period before going into oxygen debt.
The remedy: Don’t train for twenty-six miles. Learn how to run one mile fast and repeat it twenty-five more times.
Be mindful of Form and Focus as you go. Think of these runs as dance rehearsals rather than exercise: your goal is to master moves and rhythm, not just bash out distance. It’s tricky to combine mindfulness and relaxation, but that’s the aim.
10 Footwear: First, Do No Harm
Not surprisingly, Altras are the shoes we recommend to start your 90-Day Run Free reboot.
For trails: Altra Superior (zero drop, 21mm stack)
For roads: Altra Escalante (zero drop, 24mm stack)
Why Altra: Natural feel, flexibility, shelf life.
In other shoes, look for: wide toe box, ample length, low heel / low drop, minimal cushioning / stack height.
Start the week with less cushioned shoes to build foot strength, then treat yourself to something a little more plush for a Saturday long run, like the Saucony Endorphin Speed, which Nathan calls “the best Hoka that Hoka never made.”
Cushioning is a narcotic. It’s a numbing agent. The more you have, the less you feel. So Eric and I strongly recommend you train in the Altras, or a similar low-drop shoe.
But running barefoot, the Florida researchers found, tripled that score. Working memory performance improved by 16 percent.
11 Fun: If it Feels Like Work, You’re Working Too Hard
If you told Arnulfo or Manuel Luna they ought to Goggins themselves into the hospital to become “the hardest man ever created,” or they ought to “suffer in order to grow,” they’d either hand you the moonshine jug or gently remove it from your hands.
Caballo’s pre-race oath. Right hand on heart, left hand up: “If I get hurt, lost or die, it’s my own damn fault!”
“Pull that plug. Don’t do damage.” Starting a race is brave, she explained. Finishing it when you’re hurt is ego. “If it’s going to knock you out of training for three days,” she told Zach, “then call it a day.”
Sometimes your body is beat, other days your head’s not there, but you’re afraid you’ll pay a price if you ditch a workout. [..] The solution? Same as with any other love affair: Keep it fun. Keep it fresh. But most of all, keep it honest.
You have to absorb the unpredictability of the outside world, Rick believes, because otherwise, you lose the source of inspiration.
Rick [Rubin] might forget to do his chants, he might not be in the mood to do his squats, but lash them together and instantly, his mind has a new focus. He’s doubled his motivation and slashed the monotony.
May I be filled with love and kindness May I be well May I be peaceful And at ease May I be happy
So if you’re wondering if it’s okay to run with music, consider it the same way you would your food choices, your footwear and your running form: Is it making you stronger, or hiding a weakness? Is it helping you get better, or get it over with?
“The best races,” a wise old trail runner once told me, “start where you scratch a line in the dirt with your foot.”
12 Family: Those Who Sweat Together Soar Together
For millions of years, no one would bend their head to a job without a partner to watch their back, and no parent would leave their children behind with predators afoot. Humans alone were prey; humans united were an unstoppable force. We broke through as a species the day we became running buddies. That was our superpower: our ability to head off across the savannah with no natural weapons except our ability to run any creature alive into heat exhaustion.
Did you know that happy people live up to seven years longer than unhappy people, and are half as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease?
Beer, unlike anything else, is about friendship and fun. Wine is serious, champagne is victorious, but beer—beer alone is a party in a glass.
“There’s only one language in the animal kingdom, and that’s energy,” Cesar [Millan] said. That’s why you need to get your own mood in order before you begin: whatever you’re feeling travels down the leash.
13 Final Lesson From the White Horse: Run Free, Caballo
But skill can’t be bought. It can’t be life-hacked or hurried. You can throw all the money and gear you want at a skill, and you’d be throwing it away.
14 Injuries: Fixing Your Flat Tires
Running injuries aren’t caused by your body. They’re caused by your behavior.
Your body is complaining because you made it function in an awkward position, same as it would if you slept all night with your head cocked funny. Fix your form, and in nearly every case, you’ll fix your problem.