Science of running by Steve Magness
Steve Magness is a cross country athlete and coach who first made his name at the Orgeon project working under Alberto Salazar. He moved on and eventually blew the whistle on some dubious practices at the Oregon project and is now a PhD candidate and the head cross country and long distance coach at the University of Houston. Prior to purchasing this book I was a big fan of Steve’s website scienceofrunning.com and the very logical, methodical approach that he takes to his work.
Science of running is pretty much his A to Z on all the factors a coach needs to be aware of to run fast. It is primarily divided into two sections: firstly theory, and secondly why the most successful training programmes get the results they do. In the final section of the book he combines everything together to provide his recommendations to train for each of the distance events from 800m up to marathon and beyond.
Rough breakdown of contents:
- Understanding why we fatigue
- Brain-muscle interaction
- Theories of training
- Volume and intensity
- Training philosophy
- Practical models of training
- How to progress workouts
- Putting all the pieces together
- Individual plans for each event
- Biomechanics of running
What I liked
I liked the breakdown of all the individual factors of why we fatigue, and the likely contribution of each to fatigue. We need to understand why we fatigue in the first place, so we can prevent that happening, and then performance effectively takes care of itself. The arguments used to make the case for the central governor model of fatigue are excellent, as are Steve’s thoughts about the future of training (and doping). I will definitely be using his section on manipulating the psychological state and manipulating feedback in future work with my athletes.
What I liked even more is that Steve lives in the real world. Rather than looking for science to produce the perfect study or programme, he uses it to try and explain why the best coaches and athletes achieve what they do. His philosophy of training and thoughts about integration of all elements and always remembering the goal of improved performance tie in nicely with this.
What I didn’t like
Basically the section on the events because I am not a track coach. However, I definitely got what I wanted to get out of this book. Coaches from field based sports will also have to use their intelligence to see how the principles from this book would fit into the context of their sports, and adjust the volumes/frequencies/intensities accordingly. But overall I really like the concepts, the philosophies that underpin them and the progression of the training that Steve espouses.
Who would benefit from this?
Any coach. Fatigue is central to what we do. This book is worth it alone if only to understand in detail how and why we fatigue.