Take your running to heart – Heart Zone Training (HZT), that is! Long-time ultra-marathoner and triathlete Sally Edwards collaborated with Dr. Carl Foster to compile decades of experience and research into Be a Better Runner. Their resulting HZT program allows each runner to tailor training programs to his or her own fitness level by targeting specific heart rates based on a threshold heart rate, which will be unique to each person. I’ve recently begun dabbling in distance races, and while I’ll always be a mid-pack runner, I want to make the most of my experience in training. This concept of a heart monitoring really appeals to me. One point of frustration: Despite the purported simplicity of using the “talk test” to determine my threshold heart rate, I still found it difficult to pinpoint when I could no longer speak comfortably as I increased my running effort. Nonetheless, the talk test is far easier and less expensive than VO2 lab testing, and I’ve learned more about my body in the process. In addition to training strategies, Edwards covers a variety of standard topics, such as stretching, nutrition, shoes, and other gear. She openly shares her bias for or against certain trends, such as barefoot running, but balances this by including contributions from other experts. As a triathlete, Edwards is a major advocate for cross training, and she suggests a variety of options to weave into your training program. Training plans are included at the end. Be a Better Runner is a nice resource for runners, especially those interested in racing competitively. It is an attractive book, filled with pictures and charts to illustrate the concepts and techniques described. My biggest complaint is that some chapters could have used more proofreading from the editors, but the information is still clear. If you're looking for a more general introduction to distance running, you might try Marathon, by Hal Higdon.
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