“What’s the difference between Ready to Run and Unbreakable Runner?”
This is a question I’ve been getting recently from friends, in regards to two books coming out in October, Unbreakable Runner: Unleash the Power of Strength & Conditioning for a Lifetime of Running Strong and Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally. I’m a co-author of each, but my contribution was to the writing. The two books are different in intent and content, and reflect the complimentary visions of the coaching stars I was lucky to be co-author to.
The heart of Ready to Run is a set of guideposts for the runner or person who wants to run, whether as a classical distance runner, a jogger, a soccer player, soldier or CrossFitter. Kelly Starrett, DPT and author of the NYT Bestseller Becoming a Supple Leopard, has put forth 12 standards for the reader to strive for so that she or he will have the mobility and tissue health in order to get on the path of running the way our bodies were designed to run. The standards are a mix of lifestyle standards and mobility standards—ranging from hydration, to habits related to standing and footwear, to achieving adequate levels of hip and ankle function. By striving to meet the standards—adhering to specific lifestyle choices and spending around 10 minutes a day mobilizing joints and tending to the precious tissues that allow you to run— and ideally achieving these standards, Starrett asserts that you will have crossed a bridge. You will then have prepared your body for running for fitness, a sport that involves running, life in the military or a running/racing program. In particular, Ready to Run is in sync with the likes of CrossFit Endurance or Pose running technique—programs where you build running skill and the strength and stamina to support that skill.
The original idea for Ready to Run came with anecdotal reports about the minimalist shoe chasm that so many runners seemed to be falling into after reading certain parts of Born to Run (Ultimately, Born to Run argues that you shouldn’t just hop into a pair of Vibrams and zip out the door. The author himself wanted to when he started training for the ultra-marathon featured in the book, but his coach talked him into using something less aggressive). If you’ve been running with a heel strike for 10 or more years, using different models of stability shoes or motion control shoes, the one thing that’s going to happen to you if make an overnight transition into a minimalist running shoe (or going barefoot altogether) is that you’re probably going to limp home. Why? The likely answer is that your joints and tissues weren’t prepared for such a radical overhaul in how you run. Ready to Run offers a series of yes-or-no tests to give you a picture of where you stand and what you need to do to prepare your body to run the way it was designed to run. The book includes a section on drills to help you progress toward ideal levels of foot, ankle, knee, hip and back mobility, and the concurrent capacity to be able to use good positions.
Unbreakable Runner is specifically for runners wanting to learn about and use Brian MacKenzie’s CrossFit Endurance approach toward distance running and racing. The heart of Unbreakable Runner is a set of training schedules for race distances ranging from 5k to the ultra-marathon. Unbreakable Runner was written both for traditional runners wanting to adopt the skill/strength/conditioning method and for CrossFitters who want to bias their training toward a running race. In Unbreakable Runner, I spend a considerable amount of time explaining what MacKenzie’s approach is and consists of, what the working science has to say about its underpinnings, and how CFE fits into the history of run training. An appropriate follow-up question might be this: What’s the incentive for a traditional runner (meaning a high-mileage program with minimal skill, strength and conditioning work) migrate into a CFE program? For those who have made this jump, there are some of the more common reasons:
Overwrought with injuries. This is why I made the jump. As discussed in the book, one of the chief problems of being a conventional distance runner is that after so many years of running, racing, marathons and such, the rate of injury begins to rise until it threatens to put your running to an end. The use of strength, conditioning and transitioning to a lower-volume running model is designed to prevent these problems and has also worked wonders for beat up high-mileage runners in need of a full-body overhaul.
High performance off of minimal time investment. Certain variations of CFE allow a runner busy with work and life to cut down on their overall training time and retain or increase their race performance.
Longevity. A traditional running program prioritizes mileage. CFE puts skill first—the point being that whatever sport you do, performing the movements correctly and consistently is your first order of business. Running with correct technique is a major factor in how many miles you’re going to get out of your lifetime. Along with strength, conditioning, diet and skill, MacKenzie puts an emphasis on health as being the foundation of performance rather than aerobic base.
Variety. CFE uses an all-around-athlete foundation of training, with an emphasis on fast run training, to prepare you for racing. If you’re interested in testing the waters of Obstacle Course racing and the like, it’s got your name on it.
I’ve been a runner/triathlete for more than 30 years now—and someone who had pretty much smoked himself through high-mileage running, with little or no skill and little or no mobility to support what I was doing—it’s been the combination of Starrett’s mobility work and MacKenzie’s program that has allowed me to enjoy being a runner again. I’ve grateful to have had a hand in producing both books and hope help others the way they helped me.
In his new book, Unbreakable Runner, CrossFit Endurance™ founder Brian MacKenzie and journalist T.J. Murphy examine long-held beliefs about how to train, tearing down those traditions to reveal new principles for a lifetime of healthy, powerful running.
Unbreakable Runner includes CrossFit-based training programs for the most popular running race distances from 5K to ultramarathon.
Now available! Autographed copies of Unbreakable Runner from Brian MacKenzie!