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Book Review

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Running for the Average Joe

By Tom Gesper

I don’t normally do a lot of book reviews, but Running for the Average Joe proved to be a book that I felt worthy of sharing. The author provides real-world situations for those of us who are not world class athletes. It’s so refreshing to find a book in which the author relates to the general population! The book inspires and motivates.

I’ve gone through this book three times, and each time I find something very valuable that I missed on the first pass.

Overall, I give this book a 5-star rating – the content is outstanding and well-researched. Not only did Watts put his mind in this book, he also put his heart into it. You can feel his passion for running in the stories and anecdotes.

The book contains 19 chapters – it started out a bit slow as he tells the history of the sport and actually describes what running is. The first time I read it, it seemed too basic and I just skimmed over it. The second time I read about the four different phases of the running cycle, I began to understand that the message was focusing on better form and efficiency. In the early chapters, Watts also talks about some of the great running legends, a topic which I really appreciated!

The book really gets going when the author talks about physiology and psychology. This chapter is deep in subject matter and you can tell that he researched these topics and most likely reached out to one or more health experts. Before I read these chapters, I never completely understood how the body changes during a long run. Watts explains this in laymen’s terms and it’s very easy to grasp what he is trying to explain.

The book is loaded with his personal experiences, and I must say, my favorite was “The Marathon Owns You.” This short story talks about running long distances – the trials and tribulations of running a marathon. Watts describes “the Wall” – when the body and mind are giving up, but the heart still wants to go:

“The Wall – it is at this point, where pain, fatigue, biological imbalances, fear, doubt and perception all collide and tell you that you can go no further. You’re done. Toast. Fini.”

He goes on to tell a story about a young runner who experiences "the wall" and gives an explanation of why it happened and how to get through it. This book is very well written.

The book also includes chapters on injuries and nutrition, both of which are well written, again describing in narratives which are easy to understand. I had to laugh a bit when he explains that carbohydrates in beer aren’t quite the same as those found in pasta. The book is entertaining as well as educational.

Female runners should enjoy the chapter on Women’s Running – this chapter touches on many of the gender differences and suggests why women are designed for long distance running, compared to their male counterparts.

Of special note is the chapter on setting goals – he explains how to create and keep your goals, even though there may be setbacks and failures along the way. Watts allows the reader to understand that experience is gained through failure and he doesn’t try to intimidate, berate or belittle. The motivational quotes which are laced throughout the book will keep you inspired.

The book includes chapters on exercises and cross training. These two chapters don’t go as deep as some of the other parts of the book, but he does give the athlete a place to start – something not found in other running books. He also speaks about equipment for your “toolbox” – many items which I had not thought of, but will include with my own supplies from now on.

Finally, the best part of the book is the seven-step training program that he designed and recommends for runners of all skill levels. It’s sensible, logical and simple. Each phase of the seven-step program prepares you for the next level:

  • Endurance : This cycle provides your base

  • Strengthening: Equalizes and strengthens your entire body

  • Tuning: Prepares you for running and gradually builds you to race pace

  • Peak: Fine-tuning for your race with “all systems go”

  • Taper: Resting your mind and body just before your race

  • Race: The big event

  • Recovery: Resting your mind and body, and getting ready to do it all over again

The last section of the book provides training plans for all runners – 5k through the marathon distance. I’ve paid for many of these types of training plans from other well-known runners or coaches and Watts’ plans are just as good, if not better. And, they’re included in the book. Optionally, you can download the training plans to your smart phone or device.

All in all, this book is OUTSTANDING! The title somehow suggests that it’s for “average” or “novice” runners, but it’s really aimed at all types. Watts has figured out a way to blend all of these topics and make them work for everyone.

–Tom Gesper

New York, NY

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