A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

TLWH Book Club: The Runner’s Brain

on December 15, 2015

Today I’m joining the Taking the Long Way Home book club to talk about the recently released Runner’s World The Runner’s Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown. Be sure to check out Wendy’s review and the rest of the link up here.

TLWH Book Club

Dr. Brown is a psychologist who specializes in cognitive and behavioral therapy in Boston and has the distinction of serving of the official psychologist of the Boston Marathon. Before reading this book, I had no idea such a position even existed and yet given how important our brains are for our running, it makes a lot of sense.


This book covers a lot of territory and yet thanks to its friendly writing style, I found it to be a quick and interesting read. The first section focuses on all of the good running does for our brain and conversely, how our brains influence our running. The next section is full of science and practical exercises to help you run better, including the reasons behind goal-setting (really does work!) and specific visualization strategies.

When this was the first thing I saw on race morning as I approached the corral, I knew it was an omen of a strong finish!

When this was the first thing I saw on race morning as I approached the corral, I knew it was an omen of a strong finish! That mental picture was a huge help along the way.

The third section discusses the particular issues about your brain and training, including group runs, managing competition and the drive to race and stories from mentally challenging runs. The fourth section addresses some of special challenges that may arise, like how to tough it out on a bad run or in bad weather or stuck on the treadmill because of bad weather. The book concludes with worksheets and a training plan, as well as tips from a lot of other runners. This last section was definitely my favorite.

In particular, I want to go back and work on the 7 day plan he’s included for mental strength. It includes exercises to while you’re running and while you’re not, like strengthening your runner’s identity, setting goals and practicing positive self talk. What I appreciate is that the author doesn’t say just “you should do these things” because we all already know that, right? Instead, he gives specific instructions for exercises you should do, making it a lot easier to put these concepts into action.

A goal setting worksheet

A goal setting worksheet

You guys know that I’m academic and very science/research oriented, so I particularly appreciated the inclusion of the actual studies (and citations!) that form the basis of these mental exercises. The author does a great job summarizing these studies in a very easy to read way so that even those who don’t read academic articles every day can understand what is going on. It is a very particular skill that many scientists, doctors and writers don’t have, so I really appreciated this! I also liked the inclusion of geeky bits of knowledge like the bit about:

“mammals with limbs adapted for running have brains that evolved to regularly pump out endocannabinoids (aka marijuana-like compounds). It could be why we humans, as well as species like dogs, horses, and antelope, sometime run just for the heck of it even though it comes at a higher metabolic cost and risk of injury. Animals that aren’t built for running don’t appear to have the same built-in brain systems. You don’t often see stubby-legged ferrets go out for a jog just because.” (p 65)

Super long quote I know, but the ferret bit makes me giggle every time and it gives you an example of how non-scary this science writing is.

I’d definitely recommend this as a starting point if you want to work on the mental strength side of your running. It’s an easier read than some others I’ve looked at this topic and includes a good balance of science and practical advice. I’m going to spend a little more time going through some of these exercises as I contemplate my running goals for 2016 (can’t believe it is almost here!).

Do you struggle with getting your mind in gear to run? What is your favorite mental training strategy?

ToTR logoThanks as always to Patty, Marcia and Erika for hosting the Tuesdays on the Run link up! I don’t have a Didn’t Start/Didn’t Finish race story for the link up, so I’m adding this instead and looking forward to reading everyone else’s race stories!



6 responses to “TLWH Book Club: The Runner’s Brain

  1. I liked all the “geeky” stuff too–the scientist in me goes for that! This was a great review, and I think I’m going to do that 7 day plan as part of my prep for Big Sur. It can’t hurt, right?

    As always, thanks for linking up!!! I really appreciate it.

  2. Thanks for the review! This is on my Christmas wish list. 🙂

  3. Jeff Brown says:

    What a pleasure to read your review! Your words were music to my ears: easy to understand the science (that’s a big one!), well-balanced, practical, and specially telling you how to do the strategies, not just in name only—that was so important to me. Many people know the strategy terms, but don’t know “how” to do them. Kind of like telling somebody they need to put a new muffler on her car or take his child’s tonsils out. They know the concept, but not the steps of how to do it…..so it usually doesn’t get done at all. Thanks again! I spent time signing books at the Boston Marathon 2016 Expo today. If you happen to be around, it would be terrific to meet any of you. Also, feel free to reach me through my website if you have other questions…..glad to respond. I want you to enjoy all your brain has to offer. Your brain is your best running partner!

    Kindest regards,

    Jeff Brown

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