Tom Green & Amy Hunold-VanGundy: The Ultimate Runner


Green, Tom & Amy Hunold-VanGundy. The Ultimate Runner: Stories and Advice to Keep You Moving (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2010)

Tom Green & Amy Hunold-VanGundy of the Runner's Lounge community website have assembled this collection of stories from runners--everything from the seemingly mundane (getting in shape for a first 5K) to the exotic (running at the Mount Everest base camp or at extreme events like Badwater). Particularly interesting in this regard was Amanda Krieger's piece "Moving Forward" (pp. 99-102) about returning to the Virginia Tech campus after the infamous firearms massacre.

The section of "Must-Know Info" articles that comprises the last third of the book is clearly aimed more toward the beginning runner. Unfortunately, the desire to provide general guidelines occasionally leads misstatements. One is the dietary remark that soy is "the only plant source [that] provides all the essential amino acids--the building blocks of protein that must be supplied by the diet" (p. 208, "Nutrition for Training, Competition, and Recovery" by Lisa Dorfman). The missing word here is proportion. Wikipedia notes the following about complete proteins and essential amino acids in plants:

Near-complete proteins are also found in some plant sources such as quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and amaranth, but are higher in some and lower in others. Hence the importance of eating a varied diet.

As stated, the advice would seem to suggest that vegans and vegetarians require soy protein; this is false, but follows from the American obsession with protein. The question "But where do you get your protein?" is one with which vegans and vegetarians are very familiar, but it's been known for decades to be a non-issue:

"It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein. [...] Vegans eating varied diets containing vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough energy (calories) to maintain weight." ("Protein in the Vegan Diet," Vegetarian Resource Group)
"Despite the controversy over protein requirements, vegetarians athletes can easily achieve adequate protein providing their diet is adequate in energy and contains a variety of plant-protein foods such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Vegetarians need not be concerned with eating 'complementary proteins' at each meal but rather over the course of a day...most vegetarian athletes meet the requirements for endurance training without special meal planning." ("Vegetarian Diet for Exercise and Athletic Training and Performing," American Dietetic Association)
Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. ("Vegetarian Diets," USDA)

Another problem is this recommendation:

Use technical insoles in your shoes. The factory insoles in your new shoes offer limited cushioning. [...] Today's new lightweight, high-impact absorbing insoles offer exponentially more cushion than the factory insoles and can increase comfort to your runs and extend the life of your shoes. (pp. 256-257, "Running for a Lifetime" by Tom Green)

As noted in a recent study, excessive shoe cushioning leads to a longer stride and greater impact from striking the ground with the heel. Those pillow-soft insoles may feel great on novice runners' soles, but may do long-term damage to their knees by encouraging poor form.

In short: the stories in The Ultimate Runner are worth reading, but the advice may lead the unwary down the wrong path.


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