Book Review: The Inner Runner, Jason Karp, PhD

If you currently feel ambivalence towards running, this book might just convince you to lace up your shoes and head out for a run.  The Inner Runner:  Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You shines a spotlight on the many benefits running offers from a physical standpoint as well as its powerful effect mentally and emotionally. You will immediately sense that Dr. Karp is a huge proponent of running, placing it on such a high pedestal as if it is the magical elixir capable of solving all our life’s issues.  Could this be true about running?

The author Dr. Jason Karp discovered his love for running at an early age.  It is his passion as he pursued a career out of it as a coach, author of several running books, and creator of the run coach certification REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™.  Before I continue with my thoughts on the book, I want to preface that I’ve known Dr. Karp professionally for several years as I’ve had the opportunity to work with him.  The first time I met him was when he helped coach the Boston group of the San Diego Track Club marathon training program back in 2009. I can tell then how much he wanted to impart his knowledge on to newbies like me.  I definitely appreciated his expertise and words of advice.

Unlike his previous books on running, (Running a Marathon for Dummies and Running for Women) The Inner Runner takes you to a deeper, more personal level at how strongly running can impact our lives:

Running may be simple, but it is also extremely complex, because human beings are complex. And that’s what makes running so interesting. It allows us to look inward—at the inner runner—to find out who we really are and embrace the challenge of discovering our true selves.

I found myself nodding as I paged through the chapters of this book.  Dr. Karp did an excellent portrayal of a person’s thoughts and emotions while out on a run.

An Introspective Question

The first chapter asks the question of ‘Why do We Run’? Of course, depending on who you ask, whether it’s a physiologist or a historian or an overweight person, the responses vary.  Each and one of us have our very own reasons of why we run. Coincidentally, I happened to write a post about Why I Run a couple of months ago. Simply stating, to me running satisfied the six basic human needs of Certainty, Uncertainty, Love/Connection, Significance, Growth and Contribution.

However, the one response that resonated with me the most was a reference to Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy theory –“Running increases and reinforces our beliefs in our own capabilities and makes us feel good about ourselves.”

The Different Types of Runs

In the following chapters, Dr. Karp weaves in and out of stories along with many interesting facts backed by science to explore every type of run and its effects on our bodies, our brains, our emotions and our spirit during the course of our running journey.

The chapter Healthful Runs, we are introduced to an inspiring story of a woman named Sabrina afflicted by cystic fibrosis. Besides the benefit of clearing out the mucus in her lungs, she points out how “Running has let me live my life instead of grasp for it…Running is a way to keep my soul, lungs and body happy.”

In the chapter Better Runs, the longest chapter in the book, you will discover the value in every type of run.  Slow, Paced, and Fast Runs.  Track, Trails, and Treadmill Runs.  Running with friends and running alone.  Becoming emotional on a run.  Running has a long list of advantages.  And no matter what, how, when, where or who you run with, the end state is a Better, Stronger you.

My Quest for Creativity

Can running make me more creative?  Creativity is something I yearn for.  I don’t really see myself as the creative type. My sister, on the other hand, was the artist in my family.  We shared a room growing up, her side was a messy display of drawings and paintings she created compared to my organized, simple and bare collection of books and random pictures.  Dr. Karp presents the idea of running as a key to creative thinking.  He referenced a research done in Netherlands where participants scored better on creative thinking after a bout of exercise in comparison to those who didn’t.  The caveat is you have to already be active, otherwise the mental stress from a hard bout of exercise takes away from a person’s ability for creative thinking.  I admit some of the posts I’ve written materialized while I was out on a run.  Let’s just say it doesn’t happen very often.

Perhaps, even more compelling is the way running can alter the brain’s formation of neurons called ‘neurogenesis’  that can make us smarter and think outside the box.  The book goes into specific scientific details how exercise (running) or the lack thereof can affect the brain’s ability to function optimally.

Indeed, there is considerable evidence that lack of physical activity in the elderly is a risk factor for poor cognitive functioning.  It seems that if you want to remain mentally sharp as you age, you had better run, or at least do some form of exercise.

When a Run means more than just a PR

As a runner, I want to see what I’m capable of achieving.  I’m guilty of equating success with a personal record (PR). In fact, after I had my girls, I started running with the goal of running faster to beat old PRs.  I wanted to see if I still have it in me to train to become a faster runner.  However, the pursuit of a personal record became less important when I realized that the time I spent out on a run, the silence and being able to hear my own thoughts kept me on even keel. Running is what I need to take care of myself.

When I finished reading The Inner Runner, I understood why running could be that magical elixir capable of bringing us satisfaction in life.  It probably won’t solve all your problems, but running will provide you the inner strength to help work through them.

Why do you run?  Do you find value in every type of run or do you usually stick with just a few modes of running?  Any creative ideas come to you in the middle or after a run?

Thank you Wendy @TakingLongWayHome for including this book on your book club list.  I enjoyed reading it.

Also sharing this post with Ilka and Angela for their Sunday Food and Fitness link-up.

Disclaimer:  I am an Amazon affiliate which simply means if you’re interested in reading this book and click on the link provided below, I will earn a small chunk of change for promoting Amazon on my post.  Thanks for the support.

The Inner Runner: Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You