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How Cool Is ‘The Cool Impossible’?

the cool impossible

If you want to start a heated debate amongst a group of runners, you need just three words: “Born to Run.” People tend to be very much for or completely against barefoot running, and this book is kind of a bible when it comes to this polarizing topic.

The Cool Impossible is written by the coach featured in Born to Run, Eric Orton, former fitness director for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center turned personal running coach, and is designed to teach readers how to transition to “proper” running form, including both a training guide and nutrition suggestions, but that’s not all.

The book is framed around a fictional week you spend with Orton for training, which, in theory, sounds really cool — he takes you through what a seven-day running camp with him in Jackson Hole would look like. I would like to go to Jackson Hole. I’d be into checking out a running camp. How could this go wrong?

The problem is, in trying to describe how you, the reader, are feeling and what you’re experiencing, Orton distracts from the actual purpose of the book. The 250-page book could’ve easily been considerably shorter, and still full of the same helpful information, without the unnecessary “bonus” narrative. For example, after an early run he takes the reader up the mountains of Snow King Resort; he writes: “Now slow down; come and sit beside me on the lakeshore. Good. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Go ahead — take your shoes off; I know you want to slip those tired feet into the cold blue water of Jenny Lake. Nice, right? Hopefully, you feel a kind of open flow through your body, a relaxed sense of connectedness.”

There are a lot of these interjections to break up the more clinical info about running form and proper training, which is a shame, because the training information is certainly interesting, if a bit intimidating. Phase 1 of his training is 12 weeks long, and Phase 2 is nine weeks, neither of which you should even begin until you’ve finished the running transition program, which should take four to six weeks. It’s intense, and it’s kind of all-consuming, making it a great option for people really interested in reshaping their run form in a way least likely to lead to injury.

Orton is a big advocate of extremely clean eating, opting out of basically all processed foods and strongly recommending you do the same. He gets a bit preachy on the topic — it’s clear that it’s all coming from a good place in his heart, and it’s a natural assumption that anybody picking up this book would be at least open to the information, but, still. Orton’s statement that “moderation is mediocrity” rubbed me the wrong way. He aims to eat perfectly 95 percent of the time, saving 5 percent of the time for whatever he wants, but also says he goes weeks without a sweet treat. It seems like an awfully strict way to live, but, then again, he is speaking to serious and elite (or would-be elite) athletes. All I know is, I finished the nutrition section feeling frustrated and bad about myself rather than inspired and motivated to make some amazing, unprocessed food, which is funny since I was feeling so positive about it from the cookbook I recently reviewed.

Fit Bottomed line: There’s some really great information in here about running, training and nutrition. There really is. But be aware that it’s not a light read and there’s not much of an option to kind of try it out — following the plan laid out in “The Cool Impossible” is a pretty all-or-nothing venture. For the right person ready to commit, though? Solid. Assuming you don’t get distracted or annoyed by the “You’re in Jackson Hole with me and isn’t it pretty?” narrative that, if you ask me, belongs on a brochure for his training camp more than in the book.

Have you read “Born to Run”? Do you think this book would be your cup of (unsweetened, organic) tea? —Kristen

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