Book Review: “Strong” By Kara Goucher

Towards the end of summer 2018 my running sister started reading “Strong” by Kara Goucher and sent me a copy before she was even halfway through it. The book breaks down ways to develop running confidence and zero in on strengths, weaknesses and building from it.

Self Help Book?

I’ve read my share of overly indulgent motivational, and supposedly inspirational books over the years.  This left me skeptical aside from Christine’s enthusiastic attitude.  However, I’ve always had the ability to temper preconceived notions and approach something with fresh eyes.  There is no doubt that “Strong” is an inspirational self help book, but unlike others I’ve experienced before this book spoke to me.

Confidence is something I think most of us struggle with.  It’s not something that comes naturally to most people.  Even if it does, the world tends to beat it out of you.  Media, social channels, entertainment and basically anywhere you look is a world telling us we aren’t good enough.  Perfection is the bar and yet even perfection for one point of view isn’t for another.  The standards set by society have set most of us up for failure…if that’s what we are striving for.  TV, social media and the world tell us how easy it is to be perfect, but it’s all a lie.

My Story

I’ve spent most of my life not fitting in anywhere.  I was a strange kid, particularly for a girl.  I was into nerdy things, I liked to play sports, and I was competitive by nature.  By the time I was a teenager I developed curves that I thought meant I was fat.  I was outspoken and challenged the ideas of others.  I had friends, but I never fully connected with anyone.  By high school I realized I wasn’t going to live up to societies ideals of beauty and success and I thought I didn’t care.  I already knew I wasn’t really interested in what most of my peers were and I had began to accept myself.  Let me be clear, this wasn’t confidence.  It was resolve.  I had rationalized myself as an outsider who didn’t really fit anywhere in the world. 

That “resolve” set me on a path of mediocrity.  In spite of being a successful student and dreaming big dreams it didn’t seem like my parents had much confidence in my future.  Somewhere along the way I even stopped believing I was smart enough to follow through with psychology and my talent as a writer was questionable.  What followed was a poor choice in men, a series of jobs that were beneath me, and letting go of the big dreams I once had.

Skip ahead 15 years or so and a lot has changed.  I am a lot more confident as a person in general, but that strength to chase goals or big things has still been something I haven’t entirely been able to overcome.  I spent most of 2017 and 2018 trying to build my confidence in life and used running as a tool to build it.  When I picked up “Strong” it was exactly the extra little bit of help and support I needed to take me to the next level.

The Book

There’s nothing remarkable about the writing, but what’s great about it is it is candid and straight forward.  It offers a set of exercises and tools that if you stick to can really help you develop the belief in yourself to push yourself further.  The tips are there for running, but the lessons are applicable to developing confidence in anything.  In fact, I passed the book on to my husband when I finished it and he is not a runner.

Not only did it reinforce some of the things I was already doing (while also helping explain WHY I was finally making progress when I hadn’t in the past) it gave me a bunch of great tips and exercises that helped me develop my running abilities even further.  As simple as it is the title speaks for itself.  I feel “Strong”.  Stronger than I ever have.

It’s also helpful to hear someone as successful as Kara and other successful women who have struggled and doubted themselves as well.  She had a sports psychologist guide her path to success and was generous enough to share some of those secrets with us.  The book is also fully interactive.  It forces you not to just read what to do, but asks you to participate.  Before you know it you are brainstorming ideas and thoughts that you didn’t recognize before.

Should You Read It?

I absolutely recommend this specifically to struggling runners, but also anyone who is fighting themselves.  Sometimes we really are our own worst enemy, but therein lies the opportunity to be our own biggest strength.  When you can own your words, your choices and your actions it is the most honest you can be with yourself.  Then you have the opportunity to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.  Pick one of these up for yourself and grab a copy for a friend and do it together!


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