I spend a lot of my days researching running science, training principles, and nutrition. It is my passion and simply fascinates me. I can’t get enough of the information and am always looking for the next great book to make sense of the sport and activity I love. So far, I have developed quite the expansive library on the topic, sitting at around 100 books or so with still many more to buy and read. For now, I wanted to share with you the top 10 books on running science, training principles, and nutrition. Enjoy:
I first found out about this book when going through my Level 1 Natural Running Coach certification. It was a required reading for the course, so I picked it up. With a name like “Anatomy for Runners“, I was expecting a dry, long read on human anatomy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dicharry, MPT, SCS, does an amazing job at crafting a book that is easily read by all levels. The dry sense of humor carried throughout the book keeps you laughing and enthralled in the read. He focuses on a wide variety of topics including: biomechanics, micro anatomy, soft tissue mobility, footwear, running science, and the running gait. He has a knack for developing imagery and analogies to help the common man understand is typically complex anatomy and science. I quote this book more than any other book in my collection and continue to return to it for reference and re-reads. It is an absolute must that you buy this book and use it often.
2. Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury-Free Running - Peter Larson and Bill Katovsky
Tread Lightly was another book that was required reading for the Level 1 Natural Running Coach course. Larson, Ph.D Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Katovsky, Tri-Athlete Magazine Founder, do a great job at covering the wide gamut of running in a way that we all can understand. They cite a variety of studies and tests to back up their information as well as provide places to go for more information. The book tackles the evolution of running, running injuries, running form, running shoes, foot strike, nutrition, biomechanics, running science, and much more. They have some amazing things to say not only in the book but with Pete’s blog as well: www.runblogger.com.
Natural Running was one of the first books I ever read that inspired me to reconsider running form and what it all meant. For the longest time, I had always believed that we “ran the way we ran” and that was it. I assumed that running was not like other sports and did not need certain skills and techniques. Natural Running helped me to think otherwise and refine my movement patterns for more efficient, healthier running. Danny is a master at walking you through the running gait and biomechanics of the foot. He has a fantastic grasp on the material and translates it well to everyone both in the book and in person. The book finishes with an eight week transition plan to natural running to help ensure an effective, injury-free transition. The book also hits on some of the history of Danny and his co-founding of Newton Running. If you ever get the chance to join Danny for one of his Saturday morning Natural Run Clinics in Boulder, Colorado, make sure you do, it’s a treat. He is by far the most passionate and happy runner I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life.
For a long time I believed that the best way to train was to simply go out and run hard. I thought little of rest and recovery days and subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” mentality. I was very wrong. Throughout high school and college, some were able to get through to me with training principles, but nothing worked as well as Daniel’s Running Formula. I read this book when I was working on starting up my coaching company and it changed my view on training drastically. Daniels goes deep into the running science of training and explains why certain things work and others don’t. He is a student of Lydiard as it shows in the training plans he gives in the book. They focus on periodization of training and peaking at just the right time for the big race. Reading this book has changed my training completely and has led me to far more effective training with less injuries. A bit of a tougher read, but definitely pick it up!
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were as athletic and poised as a leopard? If we were ready to strike at any moment, enlisting all of our muscles and fibers to work together to perform an action? That’s the goal of Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett. Starrett focuses on educating you about the movement and mobility systems of the body as well as how to stabilize your body. Most of us have failed to learn the correct movements and stabilization techniques and as a result, we are led to injuries. Starrett teaches us how to get in the correct positions and how to break up fascia to increase our range of motion for all activities. If you want to learn how to keep yourself in the best posture as well as how the body works and moves, pick this book up!
Not so long ago, I was a very stressed out runner who also happened to have pretty bad form. I put a lot of pressure on myself for both races and training runs. It was unnecessary and only served to hamper my runs. Chi Running helped get me to relax during my running as well as to find a more efficient running form. Dreyer takes a lot of time to focus on running in harmony with our natural movements as well as the mental aspects of running. I got a lot of great analogies from Dreyer on how to run correctly that I use when coaching others. This book is a great read for both your mental and physical health during running.
If you’re looking for a truly holistic book on training, Dr. Phil Maffetone has made it with The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. Dr. Maffetone spares no detail as he goes through building the endurance foundation, diet and nutrition, and the importance of self-care and injury prevention. The book features 34 detailed chapters over 516 pages with a great index to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. One of the top pieces of running science in the book is the MAF test, which focuses on going slower to get faster. Maffetone has helped a myriad of triathletes and runners recover from over training and brings all aspects of their training together. A must have for every runner’s bookshelf.
If you’re looking to get into the nitty-gritty of how your body works, then Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain is the book for you. This resource details how all the muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments work together to move us. My favorite chapters are the ones towards the end that focus on the lower body, specifically the foot. It can help you to understand the real source of an injury by looking at how you are connected inside, it’s not quite what you think. Pick this one up as a great reference, especially to help diagnose what may be going on with an injury.
When one hears the Lydiard name, it is met with great reverence. Lydiard revolutionized the running world by developing his periodization of training. Lydiard was able to connect the dots as to what was working and why. The tales of those he coached are legendary and he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest running coaches the world has ever seen. Most all of his training principles still hold up today and guide the top runners to the pinnacle of our sport. A fantastic read that is easy and offers lots of great advice to merge into your own training.
Say what you will about the message of Born to Run or how the message was taken, McDougall is a fantastic story-teller and the book is a fun read. No matter where you stand on the barefoot argument, McDougall is a master at crafting a story that goes down one path, diverts to another story, and then comes full circle. I found Born to Run to be a gripping read that inspired me to further research running on all fronts. I can still remember sitting on my porch reading this gem then heading to Amazon.com to buy a slew of books on running and running science. If you’re looking for a great story or a look into the barefoot debate, pick up Born to Run and enjoy the ride.
I hope that you find a few of these books on running science, training, and anatomy as entertaining, enlightening, and as useful as I have. I love each and every one of these books and often pull them off the shelf for reference and to re-read them. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, please comment with your favorites so I can add them to my reading list!
Always in Stride,