When it comes to mastering the art of triathlon, knowledge is power. Whether you're a seasoned athlete looking to improve your performance or a beginner seeking guidance, all of us have things we can improve on. In this article, we dive into books that will help you win. And by win, I don't necessarily mean win the race, but win the preparation that will give you the ability to perform at your best.
A Personal Story
Back in 2008, I was preparing for my first triathlon in the mountains of Utah. I didn't have a coach, and articles on the internet were hit or miss. So, I dove into books as part of my training regimen. Having those resources as a guide was tremendously helpful because they helped me prepare mentally for what I was going to face on the course. Of course, once the race actually started, I was still a fish out of water. But, as I settled in, I was able to lean on my training and actually finish in the top twenty overall despite having some issues with my bike. I look back on that race with positive eyes because I did the best with what I had.
The 9 books below are all phenomenal in their own right. While some focus more on training, Iron War is an awesome story of two guys getting the absolute most out of themselves through the inspiration of the other.
My goal for this list is to help you get 1% better. If you can learn something new, find some inspiration, or even just spend some time in thought contemplating how your approach compares to others, that's a win.
The Best Triathlon Books
1. "Triathlon Training Bible" by Joe Friel
If there's one book that deserves a prominent spot in every triathlete's library, it's "Triathlon Training Bible" by Joe Friel. Known as the triathlon coach extraordinaire, Friel offers a comprehensive guide that covers all aspects of triathlon training, from swim technique to race-day strategies. The book combines scientific principles with practical advice, providing readers with a well-rounded understanding of the sport. Friel's expertise and engaging writing style make this book a must-read for athletes of all levels.
2. "Going Long: Training for Triathlon's Ultimate Challenge" by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn
For those brave souls looking to tackle the Ironman distance, "Going Long" is a gem worth exploring. Authored by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn, this book provides an in-depth look at the unique demands of long-distance triathlon training. From building endurance to managing nutrition and pacing, the authors leave no stone unturned. What sets this book apart is the blend of practical advice and inspiring stories from real athletes who have conquered the Ironman challenge. It's like having a personal coach cheering you on throughout your journey.
3. "Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run" by Matt Fitzgerald
For triathlon history buffs and fans of legendary rivalries, "Iron War" by Matt Fitzgerald is a page-turner that chronicles the epic battle between Dave Scott and Mark Allen at the 1989 Ironman World Championship. Fitzgerald paints a vivid picture of the race and delves into the minds of these two extraordinary athletes, offering valuable insights into the mental and physical aspects of endurance sports. This book is a testament to the indomitable spirit of triathletes and their unwavering pursuit of greatness.
4. "The Power Meter Handbook" by Joe Friel
In the world of triathlon, data-driven training has become increasingly important, and "The Power Meter Handbook" by Joe Friel is a must-have resource for athletes looking to harness the power of technology. Friel dives deep into the science behind power-based training, explaining how to interpret and utilize the data collected from power meters effectively. With practical tips, training plans, and case studies, this book equips triathletes with the tools they need to optimize their performance and train smarter, not harder.
5. "Fast-Track Triathlete" by Matt Dixon
For triathletes juggling the demands of work, family, and training, "Fast-Track Triathlete" by Matt Dixon provides invaluable guidance on finding balance and maximizing performance. Dixon, a renowned triathlon coach, shares his proven methods for efficient training, recovery, and time management. By offering customizable training plans that accommodate busy lifestyles, this book empowers athletes to pursue their triathlon goals without sacrificing other important aspects of their lives.
6. "Triathlon Anatomy" by Mark Klion and Troy Jacobson
Understanding the intricacies of human anatomy and its application to triathlon is crucial for optimizing performance and preventing injuries. "Triathlon Anatomy" by Mark Klion and Troy Jacobson offers a comprehensive visual guide that explores the muscles, movements, and biomechanics involved in triathlon disciplines. With detailed illustrations and explanations, this book helps triathletes develop a deeper understanding of their bodies and make informed training decisions that enhance efficiency and minimize the risk of injuries.
7. "The Well-Built Triathlete" by Matt Dixon
In "The Well-Built Triathlete," Matt Dixon presents a holistic approach to triathlon training that encompasses not only physical fitness but also mental resilience, nutrition, and recovery. Dixon draws from his experience coaching elite athletes and provides practical strategies for optimizing training adaptations, overcoming obstacles, and unlocking untapped potential. This book serves as a comprehensive guide for triathletes seeking to elevate their performance to new heights.
8. "Triathlon for the Every Woman" by Meredith Atwood
Triathlon is not limited to the elite; it is a sport that can be embraced by athletes of all backgrounds and abilities. "Triathlon for the Every Woman" by Meredith Atwood is an empowering book that celebrates the journey of women in triathlon. Atwood shares her personal experiences, challenges, and triumphs, inspiring readers to believe in their own potential and pursue their triathlon dreams. This book is a reminder that the joy and fulfillment found in triathlon are accessible to everyone, regardless of their starting point.
9. "Triathlon for Beginners" by Dan Golding
Looking to train for your first triathlon? This book covers various aspects related to triathlon, including training strategies, nutrition guidelines, essential equipment and gear, motivation techniques, and tips for participating in races. It aims to provide a solid foundation of knowledge for those who are just starting their triathlon journey, offering insights into the different disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running, as well as how to effectively transition between them. I would recommend as the "go to" beginners guide to triathlon training.
While We're At It
As many of you know, I live in Minnesota, and that means a lot of indoor swimming (and just generally being indoors) for 5+ months out of the year. One thing I've enjoyed is using underwater headphones. When this concept was introduced several years ago, it was like the greatest thing since sliced bread. The quality at that time was hit or miss.
Today, there are a lot of brands available (and cheaper versions straight from China). If you're looking for some that consistently work well, check out the brand, Shokz. Besides working well for me, they consistently get good reviews.
I hope you found value in this list. One thing that I appreciate as I've gotten older is that I'm always learning new things. Sometimes, even a short story can change my perspective on something or make me think, "why do I do it that way?"
If you want to explore Running Books, Swimming Books, or Cycling Books in more detail, we have some great resources for all three.
For additional book recommendations on various sports, check out our Recommendations page.
We also have a killer article on Sports Nutrition that you should check out if you're looking for advice there.
Last, if there is a book you'd like us to check out, please shoot us a note below in the comments or via our Contact page!
Cheers to your next Tri!
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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