I’ll keep this short since all of us triathletes don’t have much time. There are a lot of terrible books out there that try and rope in triathletes and preach about things that are meaningless. These aren’t those books. These truly are the best triathlon books.
This book simply has to be #1. Yes, the title is aptly named. It has been read by every professional triathlete and most amateurs. If you happen to have missed this book then you need to pick up a copy and read the shit out of it.
Joe Friel is one of the most well known and best triathlon and cycling coaches in the world, and for good reason. He holds a masters in exercise science and has been training triathletes since 1980. He is one of only a handful of elite-level certified USA Triathlon coaches. He created the entire USA Triathlon Coaching Commission for goodness sake! He also founded a little site that you may have heard of: TrainingPeaks.
This book will help you learn, consider, and plan for every tiny little detail of your life as a triathlete. Planning a season, determining workouts for the week, and getting ready on race day are just a few topics that Coach Friel covers. You will become a better swimmer, cyclist, and runner from reading this book. And probably a better person in general.
“25 years of active multisport coaching has proven that Joe Friel has an unprecedented understanding of endurance sports. As a multiple triathlon world champion, I would consider Joe as one of the leading figures in triathlon coaching today. Joe’s professional approach and practical understanding of sports physiology has helped many endurance athletes of all abilities reach their full athletic potential.” ―Simon Lessing, 5-time Triathlon World Champion
“This book is a great buy for anyone who is serious about training for a multisport event!” ― Triathlonpal.com
Alright this is a bit unfair for every other author on this list, but for the purpose of learning consistency, I had to put this one at #2 on the best list. You wouldn’t watch a season of Breaking Bad and then watch a season of Game of Thrones, a season of House of Cards, and a season of The Big Bang Theory before coming back to watch the next season of Breaking Bad. So keep your train of thought after reading Coach Friel’s Triathlete’s Training Bible and pick up this book. Once you understand everything to do with a triathlon and the training necessary, you need to be able to understand and use all that data you are getting from your watch and bike devices. This book will help you decode all of it and teach you what to look for, how to use it, and what you should be shooting for.
“Friel does a good job of making sense of a topic that is confusing to many. Serious athletes and coaches will use this book as a reference for many years.” – Duathlon.com
After diving head first into a lot of triathlon knowledge and the fine details of triathlon training, I would advise taking a little break. Go ahead and step back and pick up a book that is still relatable but is sure to captivate and entertain all of you. Born To Run is just that book, which is why it is coming in at #3 on my list of best triathlon books.
Christopher McDougall is a Harvard educated world renowned journalist and author who has written for The New York Times, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Journal, and Men’s Health. And that was just before this book was even written. I don’t want to give too much away but this epic journey through the canyons of Mexico and beyond started with just a simple question that McDougall had after a run around the block; “Why does my foot hurt?”. From there the story is filled with history, action, adventure, interesting characters, and a pure love for running. After reading this book you will want to run 24/7.
“If you’re a runner now or hope to become one, this book is absolutely a must read. I would rank it as the most enjoyable running book that I have read, and probably one of the best books of any kind that I’ve read in a long time.” – Runblogger.com
Okay, now let’s get back into triathlons. More specifically, the Ironman distance and one of its most accomplished professionals: Craig “Crowie” Alexander. Crowie is one of the very few Ironman greats and has taken the World Champion title 3 times. Even if you never have plans of going pro in any triathlon distance, this book is a must read as you will see just how hard these people work to live out their dreams and goals.
Crowie is one of the finest examples of a professional athlete who didn’t get to the top by sheer “talent” or skill. He got there from hard work, good business, using his brain, and staying on the cutting edge of triathlon technology. His dedication to the world of Ironman should never be questioned and even in his retirement he continues to give back to the Ironman community arguably more than any other retired pro.
Besides insights into his legendary work ethic, this book is going to make you feel like his best friend watching him go about his life during the prime of his career. You will get commitment, failures, personal struggles, issues at home, focus, and a lot more. Hell, even the photographical journey in this book provided by the master Paul Robbins himself are worth the money for this epic triathlon book.
“This book is a great read; chalk full of photos, tips and stories that help you see the inside of a professional athlete’s life. ” – Blonderunner.com
Now that you have befriended one of the greatest male Ironman athletes ever, it is time to get cozy with the GOAT female Ironman to ever toe the line. No, I am not talking about Natascha Badmann, Erin Baker, or Paula Newby-Fraser. I am talking about the one and only Chrissie Wellington. Yes, I know that Paula has 9 Ironman world championship wins and Chrissie only has 4. However, Paula did 26 Ironman races. Chrissie did 13, and she won every single one of them. She still stands as the only triathlete (male or female) that has won the World Championship less than a year after turning professional. British Triathlon Federation said it was “a remarkable feat, deemed to be a near impossible task for any athlete racing as a rookie at their first Ironman World Championships.” She set a damn world record for ironman-distance with shingles! She had a hip injury, infected leg, and damaged pectoral and intercostal muscle when she won her final Kona in 2012. She used to beat most professional men at Kona. Nobody is better than her. Read her book.
“If a book has ever spoken to me with a title this was it…and I happily judged by the cover.” – Runtothefinish.com
6. Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide: Plans, Scheduling Tips, and Workout Goals for Triathletes of All Levels
This book is the best read for any triathlete that needs to understand training and training plans. It has 40 different training plans for all different race distances and abilities. It can take you from beginner triathlete to professional one training plan at a time.
“What I really like about this book is that it has 40 different triathlon training plans for different distances and ability levels.” – Runladylike.com
“This is a kick-ass book with over 40 plans from sprint distance to Ironman, beginner to advanced. It is a great way to find a pre-written training plan that could fit your needs, and has a lot of different types of workouts to keep things interesting.” – Snackinginsneakers.com
If you haven’t heard of Alberto Salazar I want you to give him a quick Google. He ran for Oregon, made the Olympic team, raced one race so hard he was read his last rights because they thought he was going to die, he won 3 consecutive New York marathons, won the Boston Marathon the only time he ran it (also being hospitalized because he didn’t drink once during the race), took a 10 year break, came back and won the 56 mile Comrades Marathon, then became a running coach to some of the greatest runners of this generation. His life is also swirling with doping allegations as a coach, wild stories, heart stopping health (literally), and more. His he insane? Most likely – but aren’t we all? Which is why this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys to run and more importantly, compete.
8. Strength Training for Triathletes: The Complete Program to Build Triathlon Power, Speed, and Muscular Endurance
All of you reading this have probably succumbed to the “screw strength training” mentality because you just wanted to swim, bike, or run more. I know I am guilty of it. However, the fact of the matter is that you will never reach your full potential, remain injury-free, and healthy without strength training. This triathlon book will guide you through exercises that will help you gain speed, power, and yes, even endurance. It will bring out the best in you one muscle at a time.
“Strength training often separates the top performers in triathlon from the middle of the pack. Even small improvements in muscle strength can add up to big race results. Strength Training for Triathletes makes it simple for triathletes of all levels to get stronger and race faster.” – Triathlete.com
9. Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
This man is a living legend in the health and fitness world. Rich Roll went from an overweight severe alcoholic to one of Men’s Fitness “25 fittest men in the world. He has done 5 Ironman races on 5 different Hawaiian islands over 5 days. He has taken the Ultra world by storm and he has done it all by the power of plants. That’s right folks, the man is vegan. I don’t want to spoil this any more than I already have so just do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You won’t be able to put it down.
“When you read a story like Rich’s, it makes you question what’s possible in your own life. If he can improve his fitness as quickly and as drastically as he did, then so might we.” – Nomeatathlete.com
Raise your hand if you have ever gotten super nervous prior to the start of a race. If you couldn’t tell I am raising my hand too. How about giving up when you notice someone catching you? The truth is that we all fight with our mind over so many things in our world of triathlon craziness. But we don’t have to. This book is a fascinating look into reshaping the way we think and how we can control some of those thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that next time we don’t choke or get the jitters.
“As athletes, we’ve all had those moments that test our mental limits, and the strategies you’ll find in The Brave Athlete can help you push through those limits. We’d highly recommend checking it out for yourself.” – Aerogeeks.com
11. The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory
Wrapping up our list of the 11 best triathlon books is this one. A remarkable true story about a group of kids from Maui who were challenged by their school teacher to become Olympic swimmers. They were malnourished, poor, barefoot, and had no pool. They trained in drainage/irrigation ditches that fed the sugarcane fields. However, despite their setbacks they started crushing Olympians twice their size and ending up with international fame. Then came the great World War. This is the perfect book to pick you up, warm your heart, and get you back on the trainer because you have already wasted too much time reading all these books.