The Best Books About Running, Nutrition, Cross Training and Mindset
Books about running, training, and motivation are a great way to learn more about the sport we love. As a coach, much of what I learned by coaching runners through experience, was foundational-based by applying what I learned through reading and studying dozens of books about running, nutrition, strength training, mindset and more.
Any simple Google search will come up with hundreds of suggestions on what are the best books about running to read. The list can be long and intimidating. So, where do you start?
Below I picked out some of my personal favorites to help guide you where to start, or where to look next for your next book.
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Imagine crushing your next 5K with world-class coaching in your pocket. “Fast 5K” by Pete Magill, a master coach who’s led 19 teams to championships and holds a stack of age-group records, makes that dream a reality.
This book isn’t fluff. It’s 25 laser-focused keys to unlock your fastest 5K ever. Master training secrets like optimal mileage, powerful tempo runs, and injury-proof techniques. Three 12-week plans and a 16-week plan let you choose your perfect path, while bonus tips on diet, weight, gear, and recovery fuel your race day dominance.
Dr. Philip Maffetone’s “Big Book of Endurance” offers a radical, individualized approach to achieving your athletic peak. Forget gimmicks and quick fixes. This system focuses on building a rock-solid aerobic base. Why?
- Torch fat, not muscle: Burn more fat as fuel, leading to weight loss and sustained energy.
- Boost immunity: Get healthy and stay healthy thanks to a strong immune system.
- Breakthrough plateaus: Train smarter, not harder, to unlock your true potential.
Dr. Maffetone also debunks popular myths holding you back:
- Slow & steady wins the race: Gentle training builds lasting endurance, letting you race faster.
- Fancy shoes, risky feet: Expensive footwear can worsen injuries. Invest in smart training, not overpriced gear.
- Carbs: friend or foe? Refined carbs zap your energy and disrupt your hormones. Choose smarter fuel sources.
This comprehensive guide unlocks the secrets to injury-free training, optimal health, and peak performance. It’s your one-stop shop for achieving endurance greatness.
Alex Hutchinson is a former national team distance runner and trained at Cambridge to become a physicist. His book, Endure combines science and storytelling to show readers that the mind is just as important as the body in overcoming barriers in training.
Hutchinson addresses many common barriers people face such as; fuel, oxygen, muscles, and pain and then gives a real-life account of someone who has surpassed those training barriers.
Robin Arzon is an ultramarathoner and a running coach who shows us that some times you just need to shut up and run! In her book, Arzon gives us tips and motivation to help us get out there and run and stay motivated when we’d really rather just sit on the couch all day. She gives advice on training, what gear to use, what kind of music to listen to and even has a place for you to track your progress and goals!
In this book, Runner’s World’s Meghan Kita, shows runners how to avoid a mid-run bathroom break! Kita also gives runners easy to use tips on everything from nutrition and training to tying shoes and post run recovery.
This book is for those that have fallen out of love with their running and are struggling to get back on their feet. David and Megan Roche detail the emotional and mental barriers that are keeping you from running happy and reaching goals. This book teaches runners how to balance effort with happiness so you can continue to make running fun.
Matt Fitzgerald makes his first appearance on this list with his book about running 80% of your runs at low intensity and 20% of your runs at a high intensity. This method of training helps prevent burnout and can be used for all level of runners from 5ks to ultramarathons. This book examines the science behind the method and gives runners actionable tools to add to their training.
Motivational Running Books To Keep You Going
Dean Karnazes, the man who brought ultramarathons to the mainstream, is still pounding pavement after three decades. This updated edition of his classic book serves up:
- Beyond the Races: More than just mind-bending tales of running through Death Valley’s heat and the South Pole’s cold, Karnazes dives deep into the secrets that keep him thriving at 50+.
- Health Pillars Revealed: What fuels his body? From supplements to sleep strategies, Karnazes lays bare the personal habits that keep him chugging.
- Aging Gracefully: Forget retirement, Karnazes shows how to push back against Father Time, mile after grueling mile.
- Living on the Edge: He candidly explores the challenges of balancing extreme running with family and a real-life job.
- Shaped by the Run: Beyond the trophies, Karnazes delves into how running forged his ironclad body, youthful energy, and wisdom.
This isn’t just a recount of achievements; it’s a raw and insightful look at one man’s obsession and the lessons learned along the way. Prepare to be inspired, motivated, and maybe even a little terrified by the lengths one athlete will go to.
Out-of-shape at 40, Rich Roll saw a grim future in the mirror. He ditched junk food, embraced plants and training, and within months, ran a near-marathon. Hungry for more, he set his sights on the grueling Ultraman World Championship: 320 miles of swimming, biking, and running. Conquered. But Rich pushed further, crushing the Epic5 Challenge: five Ironman triathlons, five Hawaiian islands, one week.
This isn’t just an adrenaline-pumping tale of superhuman feats. It’s an inspiring testament to human willpower. Having overcome a challenging childhood and battled alcoholism, Rich’s story is a powerful reminder of our potential. “Finding Ultra” is a beautifully written call to action, urging us to rethink our limits and go for it.
Bart Yasso, a legend in the running world, takes you on a globetrotting adventure in his memoir “My Life on the Run.” It’s more than just a collection of race stories; it’s a practical guide and a heartfelt tribute to the joys of running. I interviewed Bart on episode 37 of the RunBuzz podcast. We go into some of the details from his book.
From Antarctica to Nepal:
- Exotic Marathons: Discover the thrill of running marathons in far-flung locales like Antarctica, Africa, and Nepal. Yasso gives you the inside scoop on the best races and shares tips for navigating unfamiliar running grounds.
- Run for Life: Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or just starting out, Yasso provides training schedules for 5Ks, half marathons, and marathons. He also shares his insights on staying motivated and making running a lifelong passion.
- Embrace the Adventure: Every race is an adventure, and Yasso reminds us to savor the journey – from the pre-race jitters to the finish line exhilaration. He’s even been chased by a rhino in Nepal!
More than just miles:
“My Life on the Run” is more than just a running book. It’s a story about overcoming challenges, finding joy in unexpected places, and the transformative power of the sport.
While not completely about running, running does play a large role in the life of Louis Zamperini, who this book is based on. Unbroken follows Zamperini from a young man training for the Olympics in the mile and breaking records to a World War II bomber who gets stranded at sea for over a month. This book shows us that if you put your mind to it, you can not only survive, but you can also win.
Set during the Rwandan genocide, this fictional book follows Jean Patrick Nkuba as he runs through the Rwandan hills and dreams of Olympic gold medals but soon finds himself running for his life as the Hutu and Tutsi conflict grows.
26 Marathons: What I Learned about Faith, Identity, Running and Life from My Marathon Career by Meb Keflezighi
Most runners have heard of Meb and in this book, he shares with us what learned from the many marathons he has completed over the years. Meb takes us through each of the 26 marathons and tells us what challenges he faced, what the rewards were and he learned from the experience.
Catra Corbett has ran more than one hundred miles more than one hundred times and holds the fastest known record for the John Muir Trail, completing it in just over four days. But she wasn’t always a gifted runner. Corbett suffered from meth addiction for two years before getting arrested and turning her life around through running and sobriety which led her to become an ultramarathon leader.
No runner’s reading list would be complete without Born to Run, probably to most recommended book for any runner. Christopher McDougall sets out to find the Tarahumara Tribe in Mexico, the people of which run long distances mostly without shoes and without injury. McDougall wanted to see exactly why it was these Native Americans could run such distances without getting hurt when thousands of people around the world injure themselves during their runs.
The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long
Before: A seasoned New York City firefighter and dedicated athlete, Matt Long crushed triathlons and marathons, even snagging a coveted spot in the Boston Marathon.
The Turning Point: December 22, 2005. A devastating accident with a bus leaves Matt clinging to life with multiple injuries. Doctors doubt he’ll ever walk without a cane, let alone run again.
The Fight: Undeterred, Matt embarks on a grueling 18-month journey of physical and mental rehabilitation. He grapples with despair, loneliness, and the crushing thought of never competing at the top level again.
The Comeback: Three years later, against all odds, Matt crosses the finish line of the 2008 New York City Marathon. It’s a seven-and-a-half-hour struggle through the five boroughs, but every limping step is a testament to his unwavering spirit.
More Than a Marathon: “The Long Run” is Matt’s raw and emotional memoir. It’s a story of resilience, the power of community, and the unwavering human spirit that refuses to give up. Matt’s journey has inspired countless others, proving that even after facing the unthinkable, hope and recovery are always within reach.
A Beacon of Hope: Matt’s story transcends the world of running. It’s a powerful message of perseverance, proving that no matter the obstacle, the will to fight can lead to unimaginable triumphs.
Top Books about Running Nutrition
Scott Jurek is an ultramarathon runner and a vegan. In his book, he details his career as a champion runner and becoming a vegan. He believes runners should eat to fuel their runs, not just to fill their stomachs and includes his own recipes to get you started.
This cookbook highlights what marathon winner Shalane Flanagan ate during her training for the New York City Marathon. These recipes are fast, easy, and healthy but don’t sacrifice taste. The cookbook as everything from snacks, on the go meals and quick dinners for the busy runner that may not have a lot of time to cook.
Another book by Matt Fitzgerald, Racing Weight shows athletes how to lose weight without compromising their training. The book offers practical tips and food suggestions to get the fuel every athlete needs to stay healthy while also losing or maintaining weight for an event.
Runner’s World Meals on the Run: 150 energy-packed recipes in 30 minutes or less by Joanna Sayago Golub
This cookbook offers runners even more recipes to fuel their runs while staying healthy. With 150 recipes to choose from, you’re bound to find some favorites that you can cook up in less than thirty minutes and keep yourself from binging on junk food.
While this book isn’t athlete specific, In Defense of Food gives readers a look into how the Western diet has changed from wholesome food and easy to navigate nutrients to over processed, over complicated ingredients. Pollan shows us how to navigate all these new nutrients and how we can still eat wholesome and healthy.
The Top Books about Strength Training For Runners
This work out plan is a great tool for every level of runner that wants to begin cross training. This book targets connective tissues, muscles and the cardiovascular system and even helps with hormones and the brain! It features 150 workouts, interviews from leading runners, coaches and nutritionists, race strategies and more!
Jay Dicharry is a leading sports physical therapist and coach and came up with 15 workouts using cutting edge research and technology that will help with mobility problems, weaknesses and imbalances. In this book there are 15 self-tests to see how you are moving certain parts of your body, 83 exercises to build strength and 15 workouts to add to any training plan to boost your performance.
Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention by Jay Dicharry
Another book by Jay Dicharry, this one delves into how the body works, how running affects your body, and how your body affects your running. This book also contains mobility and stability tests and exercises to help strengthen weakness while really getting into what causes these weaknesses and how it can lead to injury.
Jeff Horowitz offers a stronger overall running body using two 20-minute workouts per week without having to have a gym. This includes 40 exercises with step by step instructions and pictures to make sure you’re doing them right and a full 8 week program to really build your strength.
Attain Peak Running Through Cross Training: How to Train Smarter to Become a Better Runner and Balanced Individual by Benjamin T. Mueller
This book dives into what helps people attain their peak running form from psychology and training, to recovery and nutrition. Mueller lays out the science behind cross training and offers strategies to build their overall fitness and run injury free.
The Best Books to Improve Your Running Mindset
This great book is about Japanese marathon runner Haruki Murakami who decided to keep a journal during his training for the New York Marathon. Murakami gives his insights about running and what he did to over come challenges he faced during training.
This book from Matt Fitzgerald examines elite athletes in various sports and what got them through some of their toughest races or events. Featuring post-race interviews, Fitzgerald gives us a glimpse of the mindset these elites have to truly become champions and gives us tips on how we can have strong minds as well as strong bodies.
Deena Kastor is an American running champion and Olympic gold medalist who almost quit running after college. Luckily, Colorado coach Joe Vigil added her to his team and changed her mindset from running as fast as possible so you don’t lose to a more positive and encourage outlook.
This book shows us how to change our way of thinking to be more encouraging to ourselves during a run and look at things from a more positive light.
Running is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Live Happier by ScottDouglas
We all know that running is good for the body and the mind but in this book we learn exactly how running can help you form a healthier brain. As many people have noticed, running makes you feel happier and that is because running is natural antidepressant and Douglas helps us use running to improve our mental health and lead happier lives.
The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports and Life by John Hanc and Travis Macy
In this book, accomplished ultramarathoner Travis Macy, tells us about his outlook he calls the “ultra mindset” that he uses in everyday life and helps him overcome many obstacles. Macy shows us how to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves and how to have a positive, hard working attitude about anything you do in life and how that can help you accomplish great things.
Bonus – My Favorite Training Journal For Runners
I personally use this journal to keep track of all my runs throughout the year. For those of you who like keeping a written record of runs this is a great tool!
It has a monthly tracker so you can easily see how many miles you ran in a month as well as weekly layouts to write in your workouts, how you felt about them, and how many miles you completed. The journal also features a few quizzes and some motivational pieces to help keep you on track.
- About the Author
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Steve Carmichael is a running coach, sports performance coach, nutrition coach and has been a recreational runner for over 18 years. Steve holds multiple certifications as a certified running coach through the RRCA and USA Track and Field as well as he is a NASM certified personal trainer, and PN1-L1 certified nutrition coach.
Steve has been coaching since 2010 and has helped thousands of runners online and in the Central Ohio area maximize performance and run injury-free.