this post is dedicated to my dear friend, Jon Grey (1988-2018), who first introduced me to Once a Runner. Jon, may your soul and your love for this sport live on through the rest of us still out on the roads.
If you ask me to list my top ten favorite books of all time, you might start to doubt my academic prowess – the top 7 are all Harry Potter. The bottom three are probably fiction too (never underestimate the power of fiction – it’s taught me a lot more than Tim Ferris ever has, tbh) However – if we narrow down that vast “favorite books” category to RUNNING books, or SPORTS books, or PT books….now that’s something blog-worthy! Indeed, I receive the “what books do you recommend for ____” question quite often, and it’s one of my favorites to answer. If nothing else, Aimee and I definitely live up to the “nerd” portion of Fit Nerd Physios – we read a LOT. So, runners and endurance athletes, if you need something to do between training sessions or whilst at the beach with family (“whilst”….maybe I do read Harry Potter too much…), here are my top-choice running-related reads
The Best How-To Guides: Anatomy for Runners and Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry
As a runner AND a physical therapist AND someone who’s struggled with running-related injuries for a long time (I’m human too, guys!)…how could I NOT nerd out over this?? In these books, Dicharry (a physical therapist and biomechanist who serves elite endurance athletes at REP Lab in Bend, Oregon) makes the case that our running form and economy is driven by our bodies – by our muscular strength and control, our tendons’ elasticity, and our range of motion – and that we can improve our form, increase our economy, and reduce our risk of injuries by optimizing our bodies. I wholeheartedly agree with everything he says in these books (Every other page, the little voice in my head was shouting out, “Preach, Jay!”). Dicharry touches on everything from proper footwear to optimal step length (cadence) to how power training can improve your run performance. He provides a systematic self-assessment for you to see where your weaknesses are, and provides an exhaustive list of exercises with which to improve on your shortcomings. Running Rewired is the same premise, but more detailed and more oriented towards performance than injury prevention. While I don’t agree with every single exercise he has listed (clamshells really just need to die tbh), and while you should ABSOLUTELY tailor the exercises to your own biomechanical needs (some exercises he provides did not make my FAI hip happy – good thing there is more than one way to achieve the goal of the exercise!) I recommend taking yourself through Anatomy for Runners first, mastering what he outlines there, and then going through Running Rewired second.
A word of caution: I first read Anatomy for Runners in 2013, before I had my master’s degree or my DPT…and I had no idea what was going on. I read it again this past summer, after my DPT graduation, and it was like reading a kid’s book. If you do not have a background in anatomy and physiology, you are likely going to struggle with this a bit – it’s NOT beach reading. But it’s worth it! Read it? Still have questions? don’t hesitate to shoot me an email, I’m more than happy to break down the science for you 🙂
-Power, Speed, Endurance by Brian Mackenzie (for triathletes)
–Roar by Stacy T. Sims (for females)
-Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett (written for CrossFit athletes but HIGHLY applicable to endurance athletes as well!)
The Best Entertaining Story: Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.
99.9% of us are never going to be able to run and train like Quentin Cassidy (nor should you….you can still get good training in without peeing blood….), but nonetheless, most of us runners will find this to be one of the most relatable pieces of fiction we’ve ever read. Parker is able to convey not only the physical aspects of running, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects as well. You will laugh, you will cry, and if nothing else, you will haul your a$$ out the door on the days you are least motivated.
–Again to Carthage by John L. Parker Jr (yes…another Quentin Cassidy story)
–Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
The Best Inspirational True Story: Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington
Chrissie Wellington is a FIVE TIME Ironman World Champion – arguably one of the best triathletes and female athletes this world has ever seen. Yes,, her thoughts on her athletic career and development are inspiring, but what really strikes me about this book (and gets me to read it again and again and again) is how her athletic career was really born out of a love for MOVEMENT….and, even better, how “athlete” is only one of the MANY ways that Chrissie defines herself. This book will help you take a look at who YOU are as a person, what role your athletic pursuits play in your life, and give you some things to think about in terms of living your best life – “without limits”. Also, as a bonus – GIRL POWER TO THE MAX.
–The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (totally not about running but if you’re an athlete then you just can’t NOT enjoy this true story of an underdog victory)
-Anything by Dean Karnazes
–Running for Women by Kara Goucher (can’t help it, I’m SUCH a Kara fangirl. This could also go under the “How-To” category as it gives helpful tips for female runners of all ages and abilities)
Lastly- Here’s what’s on my reading list this Summer!
–Endure by Alex Hutchison
-North by Scott Jurek
-Let your Mind Run by Deena Kastor
–You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
-……okay you caught me, the Harry Potter series…again…
Happy Running and Reading!