While I’m a technical guy, I’m completely fascinated by the human body—perhaps one of the most complex and adaptable machines we’ve ever seen. For me, learning about it and understanding the intricacies of how our bodies work–especially from a performance perspective–is pure joy. I simply can’t get enough.
Need a Personal Trainer?
Talk to Darrell. He works over at the Columbia Athletic Club and has a diverse background. He’s an athlete, a martial artist, and a Tough Mudder (he’s participated in World’s Toughest Mudder several times, not to mention loads of obstacle races in the surrounding area). He also runs the Basic Training program at the club–a great way for folks to get started with their fitness–which has one of the best communities I’ve ever been involved with. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, become fit for life, or are training for competition, he’s got the skills to help you.
Building Your Running Body by Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz, and Melissa Breyer – This is a fantastic book. I believe in understanding the science behind training and this book goes into great depth about the science of running. Pete is a Masters runner, and brings that experience as well by discouraging overtraining, having a holistic approach, and understanding the really small details–such as connective tissue and muscle adapting at different rates. It’s definitely a great read.
Training for the Uphill Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnson – The thing I love most about this book is that it shows how aerobic threshold changes as you progress. Other books touch on it, but seeing pictures really affects your understanding. All the details make this book an excellent resource.
Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stablity, Strength, and Speed by Jay Dicharry – It turns out that running isn’t quite as natural as we think. Or rather, it is but then we lose it due to all the modern things around us. Jay’s book helps you identify your weaknesses and strengthen the right areas to correct issues that can cause you long-term pain or damage. And it’s all surprisingly simple.
Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking You Athletic Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention by Jay Dicharry – Title says it all.
Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance by Jason Koop – I must admit, I’ve never run a marathon nor an ultramarathon so I can’t speak to what that experience is like. What I can say is that Jason is a no-nonsense kind of guy who leverages science to advance ultrarunning. He’s methodical, meticulous, careful and probably the best ultrarunning coach in the nation. This book is actually good for all runners, but it’s especially useful those looking to prepare for an ultra.
80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald – If you read the other books you’ll find that this presents a similar theme: you need to run slow to prepare to run fast. Easy read and an excellent book–though I personally prefer Training for the Uphill Athlete better.
Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchison – This book is just a fun and informative read. I’m enthralled by the abilities of the human body and this book is full of stories about people who push the boundaries, the theories behind how they can do it, and some insight on just how much further we may be able to go. Alex is a fantastic author and journalist… you should read everything he writes.
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelley Starrett – Excellent book on identifying your own aches and pains, helping to resolve them, and how to prevent them in the future. Dr. Starrett is big on being able to take care of yourself, so he strives hard in his book to give you both the knowledge and the tools to do so. Not necessarily an easy read, and more of a reference, but it’s full of great information.
- Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden – Covers just about every recovery tool and modality available. Not to ruin the ending, but the absolute top two practices you can do for yourself are really quite simple: get more sleep, and take an actual rest day (no workout of any kind).
Health and Medicine
Back Mechanic by Stuart McGill – A friend, Darrell Gough, who is a Personal Trainer with the Columbia Athletic Club, recommended it to me, and it is by far the best book I’ve read on rehabilitating and taking care of your back. Stuart has 30+ years of experience as a doctor and a researcher, and it shows. Listen to a podcast with him and you’ll quickly discover that he’s an expert in the field. He’s quick to point out where ill advice is often given, why it’s bad, and what to do instead. And the book leads you through steps to help resolve your own issues. Well worth the read if you suffer from back problems. If you’re an athlete, you might also be interested in Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman – I heard about this book via NPR years ago when I heard Dr. Jerome Groopman discussing many issues surrounding treatment of patients, and his own personal experience. This book is part of my “Scary Book” collection as it dives deep into the issues, the limits of medicine, and just how helpless it can feel if we don’t advocate for ourselves and seek proper treatment. It’s well worth reading.
Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch – Challenges a lot of current thinking, in particular with prescriptions and treatments that have only been studied in extreme cases and don’t have the studies to backup usage in the average case. It also calls into question things like the PSA test, which the inventor himself has come forward and said not to use.
The Skeptic’s Guide to Sport Science by Nicholas Tiller – Modeled somewhat after The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, this book dives into the role of critical thinking when it comes to sports science, and then moves on to debunk much of what is out there and in vogue today. This is a bit difficult of a read–it tends to be preachy in places, and perhaps not down to Earth enough–but the content is really good, and he’s done a load of research to help support his position–which I believe to be correct. There’s a lot of sham practices, gadgets, and methodologies out there, and his aim is to give you the tools to identify them yourself.
Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan – Full of great recipes to help fuel your training sessions. For me, it helps to serve as a guide on the kinds of things I should be doing, and the kinds of things that I can do to help myself nutrionally. It also serves as inspiration for things to try when I get bored of my current dietary choices. If you like this book, you’ll also like her second book, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow..
International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: nutritional considerations for single-stage ultra-marathon training and racing. by Nick Tiller et al. – A very good paper on the current state-of-the-art understanding of nutrition and hydration as it pertains to single-stage ultra-marathon events (which encompasses the majority of them). It’s actually a very good read even if you’re not at all interested in ultra-marathoning. Jason Koop also did a fantastic job of capturing the highlights in two articles (here and here).
The question about what I use comes up from time to time, so here’s a sampling of what I have:
- Salomon Advance Skin 5 Running Pack – with a self-assembled first aid kit that I take with me everywhere
- Saucony Peregrine 7 Trail Shoes
- Altra Escalante 2 Road Shoes
- Suunto 9 Baro Watch
- Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
- Stryd Power Meter
- Training Peaks – to keep track of training stress
- DexShell Waterproof Socks – for when it’s cold and I’ll be running through streams
- AllTrails – for planning my trail runs