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5 Books Every Distance Coach Should Read

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Author: Jack Daniels, PhD

If you've never read a book on training, make this the first book you read.

Dr. Daniels was an Olympic athlete, an exercise scientist and an NCAA championship coach. And if you've ever watched him speak at a clinic or viewed his presentation videos at the Run S.M.A.R.T Project you will immediately realize his best trait is that he's an outstanding teacher. This ability allows him to succinctly convey information in his writing as well. Daniels is able to take one of the most complex subjects (human physiology) and deliver it in a manner that us common-folk can understand.

Many people use the books for his vDOT charts, as they give coaches and athletes intensity guidance for different types of workouts based on current race performances. The vDOT charts give specific pace guidelines for the six different types of workouts that Daniels prescribes: Easy Runs (E), Marathon Pace Runs (M), Threshold Training (T), Interval Workouts (I), Repetitions (R) and Fast Repetitions (F).

Daniels also includes sample training plans for the 800-Marathon.

Most people will jump right to the vDOT charts and the training plans. However, the pure gold is found in the "meat" of the book: the chapters where Daniels teaches the concepts of training and the physiology behind all of the workouts we do.

Whenever I re-read sections of Daniels Running Formula (usually each summer), it's to hopefully pick up a hidden gem that I hurried past in previous readings.

If you are using the vDOT charts, I would also adjust the Easy (E) pace for high school students by adding 30-60 seconds to the pace of the runs. In the chapters, Daniels writes that the benefits of Easy Runs are at a pace in the range of 59-74% vVO2 and the charts seem to be more towards the 74% side than the 59% number.

I would also suggest (as Daniels does in the chapters) that high school students use Marathon (M) Pace for continuous Tempo Runs.

Author: Daniel Coyle

If all we have is solid training, that doesn't guarantee that our teams are going to be any good. Creating a culture that students want to be a part of is paramount.

Coyle uses examples from various fields to show how highly successful groups are created, and oftentimes, it's not necessarily we think great businesses and teams are created.

Coyle writes about how building safety is one of the best ways to create a successful team. This includes asking lots of questions, everyone talks to everyone, eye-contact, close proximity, etc.

Other concepts in the book are the importance of creating belonging, how to be an effective leader, tips of providing negative feedback and how to re-create people/group's "story".

Excellent book. I look at the notes I took from reading the book often. Creating a culture isn't something that comes natural to me, so this book is a big help.

Author: James Radcliffe

This is absolutely my favorite book on training. As I looked up the book on Amazon, I realized it's like $6 right now, so I'm definitely buying a second copy. James Radcliffe (author) has been the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the University of Oregon since 1986 and has worked with Olympians like Nick Symmonds per his training log.

Radcliffe is straight to the point, using the first section of the book to provide a quick synopsis of the "why's" behind everything, followed by a quick "how-to" guide.

Sometimes the best thing to do when you're just starting to implement new concepts is to straight up copy someone who knows what they're doing: and Radcliffe- a giant in the S&C world- knows what he's doing.

Need a Dynamic Warm-Up? Check.

Need a Core Routine? Check.

Need a Periodized Strength Training Program for distance runners? Check.

All workouts have instruction and pictures to go with. This book is a no-brainer.

Author: Jay Dicharry

You should probably first read Dicharry's book, Anatomy for Runners as it is somewhat of a pre-requisite to understand why behind all of the different routines in Running Rewired.

What I like most about Dicharry's writing is that he is great at using analogies to make sense of tricky biomechanical concepts.

Dicharry's routines will help your athletes move better and hopefully reduce their chance at getting an overuse injury. Velopress has a video of one of the routines (Hip Circuit) from the book along with a few other videos of Dicharry explaining posture and how the foot works.

Personally, I need to re-examine this book and think about implementing more of Dicharry's ideas.

Author: Greg McKeown

This book shows you how to cut out the crap and focus on what really matters. I am actually re-reading this book right now and will likely make a habit of re-reading it every year.

One of the major themes (well, the theme of the book) is "Less, but Better". I try to think about this whenever I write training or even when I am addressing my team.

Looking at my notes, a favorite was when McKeown quoted John Maxwell as writing, " cannot overestimate the importance of almost everything."

Some of the contents I liked best in the book:

* Making trade-offs: what problems do I want

* The Power of a Graceful "No"

* One decision that makes a thousand (like the book, "The One Thing")

This book is somewhat similar to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* but with way less F-Bombs, which was sort of a turn-off for me.

That's it. If you have books that you think coaches should read, please post them here.


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