Triathlon Training, 7 Books To Read

The Triathlon. You either made the choice and signed up or you at least have the desire.

These books give you the knowledge needed to plan for every detail of your training on the path to becoming a triathlete.

You will learn:

  • How to plan your training season
  • How to design weekly workout progressions
  • How to leverage Nutrition to fuel your body and mind
  • And obviously, How to become the best Swimmer, Cyclist and Runner you can be.

Ultimately, you are on the path to becoming the best version of you. It’s not an easy path, but it is well worth the transformation!

When we make the choice to participate in a Triathlon we are placed in one of three groups.

Which group are you in?

  • The Bucket List: Your single act of doing a race so you can say, Once and For All, you’ve done it.
  • The Mid-life Crisis: You need to recalibrate your entire life and are using a Triathlon as that vehicle.
  • The Triathlete: This is the whole mix of athletic individuals, from beginners to pros, the-in-it-to-win-its.

I will mention: many Bucket Listers and Mid-lifer’s turn into Agro or at least consistent Triathletes once they cross the finish line. This is common with many sports so keep that in mind while washing the puke off your face during the training sessions that this may pan out to be your new found passion.

Granted, making the choice to participate in your 1st triathlon or your 20th can be intimidating or motivating. If this is your 20th Triathlon I expect you to have taken the time to read at least one of the books I am about to mention. I also hope a few of these reads are a new thought for you. Trust me, the mix of literature will deliver what you need to succeed. Just like that weird soup your grandma made with an unknown number of ingredients… trust these books, just like grandma’s soup, it’s always amazing!

Remember, we have plenty of time to learn while we train or after training, during recovery time.

If this is your first attempt at a Triathlon and you cringe at the thought of spending extra time reading, on top of the time you spend training… take a reality check and leverage the tech you have access to. Download Audible, Spotify or any other Audio Book application and increase your ability to absorb useful information during your radical training sessions.

Train your brain with your body. Music is great but is better when cycled at rhythm with books.

This one piece of advice can do wonders for you. Trust me. Music can be motivating, but one book can change your life. Cycle music with books while training and create a new rhythm for your life.

With all time related ventures remember that Einstein reinvented the model of time. Here is a reminder if you didn’t know… Einstein handed us the keys to release us from the Handcuffs of our Newtonian concept of time.

Einstein Time is Relative, we create our own time.

If you need more time in your day… just wake up earlier.

1 – The Triathlete’s Training Bible: The World’s Most Comprehensive Training Guide

After reading a stack of suggested training literature and listening to a months worth of Audio books it is easy to choose the number one book for Triathlon Training.

Pound for pound this book takes #1 to head the list. When someone with the knowledge and hands on experience puts a book like this together, offering you all the information you need to succeed, you have to make sure every player on the field knows about it.

Amateur or Pro, it doesn’t matter. If you want to have a great triathlon experience, get this book and study up.

Here is a highlight of the Author’s achievements to help you see that he has the hands on experience necessary to convey this knowledge.

Enter Joe Friel:

  • Highly recognized as one of the best triathlon & cycling coaches in the world.
  • Earned a Masters in Exercise Science
  • Elite Triathlete Trainer since 1980
  • Member of a small group of Elite-Level Certified USA Triathlon Coaches.
  • Creator of the USA Triathlon Coaching Commission.
  • Founder of Training Peaks

After reading this book you will have your map in mind from the 1st training day to race day what you need to do to have a successful race completion.

Book now finished, you fully understand that pro triathlete’s are master planners, not just at planning the race but in designing their life. And now you can too! You now have the foundation to move forward with the new found knowledge you were lacking to make that far fetched dream a self actualized reality! Now it’s time to craft actual ability through experience and begin. Don’t wait, just start and you’ll get there… most likely finding yourself in the process.

My favorite quote from the book:

“But there always have been, and probably always will be, five ingredients for success in sport: Purpose: Know exactly what your goal is. Passion: Have a burning desire to achieve it. Planning: Determine how you’ll go about achieving it. Perspiration: Work hard, following your plan to achieve it. Perseverance: Don’t let anything get in the way of achieving it.”
Joe Friel, The Triathlete’s Training Bible

2 – Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier

In Memory of Terry Laughlin, The Author, who passed away on this day last year. October, 20 2017
Thank you for being such a great example to the World. May your dream live on with every person that learns to swim.
While studying the art of swimming it shocked me when I came across the statistic that over half of American’s do not know how to swim. With 71% of the Earth’s surface covered in water and our nation covered with lakes, rivers and swimming pools it is incredible that over 50% of able bodied Americans are incapable of performing the five core principles that are fundamental in order to swim. Even more shocking is the other half that can swim, only 20% of that group are able to swim well enough to save someone drowning or in need of help.
This is shocking information as well as motivating. Placed at the top of the list of abilities everybody should be proficient in… and it all starts with you. You, learning to swim better and easier than you ever imagined. Teaching others by simply being the example.
Those of us that can swim think we are pretty good at it, until we discover how to really swim. To swim effortlessly. This book and accompanying DVD (see below 2.1) changed my relationship with water and transformed the way I swim today. To the large majority, swimming can be fun but is ultimately an exhausting activity. Let’s change that national misperception by spreading the word and influencing others through mastering the simple principles this book and training program have to offer.
For more information checkout the website here: Total Immersion The (TI Method)
Here are a few highlights from the book that will help you on all your future swims:
“All efficient swimmers—which means nearly all the fast ones—seem to have a more instinctive sense of how to keep their bodies in the best position for slipping easily through the water, gliding as far as possible with the least possible effort.”
Terry Laughlin, Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier

“kinesiologists estimate at least 70 percent of your swimming performance is determined by how well you streamline your body and only 30 percent by how fit or powerful you are.”
Terry Laughlin, Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier

2.1 – Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons 

Although this Article is focused on books… in my experience, this DVD goes hand in hand with the book listed above. For those of you that are more visually wired, watching this video will help you mirror and model the movements and dive into the true mastery of swimming.

“So goal one for anyone who wants to swim better and faster is a longer stroke. This can happen in two ways: (1) more push—using your hands and feet to thrust your body farther through the water by making each stroke as powerful as possible; and (2) less drag—shaping your body so it’s more friction-free, allowing it to travel farther with the power each of your strokes is already producing.”
Terry Laughlin, Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons

3 – The Cyclist’s Training Bible: The World’s Most Comprehensive Training Guide

 These next two books, yes both of which are also written by Joe Friel, are incredibly important if you want the key to a successful triathlon. It’s not just about riding a bike leisurely for 20 miles, it’s about operating a machine while maintaining the engine at optimal output the entire time. You are the engine. If you are taking on an Ironman you know that this is critical to your performance as you will be cycling over 100 miles if you intend to do a full Ironman. Becoming a great cyclist has many advantages on and off the road.

Most cyclists think that strength training isn’t necessary since cycling is such an exercise in and of itself, here is a paragraph from the book which will convey the importance of strength training to improve your cycling game:

“Every successful athlete I have trained has lifted weights for at least part of the season.”
Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible

“HIP EXTENSION: SQUAT QUADRICEPS, GLUTEUS, HAMSTRINGS Improves force delivery to the pedals in cycling. For the novice, the squat is one of the most dangerous exercises in this routine. Great care is necessary to protect the back and knees. If you are concerned about injury, use a machine to perform an assisted squat. Wear a weight belt during the MT and MS phases. Stand with the feet pedal-width apart, about 10 inches (25 cm), center to center, with toes pointed straight ahead. Keep the head up and the back straight. Squat until the upper thighs are just short of parallel to floor—about the same knee bend as at the top of the pedal stroke. The knees point straight ahead, staying over your feet at all times. Return to the starting position. Stretches: Stork Stand and Triangle. FIGURE 13.1a Squat FIGURE 13.1b Squat with Machine”
Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible

4 – The Power Meter Handbook: A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes

You’ve seen them on spin bikes and may have tinkered with one a bit… Yet, you never new this little power meter computer would become your best friend.

I highly suggest you pickup this book and skim through a few pages each day… or just read the whole thing while training on a stationary bike.

Like I said before, you make your own time.

This is the perfect intro into why being a proficient user of the power meter is critical in your training and overall race performance. Of all the content in the user guide, this paragraph sums it up best.

“In a hilly, long-course race, your focus must be on “smoothing” the course. The power on uphills must be restricted by gearing down and keeping your power output below your functional threshold power (FTP) (or even lower on longer climbs). The typical newcomer to Ironman-distance racing pushes far too hard on hills, especially early in the race, and pays the price later as high fatigue sets in. •  For short climbs of up to 5 min. duration, athletes should consider an effort ceiling of 90–100 percent of FTP. •  For longer climbs, consider an effort ceiling of 80–90 percent of FTP. •  For all climbs, it is very important to “save some watts” for cresting the apex of the climb. Novices tend to have their highest watts at the base of a climb. The intelligent athlete will have his or her highest watts over the top of a climb and accelerate down the backside. Experienced power users know that higher lactate levels can be cleared during the descent and after the rider has returned to cruising speed. •  On the downhill side, stop pedaling and coast in the aero position when your pedaling cadence becomes so high that you begin to breathe more heavily. If in doubt, coast the downhills so long as your speed is well above your average for the race.”
― Joe Friel, The Power Meter Handbook: A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes

5 – Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Mixing in some inspirational reading to the mix. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read on the topic of running. Both entertaining and highly informative, Christopher McDougall takes you on an adventure you never knew was an option. Altering your concept of how to run, offering you a new option of movement and saving you from some serious future injuries you would have had if you hadn’t read this book.

Before Christopher McDougall wrote this book he studied at Harvard, become a journalist and author known around the world and had placed himself as a writer for The New York Times, Esquire, Men’s Journal, and Men’s Health. Simply put, the guy is a stud.

One of the reasons I admire this book and author is all through the foundation on which it was written. This book materialized from a single question that came to mind as Christopher jogged down the street… “Why does my foot hurt?”

Cultivate a love for running by allowing this book to be your guide. Your desire to run will never cease.

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

6 – Strength Training for Triathletes: The Complete Program to Build Triathlon Power, Speed, and Muscular Endurance

To Swim, Bike and Run every week is quite the training regimen but to then have someone tell you that you need to hit weights to really train is somewhat a slap in the face!

Hopefully that slap in the face wakes you up.

If you want to have a good race or for those of you that want to be the best you need to come to grips with the bar. Understand that strength training will only make you better than you now are.

Your rebuttal is that you can’t be gaining muscle mass, you need to lean up. Well here is something profound to consider:

“If three or four extra pounds result from weight training, the increased power typically more than offsets the mass to be carried.”
Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible

“While it pays to be light and lean in all endurance sports, there is thankfully no single, ideal body type for any specific endurance sport. The variety you see in the physiques of world-class cyclists, runners, and other endurance athletes can be surprising.”
Velopress, Racing Weight

That said, pickup this book and increase your placement in the race brackets. During any race those at the front of the pack and those in the back of the pack are divided by one thing. Intelligently executed strength training protocol. When you do it right, something this book will deliver, you will increase your endurance along side your speed, power and ability to prevent injuries unlike the more frail athletes.

Remember one thing. Your muscle is the armor for your body.

7 – Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide: Plans, Scheduling Tips, and Workout Goals for Triathletes of All Levels

Jam packed with essentials, don’t judge this book by its cover. Take your pick from 40 varying training plans for every type of race distance. This is a great guide that you can take with you from your first triathlon as a beginner to your fiftieth as a pro. Whatever you are training for, Sprint, Olympic, or Ironman, this guide will help you along the way.

“One cannot improve as an endurance athlete except by changing one’s relationship with perception of effort.”
Matt Fitzgerald

“According to the brain-centered model of exercise performance, a runner achieves his race goal when his brain calculates that achieving the race goal is possible without catastrophic self-harm.”
Matt Fitzgerald


As always I hope you enjoyed reading and hopefully have given you a few new books to add to your personal library.

Please keep in mind that every body is different and the goal is for you to better know yourself during the process of the training experience. Find what works for you and trust your instincts, those instincts can lead you to great heights.

As for these books, there is no one set way to train simply because we are all unique, find your sequence of training that works for you and most importantly a training system that helps you achieve your goals. If you have books you think should be added to this list please a comment, we always love feedback every kind.

Train Smart, Eat Healthy, Remember to Breathe and I will see you on Raceday.

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