These worthwhile new titles offer information, inspiration, education and more.
I usually post a list of interesting endurance-related books once a year or so. But with some interesting titles recently hitting the shelves, I think it’s worth a mid-year update.
Running Science: Optimizing Training and Performance, edited by John Brewer
Back in May, after Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 marathon in Nike’s Breaking2 race, there was lots of debate about how much benefit Kipchoge had received from drafting behind six pacemakers throughout the race. I’d just received a review copy of Running Science, and as I flipped through it, I found a section on drafting, with lovely diagrams of eight different drafting formations and precisely how they affect your coefficient of drag, along with a reference to the original study – an obscure one published in Japanese, which I’d never heard of even though I’d written about drafting for runners several times before.
In that moment, I was sold on this book. It’s edited by John Brewer, a professor of applied sports science at St. Mary’s University in Britain, and includes chapters by a diverse group of scientists in their respective areas of expertise. The book is organised into short Q&As (“What is the optimum technique for running on a gradient?” “Can compression clothing improve performance and prevent injury?”), with succinct answers based on scientific research and illustrated with infographics.
Because of the way it’s organised, it’s not a comprehensive step-by-step guide to how to run your best; instead, it’s an easily accessible guide to the best current answers to a bunch of questions you’ve probably wondered about, as well as some you probably haven’t considered. To me, that’s the most interesting part: finding unexpected nuggets – like those drafting patterns – scattered throughout the book.
Cycling Science: The Ultimate Nexus of Knowledge and Performance, edited by Stephen Cheung and Mikel Zabala
This book is in a similar spirit as Running Science, but digs much deeper: fewer pictures, triple the page count. In many ways, it feels to me like the cycling equivalent of Lore of Running, which for many years was the comprehensive guide to scientific thinking about running.
The editors are both world-leading cycling scientists, Cheung in Canada and Zabala in Spain, and for their 40(!) chapters, they’ve recruited an extremely distinguished list of scientists from around the world. It covers all aspects of human physiology, bike design, training, racing, health, and so on. If you’re a cyclist interested in the science of your sport, I’d rate this pretty much a must-buy as a reference tome.
Hold on a moment, you say: didn’t everyone stop talking about running form back in around 2013, after the boom and bust of minimalism? That’s true to some extent, but it’s unfortunate – because it’s hard to believe that how you run doesn’t matter. In a sense, this is the post-fad, post-backlash, post-whiplash book we’ve been waiting for, taking advantage of the huge surge of interest and research into running form in recent years to move beyond all the turf wars and look at what we’ve actually learned.
Beverly was the long-time editor-in-chief of Running Times, and has been deeply immersed in all the relevant debates and research for years. What’s best about the book is that it doesn’t try to offer a “one true way” to running nirvana; there’s no catchy slogan or revolutionary new paradigm. Instead, it’s a journey through current knowledge and theories about how to run best, with a big focus on diagnosing and fixing the mechanical deficiencies that come with modern office life.
If you spend much time searching for sports science information on the Internet, you’ve almost certainly stumbled across Yann Le Meur’s work at some point. Le Meur is a French sports scientist who, as a side hobby, creates simple infographics to convey the results of new and interesting studies. His website and Twitter page feature literally hundreds of these infographics, covering nearly every noteworthy study that’s generating discussion among experts in the field.
One of his recent ventures is a collaboration with Iñigo Mujika, a noted coach and scientist in Spain, to produce an “infographic edition” of Mujika’s comprehensive book Endurance Training – Science and Practice. It’s a pretty neat combination: hardcore scientific information, presented in a deceptively simple format that doesn’t, for the most part, oversimplify the complexities of the research. Check out Le Meur’s website, and if you like what you see, the book (which is already on a second printing) might be a good investment.
Young Runners at the Top: A Training, Racing, and Lifestyle Guide for Competitors and Coaches, by Brad Hudson, Lize Brittin and Kevin Beck
Lots of running books have a chapter on young runners, but this is the first book I’ve seen that’s entirely devoted to the unique challenges faced by young runners and those who coach them. Hudson is a very well-known coach to elite runners; Beck is a veteran running writer; Brittin was a teen running star before becoming a writer. The book goes beyond training plans and platitudes to tackle difficult topics like the risk of eating disorders in young runners. I haven’t actually had a chance to pick up a copy, but I wanted to mention it because it fills a notable gap in the running literature.
Of course, some of the books I mentioned in my last round-up – Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness; The One-Minute Workout, by Martin Gibala and Christopher Shulgan; The Hungry Brain, by Stephan Guyenet – are still generating plenty of buzz. Check them out, if you haven’t already; then add these ones to your list.