9 Books Every Triathlete Should Own

9 Books Every Triathlete Should Own

What was the last book you read?
Can’t remember?

That’s understandable.

Between work, family and training, it’s hard to find time to do anything else these days – let alone read! Even a lifelong book worm like me – Hi, my name is Jen and I’m a bookaholic – struggles to find time to read.

But every now and then you’ll come across a book that captures me. It’s hard to put down. And despite how busy life is, somehow – just somehow – I manage to find the time to read it. “Just one more chapter and then I’ll go to bed” I tell yourself….

This generally happens with those books that inspire and challenge me.

Those stories that make me examine what I thought was possible in my own life (and in the lives of my clients).

So I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourite books in the hope you’ll find something to enjoy (in no particular order) ~


Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

Articulate and highly educated, multiple Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington beautifully brings to life her pre-triathlon adventures around the world, her aid and development work in the United Kingdom and Nepal as well as her career as a triathlete in her book “A Life Without Limits“.

Her honesty, especially around her eating disorder, is surprising and refreshing.

She also delves deeply into her training and the important role mindset has played in her success.

It’s a great read by a woman who has not only changed the landscape of women’s triathlon but continues to fight for equality in sport.

“The brain is programmed to protect us, and that can mean imposing limits on what it thinks we can or should do. Constantly push at those limits because the brain can be way too cautious. Not so long ago, I would have laughed at you if you had suggested I do an Ironman. Imagine if I had allowed that attitude to persist. It is up to each and everyone of us to change “I can’t” into “I can”.”

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington


Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You by Mark Allen and Brent Secunda

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this book. But it’s one I often think of and find myself picking it up and flicking through it again.

It might be a little ‘woo woo” for some people.

But the book is really about transformation; both physical and at an emotional, spiritual (rather than religious) and mental level.

“Fit Soul, Fit Body” begins with the famous story of Mark Allen’s goal to beat Dave Scott and finally win the Hawaii Ironman after 6 (failed) attempts.

Mark then goes onto tell how he encountered Don José Matsuwa and his adopted grandson, Brent Secunda, who were both shamans as practiced by the Huichols, an indigenous culture living in Mexico.

Mark’s use of the spiritual and healing exercises taught to him by Don José and Brent allowed him to integrate his physical and psychological fitness.

Given that he went on to become one of the greatest Ironman athletes of all time, I’d say he did that pretty well 😉

“I certainly had the desire to win. But desire has a shelf life of about three hours under the intense sun and wind of Hawaii, and it provides little insulation from the parts of you that are fearful or uncertain. When exhaustion and self-doubt overcame me, my motivation would deteriorate to the point that I just wanted to give up. I began to realise that it wasn’t a failure of my body that was keeping me from winning; it was a failure of my mind. I needed more than just a Fit Body – I needed a Fit Soul. But at the time, I had no idea what that was or how to develop it.” Fit Soul Fit Body by Mark Allen and Brent Secuda


Well-Built Triathlete by Matt Dixon

This book has only just landed on my desk in recent weeks so I haven’t had a chance yet to finish it. But I love what I’ve read so far!

Matt Dixon is a triathlon coach and owns PurplePatch Fitness in the States. He currently coaches pro triathletes  Meredith Kessler (who wrote the forward to the book), Gina Crawford and Tim Reed (as well as many others).

I really admire Matt’s work and his holistic approach that not only incorporates nutrition, recovery, functional strength training and mindset but ranks them equally important as the swim, bike and run element.

If you’ve been riddled with injuries over the years, “Well Built Triathlete” is the book to read.

His chapter on stress – not just the stress on your body from the physical training but from everyday life – and how it can impact on your training and racing should be compulsory reading for every person trying to incorporate some swim, bike + run into an already busy life.

“…it’s all too easy for highly motivated athletes to lose a sense of logic and fall prey to emotional and fear-based decisions when assessing their training needs. Too often endurance athletes fall into the trap of judging training success by how many hours they can accumulate in a week, regardless of whether their training is actually providing positive change…it is not the actual amount of training stress that counts. Rather it is the relationship between stress and recovery that matters.” Well Built Triathlete by Matt Dixon


I’m Here to Win by Chris McCormack

Brash and direct; there’s no other way to describe 2x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack.

In “I’m Here to Win”, ‘Macca’ tells his story of growing up in Australia, this early career, the loss of his mum as he prepared to race for a spot on the Australian Olympic team for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, his subsequent career culminating with his 1st victory at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 2007 and his second in 2010.

Plus you’ll get training advice delivered as only one of the most controversial – and arguably divisive – men in triathlon can do.

Borrow my copy and you’ll notice it’s heavily underlined and highlighted.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Macca, you’ll pick up a lot of insightful advice from his book.

“…whether the race is two hours or eight hours, the biggest limiting factor is fear. The reason you get nervous before a race is that you doubt your ability to perform when it’s all on the line. The mind game that takes places before the starting gun ever fires is really the critical point of a race. It’s when all your insecurities bubble to the surface. It’s when you have that good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other. One is saying “You can do it, mate!”. The other is whispering “Why are you here? You can’t win!”. The angel you decide to listen to will determine whether you are competitive or an also-ran.” I'm Here to Win by Chris McCormack


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougal

This has to be one of my favourite books of all (not just limited to running – and I read a lot!).

It begins as the author looks for solutions to his own constant injury problems.

But it quickly turns into Christopher McDougal’s pursuit for the “world’s greatest distance runners” – the Tarahumara Indians, a tribe living in the Copper Canyons in Northern Mexico.

“Born to Run” is really well written; it feels like it’s telling a story rather than real events. I highly recommend this book; it’s a great read!

(One word of warning – this book was used by many to justify the minimal shoe / barefoot running revolution. Don’t get caught up in it!)

“In the end, I got my answer, but only after I found myself in the middle of the greatest race the world would never see: the Ultimate Fighting Competition of footraces, an underground showdown pitting some of the best ultra distance runners of our time against the best ultra distance runners of all time, in a fifty-mile race on hidden trails only Tarahumara feet had ever touched. I’d be startled to discover that the ancient saying of the Tao Te Ching – “The best runner leaves no tracks” – wasn’t some gossamer koan, but real, concrete, how-to training advice. 

And all because in January 2001 I asked my doctor this:

“How come my foot hurts?” Born to Run by Chistopher McDougall


Racing Weight Cookbook: Lean, Light Recipes for Athletes by Matt Fitzgerald

If there are 2 mistakes many triathletes make, it’s overestimating the number of calories:

  • they’ve burnt from training and
  • needed to fuel their training.

Others will give themselves permission to over-indulge because they’ve trained today.

This approach can lead to many struggling to being unable to shift a few kilos despite a heavy-training load (or worse – putting more weight on!). This is where the “Racing Weight Cookbook” book comes in.

It’s packed full of delicious, healthy meals. This book has been getting a workout at our house over recent months. Even if you’ve got picky kids, I’m sure you’ll find something they’ll enjoy in here.

And what I *really* love about this book is that it’s divided into 3 sections ~

  • for those athletes who love to cook,
  • for athletes with some cooking experience,
  • and – my favourite – the athlete who doesn’t cook! 🙂

(and if you don’t have a nut allergy, make sure you try the asian chicken with peanut sauce – it rocks!)

Racing Weight Cookbook by Matt Fitzgerald


Sucking the Marrow Out of Life by John Maclean

What an extraordinary journey John Maclean’s life has taken.

“Sucking the Marrow Out of Life” tells the start of his journey – from talented footballer to the day he was hit by a truck while riding his bike.

Despite becoming a paraplegic, John has gone onto become the 1st wheelchair athlete to finish the Hawaii Ironman (on his 2nd attempt), the 1st paraplegic athlete to swim the English Channel and the 1st person ever – including able bodied athletes – to do both!

What is most extraordinary about John’s journey – and I hope he writes about it one day –  is what comes after this book. At the time of writing this, some 20 years later after his accident, John is walking again and preparing to race the Nepean Triathlon – the same race he was training for when hit by the truck over 20 years ago. He’s raced this event a number over the years but this year he’s returning to compete in it as an abled bodied athlete.

The dude is remarkable.

“My father tells me my first words after the accident were “How is my bike?” but I don’t remember this. In fact, I recall virtually nothing of those first few days as I slipped in and out of consciousness…..And at some point, during a window of lucidity that closed almost as soon as it opened, I remember telling myself not to die; that as tempting as it would be to just close my eyes and give in, thereby escaping the extraordinary pain, I wasn’t ready for that yet.” Sucking the Marrow out of life by John Maclean


Running Within by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott

If there was one book I’d give to every client who is new to triathlon and running, it would be this one.

It’s been years since I sat down and read “Running Within” cover-to-cover. But it’s still my ‘go-to’ bible; I’ll often refer to it if I’m talking with a client about something they are struggling with mentally.

This book is packed full of tools and strategies to help you fulfil your potential.

It looks at goal setting, relaxation and visualisation exercises (great if you get very nervous before a race). Plus there are strategies to learn from setbacks as well as ways to mentally cope with injuries, fatigue, wind, heat. You name it. Can’t speak more highly of this one!

“Perhaps one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of your running life is the potential to go beyond your self-imposed limitations. You begin to realise that many of your limiting beliefs about what you or cannot be done are simply preconceived restrictions and attitudes taught to you by parents, teachers, friends and others during your formative years with no objective basis in reality.”

Running Within by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott


Heart of a Champion: The Greg Welch Story by Patrick Lindsay

The 1st non-American to win the Hawaii Ironman, Greg Welch is a true Australian character.

This fascinating book tells the story of childhood in Australia, his pursuit to become the World Champion as well as the terrifying moment he found himself swimming 1km out at sea when suddenly his heart rate shot up to 320 beats per minute.

Patrick Lindsay does a great job in Heart of a Champion of recounting Greg’s story including his subsequent diagnosis of a near fatal heart condition and the difficult recovery – physical and mental – that followed.

A true character who loves the sport and life; it makes for a great read!

“You’re swimming a kilometre offshore. Without warning, your heart rate shoots up to 320 beats a minute. What do you do – call for help or try to get to the hospital urgently? Not if you’re Greg Welch, the fittest man in the world, unbackable favourite for the Olympic goal. Adrenaline was his best friend. Greg Welch would rather die than give in. He almost did.”

Heart of A Champion - The Greg Welch Story


What books would you recommend? 

PS. I almost want to include It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong not because of anything to do with his riding but because of the story of his recovery. Perhaps it deservers a  dishonourable mention..