A weekend or online certification is only the beginning of being a running coach. Run coaching requires a commitment to continual education and refinement of your training philosophy. The best approach? Read everything you can. These books are what I (and from what I have read, many other coaches) consider the essential texts for running coaches who train distance runners on the road.
Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels
Daniels’ Running Formula is one of the seminal works of modern training. His book covers everything from training intensities to season planning. He provides clearly delineated paces zones and formulas for how much of each week to spend at a given intensity. For novice coaches or for those who prefer clear cut formulas, his methodology is dependable.
Even if you do not fully prescribe to his methodology, Daniels’ book is worth keeping as a key reference. I regularly rely on his approach to returning from injury/time off and his VDOT pace calculator.
You (Only Faster) by Greg McMillan
McMillan’s methodology is another classic formulaic approach. He provides a clear description of the physiology of training and the purpose of different training zones. Many of his plans focus on training by time, which is valuable when coaching busy runners of different speeds.
The Happy Runner by Megan and David Roche
The Happy Runner is a must-read for coaches for two reasons. The first part of the book explores the role of enjoyment in performance and how to promote happy, fruitful training. In the second part of the book, the Roches delve into their methodology – which has seen success not just in elite athletes, but in real-world runners who balance training with life.
The Happy Runner applies to all runners, but it’s strength is in long distances and trail running. The Roches provide insight on topics such as the diminishing returns of vertical training, optimizing velocity at lactate threshold, and downhill training. For anyone coaching athletes who dabble in trail running or ultra distances, this book is a must-read.
The Science of Running by Steve Magness
Does VO2max really matter? What role does the central nervous system play in fatigue? How can you manipulate short intervals for the same effect as a tempo run? Magness answers these questions and more in his thought-provoking book.
For Magness, coaching must balance practice and theory. Magness is open-minded and challenges you to think critically about how you train. His section of manipulating workouts should be required reading for all running coaches, especially to break out of common prescriptions such as “6 x 800 with 400m rest” or “3 mile tempo run.”
Unlike Daniels or McMillan, he does not outline a training formula. It’s recommended to familiarize yourself with Daniels and McMillan first to understand the fundamentals – and then push yourself outside your comfort zone with Magness.
Run Faster from the 5K to Marathon by Brad Hudson
Renato Canova pioneered the concept of specific endurance training, especially for the marathon. Since Canova’s methodologies aren’t easily available in book format, Hudson delivers a Canova-esque approach of training that can be adapted for runners of all abilities.
His book also explores how to adapt training for different types of athletes and throughout the season. If there is one important takeaway from Hudson, it’s that your initial training plan at the start of the season won’t look the same as the training you actually execute – and that’s good!
Inside a Marathon by Ben Rosario and Scott Fauble
This book does not teach training philosophy. Rather, it provides a glimpse into the approach of one of the best elite coaches in the country. Ben Rosario coaches the North Arizona Elite, which includes Olympic Trials Champion Aliphine Tuliamuk. Rosario explains how he modifies training plans throughout the season, chooses workouts, and coaches runners through highs and lows alike.
Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry
In my opinion, every running coach should have a passing knowledge of how to strength train for performance. Jay Dicharry clearly distills how to lift weights in order to improve running economy, prevent injury, and improve form.
If you read all these books, you will notice they interconnect. For example, you will find from Daniels, Hudson, and Magness that a split tempo run (such as 3 x 10 minutes at tempo with 1-2 minutes in between) can be more effective than a 30-minute tempo run.
You will also observe differences in all of these training philosophies. The goal of learning as a coach is to expose yourself to as much information as you can. The more training approaches you understand, the more you can refine your own unique approach with elements from each.
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What are your essential running books?
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