Book Review-The Triathlete's Training Bible
Veteran coach Joe Friel dives into the science of sport in “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” to have you training smart for a successful triathlon
Let’s face it; we all can’t afford the luxury of a coach planning out personalized weekly swim-bike-runs for that next big race. And building your own plan can be a daunting task. How many times a week, for how long, what intensity…and why? It’s a science, and not an easy one to tackle for optimal performance. That’s where Joe Friel comes in. With nearly three decades of coaching experience, Friel explains the science of training in a language you can understand in the newly released third edition of “The Triathlete’s Training Bible,” effectively giving you the tools to become your own coach. (See below for a look inside the book.)
Anyone from the beginner to age-grouper to elite triathlete can gain something from Friel, as he maps out specialized training for races of all distances—sprints, Olympic, half-Ironman and Ironman—while addressing key points of how to maximize fitness, reduce fatigue, fuel correctly, plan a season, improve skills and more. At 386 pages, it’s like an encyclopedia on the sport and probably one of the most user-friendly books out there, complete with charts, drawings, graphs, interactive tools, cleanly divided sections and sensible organization.
What makes “The Training Bible” stand out is its scientific and intuitive approach to training. Friel will have you understanding why you do something rather than telling you to go out and do x-y-z; he also teaches you to listen to and respect your body. It’s no secret that some athletes simply take orders from a coach and never question why; they just robotically obey the all-knowing coach. It’s also no secret that some people over train in almost a self-destructive manner just to stick to the plan. Friel attempts to reverse these trends.
What’s more, the science of sport is evolving every day and triathlon is booming. The third edition of “The Bible” presents the latest proven training methods, cutting-edge research, case studies, insight on new technology and more. The book takes you into the world of exercise science, physiology, fitness, sports psychology, nutrition—but without reading like a college textbook or medical journal. (I’m a kinesiology student and can say with confidence that Friel takes confusing topics and makes the clear and understandable.) The triathlon community is expanding exponentially to include all levels of athletes, and chances are most have obligations outside of triathlon. Friel takes this into consideration and lays the foundation to have you making the most of your training and non-training time so you nail that A-race.
Inside the Book
“The Triathlete’s Training Bible” is divided into six parts, and each section is further broken down into chapters and sub-topics, making it easy reference any topic and find answers quickly. Here’s what you’ll find inside the pages:
I. The Self-Trained Athlete
This is where some major introspection happens. Assess your attitude, motivation level and lifestyle. Realize specific (and realistic) goals, and commit. Also, Friel spells it out straight: Don’t train like a bat outta hell and expect to do well! Listen to your body, get adequate rest and know what “too much” is.
II. From Lab to Real World
Become an exercise scientist. Get the lowdown on terms: frequency, power, volume, overload, specificity, etc. Learn the anatomy of peaking, the art of tapering and periodization. Find out the science of bonking and fuel depletion. Friel explains lactate threshold and why we need to train at it, varying intensity and using both RPE and heart rate effectively.
III. Training with a Purpose
Friel helps you assess your fitness (strengths and weaknesses) and provides protocol for exercise testing in each sport; estimate LT, power output and endurance. Then learn how to build fitness focusing on endurance, force and speed skills. Friel explains what’s limiting you and strategies to overcome that, as well as how you can “go harder without working harder.”
Become your own coach. Friel takes you through the process of planning a season step by step, looking at the year down to daily routines to plan for peak performance. Learn how to gauge progress and what to do when workouts are missed. Friel provides training-plan examples for every race distance using case studies of real athletes. There are excellent charts and tables to copy in this section!
V. Racing and Recovery
What should you do the week before the race, the night before and race day itself? Friel provides a race plan to reduce your stress. Also, he tackles the subject of recovery both post-race and in general training. Learn the causes and signs of overtraining and how to incorporate “recovery” into training. Facing illness and/or injury are inevitable for athletes at some point, and Friel teaches you how to deal in this section.
VI. The Competitive Edge
This section is one of the most valuable in the book. It focuses on specific skills, muscles, unique needs, creating a training diary and nutrition. You’ve built your program, now apply the right practices to get faster! In this section you’ll find: How to become more efficient in the swim, bike and run; and the best strength-training techniques for multisport—detailed exercise pictures given. Obviously, every racer is different, so Friel speaks to the needs of women, older athletes, novices, etc. And, last, but not least, make food your best fuel. Know what’s ideal for training, pre-workout, post-workout, weight management and racing. Also discover the science behind supplementing and ergogenic aids—what’s worth investing in, what should be left on the shelf and what’s illegal.
Tools you can use: The back of the book has training-plan templates, example workouts, diary templates and a glossary to make the most of your triathlon lifestyle.
The Triathlete’s Training Bible, 3rd Edition, is available online or at most book stores.