My Top Five Books to Inspire Athletes

For over 20 years, participating in triathlons has been one of my favorite things to do outside of the corporate world. I fell in love with this sport back in 1996 when I completed my very first race in Austin, Texas, at a women’s empowerment event hosted by Danskin. It was absolutely exhilarating and something I knew I wanted to continue to do and master.

Just like running a business, competing in a triathlon takes courage, determination, and stamina to make it to the finish line. It challenges you and provides learning experiences that truly take you out of your comfort zone.

Alongside consistent training, reading inspiring books can help put you in the right frame of mind to push harder to achieve your goals. It’s so important to learn from others — their mistakes, their triumphs, their words of wisdom… And what better way to do so than with a good read?

For athletes, fellow sports enthusiasts, or those seeking a little inspiration to take their passions to the next level, here are five book recommendations:

1. Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink

We don’t often equate the concept of ‘discipline’ to ‘freedom.’ However, New York Times best-selling author Jocko Willink does an incredible job demonstrating the connection between these two concepts. He shows the reader how to navigate the complex web of excuses and procrastination that often prevents people from achieving their goals.

As a Navy SEAL and decorated special operations unit commander in the Iraq War, Willink understands the definition of discipline well. From eating healthy and establishing a consistent sleep schedule, to overcoming fear, he shares practical tips and tactics for achieving freedom of both the mind and body.

So often, the hardest part of training for a triathlon or a long run is being disciplined in your training. Willink does a great job of breaking down the importance of structure. Like Willink, I believe strongly in getting up early to get a workout in. So, in the words of Willink: “Find Your Will, Find Your Discipline, and You Will Find Your Freedom!”

2. A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

In her book four-time Ironman World Champion and World Record-holder Chrissie Wellington details her journey from humble beginnings and no athletic aspirations to achieving incredible results. While being open and honest about the challenges she has faced, Wellington sets an example of how sports can truly have a positive impact on people’s lives.

In one chapter, Wellington talks about other ordinary people participating in Ironman. They might not be famous champions, but their sheer drive and desire to make a mark on the world is no less admirable. I don’t consider myself a world-class athlete, but one of my best attributes is a refusal to quit. That’s what drove me to complete my Half Ironman and some of the other really difficult endurance races I’ve finished. And it’s that same drive that Wellington discusses in her book.

3. Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden

A legendary book by a legendary coach, Wooden on Leadership sums up the 41 years of experience spent inspiring athletes by former UCLA basketball coach John WoodenHe is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, winning 10 NCAA National Championships. ESPN even named Wooden the “Coach of the Century.”

What sets his book apart from other coaching books is that so many of his principles apply off the court as much as they do on the court. His lessons are less about a quality jump shot and more about preparation, attention to detail, and making a difference. For example, Wooden’s famous Pyramid of Success breaks down each of the important characteristics of successful people and organizations.

4. Forward by Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach is an American soccer player, coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion, and the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. Wambach dares young girls and women of all ages to push past societal boundaries, embrace life’s challenges, and simply believe in themselves no matter what others may say.

I can absolutely relate to Wambach’s role of being a strong advocate for women’s rights and equal opportunity as she uses her accomplishments and life experience to pave the way for women of the future.

5. The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman

This is yet another book by a highly accomplished coach whose advice can be used in sports, business, and personal life alike. As the coach to swimming legend Michael Phelps, Bob Bowman lends a wealth of knowledge and motivation to those who seek to achieve excellence in every aspect of their lives.

Bowman’s inspiring anecdotes and his step-by-step guide for getting where you want to be by working backwards from your ultimate goal are so helpful when planning to accomplish something big like a triathlon. I recommend this book to anyone who has ambitious goals and wants to get a better understanding of what it takes to achieve true greatness, be it in sports or life in general.

I hope these books will inspire you. What are some books that help motivate your champion spirit? Let me know in the comments!

…and if you’d like to see more of my favorite books, check out My Top Five Books to Inspire Entrepreneurs.