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David Epstein recommends

The sports writer suggests further reading on the history of how athletes became faster, better and stronger.

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    Morphological evolution of athletes over the 20th century

    Kevin Norton and Tim Olds
    Sports Medicine, September 2001

    This is a great introduction to the work of the 'Big Bang of Body Types' scientists.

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    Why We Run

    Bernd Heinrich
    Harper Perennial, 2002

    Written by a biologist and ultramarathoner, this book is a fascinating look at how endurance has shaped physiology throughout the animal kingdom. (Endurance flying, endurance running, even frogs and their endurance croaking!) Heinrich gives poetic treatment to the role of ultraendurance in human evolution, and applies some of what he learns while studying animals to his own training. It works out pretty well, as he sets an American record at the North American 100-kilometer championships.

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    The Four-Minute Mile

    Roger Bannister
    The Lyons Press, 2004

    Shortly after breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister — still a med student — sat down to write a book about it. Elite athletes were truly amateurs at the time, and it’s a wonderful look at a bygone era of sports. Bannister debunks some common myths — like that scientists were telling him his legs would crumble if he ran under four minutes — and crafts some terrifically expressive passages. Of his condition upon crossing the finish line, he writes: 'I felt like an exploded flashlight with no will to live.'

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    Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

    Alex Hutchinson
    HarperCollins, 2011

    If you’re interested in sports science or medicine generally, but don’t want to start perusing technical journals on your own time, this book rounds up a massive amount of exercise science and presents it in a manner anyone can understand. And it’s easily searchable so you can jump to information that might be pertinent to your own fitness goals.

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    Following the Trail of Broken Hearts

    David Epstein
    Sports Illustrated, December 10, 2007

    I was at one time a competitive runner and science grad student, and it was the sudden death of a friend and training partner — steps after a mile race — that first got me interested in genetics and sports. This article was the first one that I published on the topic of sudden death in athletes, and touches on what can be done so that fewer athletes will die of sudden cardiac arrest in the future.