The Rec League: Fitness & Running

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookThis Rec League comes from Maggie:

I’m looking for recommendations for contemporary romances that have fitness training, especially running and especially with amateurs or beginners, as central to the plot or subplot. I read a few last year and found they really inspired me to take up running again after time off for physical therapy.

Now at New Year’s I’m looking to hack my motivation for working out and I’d love to add some more runner-romance and fitness-romance to my life.

Some of the romance-with-fitness I loved most last year are:

– Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren

– The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

– Basically all of Chloe Liese’s soccer players (and one hockey player) in the Bergman Bros. series

– 40-Love by Olivia Dade

– And one title I cannot remember nor find — It’s killing me and I could use a HABO: she runs fitness classes in the park and he hires her as a personal trainer; I think he’s a professional athlete

Tara: I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard good things about For the Long Run by Cheyenne Blue. ( A | BN | K ) It might be a little in reverse of what’s been requested, since it’s about an elite runner who as to go for physical therapy after an injury, but maybe could work?

Amanda: Not a book, but the movie Brittany Runs a Marathon with Jillian Bell was one I enjoyed.

Sarah: I think the one that the person can’t think of is the first Mia Sosa, Acting on Impulse?

This isn’t quite a romance but one aspect of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series that I liked was how much Clare loves to run, and that it is part of her spiritual rituals as a priest. (The first book is In a Bleak Midwinter) ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

What would you recommend? Let us know!

Comments are Closed

  1. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I strongly recommend anything by Karla Sorensen because all of her books feature sports and physical activity as part & parcel of the heroines’ lives. All of the books in her Ward Sisters series have heroines (and heroes) who are involved in some element of sport/physical fitness. The last of the books, FORBIDDEN, was one of my favorite books the year it was published: the heroine manages the gym owned by the retired MMA-fighter hero. Scenes of working out together have never been so sexy!

  2. June says:

    Seconding Karla Sorensen’s Ward Sisters.

    For running specifically, I’d say Miranda Kenneally’s YA romance “Breathe, Annie, Breathe” – the narrator is training for the marathon her late boyfriend planned to run, and is very much a beginner. Most of the books in Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series feature female athletes.

  3. Maggie, that last title you mention might be Farrah Rochon’s THE DATING PLAYBOOK. Hero is an NFL player recovering from an injury and heroine is the personal trainer who helps him get stronger.

    Jennifer Lohmann’s WINNING RUBY HART has a world-class runner heroine, IIRC, her career was ended with a doping scandal a few years back and she’s trying to rebuild/recover. The hero is a former elite athlete who was paralyzed in the course of his sport (football? It’s been a while since I read this). He then became a reporter and broke the heroine’s cheating scandal. In the present day, he starts reporting on her attempts to return to running as a career.

    Last one that came to mind: one of Kristan Higgins’s early contemporaries, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS. The heroine is tall and strong and often runs for enjoyment.

    Hope you find some new books to love in this thread! 🙂

  4. Sara says:

    The HABO is The Dating Playbook, by Farrah Rochon.

    Breathe, Annie, Breathe is about a college freshman who starts running by training for the marathon her late ex/fiance (it’s complicated) can’t run.

    I like this kind of story, too; I wish there were more of them.

  5. Heather says:

    I’d recommend Broken by Shiloh Walker – not a new runner, but does it even though she doesn’t like it (for spoilery reasons).

  6. Emma Barry says:

    The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand features a new runner, using jogging as a way to feel more connected to Paris. Her Rival Cowboy by Genevieve Turner features rivals teaming up for a charity triathlon and training together.

  7. Jenny says:

    These two are m/m:

    “The Underdog” by Briar Prescott: Anders largely raised his much-younger twin siblings, who believe that running a triathalon is his life dream (it isn’t). They gift him with entry into a triathalon, and Wells, a surly former hockey star who was left an amputee, is recruited to be his (reluctant) trainer. This one is also pretty steamy.

    “The Weight of It All” by NR Walker: Henry was dumped by his long-time partner and experienced a crisis of confidence over his appearance. Henry jons a gym, where he meets personal trainer Reed. Over time, they work up to running a 6k-type route (it’s not a competitive race, but rather an “I did it” type of route).

    Both Anders and Henry are big on self-deprecating humor. I found it funny, but a friend didn’t, so YMMV.

  8. HeatherS says:

    “Love At First Set” by Jennifer Dugan.

    Bold Strokes Books published “Run to Me” by Lisa Girolami – the MC just broke up with her girlfriend and drives to San Francisco to run in a race.

    “Training for Love” by Amanda Kabak – tech exec signs up for a marathon training program and meets the butch running coach.

    I second the rec for Miranda Kenneally’s “Breathe, Annie, Breathe”, and add two more YA books: “The Heartbeats of Wing Jones” by Katherine Webber and “Fierce As The Wind” by Tara Wilson Redd.

    There are also some great nonfiction books. Des Linden’s memoir, “Choosing to Run”, is out. There’s also Mirna Valerio’s “A Beautiful Work in Progress”, about her life as a plus-size Black woman who runs ultras. “How She Did It” by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery covers the history of a lot of women in running, and then there’s the classic “Marathon Woman” by Kathrine Switzer.

    I went hunting for as many running romances as I could find last year, but there are sadly very few.

  9. Zuzus says:

    This isn’t a book, but nothing motivated me to run more than the app ZOMBIES, RUN! by Six to Start (in collaboration with the National Health Service). There is some romantic pairing in it, but it’s mostly about surviving a zombie plague with strong found family and some mystery elements.

  10. Barbara says:

    Lainey Davis FOUNDATION: very much non-runner woman needs to take part in company team relay race, is paired up with avid runner from different company that usually wins for training.

  11. flchen1 says:

    Erin Nicholas’s Getting His Way might fit the bill. She’s started running on her own; he’s been a longtime coach for higher level athletes. She’s ready to take the leap and train for a marathon…. It’s also friends to lovers, and both of them aren’t the same people they thought they knew.

  12. kounfouda says:

    I really enjoyed “Under the Apple Blossoms” by Deanna Lynn Sletten which features a plus size heroine who becomes involved with a fitness guru. The focus is very much on getting healthier rather than losing weight.

  13. Leah says:

    Not so much a straight contemporary, but I really liked Nora Roberts’ Legacy, FMC does fitness videos and totally inspired me to get back into working out.

  14. Maggie says:

    Y’all are the BEST! I’m SO excited to read all these recommendations. Thank you for taking the time to comment and bit thanks to SBTB for featuring my Rec League request. And for those of you who called out The Dating Playbook, by Farrah Rochon — that’s it, you solved my HABO!

  15. PamG says:

    IIRC, the heroine in the Wall of Winnipeg and Me takes up running in the novel. It’s part of Van’s personal growth arc and a fairly important thread in what is a pretty massive novel. Definitely explores the noob experience.

    The book is slow burn with excellent characterization, an atypical athlete hero and an emotionally mature heroine who is a compelling narrator. It has (or had) a fair number of grammar glitches the last time I read it, but is still one of my favorite romances despite the fact that I have a very low tolerance for repeated grammar problems.

  16. hng23 says:

    THE WALL OF WINNIPEG by Mariana Zapata.
    He’s a football player; she’s his PA & decides to run a marathon.

  17. Taylor says:

    I’m going to counter that “Brittany runs a Marathon“ should be watched with reservations. The screenplay was written by a man, who was “inspired by a friend’s journey”. I found it to be parts of it to be incredibly misogynistic. At the beginning, the “overweight” heroine is at a bar, and gives a guy a BJ, because she is (in the movie’s world) so unattractive (and has low self-esteem), that apparently dudes will only be with her if she’s going down on them. Then, later on, she hate crimes this other character, who is (by the movie standards) overweight. She’s horrendously mean to her. It’s presented as part of the MC’s growth and journey, but I don’t think frankly that she makes amends. And what she did was horrible. I found myself really put off by the whole thing, and the longer I thought about it after I watched it, the less I liked the movie. I felt it had a really yucky male gaze.

  18. Kim says:

    This might be a little off-topic, but it’s a (now 20-year-old) contemporary that I enjoyed: MY HERO by Mary McBride. He is a former Secret Service agent who was shot in the line of duty and who came home to Texas to recover and re-train; she is I think a TV producer making a show about heroes. I remember it being fun with some good emotional stuff, especially as he’s coping with life after his injury. Track running is part of his recovery (I remember an emotional scene on the track, trying to run, with a dog).

  19. Caitlin says:

    I also am going to recommend THE WALL OF WINNEPEG by Mariana Zapata. It’s a slow burn and it’s one of my Keeper Self books. There is another Mariana Zapata book called KULTI about a woman’s soccer player and an ex-footballer (soccer) player she idolized. Another slow burn but I love the feeling of being with the player as she trains and works to achieve her goals.

  20. Glen says:

    The Dirty Martini Running Club series by Claire Kingsley is about a group of friends who (at least in the early books) run together. In That Swoony Feeling by Meghan Quinn, the FMC takes up running with the MMC. (I feel like both authors have other characters who run for exercise, fun, stress relief, etc., but it’s not important to the plot, but specific books aren’t coming to mind. Example from a different author: Pippa Grant’s Rich in Your Love where the FMC runs most mornings.)

  21. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Glen: I enjoyed the Dirty Martini Running Club books (Claire Kingsley has been a big favorite of mine since I discovered her books a few years ago); however, I will caution that one of the main reasons the friends decide to start running together is so that they can drink alcohol without worrying about the calories. In fact, in the final book of the series (the recently published FLIRTING WITH FOREVER), the heroine mentions several times that she doesn’t really like running (she does so anyway, for the reason previously cited). The books are fun, but if Maggie is looking for books that describe a character’s journey through a physical fitness regime, the DMRC books might not be a great fit.

  22. Maureen says:

    @Jenny-I read your comment this morning, started reading The Underdog. It took all my willpower to NOT call into work so I could keep reading. The first few chapters had me laughing out loud. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  23. Hélène says:

    Like many here, I love Breathe Annie Breathe.
    A beautiful story.
    I will also recommend the woman left behind by Linda Howard. The heroine has to do the gruelling training for her job but she is unbelievably determined and would inspire anybody, I think!

  24. Another Anne says:

    One book that came to mind was Breaking His Rules by Alison Packard features a heroine who has already lost a significant amount of weight when the book opens. The hero is her personal trainer. He also struggled with weight issues as a teenager. It has been awhile since I read it, but I think that they end up getting involved after he escorts her to a wedding.

    Second the rec for Karla Sorenson books, where fitness and training are a consistent theme.

    Lori Foster has a couple older series that involve MMA fighters and it seems to me that in at least some of them, the heroine is involved in fitness and training too. I read those in paperback and they are long gone from my library, so I can’t provide more specifics.

  25. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention a series by Meg Maguire (aka, Cara McKenna) involving characters who work (and/or work out) at a gym: MAKING HIM SWEAT, GOING THE DISTANCE, TAKEDOWN (this one is especially good—the heroine is a retired MMA fighter). The books were all originally published (with different titles) through Harlequin’s now-defunct Blaze line, so check book blurbs carefully to make sure you haven’t already read them under their alternate titles. Maguire/McKenna write some great books, but she left writing a number of years ago to pursue a career in a completely different field, alas.

  26. Kim says:

    I really liked Set on You by Amy Lea. FMC is a curvy fitness influencer and, as you might expect, there are a lot of scenes at the gym.

  27. Syntha says:

    If you’re open to Paranormal the Leviathan Fitness Series by Ashley Bennett is so sweet, the first book is Muscles and Monsters

  28. Katie says:

    I would recommend the YA romance There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. (She also writes adult books under the name Lily Menon)

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