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Dr. J. on Running

Jack Daniels

Offers Sound Advice

Published September 13, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Dr. Jack Daniels is arguably the world's leading authority on the application of exercise physiology to training distance runners. A professor and coach at the State University of New York in Cortland, Daniels spent the past thirty years testing elite runners and applying his findings to training champions.

A two-time Olympian and medalist in the modern pentathlon, Daniels turned his attention from competition to research in the early sixties. In the years that followed, he worked with a number of elite athletes, from milers Jim Ruyn and Mary Slaney, to marathoners Joan Benoit and Jerry Lawson. He applied his findings into a successful training system at Cortland, credited with 8 national team championships, 25 individual titles and 110 All-America runners.

Daniels published numerous articles and books on physiology and running. His latest book, "Daniels' Running Formula", promises a complete program for training and racing, and provides detailed tables and programs. In its preface, Daniels casually mentions that this book contains the results of his lifelong search for sound training principles.

The simplicity of the guidelines and the apparent ease of the training schedules are deceiving at first look. Many running books advocate higher mileage, faster intervals, more repeats and shorter recoveries than Daniels'.

My skepticism quickly changed into awe as I witnessed the transformation of Daniels' followers. For example, Patti Ford, of Pompey, adopted Daniels' schedule to change the monotony in her training and lower her risk of injury. The apparent ease of the training reaped the benefits of its specificity. At age 43, Ford ran the fastest races of her life, with two national masters records and championships.

According to Daniels, success consists of four ingredients. Inherent ability depends on our genetic makeup and talent. Motivation refers to our inner desire to use that talent. Opportunity includes hindering and facilitating factors in our environment. Finally, direction recognizes a coach's influence on an athlete.

It is in his capacity as coach that Daniels provides guidance and direction in his latest book. Qualitatively, he offers ten general training principles on which he bases his training and racing programs. Quantitatively, he uses the maximum rate of oxygen consumption, or VDOT, as the key to identifying ability and setting the starting point for training.

Through detailed tables and formulas, Daniels presents runners an easy way to estimate their current VDOT. From a value of 30 for 30-minute 5K runners to 85 for 2-hour marathon runners, an athlete's VDOT is his ticket to the pacing schedules that make up the heart of the book.

A firm believer in the specificity of training, Daniels defines four acceptable running paces, making up the acronym RITE. "R" refers to repetitions, run at a pace faster than that of a 5K race. "I" refers to intervals, run hard at 5K race pace. "T" refers to threshold or tempo runs at a comfortably hard pace of about 87 percent of 5K race pace. Finally, "E" refers to easy recovery runs at a pace slower than marathon pace.

Thus, the VDOT value for each runner defines the RITE paces at which all workouts must be run. Daniels cautions against running "quality-junk" miles. This term refers to a running pace that is falls between two levels, and is therefore too slow to achieve the desired effect of the upper level, yet too fast for the lower level.

The book concludes with a four-phase program, six weeks per phase, for a total of 24 weeks. Phase 1 consists of E-type easy running, focusing on foundation work and injury prevention. Phase 2 continues to increase mileage and estimates VDOT with a T-type race. Phase 3 is the hardest part of the program, introducing I-type interval training and R-type racing to determine the current VDOT. Finally, Phase 4 highlights adequate rest and recovery, a drop in total mileage, and sharpening towards a target race.

Jack Daniels' Running Formula is possibly the best training program ever developed, benefiting weekend racers and elite athletes alike, as evidenced by the millions of personal records and tens of national records to his credit.

Kamal Jabbour is partial to E-type running. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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