This article is the fourth in a series of four articles that will examine how legendary distance coaches like Jack Daniels have impacted modern distance training methodology.

Jack Daniels, former Olympian and esteemed exercise scientist, is renowned as an iconic figure in distance running. Recognized as the “World’s Best Running Coach” by Runners World magazine, Dr. Daniels authored the essential guidebook, Daniels’ Running Formula, an indispensable resource for coaches and runners seeking insight into his distinctive training methodology.

Daniels is first and foremost a scientist. His unbiased approach to coaching is based on physiological adaptations to running and racing as well as experimentation and methodical analysis of all data collected. When asked about alternative approaches to coaching, Brian Rosetti, the founder of the Run SMART project and the VDOT O2 app, (both based on the Daniels’ training philosophy) said that “Jack would be the first person to say try it out and see if it works.”

Daniels’ frameworks can be found in the coaching styles of many others including Joe Vigil and Arthur Lydiard. There are subtle differences in each coach’s approach, but the universal truth is that good coaching is based upon sound physiological principles. The art of coaching is the specific application of these general principles while understanding the unique needs of each individual at any point in time.

Jack Daniels VDOT System

One of the hallmarks of Daniels approach is the VDOT value assigned to an athlete. It is a number value assigned to an athlete based primarily upon the amount of oxygen consumed during one minute of running. Using this VDOT value, a coach or an athlete can consult Daniels VDOT tables to determine appropriate training paces for many types of workouts and also look at equivalent race performances at a variety of distances.

5K race PR of 19:00 (6:07 pace per mile)

  • VDOT value of 52.9
  • Equivalent race performances: 1-Mile 5:33, 10K 39:24, Marathon 3:01:56
  • Training Paces
    • Easy: 7:53 – 8:41
    • Marathon: 6:56
    • Threshold: 6:33
    • Interval: 6:01
    • Repetition: 5:37

You can plug in your own numbers using the Jack Daniels Running Calculator.

Coaching Points

As a new coach, reading Daniels’ Running Formula was probably the best thing I could have done to prepare myself for developing an effective season training plan for my high school cross country team. Daniels’ plans feature phases focused on building different aspects of fitness, such as base training, speed work, and race-specific preparation. I have since adjusted the training a bit based on my personal experience and knowledge of the sport. However, Daniels continues to be a major influence on my approach to coaching.

Next season, I’m considering using the new VDOTO2 app to help organize my training and give my athletes a way to follow along with the training plan on their mobile devices and hopefully stay more engaged throughout the summer months. Within the app a coach can define the workout (5x1K with 800 jog recovery), choose the appropriate pace (ex: threshold), and the app will update each individual’s training calendar with the appropriate paces automatically based on their own personal VDOT number. Additionally, once linked to Strava, the athletes performance data for each workout is accessible to the coach within the platform.

I have only scratched the surface of the Jack Daniel’s training approach, but the resources and links within this post should allow you to investigate further. Good luck!





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