Thank You Dr. Jack Daniels

Dr. Daniels may be the most influential coach of the modern era. He is what Lydiard was in the 1950s — 1960s and Bowerman in the 1970s, an unmatched shaper and influencer of coaches. 

His magnum opus, Daniels' Running Formula is required reading for any young coach. In fact, I'd argue it is the first book a distance coach should read. 

Daniels asserts VDOT is the key to identifying ability. And his book makes the case that the most prudent distance running training methods center primarily on improving the athlete's aerobic metabolism. 

Such an assertion was nothing new at the time of the book's publication in 1998. Many successful, well-respected coaches, physiologist, and sports scientists made a similar claim before Daniels. 

Then, what separated Daniels' Running Formula from the pack? Two things, Table 3.1 and Table 3.2. These cemented his genius. 

Table 3.1 is titled "VDOT Values Associated With Times Raced Over Some Popular Distances." Table 3.2 is called "Training Intensities Based On Current VDOT." 

These two tables fundamentally changed how modern distance coaches coached. Their impact cannot be overstated as they gave coaches concrete numbers which correlated fitness to performance ability. Additionally, he offered coaches a systematic process to elevate an athlete's fitness, VODT score, and potential performance. 


Daniels established new rules to training. All of a sudden, the game became improving your VDOT number so you could improve your performance ability. This was a brilliant move on his part. He provided an anchor for coaches to work from with each individual athlete as well as a high degree of reassurance that one's training effort would yield fruit. With two simple tables, he took all the guesswork out of training and made it into an exact science.

To be clear, I am a fan of Daniels' Running Formula. It has progressed distance running training into a more sophisticated orbit. When I was a young coach, I referenced tables 3.1 and 3.2 daily - it was the foundation of my coaching education.

However, today I think of Daniels' Running Formula more as a preface than the answer. It is a powerful starting point, but shouldn't be an endpoint. Yes, one can coach soundly by only employing the Daniels' Running Formula, I did so myself for years. But I've found Dr. Daniel's work is best honored and most potent when it exists within a latticework of training models which create one's own coaching methodology. 

As a scientist and coach, I'd like to think Dr. Daniels would agree that one should never settle for what is and always be searching to create something better. 

Thanks again for your work Dr. Daniels, it had a profound impact on me and helped make me the coach I am today.


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus