By Noel Velasco
Since my very early running years, Daniels’ Running Formula has been at the core of my
training. In 2000, I attended Santa Monica College where I ran Track and Cross Country for two
years. At Santa Monica College, I learned a lot about training structure and intensity; this
knowledge helped me have several successful running years after my last season with the team.
In 2009, after I graduated from grad school, I was coming out of three years of very low mileage
and was 30 pounds heavier than my glory days. At the time, I was once again ready to dedicate
more of my time to running. The knowledge from my college running years was beginning to be
a bit fuzzy, and as a result, my training lacked structure. I asked Eric, my former Santa Monica
College coach, to recommend some training resources. Without hesitation, he reminded me that
he uses Daniels’ Running Formula (DRF), a book he has been using all his coaching years.
In the last 7 years, Daniels’ Running Formula has been my go to training resource. During this
time, I have tried lots of running clothes, shoes, electronics, and various cool gadgets that are
supposed to help my running. But in the end, I believe that all those products are secondary to
having a well structured training plan and staying healthy (What good is having the latest GPS
watch when I can’t use it?).
First things first, Jack Daniels is the guy who literally wrote the book on training. Any time you
look at any pace calculator or race predictor, you are more than likely looking at information that
Jack Daniels first published. In this review, I will be using Daniels’ Running Formula 2nd
edition but note that a 3rd edition has been available since 2013. DRF 2nd edition is meant to
address a general running audience and although Daniels does provide training plans for people
looking to start running or for someone who has been in a long running hiatus, the main audience
of this book are runners looking to become more competitive or those looking to increase their
training intensity. In my opinion, someone who has been running consistently for 6 months and
doing 25+ miles a week, is ready to reap the benefits of DRF.
I believe that Daniels’ underlying philosophy to running comes down to 3 main guidelines: (1)
understand the purpose of your overall training plan and each training session, (2) training within
one’s current fitness/ability, and (3) emphasis on quality over quantity. These basic tenets are the
foundation to good quality running and to staying injury free.
The majority of the book elaborates on how to train efficiently. Some key aspects of Daniels’
training include: (1) 24-week training programs broken up into 4 phases, (2) VO 2 Max/VDOT
Training (Aerobic capacity), (3) determining interval training duration and recovery time and (4)
easy days means EASY. For example, if you are someone who wants to quickly increase your
mileage or train at paces much faster than your current fitness then DRF is definitely not for you.
Additionally, Daniels puts a large emphasis on easy/recovery days and it is very important to
understand what it means to take it easy.
All in all, DRF provides important information for people looking to:
- Learn how to plan your running season.
- Get a structured training program for distances 1500 m to a marathon (unfortunately there isn’t a specific plan for a half marathon, Daniels assumes a similar training plan for a 10k as for a half marathon).
- Learn how to use VDOT to establish training intensities.
- Learn about various training paces (i.e. Repeats, Interval, Threshold, Marathon, Easy).
- Learn how to do better interval training.
- Learn the difference between VO 2 and heart rate (HR) and how to correlate them.
- Learn how to use his various conversion tables (i.e. Using treadmill grades to produce specific mile-pace conversions, Variations in mile tempo pace based on run duration, Pace adjustment after time off from running).
- Staying injury free (i.e. training at the right paces).
There are definitely some setbacks to DRF. In order to achieve success with DRF it is important
to have consistency and patience. Consistency is important with any plan but with 24 week
plans, it really requires a long term commitment. Additionally, with DRF patience is particularly
important as it relates to taking your time building mileage and to train at the paces dictated by
your current fitness in order to avoid overtraining fatigue or injury (sometimes the paces may
seem slow). Another difficulty is that determining VDOT is not a straightforward task and often
requires doing a race or a specific fitness test. Unfortunately VDOT is one of the key parameters
in all the DRF calculations, but the more experienced runners will have an easier time
determining VDOT***. Executing a successful training session from DRF can often require
very good pacing and that can be difficult to achieve especially for a runner not used to doing
interval training. In a sense, with DRF you are required to learn to pace well. Finally, the book
can be a bit dry at times and it takes time to understand and get used to the training plans.
I have read many good training books but I find that Daniels’ Running Formula is the best. DRF
contains only relevant information and it is presented in a very understandable way. Thanks to
DRF I have run for 16 years relatively injury free; at most I have had 3 weeks’ worth of muscle
pain here and there but I never had to take time off. Also, in the last 5 years I have run very
respectably fast times and I believe I owe much of it to DRF. I recommend this book to anyone
looking for a really good long term running coach.
For further reading:
I have found a great summary of the books here:
https://sporttracks.mobi/blog/book-review- daniels-running- formula
*** Here is an online version of Daniels’ VDOT calculator:
and how to use the calculator: