Daniels' Running Formula

Book cover of Daniels' Running Formula by Jack Daniels


It's our opinion that Daniels' Running Formula by Jack Daniels is one of the best running books on the market. Almost a must-read for anybody wanting to take their running more seriously.

Daniels is not only a world-class experienced coach with the academic credentials to back him up, he also has a knack for explaining sometimes difficult and complex topics succinctly and with clarity.

The reader of the book will finish more knowledgeable and confident about their running and training and how to proceed and reach their potential.

Book Review

The book is extremely well-structured and each chapter builds on the last. Below is a chapter-by-chapter guide to what you'll find within:

Chapter One

Daniels starts the book by considering "The Ingredients of Success". These are the four components that contribute towards one being a successful runner. Namely: inherent ability, intrinsic motivation, opportunity and direction.

He then concludes the introductory chapter by taking us through his "Basic Laws of Running". The idea is that runners of all abilities can make use of the principles to optimise their own training.

Chapter Two

The second chapter builds on the first by investigating training principles. There are eight of these and each is listed and explained in detail.

There follows a brief discussion of technique, although this is limited to considerations of stride rate, foot strike and breathing rhythms.

With just these first two chapters under the belt, the reader should recognise the beginnings of an understanding how they might be able to structure their own training.

Chapter Three

Chapter three is where things start to get a bit technical and some readers might start to feel a little out of their depth. However, no prior technical knowledge is required to understand the text, just a little more effort, and we strongly recommend taking the time to read and absorb the content. The reader that does will find themselves feeling quite knowledgeable and keen to start telling their running buddies about what they've learnt.

The chapter defines and explains concepts such as VO2 max, vVO2 max (a term invented by Daniels himself), blood lactate and running economy and has information on heart rate training.

Chapter Four

In the fourth chapter training runs and intensities are discussed. Daniels introduces each of his five intensities of training in turn, Easy, Marathon-pace, Threshold, Interval and Repetition, and explains their purpose and benefits.

Example sessions are provided for threshold, interval and repetition running and for the section on interval training, discussion turns once more to VO2 max and gets a little technical. Again, the less-technical reader is recommended to persevere with this section, since properly understanding how sessions should be structured can help one train more intelligently and get more benefit from training.

Also included in chapter four are some words on treadmill training and an extremely useful "Treadmill Grade and Speed Combination" table. Daniels says these are to help "minimise boredom and to provide more variety to treadmill training". These tables show which speed/gradient combinations are equivalent to which paces when running on flat terrain.

Chapter Five

In Chapter Five we are introduced to what Daniels is arguably most famous for: his VDOT tables. VDOT tables are essentially a means of estimating VO2 Max from a race performance and then using that estimate to establish the most suitable training paces. The tables include values for runners of all abilities.

Also introduced here is the idea of "training intensity points". This is a way of measuring stress incurred by various runs of different intensities. Points are assigned according to the intensity/pace of a run and runners can determine how much training stress they have incurred in a given session or time period. A look-up table is provided and various "point-based" session suggestions are included.

Chapter Six

Chapter Six is all about how to structure a season's training. Daniel's approach is a simple and effective one of breaking a training period into six distinct phases regardless of your training or race focus.

Chapter Seven

Chapter seven looks at "fitness training". Daniels provides four plans: White, Red, Blue, Gold. The white plan is aimed at beginners, the red plan is for those who have done some running before but want to progress, blue is for serious runners, and gold for very serious runners.

The plans are not focussed on any particular distance, but instead are designed for runners who wish to be prepared to race well over a variety of distances.

Each plan is divided into four phases and is sixteen weeks long.

Chapter Eight

This chapter on altitude training can be safely skipped without affecting understanding of subsequent chapters, but for the interested reader there is a fair amount of information including an explanation of how altitude affects performance, how to incorporate altitude training and sections on altitude training and racing considerations.

Chapters Nine to Fourteen

Each of the next six chapters is dedicated to training approaches and sample schedules for the following distances: 800 metres, 1500 metres to 2 mile, 5k to 10k, Cross Country, Half Marathon and Marathon.

Schedules for distances up to and including half marathon follow the four-phase approach and are accompanied by a description of the purpose and focus of each phase. There are several schedule options for each distance depending on the athlete's mileage.

The chapter on marathon training is fairly extensive and includes six approaches: novice (3-5 training days per week); 2Q (includes two more-demanding sessions every week); 4-week cycles (a higher-mileage plan that includes two quality sessions three out of every four weeks); 5-week cycles (regular long and marathon-paced runs with a focus on threshold training); final 18 weeks (a high-mileage approach that allows programs based on either distance or time); final 12 weeks (for those that have already been training regularly and are looking for a tough 12 weeks final training pre-marathon).

Chapter Fifteen

The final chapter of the book considers training breaks, including useful guidelines and calculations on how to adjust training following a training break and/or weight gain. Some space is also given over to supplemental training with a few suggested exercises provided.


Four appendices are provided as follows:

Aerobic Profile Test Protocol

Details on how to perform a "submaximal test" and a VO2 max test.

Times for varying distances at the same pace

A handy reference table. Essentially what is provided by our pace tables.

Time and Pace Conversions

Another reference table. This one is a quick reference that compares times per 400m with meters per second, metres per minute, seconds per 100m and minutes:seconds per 1,000m.

High-stress Workouts

Six workouts that areā€¦ high stress!

About the Author

Jack Daniels has famously been called "The world's best running coach" by Runner's World.

He has a doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Wisconsin and over 50 years of coaching experience.

He has coached at several universities and coached or mentored many world-class athletes, including Jim Ryun.

He is also the holder of two Olympic medals and one world championship medal in the men's modern pentathlon.