Daniels’ Running Formula

My buddy suggested this book. He runs fast. Damn fast. So I figured I’d give the Daniels running formula a whirl to help me kick ass (in a relative sense, of course) in 2011 running events. It feels like I figured right, at least it does sitting here with the winter ahead of me and plenty of time to plan my 2011 running season. Daniels’ book is a comprehensive treatise on running. He’s been a runner and a coach for a long time so he has reservoir of knowledge pertaining to any distance or skill level.

For the immediate future, I’m using this book to put together my 24-week training plan for a 2011 half marathon. I have the Google Spreadsheet set up so that once a I decide on my fall date, it automatically backfills the dates for my 24-week training schedule. This 24-week training schedule is the main takeaway from this book. Daniels feels that it is the most productive way to peak for your event.

But first, I’m angry at the Kindle version of this book because it leaves out some important pictures. I was reading along and it would reference a picture, then it would say “This image has been removed.” WTF? I glanced through the Amazon site and I didn’t notice them mentioning that they were going to leave pix out. I think I’m gonna have to buy the damn paperback. Oh, by the way, I still love the Kindle, but lesson learned – rant finished!

So Daniels breaks down the steps to running success nicely. Here they are:

  1. Map your season.
  2. Break down the training into four, six-week phases.
  3. Determine the amount of quality training.
  4. Plot a weekly schedule
  5. Include planned breaks.

As you can tell, if you clicked on my link, I’m on top of steps one and two. Now I’m spending time figuring out the whats, whys, whens and wherefores of my quality training. I have time because at the earliest my 24 week session won’t start until early April. Until then I’m going to get my mileage up and do strength training to prevent injury. I feel relatively focused, but concerned about my execution because I’m pretty lazy.

So here’s the deal, if you really want to improve you have to spend some time doing some figuring in three main areas. First, you have to understand the different types of training paces that your program should consist of and how to get the most of those sessions. Second, you have to make an honest assessment of your ability so you can set the appropriate paces, paces that don’t lead to overtraining or undertraining. And finally, you have schedule your sessions with the prescribed variety of training paces for 24 weeks leading up to your event.

Daniels’ prescribed programs mix the following different training paces. This stuff is right from the book.

  • Easy pace (E) is for warm-ups, cool-downs, and long runs.
  • Marathon pace (M) is a little faster than E and can be used as an alternative to easy runs when conditions are good and there is adequate time for recovery.
  • Threshold pace (T) is used for tempo runs and cruise intervals.
  • Interval pace (I) is used for interval workouts with a 3-5 minute duration.
  • Repetition pace ( R ) is usually race pace or faster (faster if you’re training for a longer race).

Daniels puts numbers to each of these paces, which is one of the coolest parts of the book. But first, you need to pick a VDOT. I’m not going to get into the details of VDOT because it’s complicated. Suffice it to say that it’s Daniels’ preferred method for “measuring a runner’s aerobic profile.” He gives you tables to back into your VDOT based on previous race performances or by testing yourself at certain distances. It’s up to you to make an honest assessment of your abilities. Once you do so, he has a VDOT table that gives you your training paces.

For instance, I’m going to go out on a limb and say my VDOT is 40. That corresponds roughly to someone who can run a 7:07 mile at top speed or can do a 1:50:59 half marathon. I know, I only did a 1:55:21 half marathon in September, but I think I’m faster than that (I want to run a sub 1:50:00 half marathon). I have a few months to figure it out, so I’ll retest myself in the 1Q some time. Consider this an example. But pressing forward with a VDOT of 40, here are my training paces:

  • E pace – 10:11 mile
  • M pace – 8:46 mile
  • T pace – 8:12 mile
  • I pace – 1:52 for 400 meters
  • R pace – 1:46 for 400 meters

Daniels’ secret sauce is how to combine all of this quantitative information for an optimal 24-week training plan. It’s great stuff, intellectually challenging and fun to figure out, kind of like a puzzle.

The first 6-week session is mostly easy running, it’s not hard to schedule that. It’s the last three sessions that get a little more complicated because you need to schedule two or three quality sessions a week. The quality sessions are mostly threshold runs, intervals, or reps. Occasionally Daniels throws in a long run at marathon pace as a quality run depending on what distance you’re training for. Daniels describes it all in detail and throws in plenty of sample training plans for all different levels of ability. It’s the heart of the book.

But that’s not all, he fills the spaces with a ton of tangential information about running. He has sections on:

  • Training at altitude
  • Coming back from injury
  • What to do when you’re sick
  • Training in humidity
  • Racing strategies
  • Cross-training options and examples

There’s more, believe me. This is a rich book that I don’t hesitate to refer to as a training bible. The more I talk about it, the more I feel like I need to get this in paperback. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a tattered paperback version of this with margin notes and bookmarks? Yeah it would. But it would be cooler to run a damn 1:45:00 half marathon next year. Whoa there Johnny, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you’re short and fat, remember.