Daniels' Running Formula

Jack Daniels’ PhD, Formulaic Approach To Periodisation

Jack Daniels PhD, is an iconic American Running coach, whose successful series of books Daniels’ Running Formula now in its Fourth edition has become my bible when planning or periodising an athletes season.

Jack Daniels competed and medalled at both the Melbourne and Rome Olympic Games in 1956 and 1960 respectively, as well as being named the World’s Best Coach by Runner’s World.

The overriding philosophy of the Daniels’ Running Formula is establishing intensities using the V-Dot system, this article will brush over that with the focus being on how he periodises or structures a season plan into different phases.

This is the third article about Periodisation (English spelling with an ‘s’, American spelling is traditionally with a ‘z’) and the methodologies from coaches that guided my early philosophies around periodisation of training seasons and event build ups. Also have a read of last weeks article about Rob Sleamaker:

The season is broken into four phases, arbitrarily Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV. They are always conducted in sequence. The first phase is focused on Foundation & Injury Prevention (FI) phase, the second is Early Quality (EQ) phase , the third Transition Quality (TQ) phase and the fourth being Final Quality (FQ) phase.

Daniels prefers to have a 24 week build up to any event but as we all know the perfect world doesn’t always exist and I’ll cover how he modifies a shorter build up later. With a 24 week build up that is 6 weeks for each phase.

When planning a build up start with the race or event date and work back from there. The training conducted immediately prior to the event is Phase IV or Final Quality (FQ) phase training, working backwards to either the scheduled start of the programme which may in fact be today or tomorrow.

Final Quality (FQ) phase

This phase of training prepares the body for the specific demands of the event. During this phase you will likely include threshold running, some reps or intervals and races in which you are attempting to perform optimally.

This is also the time to focus on and further enhance areas of your running that you are already strong in.

Quality workouts within this phase will vary depending on your goal. Marathon runners should focus on threshold or race pace running, with workouts designed to maintain your threshold ability, as well as continuing your long runs. Whereas athletes running 5km to 15km (including cross country runners) should focus more on threshold with some VO2 max and anaerobic rep runs to focus on the sustained speed. And middle distance runners should have a primary focus on anaerobic repetition training, with threshold runs of secondary importance followed by VO2 max running.

Transition Quality (TQ) phase

This is the most stressful phase of training and should include workouts that build on what you’ve already accomplished in the earlier phases, weeks and months. As well as providing a good transition into the Final Quality phase of training.

The idea is that you optimise the components of fitness most relevant to your event(s).

By this stage of your build up you should have built your fitness, but don’t get caught up with your ego right cheques your body can’t cash……keep to the programme work hard, work smart but don’t over do it. The last thing you need during this phase is an injury, as the time to recover from it and rebuild your training is limited.

Workouts of importance during this phase for a marathoner are VO2 max interval or threshold/long runs, with marathon race pace being less important during this phase. For athletes bracing between 5km and 15km VO2 max interval sessions are your priority, followed by anaerobic or hill reps, with long runs to maintain your aerobic function. Middle distance runners your primary emphasis should be VO2 max interval sessions, secondary importance should be anaerobic reps with threshold runs being the next tier of importance.

Early Quality (EQ) phase

The goal of this phase of training is to move the runner from the the raining they have completed through to the next phase, setting them up for success. This phase will introduce faster workouts after the FI phase. Any speed work should have an emphasis on good mechanics with 200/400m reps conducted at about mile pace with plenty of rest suitable in most cases.

Marathoners can focus on anaerobic reps or VO2 max intervals, with a secondary priority on threshold efforts, but don’t forget the long runs as they are essential to success. Middle distance runners, as well as runners racing between 5km to 15km should have their primary focus on anaerobic reps or hills, with Threshold efforts also of secondary focus and VO2 max intervals next on the order of importance.

Foundation & Injury Prevention (FI) phase

The focus of this phase is to develop cellular adaptations, as well as minimising the risk of injury by preparing the body for the phases that follow. As the athlete works through the season the benefits of longer, steady running maintain physiological adaptations, even if there is less of this type of running occurring.

Regardless of the distance being trained for the main emphasis in this phase is relatively easy running with the occasional inclusion of strides.


Rather than explain and detail Jack Daniels’ reasoning, (you can read it in his book any way) I’ve simplified his chart that is confusing to interpret initially. Depending on how many weeks you have to prepare for an event here is the number of weeks typically included into each phase of training. I say typically as you can always include more or less to provide an athlete the chance to develop their weakness.

Weeks to the EventFI PhaseEQ PhaseTQ PhaseFQ Phase

I’ve taken Jack Daniels’ methodology and modified it, adapting it for triathlons, as well as employing it for running and cycle training.

Train for your next race with the man who Runner’s World has called “the world’s best running coach.” With more than 55 years of experience, Jack Daniels is a legendary figure in the running community. Named the National Coach of the Year by the NCAA and honored as the Division III Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Century, Daniels has mentored some of the greatest names in running, including Jim Ryun, Ken Martin, Jerry Lawson, Alicia Shay, Peter Gilmore, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom. In Daniels’ Running Formula, he has shared training advice with hundreds of thousands of runners. Now in this updated—and definitive—fourth edition, he again refines his methods and strategies to help you run faster and stronger.

Building upon his revolutionary VDOT system, Daniels incorporates new insights gained from studying participants in his unique Run SMART project. You’ll be guided through the components that make the training formula work and then learn different types of training—including treadmill training, fitness training, and training at altitude or in other challenging environments—along with age-related modifications for runners from ages 6 to 80.

Everything comes together with expert advice on event-specific training ranging—for runs ranging from 800 meters to ultradistance events and triathlons. You will find advice on setting up your own seasonal plan, or you can follow one of Daniels’ 31 proven training plans and workouts. You’ll even find four fitness running plans, from novice level to elite level, to get in shape or regain conditioning after injury.

Join the thousands of runners who have relied on Jack Daniels to help them reach their peak running performance. Using the programs outlined in Daniels’ Running Formula, you too can achieve the results you seek every time you train and race.

4 Replies to “Jack Daniels’ PhD, Formulaic Approach To Periodisation”

  1. The figures in the table are number of weeks. So if there is one week until a target event it is recommended one would do one week of Phase One (FI phase) which is considered base work of easy running. If there are 12-weeks to the event it is recommended one would do 3-weeks of FI, followed by 3-weeks of EQ, followed by 3-weeks of TQ, and a final 3-weeks of FQ. A taper would be part of the three weeks of FQ (maybe one-week taper).

    To restate the article, there are four phases. The article mentions them in reverse order from the book. The Daniels book starts with Phase One – Foundation & Injury Prevention (FI phase), Phase Two – Early Quality (EQ phase), Phase Three – Transition Quality (TQ phase), Phase Four – Final Quality (FQ phase).

    The VDOT table in the book prescribes L/E, M, T, I, R paces based on recent race times. The book has training plans for different races with workouts designed to improve physiological systems during certain phases. For example a typical workout in Daniels is a 20-minute run at VDOT T-pace is designed to improve lactate threshold/clearing, and a 2-hour run at VDOT E/L pace will improve Aerobic fitness.

    The article explains typical systems worked in each phase. Daniels works the Aerobic system via Long and easy runs (VDOT E-pace), Marathon Pace (VDOT M-pace), Lactate clearance via tempo runs (VDOT T-pace), VO2Max via Interval runs (VDOT I-pace), Running speed training / economy (VDOT R-pace).

  2. When planning a build up start with the race or event date and work back from there. The training conducted immediately prior to the event is Phase IV or Final Quality (FQ) phase training, working backwards to either the scheduled start of the programme which may in fact be today or tomorrow. Hence the reason I have covered them in that order 😃

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