Coach Mick interviews Dr. Jack Daniels11/07/07
Courtesy By: Mick Grant & John Molvar | Courtesy URL
I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Jack Daniels for the past few weeks on this series of stories for young athletes, their parents and coaches. Dr. Daniels is the author of the world famous "Daniels' Running Fromula (DRF)," now in its second edition, published by Human Kinetics. The Daniels' Running Formula is an extremely popular training guide and is used as the textbook for training by thousands of runners and coaches. ------Mick
YR: The first edition Daniels' Running Formula (DRF) is so good and widely read, why did you decide to write a second edition? What are the major changes/revisions/additions?
JD: I wrote the second book for a couple reasons (1) The publisher asked if I would be interested in a 2nd ed (2) I had been contacted by quite a few readers that they would like to see something specific on 800 training and on cross-country training (3) I developed a way to identify and log training intensities that I thought might interest athletes, not only in running, but in other endurance sports in which heart rate is often used. (4) I thought it would be useful for many people who want to use running as a tool for reaching various levels of aerobic fitness, to provide programs for those who may only want to run a few days a weeks, and for those who may want to or need to start at a very low level of stress. I also added a simple program for runners whose goal is to simply complete a marathon, as is the case for many charity runners. I added a table that allows runners to determine reasonable paces on longer tempo runs, and provide a testing protocol for those who have access to some physiological-testing equipment. Most of the new things are in response to people who contacted me about something they wanted to have information about.
YR: How would you recommend a new coach, young athlete or a parent use the DRF? It really has become a textbook for training.
JD: I think the book provides a reasonably simple, yet serious discussion of how the body reacts to the stress of exercise (including training, which is repeated stress) and the environment; identifies different body systems' needs that lead to improving the performance of these systems, and the types of training that meet these needs; provides sample training programs that can be tailored to each individual's current level of fitness and training load; and makes it possible for a runner to design his/her own training program based on sound principles and personal goals.
YR: You have sections geared to specific track events as well as cross country. How do you think cross country and track work together? For example, an 800m runner and a 10k runner may have very different goals in cross country, and a cross country specialist may use track to work on specific things.
JD: Many coaches and runners view cross country as an endurance buildup for the coming track season, a solid base for 800 and 10k runners alike. Those looking forward to the 10k may do more mileage, but not necessarily different types of workouts. I like to have runners consider which training they respond best to. It may be that some would race better in the track season with continued training used in cross country and some may race better cross country with the type of training they typically do during track season. This is probably particularly true for younger runners who rely on positive feedback year-round.
YR: There is a lot of HR information. Is there an easy way for young athletes to understand HR training? I have had kids tell me they don't like to get HR information because it scares them. How can a coach communicate that HR information is useful in monitoring training progress, fitness level, recovery, designing future training, etc. Do you think it is useful for young kids to begin learning about how HR works in training?
JD: I don't think young runners need to get concerned about heart rate. Heart rates of youngsters can be very high, even when not feeling like they are working particularly hard. For a healthy youngster, perceived exertion and how stressful breathing is for them is probably the better indication of how hard they are working. The whole process needs to be relatively enjoyable so they will continue with the sport long enough to find out if they like it and how much ability they truly have.
YR: Dr. Daniels, Do you feel that resting heart rate (HR) is a good measure of how an athlete is responding to training?
JD: I tend to prefer letting subjective feeling determine recovery rather than heart rate. Sometimes HR can be misleading -- especially in the heat or when dehydrated. Noticing resting HR upon waking is sometimes useful to indicate being tired or a little over trained, but that should not usually be a concern for younger kids (unless working with an over-zealous coach). Let's hope running can be enjoyable enough that the runners will stay with it long enough to see how good they can be.
YR: We would like to reduce the number of kids who get injured. What have your studies shown?
JD: A research study in the 1990's found that high-school girl cross-country runners suffer more injuries than participants in any other sport, including football, wrestling, ice hockey, you name it. I tend to believe these findings are the result of the typical girl cross country runner temporarily being a weaker person (not meant to be a negative statement; often they are into running because they were told they were too slow or too weak for another sport they tried). Sadly, this is what happens often because the girl in question is not yet mature and just needs a little more time to be able to handle the work. Put one of these girls into a program with a coach who isn't particularly understanding and injuries are just waiting to happen. It would be a disaster if encouraging middle-school participation contributes to the problem. Somehow we have to encourage a long-range development system whereby middle-school running blends smoothly into the high-school programs.
YR: Are there other factors which contribute to injury prevention?
JD: I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of problems, with the young girls particularly, is diet. Once they start a regular period and have some monthly blood loss, diet may be inadequate. I find many are low in hemoglobin. The studies we have done on young college runners show that quite a few are anemic or border-line anemic and need either iron supplements or a much improved diet with iron rich foods. When this is the problem the runner often blames herself or figures she is a "loser" or is just not responding to training like some teammates are. I can make a calculation showing that a 1-gram drop in hemoglobin could easily result in a 30-40 second drop in 5k time. Also, the runner feels very dead-legged and not able to perform longer intervals, even though short reps may be as good as normal.
YR: Iron is a sort of "battery" for energy. What kinds of iron levels are we looking for? Is ferritin the main number to look at?
JD: Ferritin is very individual and alone tells very little. Normal range is considered around 20 to 200. However, Juaquim Cruz (800 gold medalist in LA Olympics) tested between 22 and 29 every time I tested him (over 4 or 5 years this proved to be his normal range). Many would say he was too low. Ferritin just tells you about iron stores. Hemoglobin tells you more about Oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and that is critical. Often, labs will say a normal hemoglobin range is 12.8 to about 16.5, but they are not dealing with endurance athletes and when you start getting below about 13.5 you most often need help. When you consider the hemoglobin carries the O2(OXYGEN) then it is not hard to realize that a drop from 14 to 13 is about a 7% drop and 7% performance drop for 5k is about 40 seconds. Hematocrit is also useful to measure (the simplest thing for the lab to measure, and probably cheapest, especially compared to the cost of ferritin tests). Hematocrit levels typically fall between abut 38 and 50, and are usually about a multiple of 3 of the hemoglobin value (a 13 hemoglobin is associated with about a 39 HCT), you would like to see HCT (hematocrit) values in the middle 40s.
YR: Can you expand just a bit on ferritin and when it should be checked?
JD: As for ferritin itself, it is most useful when measured periodically as a change can give you a preview of what to expect in hemoglobin. A ferritin of 50 is good and 6 weeks later a ferritin of 35 may still be good but it is telling you that your iron stores are going down and if not attended to the hemoglobin will be going down soon. When you have inadequate iron in your diet, you use iron stores to make up for lack of iron in the diet, in order to keep the hemoglobin up.
A BIT ABOUT JACK DANIELS
Grew up in California, undergraduate degree from University of Montana, masters from University of Oklahoma, Certificate from the Royal Gymnastics and Sport High School in Stockholm, Sweden and Ph. D from University of Wisconsin (exercise physiology). Have taught at Oklahoma City University, University of Texas, University of Hawaii, University of New Hampshire, Arizona State and SUNY Cortland (NY). Also coached at Oklahoma City University, Texas, New Hampshire, SUNY Cortland and National Track Coach of Peru, in South America. I have over 50 articles in scientific journals and 4 books. Was Altitude Consultant to the US 1968 Olympic Track team; worked three summers for Sport Canada and was a color commentator for CBC television at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Personally was twice US Nationals Champion in Modern Pentathlon, attended two Olympics and three World Championships; won medals in both Olympics and 1 World Championship. Current position is Head Distance Running Coach at the Center for High Altitude Training at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ
JACK DANIELS'S BOOK
Daniels' Running Formula 2nd edition, Human Kinetics
For runners who are definitely getting beyond the youth category, I think they would find my book to be just about the right thing for pushing up their training another notch. My book actually lets a runner work as hard or as easy as desired so it is not just for the elite.