Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catching up with Coach Jack Daniels

We recently caught up with Coach Jack Daniels, currently the Head Distance Coach for the Center for High Altitude Training at Northern Arizona Coach Jack DanielsUniversity in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Daniels, an Olympian and silver and bronze medalist in the modern pentathlon has been coaching track and cross country for over 31 years. His honors include being named the NCAA "Coach of the Century" and "Worlds Best Coach" by Runners World magazine. Daniels may be the world's leading authority on the application of exercise physiology to train distance runners. Daniels has coached 31 NCAA individual Champions, 8 NCAA Team Championships and 131 All Americans. He has worked with running greats Jim Ryun (who credited Daniels for his success (world mile record holder) in a recent talk at Villanova), Mary Slaney and Joan Samuelson among other Olympians.
Daniels popularized altitude training (as a consultant for the US Olympic team at Mexico City in 1968) and VDOT tables for training. VDOT identifies paces for each runner to train at based on their current level of fitness
Among the local coaches who use the VDOT tables-- which are based on a runners maximum rate of oxygen consumption-- is Coach Bob Bickel, a Moorestown, NJ cross country coach:"We totally use his VDOT tables and methodology to manage a team of 60 runners of very diverse levels. It is the thing that saves us! Tell Coach Daniels, THANK YOU!"

We passed on the thanks to Coach Daniels from Bob and Jim Ryun and had a Jack Daniels Running Formula Bookfew questions of our own for him as well:
Question: Can you tell us about your current work as Coach for the Center for High Altitude Training?
Coach Daniels: "Jack, we have 4 types of runners here (1) those who live here and I coach;
(2) those who live here and I don't coach;
(3) those who spend some weeks here and I coach;
(4) those who are here some weeks each year and I don't coach.
The best runners whom I do coach, do not live here, but come for some weeks each year. These include Magdalena Lewy Boulet (will run the marathon in Beijing), Peter Gilmore (has been top American 2 of last 3 years at Boston marathon and was top American at NY City marathon 2 years ago), Chris Lundy (Made the Olympic Trials). Several others whom I coach do live here - a 15:30 5k girl, 13:44 5k guy; 32:20 10k girl, etc.

Question: We recently talked to Jim Ryun who still has great things to say about your relationship when you coached him during the 60's.
Daniels: "I think I have learned some things from many of the elite runners I have been Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori battle in Dream Mile at Pennaround, Jim Ryun included. "

Question: What do you think is the best way to develop a kick?
Daniels: "The best way to develop a kick is to get fit enough that the bulk of the race doesn't take too much out of you so when it is time to kick you have more energy in reserve than do the others in the race. A kick is the result of feeling relaxed when it becomes time to kick; but not necessarily just having the best speed. Practice doing some quick strides at the end of threshold or interval sessions. "

Question:When you were coaching at Cortland I was intrigued by the fact that you would sometimes hold your runners on the line until well after the starting gun. They would then start out 15 seconds behind the pack and often win (8 national team championships, 25 individual titles and 110 All American Runners at Cortland) Can you give us some insight into your prerace warmup and rational for holding back your runners at the start?
Daniels: "I prefer having my runners do a mile or two easy jog followed by some strides and the final thing they do prior to the start of the race is to run a solid 2 or 3 minute run (about 10 minutes prior to the start). I believe you must start conservatively and use the middle of the race to pass as many people as possible. Passing 40 people in the middle and getting out kicked at the end by 3 people means you got 37 people. Not passing anyone in the middle and outkicking 3 at the end means you beat 3 people. I'd much rather pass big numbers and get outkicked than to pass few and do the outkicking. "

Here are Coach Daniels four ingredients for success:
1) Inherent ability (depends on genetic makeup and talent).
2)Motivation (inner desire to use that talent).
3) Opportunity (includes hindering and facilitating factors in your environment.)
4) Direction (Coaches influence on an athlete).

Coach Daniels: "Don't run as hard as you can. Run as fast as you can without straining."

Scott Douglas also recently talked to Coach Daniels about the psychology of running: "Before cross-country meets I would tell my runners, there are people out there you know you're better than. Beat them. There are people out there who are equal to you. Beat all of them because you ran a smart race. And there might be some people who are better than you. Beat half of them because they ran stupidly. You'd be surprised at how well that works because runners quit
thinking of who they have to beat and where they have to finish and start thinking "What am I doing?""

To access the VDOT Tables

To access Coach Daniels latest Coaching Project:
This article was written by Jack Heath, and appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pickle Juice for Performance

Gloucester Catholic cross country team enjoys pickle juice before a recent practice

It doesn’t come in Glacier, Lemon-Lime or Riptide Rush flavors yet, but the next time you are looking for a sports drink to stave off dehydration and cramps, you may want to reach past the Powerade or Gatorade in your refrigerator and grab a jar of pickle juice.That’s right-- pickle juice!

Trainers of many college and professional sports teams (including the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Eagles) are now passing out 2 oz shots of pickle juice to their athletes before warm weather games and practices. Some trainers say it’s the 600 mg of sodium that provides the benefits of reduced cramping and improved hydration. It is true that beverages with sodium cause fluid retention and that leads to better hydration. Some trainers and coaches say the vinegar in pickle juice is just the right concentration to restore electrolytes.

Some pickle juice aficionados even tout an unknown performance enhancing ingredient in the juice. Others just wonder if the main benefits are psychological.While looking for a competitive edge for our boys and girls cross-country team I decided to go to the source—local pickle purveyor KZ pickles in Camden New Jersey. Stu Taylor, the owner of KZ reminded me that fresh pickles are the best source of the beneficial elixir. “The juice replaces electrolytes-- processed pickles have more preservatives—our pickles will turn to mush much quicker, but I think the fresh juice is much better for you.”

So, armed with 3 quarts of pickles (and plenty of the owners anecdotes about the restorative/fountain of youth benefits of pickle juice-- from baseball pitchers (for blisters) to daily imbibers; I headed home to experiment. And yes, the owner did look to be 20 years younger than his professed age. Preserved in pickle juice I guess.

Our cross-country team said they noticed an increased ability to run in the heat in practice before the pickle juice ran out. No cramps and no sore muscles despite using it early in the season. (New Jersey cross-country season goes from tropically hot and steamy to biting cold in the flick of a switch.) I think pickle juice would be especially valuable for anyone running in the hot and poorly ventilated venues in indoor track.

Not sure about the taste? The San Francisco Giants have been known to mix pickle juice with a little water and sugar to make it more palatable to their players.

Runners with high blood pressure may want to check with their doctors before drinking pickle juice because of the high sodium content. I would advise anyone curious to experiment with pickle brine before a practice and not a race to see if it agrees with you.

Soon you may be wondering what do with all of those left over pickles in the jar.

Note: This article appeared in Runners Gazette in 2004. Soon after this article appeared, Reuters reported on Northern Iowa's use of Pickle Juice:

Much of the world watched in late September as Great Britain's sprinter, Dwain Chambers, buckled due to cramps in the Olympic track and field quarterfinals. The grimace on his face was enough to telegraph the intense pain.

Darryl Conway has seen it all before - athletes who succumb to heat or dehydration, and experience leg or full-body cramps that can bring tears to the eyes of even the strongest. But Conway knows what to do about it. "We give our athletes pickle juice," says the head athletic trainer at the University of Northern Iowa. The Northern Iowa Panthers have been using this tangy treat as a way to cure - and prevent - body cramps for a couple of years now, and Conway swears by it. "It works so well our athletes ask for it now."

He suggests that high school coaches, trainers and athletes consider making it part of their regimen as well. Conway says cramps typically occur when the body is severely dehydrated and electrolyte levels have dropped. Muscles in the body then tend to tighten or spasm. "It's incredibly painful," says Conway who, as a former athlete, has experienced his share of cramps.

High school athletes can develop cramps for any number of reasons. "They may be dehydrated because they haven't been drinking water, or they've been sick earlier with diarrhea or vomiting It might even be that their knee brace is too tight, making the muscle work overtime and become rapidly fatigued."

He notes too that winter sports at the high school level are typically performed in a gymnasium, which may not be well-ventilated or well-cooled. High schools, unlike universities or pro teams, don't have the funding to provide an onsite trainer or the electrolyte drinks throughout practice, so the chance for cramps increases at this level.

Conway administers about two ounces of the juice half an hour before any athletic event, typically during the pre-game meal. In the event that a player didn't get the pre-game treatment and ends up cramping during the game, Conway offers Pickle Juice now available sans picklesanywhere from two to six ounces during the cramp. "It eliminates the cramp in about a minute," he says. Athletes at the elementary age don't need more than one-half to one ounce.

It's possible to give too much of a good thing, but Conway says an overdose of pickle juice usually won't result in anything more serious than an upset stomach. "And that could cause vomiting, which would exacerbate the dehydration and cause another cramp. "
Glacier and Lemon Lime pickle juice may not be that far off-- Pickle Juice has recently been marketed by Pickle Power and is available at their site:

To read about another hydration option, Coconut Water: